The Co-arising Dance of Space and Objects: A Dzogchen Perspective on Dependent Origination

Once known, mind itself is like space.
The nature of space is that there is nothing that is space.
In the same way, examples cannot really point out awareness.
Yet I rely on such methods to shed light on key points.

In this verse of Jigmé Lingpa’s „Revelations of Ever-present Good,“ 1)from Ken McLeod, A Trackless Path – A commentary on the great completion (dzogchen) teaching of Jigmé Lingpa’s Revelations of Ever-present Good the nature of mind and awareness is likened to space. Space is not a physical substance, but rather an all-encompassing, open, and infinite aspect of reality. It is an expression of the ground from which all phenomena arise and into which they dissolve. Space is just there, whether there are objects or not. In this way, space can be compared to silence or stillness, understood as the absence of sounds or movements. Similarly, awareness can be seen as being there whether thoughts, feelings, or sensations are present or not. Practising this way of seeing and relating brings freedom and release.

We don’t need to stop there, though. While Jigmé Lingpa’s verse likens the nature of mind and awareness to space, it is crucial to recognize that space is not merely a metaphor for the mind. Instead, by acknowledging its nature we can expand our understanding of space even more.

In everyday philosophical thought, space is considered an abstract concept that aids in understanding and describing the positions, distances, and relationships between objects. Space itself has no inherent physical properties; instead, it functions as a conceptual framework for grasping how objects relate to one another. This conventional perspective is valid within the context of the relative world, but we can explore more intricate aspects of the relationships between space and objects in the ultimate sense.

Space and objects are not static entities but dynamic aspects of the same reality. This is an expression of the fact that all things are interdependent and exist in relation to one another. Upon careful examination, it thus becomes apparent that space cannot be considered as existing independently of the presence or absence of objects. The existence of space is intrinsically connected to the objects that occupy it, and conversely, objects cannot exist without the space that accommodates them. This interdependence between space and objects is an essential aspect of their nature, making it logically impossible for either to exist in isolation. Seen this way, space is not „just there“. This is not a paradox; it is expression of the nature of space. 2)Similarly, time can be understood as lacking inherent existence separate from events, and discussing events without acknowledging the role of time to accommodate them becomes illogical. The empty nature of both time and space shapes the fabric of our experience.

In this regard, the nature of space illustrates a key concept in Buddhist philosophy known as dependent origination. This fundamental principle asserts that all phenomena come into being in a process of mutual origination, emphasizing the absence of independent, self-contained existence for any aspect of reality. Each phenomenon arises, endures and ends in conjunction with others, highlighting the impossibility of considering any element in isolation.

Just as the nature of space is that there is nothing like space, the nature of mind is also that there is nothing like mind. When we investigate the nature of mind, we find that there is no intrinsic essence or self-nature that can be located or pinpointed. Instead, the mind arises in dependence upon various causes and conditions, much like how space arises in dependence upon objects.

Moreover, just as space is unobstructed by the objects that appear within it, the nature of mind is unobstructed by the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that arise within it. Just as space does not cling to or reject any particular object that arises within it, the nature of mind is also free from any attachment or aversion to the various experiences that arise within it.

In Dzogchen practice, the felt space of the body and the energies that encompass and delineate it hold significant importance, as they serve as a direct gateway to the non-dual nature of reality. Dzogchen teachings emphasize the experiential exploration of the body and its energies as a means to recognize the inseparability of space, objects, and awareness. By understanding and embodying this profound connection, we can deepen our realization of the true nature of existence, which can be of great importance on our path. Engaging in tantric practices enables us to delve into our energy body and vividly experience the dynamic interplay between space and objects. As we work with the energy channels, winds, and essences, we can strengthen our direct recognition of rigpa, the pristine awareness that constitutes the core of our being.

As we cultivate this experiential understanding, we come to appreciate the union of emptiness and form, which finds its expression in unbounded potential and luminous appearences. By embracing the co-arising nature of reality, we can align ourselves with the principle of dependent origination, moving beyond dualistic thinking and embracing the non-dual reality that permeates all of existence. This direct experience of the union of space and objects, emptiness and form, reveals awake awareness as the true nature of our experience and the essence of our being.

In this way, the Dzogchen practitioner’s journey is not merely an intellectual endeavor, but a deeply embodied and experiential exploration of the fabric of reality. By integrating these insights into our everyday lives, we can learn to navigate the world with greater clarity, compassion, and wisdom.

In vastness, they dance –
Space and objects intertwine,
Co-arising, free.

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