Mind itself is like space — it cuts through everything.
The nature of space is that there is nothing that is space.
In the same way, examples cannot really describe awareness.
Yet I rely on such methods to shed light on key points.
Mind itself, this knowing that is present in everything we experience, is like space: it is not a thing, yet it is always there. Jigmé Lingpa uses the analogy of space just as did Tilopa in The Ganges Mahamudra:
Although you say space is empty,
You can't say that space is "like this".
Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity,
There is nothing there: you can't say "it's like this".
Space is present whether there are objects or not. In this sense, space cuts through everything. The same could be said of silence: silence is present whether there is sound or not. And stillness is present whether there is movement or not. The same holds for awareness: it is there whether thoughts, feelings or sensations arise or not.
These are examples or analogies. Neither Tilopa or Jigmé Lingpa are presenting facts, or even theories, about mind or reality. They are describing their experience, experience that is so vivid and meaningful for them that it has transformed their lives and their whole understanding of life.
Yet these comparisons carry the danger of giving us an idea, a picture, something we can think about. We easily fall into the illusion that we understand awareness when we understand these examples. As Jigmé Lingpa says, "Examples cannot really describe awareness." Understanding isn't the point here, in the same way that understanding a painting or a dance performance isn't really the point.
Instead, pay attention to what happens in you when you read, "The nature of space is that there is nothing that is space."
Do you experience a letting go? If so, just rest right there. Don't try to explain or put in words what has let go. Just rest right in that experience.
This, essentially, is the way we read poetry. This is what Jigmé Lingpa means when he writes, "Yet I rely on such methods to shed light on key points." He is using words to point to something. As has often been said in Buddhist writings, don't mistake the finger (in this case, the words) for the moon (the shift in experience).
When you read this and the subsequent verses, imagine Jigmé Lingpa is speaking to you, communicating something that is vitally important to him and vitally important to you. Even though examples and comparisons cannot point out awareness to you, he uses them to elicit something in you. That is what is important here -- not the understanding of the words or concepts in the poem, but what it elicits in you.