Tarthang Tulku


The freedom to know is our greatest treasure. The transmission of realization in spiritual disciplines, the painstaking refinement of scientific methodology, the careful formulations of logic, and the revelations of art or mathematics all express a freely active knowledge. To awaken appreciation for such knowing at work in our awareness is to let the love of knowledge enter our lives.

Human knowledge has attained great heights, establishing a body of known facts far beyond the capacity of any one person to master. Yet our own active knowing remains undeveloped. How often do we truly realize that we are each unique human beings, alive in a world of constantly shifting forms, sensitively attuned to the universe that we experience? Without such appreciation for our situation and prospects, knowledge cannot easily come alive within our intelligence.

When we activate knowledge, we find wonder in the simple circumstance that our body is embodied in space, our experience unfolds in time, and our mind expresses ever-expanding 'knowingness'. We discover how to look beyond the standard modalities of knowledge and investigate at a more basic level the origins of the human capacity to perceive and to reason, and the purposes which those capacities might serve. Knowledge becomes more effective, communicating on all levels simultaneously, so that we can directly touch the heart of knowledge as an all-pervasive quality of being. As such knowing is distributed throughout the range of our personal experience, a healing process is activated that can profoundly affect the self and others.

Whatever the restrictions on our knowledge, we are already engaged in knowing. Inquiry and observation bring to that knowing clarity, appreciation, and intelligence. We find that we know more than we realize, and develop the strength to act on what we know, so that our actions bring benefit to ourselves and to the world. With greater appreciation for the riches that experience presents, time deepens and expands, allowing a further maturation of knowledge and promoting harmony of thought, word, and deed. Commitment to the welfare of others arises spontaneously: a direct response to the unfolding of a new vision.

As human beings, we can embrace the time and space out of which we arise and within which knowledge unfolds. Acting with vigor, letting the love of knowledge be our guide, we can become masters of our own space, commanding our own time. We can respond to knowledge by activating more knowledge, so that knowledge unfolds 'beyond' and 'within' all limitations.

This book responds to the unfolding of Knowledge by giving expression to the Time, Space, and Knowledge interplay. Since it communicates Time, Space, and Knowledge, whatever understanding results through the act of reading and reflecting on it will express  Time, Space, and Knowledge as well. The vision evokes itself, active in all communications and in each act of inquiry.

This evocative quality of the vision distinguishes it from more standard forms of inquiry. Analytic modes of thought and investigation make knowledge into a possession acquired only with difficulty: The great insights of human beings throughout history, however, depend on a different, more spontaneous way of knowing, one which supports and draws on analysis, but also goes beyond it into the more mysterious realm of genius and inspiration. The TSK vision taps this 'other' way of knowing directly.

The standard view of knowledge relies strongly on the self as knower. Analysis can challenge this understanding, but only by confronting the self 'head-on', with conflict, defensiveness, and confusion the likely result. The analysis and exploration undertaken here, however, do not call for this kind of confrontation. Instead, they loosen the hold that the self has on knowledge by offering the self a new kind of freedom, based on the love of knowledge and the joy that comes through inquiry. The knowledge evoked in this way does not depend on taking one position or rejecting another.

Conventionally understood, knowledge takes form by moving through the stages of observation, experience, interpretation, understanding, and actualization. This step by step process widens the separation between knower and known, and easily turns knowledge in the direction of an intellectual process far removed from direct experience. The bond linking past and future to the present is severed, converting history into a lifeless abstraction and turning what has not yet happened into fantasy. The linear link between subject and object confines knowledge to a two-dimensional plane, leaving the depths of knowing unexplored. Even when experience seems direct, these same patterns may continue to operate on a more subtle level.

When knowledge is more inclusive and evocative, it embraces the activities of knowing and seeing, strengthening their power. Instead of the linear relationship of 'subject knowing object', there is the 'experience' of 'knowing' the experience of knowing. The relationship between subject and object becomes accessible directly, with the consequence that subject and object alike are transformed: The 'object' becomes knowledge itself, while the 'subject' becomes experience.

Once this transformation has been activated, Time, Space, and Knowledge can be acknowledged as vibrant facets of human being. As actors in this unfolding drama, human beings are 'in' Space, 'on' Time, and 'of ' Knowledge. Philosophy is not confined to making sense of what has happened in the past, and 'doing' philosophy is not an activity undertaken to gain future understanding or to arrive at a valid proof of an abstract logical proposition. The history of knowledge and the future projections of the knowable come alive with a knowledge based directly on an ever-present 'knowingness'.

For first-time readers of Love of Knowledge, these prospects may seem abstract. As individuals whose lives are played out in a specific setting and sequence, we arrive at knowledge through a process of inquiry. A perspective that sets aside or challenges the conventional, linear understanding of 'process' remains largely inaccessible. It may therefore be of some benefit if I take a more conventional approach at the outset, describing the way in which the vision that guides this presentation emerged into being.


An Emerging Vision

The ideas that eventually led to the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision first appeared in my mind in somewhat the same way that forms might appear floating in empty space. These unexpected thoughts led me to investigate concepts and patterns that I had tended to disregard in the past.

Observing my experience in light of these new ideas, I began to notice that there were different levels of existence, and that these were linked with different mental 'objects'. Little by little, I came to some understanding of how these shapes and forms arose and how they took on meaning and value. This process of investigation circled back on itself, and my senses and my observation on every level became more clear. I learned to see on more than just one 'level' not in any esoteric sense, but simply in letting the mind look more directly at its own operation.

The changes that came with this new way of investigating brought with them a remarkable sense of freedom. Externally, events continued to unfold much as they had before, subject to their own momentum. But 'internally', I understood and experienced for myself how thought imposed patterns and limits. Once I saw these limits in the act of being set up, I found that I was no longer subject to them. At the same time, it was not 'I' who was gaining freedom or discovering new insights. Instead, knowledge seemed to be active in a new way. 

In exploring these issues and insights, I made a distinction between the 'external' world of objects and the 'internal' world of sensory experience. In looking at the 'objective world' I could focus my understanding in terms of 'space', while in looking at the operation of the senses, I had to introduce 'time' as a factor in understanding. This in turn led me to look at 'experience', which seemed to be given by time directly, and to inquire into the connection between experience and the activity of the mind. The interactions among time, space, and knowledge engaged my attention more fully, gradually unfolding into an encompassing vision.

The course of investigation and research that I was carrying out seemed to me rather unusual. Although I had been raised in a tradition where inquiry into the workings of mind was an integral part of education, the specific approach I now found myself adopting had no direct connection to this tradition, or to any other path of inquiry that I was familiar with. I saw the clear potential for tracing such connections, or for exploring possible links between what I was discovering and the views of science. While this approach would have been interesting, it would also have led away from the immediacy of inquiry into a realm where identities, orientations, definitions, and descriptions played a large role. Instead, I simply continued to observe myself and my experience in light of time, space, and knowledge, content to let the new vision develop naturally.

The unfolding vision allowed a more multidimensional understanding, as though I were being guided simultaneously by several compasses, each pointing in a different direction, yet each somehow accurate. The conventional limitation that confines observation to a single 'point of view' situated in space and time had less hold. Knowledge itself seemed to be opening, like a light that had previously been obscured but now was radiating from all directions. This knowledge was freely available: less a possession to be obtained than a luminous, transparent 'attribute' of experience and mental activity.

In tapping this powerful and liberating vision, I never had the sense that I had discovered an esoteric, hidden knowledge. Instead, it seemed to me that the TSK vision gave access to a knowing integral to all knowledge, potentially available within all times and in all circumstances. Observation and inquiry allowed anyone to become a 'witness' for the 'self-evidence' of knowledge. The inner strength and certainty released by the vision, the dynamic activity of the mind that knew, and the physical embodiment in space that made this knowing possible were all expressions of knowledge.

From this new perspective, there was no 'higher' knowledge; only different forms of 'knowingness', like the different levels of meaning in a richly symbolic work of art or philosophy. The varying manifestations of mind in thought, in consciousness, in awareness could be understood as responses by 'knowingness' to changing circumstances and connections.

I found it helpful to think of conventional knowledge as being like a fabric, woven through the activity of the knowing 'subject' in its interaction with the known 'object'. This fabric served to veil the natural light of Knowledge 'within' being. But contacting 'knowingness' through observation and inquiry 'loosened' the fabric's weave, allowing a luminous knowing to shine through.

At first, this luminous knowing seemed quite separate from 'knowledge' of the ordinary 'objects' and the 'events' that time presented. Gradually, however, I began to see the 'fabric' of temporal subject-object interactions as a direct expression of knowledge, and the 'weaving' of the fabric as the active temporal manifestation of 'luminosity'. Only because conventional knowledge interpreted the 'temporal fabric' as an obscuring, 'solid' reality did experience so often have the flavor of stagnation, conditioning, and bondage. Emotionality, confusion, and not-knowing were 'postures' the out-comes of 'positions' adopted by the 'subject' as specific interpretations of the subject-object interaction posited by conventional knowledge. By interpreting the positions themselves as being 'real', conventional knowledge assured that the postures adopted by the self would be frozen and inflexible.

A commitment to open observation appeared to reverse this well-established tendency, restoring balance and new potential to experience. I became increasingly aware of the artificial limits we place on observation, focusing on the world around us while ignoring our own minds and the operation of the knowing faculty. Observation can 'know' mental events such as feelings and emotions, and on that basis we assert that we 'know' how to use the mind in specific ways. Such 'knowing', however, is painfully restricted. We do not 'know' how to 'touch' the mind directly, or how to observe the interaction of 'subject' and 'object', 'self and 'world'. We remain oblivious to the subtle constructs that shape both our understanding, and the world that we experience. 

Instead of challenging these restrictions, I let 'observation' expand to include them. Just as the mind knows 'events' and 'things' in a particular way, so it knows 'mind' in a particular way. But this 'minding' of the mind the capacity for knowing and for constructing models that shape the scope of our knowing can be observed directly in action. When I followed this course, conventional patterns and structures and the models or 'programs' that generate them began to seem transparent. Whether the new pictures and thoughts that formed as the old ones lost their hold were 'accurate' did not seem of primary concern; what truly mattered was the openness that allowed such new content to appear.

As this capacity for knowing and exercising the mind expanded, I tasted a deep and nourishing enjoyment. From enjoyment came clarity, and from clarity a sense of appreciation for the brilliant and powerful dynamic of knowledge. Eventually, I touched an awareness that seemed to 'embody' both clarity and appreciation, 'understanding' and 'feeling', but to go beyond them as well. I realized that this awareness could best be described as the love of knowledge.

The Value of Knowledge

Love of knowledge could be said to be the inspiration for the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision. The wonder that it fosters safeguards the impulse toward awareness and intelligence and counteracts the subtle inclination to accept as true presumptions, beliefs, and presuppositions. Guided by wonder, we remain free to look within our presuppositions and beliefs to the knowledge they contain. We participate in Knowledge directly.

Once love of knowledge is active, Knowledge itself supports the further deepening of knowledge. Full knowledge dissolves the 'distance' between knower and known that characterizes conventional not-knowing. With no distance, an intimacy of knowing emerges, and knowledge becomes inseparable from love.

Under such circumstances, there are no limits on the forms that knowledge can take. Common sense, rational inquiry, and logic can all be accepted as valid ways of exercising knowledge, without rejecting the insights of the great mystical traditions, the fruits of investigations into the paranormal, or the path of 'magic' and 'mystery'. Nor does this 'acceptance' place the TSK vision in the position of 'encompassing' such forms of knowledge, for the vision itself is not 'situated' in a way that sets it 'apart from' knowledge itself.

An inquiry open to all forms of knowledge is the heart of what I hope to share in this book. I have no wish to trace the TSK vision to a particular lineage of ideas, nor do I want to see it established as the basis for a new dogma or model. I have simply tried to report the results of my own investigations and thoughts, giving the reader a basis to build on that allows but does not determine.

Some people are suspicious of questioning, for they fear that it will promote confusion and contribute to human suffering. But based on my own experience, I would say that we do not need to fear confusion unduly. If confusion does come, it may only be a passing phase in the search for knowledge, a sign that new knowing has begun to operate. As we continue investigation into the unfolding of experience, allowing love of knowledge to take root and to flourish, more knowledge may appear spontaneously, almost 'accidentally'.    

Love and caring are faculties active in each human being, even if they manifest only as greed or selfishness, or even as self-hatred. Despite the difficulties and deceptions to which human beings are prone, devotion and loyalty are native to the human spirit. But when knowledge is limited, love and devotion are easily distorted. When observation is confined to the 'objective' realm, individuals tend to submit their sense of worth and well-being to the 'objects' they encounter, looking to possessions, power, and circumstances for meaning and fulfillment. Unaccustomed to investigating the workings of the mind, the operation of the self, or the potential range of knowledge, they lose sight of ways of being that can be deeply healing and nourishing.

This pattern love led by limited knowledge into fruitless ways of being affirms the value of the love of knowledge. Awakening the innate human capacity for devotion and appreciation, love of knowledge can transform our lives. When appreciation and awareness are active, even the limits on what we know, even our lack of caring, express a deeper 'knowingness'.

Love of knowledge strengthens and encourages observation and inquiry, making knowledge available 'from within'. Subjective 'not-knowing' is no longer accepted as 'definitive'; instead, it is 'incorporated' into a more fundamental knowing. The fixation on the 'objective' realm that operates so powerfully in this culture is loosened. Relying neither on 'the facts' nor on feelings and emotions as the source of truth or happiness, we are no longer caught up in appearances, nor are we subject to the painful necessity of accumulating the knowledge we need. With knowledge directly available we gain new power over space and time a 'first-level' indication that higher levels of Space and Time have become accessible.

The problems of human being ultimately trace to a lack of knowledge, or else to a lack of ability to apply the knowledge we already have. Having recognized that this is so, we have a clear choice. We can accept this lack of knowledge as inevitable, or we can commit ourselves to the pursuit of more fruitful ways of knowing.

Throughout history there have been those who have chosen the 'path' of knowledge. Within this very moment we are free to join in their lineage. Open to the gracious, entrancing play of 'knowingness', we can discover a world alive with significance. Pledging our efforts and intelligence to the course of inquiry, we can contribute to the manifestation of knowledge in time and space and claim our precious heritage as human beings.


Way of Knowledge

Time measures out our lives and space encloses our possibilities. Knowledge responds, shaping our potential for accomplishment.

A decade ago, Time, Space, and Knowledge disclosed a luminous vision of these basic facets of being. Love of Knowledge continues to unfold this vision. Drawing on conventional ways of understanding, it sets the stage for Space and Time to appear in a remarkable new light. Analysis and experiential inquiry open unexplored domains for action and insight, presenting prospects for global benefit.

Love of Knowledge follows a path of ever-expanding realization, challenging and cherishing all human faculties. It invites aesthetic awareness to deepen through appreciation into a more encompassing knowing. Time makes available the power to accomplish, Space exhibits appearance as intimacy, and Knowledge offers itself freely. 'Self-centered' limitations grow transparent, merging into the Time, Space, and Knowledge of human being.


Dharma Publishing