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Reply To: Recognizing & Dwelling in ‘Knowingness’

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David Filippone

    I wanted to add another passage relating to a question that came up about: ‘Where is knowledge located?’  The inquiry IS deep, and can well extend ‘beyond all grammar’.  This excerpt by Rinpoche seems to touch on this question…

    Excerpt FromKnowledge of Freedom‘: Chapter 9, Breaking Through the Known: [Emphasis added]

    In moments of wonder and great humility, human beings through the ages have felt a different awareness emerge naturally within the more familiar ways of viewing themselves and their world. Perhaps many of us have known quiet moments when time seemed to stand still, and for a brief interval ordinary preoccupations faded into an overpowering appreciation of everything that is.

    Insight drawn from such moments of silent communion with our innermost being, when our sense of separation is silenced by awe, has inspired creative breakthroughs and forms the heart of the world’s great religions. But time and time again the part of ourselves that insists upon separation has arisen “like a reflex, obscuring our immediate awareness of the present moment. As inspiration begins to falter, we return to the small world of the separate self; then we become self-conscious and doubt the significance of our own experience.

    The evidence suggests that we may have powerful untapped resources for understanding ourselves and our world. Yet we seem very comfortable with our current ways of knowing and interpreting the physical world and our own experience. Our world is governed by rationality; even our moods and emotions are linked through reasons to our thoughts and concepts. We build our knowledge carefully, through observation and inference, taking one step at a time. If we do not understand the reason for something now, we assume we will in the future, when our methods of observation are perfected. While a few gaps exist here and there, we can fill them with theories or interpretations, connecting one fact or “experience to the next, as if we were stringing a necklace of beads.

    But what if, in reality, there is no string in the necklace? What if the string is only a construct devised by the human mind? Have we fully explored the structure that orders all of our different theories and explanations? Can we feel confident in our knowledge without questioning the self that evaluates and judges or the conceptual patterns that unify our formulations? If we did not rely exclusively upon conceptual knowledge, might we find other possibilities for expanding our knowledge, rather than moving linearly from fact to fact and concept to concept?

    The view of ourselves as separate from the world we know is now almost universally shared. It has gone largely unchallenged for centuries. What if we could break this pattern and begin to see ourselves and our world in a new light? Much as we explore the mythologies of cultures past, might we be able to step outside the assumptions that constrict our understanding and explore the way we interact in the world? Are there other forms of knowledge that would serve us more effectively?

    Perhaps we need not accept ourselves so readily as separate from our world, as bystanders to our own experience, limited to judging and interpreting what is happening around us. Now we can overcome this sense of separation only by accident, relying on rare moments of inspiration to penetrate our conceptual barriers. But if we can query the self that is separate from its world, we may tap the wellspring of a deeper and broader way of knowing. Looking directly at our own experience, we can find reliable pathways to our awareness and trace our knowledge back to its roots.

    Questioning and being aware: these are the most precious teachers. They dwell in the heart of every human being who begins to awaken to the waste and danger of an unexamined life. In taking responsibility for our lives and backing up that decision with action, we take the first step toward greater understanding of the nature of human being.