The Tao of Dark Sages
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
Alright! I’ve obviously met my match. So, why are you here? Go deeper — all of you. Why are you here? I don’t want to hear the same shallow answers. Look into your hearts and ask yourself this question. You like homework? This is your homework. Come see me tomorrow!
Thank you, Mark-tzu. And yesterday’s homework?
Oh hell! Okay, Scott-tzu, what have you discovered about hope and despair?
I enjoyed being in the center.
Good answer. What does it mean?
Hope and despair are both the consequence of attachment — attachment to the time-concept and the concepts of good and evil. I find it easier to think of the basic underlying source: the attachment of desire and aversion. Whether I hate something or love it, makes no difference — in either case I am attached and allow it to have power over me. If I have something, I fear to lose it. If I don’t have something, I suffer in my hunger to have it. It makes no difference; it’s all suffering. Being in the center means living totally unattached from desire and aversion. It means living off the merry-go-round. Or, as Sue-tzu says, it means getting off the ladder and standing on firm ground.
Yes. It’s actually Mitchell’s adaptation of Chapter 13 of the Tao Te Ching where the ladder metaphor comes from: "What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or down it, your position is shaky. When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance." So, Scott-tzu, you have experienced this state of detachment?
Well, yes, but only momentarily. Enough to experience something of the freedom and peace it brings. And to want to experience it always.
So, you are attached to this feeling of detachment?
I suppose so. Perhaps that’s why I only experience it momentarily?
Perhaps. What of the rest of you? What have you discovered in your meditations?
I could only mostly just contemplate about it. I can’t say that I know it much in experience. It seems to me that to realize this would be to be totally indifferent to everything.
Indifference. What is indifference?
To not care. To be unaffected by whatever comes from outside myself. To be unattached, like Scott-tzu said. I like to try being completely indifferent to my own death. I figure if I could be indifferent to that I could be indifferent to anything. I know it’s not the same thing as actually being detached, but I find that if I ‘try on’ an experience it sort of helps me to move toward actually experiencing it.
I agree. I "try on" experiences, too — after I have experienced them. I ask myself, “What would it feel like, now, to have no identity?” Even though this may be removed from actually being without identity, it does enable me to understand better how I can be without identity. And yes, indifference to one’s own death is a great focal point. Chuang-tzu points out frequently that birth and death are the same, have the same Source, and all is simply Returning to the Source. So, how can we be indifferent to our own death?
By being indifferent to life?
Can you expand that?
If I have let go of my grasp on life itself — just letting it be or not-be as it will — then it’s loss cannot affect me.
What does it feel like to have let go of life? If you have experienced it before, try it on now.
If you're interested in reading more from this series by Scott Bradley, go here.