Saturday, May 8, 2010

Flying Without Wings, Part 5

FLYING WITHOUT WINGS:
A COMMENTARY ON A PASSAGE IN THE ZHUANGZI, CHAPTER 4
by Scott Bradley
You have learned how to fly with wings, but not yet how to fly without wings. You have learned the wisdom of being wise, but not yet the wisdom of being free of wisdom. Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you, and the empty chamber within you will generate its own brightness.
“To fly with wings” is to have a deliberate mind and to set about doing things intentionally. “To fly without wings” is to accomplish things without actually ‘doing’ them, that is, spontaneously.

Most of us would aspire to being wise, but knowing what needs to be done and how to go about doing it is not the wisdom of the sage. The wisdom of the sage is to be free of wisdom; his wisdom is to let all things follow their natural course, his own life included. This is true wisdom indeed.

“Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you . . .” This phrase is rendered variously, most translators suggesting an aperture or window for hollows. How ever the metaphor is worded, however, its meaning remains somewhat obscure. I would return to what is the ultimate subject of the entire passage, namely, the up-welling of all existence from emptiness, an emptiness found in all things, but especially so in the human heart which can perceive it.

The vital energy, qi, the Heavenly Impulse, is an arising of all things out of emptiness. To open up to and unite with this emptiness within is to unite with the universal flow of life. Focusing upon this window into Mystery, one partakes of that Mystery and joyfully rides the stream of life issuing therefrom. J

ust as the surfer catches his wave at the inception of its breaking, so one who would ride atop the back-and-forth of the six atmospheric breaths catches and rides the life within at its spontaneous emergence from Mystery. To do otherwise is to take ‘self’ as full and real. Emptiness, being formless, in inaccessible to the pretended formfulness of ‘self’.

That hollows is here rendered in the plural might suggest that one understand and concentrate on the hollowness of all things. For all things are, indeed, hollow in the sense of having no foundation other then their having spontaneously arisen from inscrutable Mystery. All things are empty. This is the realness of their reality. This is their fullness; rooted, not in themselves, which would be to be nothing, but in unfathomable Mystery, their fullness is assured. I would prefer the singular, however, for there is but one Emptiness, though it be manifest in all things.

Does concentrate imply a form of meditation? Certainly it must, but what form of meditation is not revealed. Likewise, when Yan Hui is urged to merge all (his) intentions into a singularity this is a call to some form of meditation.

Fasting of the mind
is a practice whereby the disciple-practitioner comes to realize no-self and the experience of roaming “far-flung and unfettered” in the world of indefinite existence. We should not assume within this context, however, that this meditation goes beyond the normal focusing of one’s attention on what lies beyond the understanding consciousness, though it might.

Concentrating on the spontaneous arising of existence from emptiness, one is reconnected with the emptiness within, and that emptiness, the empty chamber, begins to illuminate and inform all of life with the joy of its being. This is the “unending sustainability” which one experiences in rootedness in the “unknowable” which “maintains” us.

Note: At the conclusion of this miniseries, a link will be provided for those interested in downloading or printing the entire document replete with footnotes.

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