Saturday, August 7, 2010

Punishing Heaven, Part 7

by Scott Bradley

An apparent follower of the thought of Zhuangzi, the author of Chapter 17, The Autumn Floods, tells us that the sage returns always to the most constrained but can thereby be described as reaching the expanse of the ultimate. Limitations are the gateway to the limitless. But how is this accomplished?

Guo Xiang, commenting on Zhuangzi’s Chapter 3, tells us that what we call the mind bent on knowledge, the understanding consciousness, is born of losing one’s match with what one is, and it can be extinguished by vanishing into one’s limits. To vanish into one’s own limits means to go along with one’s exact allotment...

This would seem to be another way of expressing Zhuangzi’s the sage hides it in his embrace. ‘Vanishing’ is to ‘go along with’ and this is to accept and affirm completely. The sage’s ‘embrace’ is this very acceptance. And this is what we see in Confucius when faced with his own limits — he first becomes aware of them, then accepts them, and thereby transcends them.

To recognize bondage is always the first step in transcending it. Guo here primarily addresses the limitations of the understanding consciousness, the articulating mind.

The author of Chapter 23 writes: When understanding stops and rests on what it does not understand, it has reached its perfection. When understanding understands what it cannot understand (awareness), and rests there (acceptance) it has fulfilled its nature. Transcendence, the same author goes on to tell us, begins here: Let your mind spring to life from its rootedness in the unthinking parts of yourself.

And Zhuangzi suggests the same: My understanding consciousness, beholden to its specific purposes, comes to a halt, and thus the promptings of the spirit begin to flow.

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. If you want to catch up on parts of this or other series you've missed, go to Scott's Zhuangzi Index Page.

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