by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
What is this self that wages war on itself? It is that which is capable of doing so, which is to say that the self is, at heart, a duality. It takes two to tango, as they say. And I would suggest that the human experience is just this: the wonderful tango of self-consciousness. The self-other dichotomy whereby we are able to know and experience the world has its root in the self-other dichotomy wherein we are able to know and experience our own selves. Let’s hear it for self!
Yet isn’t our project (to use a spiritually incorrect term) to transcend self, to realize the no-fixed-identity of no-self, and therein realize the ineffable Oneness, the transcendence of all duality? If “all duality is falsely imagined”, how could we not aspire to be free of this most fundamental of falsehoods?
Certainly, we do. But transcendence is not negation. To transcend duality, to transcend self, is not to exterminate, but to realize. It is to experience self and the world, duality, in an entirely new way. In the end, transcendence is all-embracing. Not-one is also One. I quote from the Hsin-Hsin Ming (purportedly written by Seng-Ts’an, the Third Zen Patriarch; Richard B. Clarke translation):
If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to embrace them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment....
When you live this non-separation,
all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.
This is likewise implied in Zhuangzi’s (Chuang Tzu) ‘Walking Two Roads’. The monkey trainer followed along with the likes and dislikes, the opinions, of his monkeys (who rejected three chestnuts in the morning and two in the afternoon in favor of two in the morning and three in the afternoon) because he himself transcended all opinions, even his own.
Having no-fixed-identity himself, he had no fixed-opinion to which he felt obliged to cling. Rather, he could embrace all opinionating as a manifestation of one Reality. The one wind blows through the trees and yet each one gives forth its own unique sound.
Ahha! But are not these likewise opinions? Does not this article itself express but another opinion opposed to others? Of course. It is not-one. And thus, like all others, it is One. Transcendence is not-one self-aware. And this, I think, is why not taking oneself too seriously is a sign of spiritual maturity.
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.