Seek Understanding Beyond Words

Master Po – Where is evil? In the rat whose nature it is to steal the grain. Or in the cat, whose nature it is to kill the rat?
Caine – The rat steals. Yet, for him, the cat is evil.
Master Po –  And to the cat, the rat.
Caine – Yet, Master, surely one of them is evil.
Master Po – The rat does not steal, the cat does not murder. Rain falls, the stream flows, a hill remains. Each acts according to its nature.
Caine – Then is there no evil for men? Each man tells himself that what he does is good, at least for himself.
Master Po – . . . a man may tell himself many things but is a man’s universe made up only of himself?

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The Now of Pooh

– The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

In the morning sunshine, in the evening twilight, a small Bear travels through a Forest. Why did we follow him when we were so much younger? He is, after all, only a Bear of Little Brain. But is Brain all that important? Is it really Brain that takes us where we need to go? Or is it all too often Brain that sends us off in the wrong direction, following the echo of the wind in the treetops, which we think is real, rather than listening to the voice within us that tells us which way to turn?

A Brain can do all kinds of things, but the things that it can do are not the most important things. Abstract cleverness of mind only separates the thinker from the world of reality, and that world, the Forest of Real Life, is in a desperate condition now because of too many who think too much and care too little. In spite of what many minds have thought themselves into believing, that mistake cannot continue for much longer if everything is going to survive. The one chance we have to avoid certain disaster is to change our approach, and to learn to value wisdom and contentment. These are the things that are being searched for anyway, through Knowledge and Cleverness, but they do not come from Knowledge and Cleverness. They never have, and they never will. We can no longer afford to look so desperately hard for something in the wrong way and in the wrong place. If Knowledge and Cleverness are allowed to go on wrecking things, they will before much longer destroy all life on earth as we know it, and what little may temporarily survive will not be worth looking at, even if it would somehow be possible for us to do so.

The masters of life know the Way, for they listen to the voice within them, the voice of wisdom and simplicity, the voice that reasons beyond Cleverness and knows beyond Knowledge. That voice is not just the power and property of a few, but has been given to everyone. Those who pay attention to it are too often treated as exceptions to a rule, rather than as examples of the rule of operation, a rule that can apply to anyone who makes use of it.

Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.

To know the Way,
We go the way;
We do the way,

The way we do
The things we do.
It’s all there in front of you,
But if you try too hard to see it,
You’ll only become Confused.

I am me,
And you are you,
As you can see;
But when you do
The things that you can do,
You will find the Way,
And the Way will follow you.

Everything Has Its Purpose

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “I have a big tree named ailanthus. Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them!”

Chuang Tzu said, “Maybe you’ve never seen a wildcat or a weasel. It crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low-until it falls into the trap and dies in the net. Then again there’s the yak, big as a cloud covering the sky. It certainly knows how to be big, though it doesn’t know how to catch rats. Now you have this big tree and you’re distressed because it’s useless. Why don’t you plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there’s no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?”

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!”

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

Subjectivity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chuang Tzu
Mao Qiang and Li Ji [two beautiful courtesans] are what people consider beautiful, but if fish see them they will swim into the depths; if birds see them, they will fly away into the air; if deer see them, they will gallop away. Among these four, who knows what is rightly beautiful in the world?

Dream of a Butterfly

Chuang Tzu’s Dream of a Butterfly 

It was a cool evening in ancient China. Chuang Tzu’s friend went looking for him at the local inn. He found Chuang Tzu sitting at a table, sipping his drink in a contemplative mood.

“There you are!” Chuang Tzu’s friend greeted him. “I thought by now you would be telling everybody another one of your stories. Why so quiet?”

“There is a question on my mind,” said Chuang Tzu, “a question about existence.”

“I see. Would you like me to leave you alone to your thoughts?”

“No, let me share it with you. Perhaps you can provide me with your perspective.”

“My perspective is of little value, but I would be glad to listen.” He pulled up a chair.

“I was out for a stroll late in the afternoon,” said Chuang Tzu. “I went to one of my favorite spots under a tree. I sat there, thinking about the meaning of life. It was so warm and pleasant that I soon relaxed, dozed off, and drifted into a dream. In my dream, I found myself flying up above the field. I looked behind me and saw that I had wings. They were large and beautiful, and they fluttered rapidly. I had turned into a butterfly! It was such a feeling of freedom and joy, to be so carefree and fly around so lightly in any way I wished. Everything in this dream felt absolutely real in every way. Before long, I forgot that I was ever Chuang Tzu. I was simply the butterfly and nothing else.”

“I’ve had dreams of flying myself, but never as a butterfly,” Chuang Tzu’s friend said. “This dream sounds like a wonderful experience.”

“It was, but like all things, it had to end sooner or later. Gradually, I woke up and realized that I was Chuang Tzu after all. This is what puzzles me.”

“What is so puzzling about it? You had a nice dream, that’s all there is to it.”

“What if I am dreaming right now? This conversation I am having with you seems real in every way, but so did my dream. I thought I was Chuang Tzu who had a dream of being a butterfly. What if I am a butterfly who, at this very moment, is dreaming of being Chuang Tzu?”

“Well, I can tell you that you are actually Chuang Tzu, not a butterfly.”

Chuang Tzu smiled: “You may simply be part of my dream, no more or less real than anything else. Thus, there is nothing you can do to help me identify the distinction between Chuang Tzu and the butterfly. This, my friend, is the essential question about the transformation of existence.”

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

Chuang Tzu 

Confucius and his students went on a hike out in the countryside. He was thinking of using the opportunity to engage the students in a discussion about the Tao when one of them approached and asked: “Master, have you ever been to Liu Liang? It is not far from here.”

Confucius said: “I have heard about it but never actually seen it with my own eyes. It is said to be a place of much natural beauty.”

“It is indeed,” the student said. “Liu Liang is known for its majestic waterfalls. It is only about two hours’ trek from here, and the day is still young. Master, if you would like to go there, I would be honored to serve as your guide.”

Confucius thought this was a splendid idea, so the group set off toward Liu Liang. As they were walking and chatting, another student said: “I grew up near a waterfall myself. In summertime, I would always go swimming with the other children from the village.”

The first student explained: “These waterfalls we will see aren’t quite like that. The water comes down from such a great height that it carries tremendous force when it hits the bottom. You definitely would not want to go swimming there.”

Confucius said: “When the water is sufficiently powerful, not even fish and turtles can get near it. This is interesting to ponder, because we are used to thinking of water as their native element.”

After a while, they could see the waterfall coming into view in the hazy distance. Although it was still far away, they could see that it was indeed as majestic as the first student described. Another hour of walking brought them even closer, and now they could clearly hear the deep, vibrating sound it made.

They topped a rise and were able to see the entire waterfall. Then they gasped collectively, because at the bottom of it, they saw a man in the ferociously churning water, being spun around and whipped this way and that by the terrifying currents.

“Quickly, to the waterfall!” Confucius commanded. “He must have fallen in by accident, or perhaps he is a suicide. Either way, we must save him if we can.”

They ran as fast as they could. “It’s useless, Master,” one the students said. “By the time we get down there, he’ll be too far gone for us to do him any good.”

“You may well be right,” Confucius replied. “Nevertheless, when a man’s life is at stake, we owe it to him to make every effort possible.”

They lost sight of the man as they descended the hillside. Moments later, they broke through the forest to arrive at the river, a short distance downstream from the waterfall. They expected to see the man’s lifeless body in the river. Instead, they saw him swimming casually away from the waterfall, spreading his long hair out and singing loudly, evidently having a great time. They were dumbfounded.

When he got out of the river, Confucius went to speak with him: “Sir, I thought you must be some sort of supernatural being, but on closer inspection I see you are an ordinary person, no different from us. We sought to save you, but now I see it is not necessary.”

The man bowed to Confucius: “I am sorry if I have caused you any grave concerns on my behalf. This is merely a trivial recreational activity I enjoy once in a while.”

Confucius bowed back: “You say it is trivial, but to me it is incredible. How can it be that you were not harmed by the waterfall? Are there some special skills that you possess?”

“No, I have no special skills whatsoever,” the man replied. “I simply follow the nature of the water. That’s how I started with it, developed a habit out of it, and derived lifelong enjoyment from it.”

“This follow the nature of the water’ – can you describe it in greater detail? How exactly does one follow the nature of water?”

“Well… I don’t really think about it very much. If I had to describe it, I would say that when the powerful torrents twist around me, I turn with them. If a strong current  drives me down, I dive alongside it. As I do so, I am fully aware that when we get to the riverbed, the current will reverse course and provide a strong lift upward. When this occurs, I am already anticipating it, so I rise together with it.”

“So you are working with the water and not just letting it have its way with you?”

“That’s right. Although the water is extremely forceful, it is also a friend that I have  gotten to know over the years, so I can sense what it wants to do, and I leverage its flow without trying to manipulate it or impose my will on it.”

“How long did it take for you to make all this an integrated part of your life?”

“I really can’t say. I was born in this area, so the waterfalls have always been a  familiar sight to me. I grew up playing with these powerful currents, so I have always felt comfortable with them. Whatever success I have with water is simply a natural result of my lifelong habit. To be quite frank, I have no idea why this approach works so well. To me, it’s just the way life is.”

Confucius thanked him and turned back to his students. He smiled, because he suddenly knew exactly what they could talk about on their trip home.

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