Delight In Yourself
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
Answering the question of how a sage-emperor rules, Zhuangzi has Lao Dan say, "He transforms all things, and yet the people do not rely upon him. There is something unnameable about him that allows all creatures to delight in themselves. He establishes his footing in the unfathomable and roams where nothing at all exists." (Zhuangzi, 7:5; B. Ziporyn)
'Tao' does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. This understanding of the nature of Reality runs without interruption throughout the entire scope of philosophical Taoism. It starts with 'Tao' and it ends with you. Upon what does anything depend? On absolutely nothing at all. All things are self-so, they simply are; and by virtue of their being-so, they are, to use the word of Guo Xiang, 'self-create'. This perspective is too radical to sit easily with us, but it is there, nonetheless, and offers an opportunity to break the chains of our conditioned and reified minds.
The sage-emperor is like 'Tao'. He also does nothing yet nothing is left undone. He does not cause that all creatures delight in themselves; he allows that they do so. The delight arises from within the things themselves, because they are themselves.
Philosophical Taoism would have us depend on nothing outside ourselves, and understand ‘ourselves’ as unfathomable mystery. (Suspend for a moment, if you will, your understandable protests and qualifications.) Our worth does not depend on a relationship with an external 'Tao'; if there is 'Tao', it is us. It does not depend on the wisdom and guidance of some guru. To the degree that a teacher has you focus upon him- or herself, so he or she harms your realization of self-delight. All paths lead within. Look within, not without.
You are ground zero for your own liberation. You are 'Tao' manifest, which is to say, if you are to realize 'Tao', then you must realize yourself. How do you do that? The same way that the theoretical emperor-sage does — by vanishing into the mystery which is you.
Is this egoism in the extreme? To the ego-bound, it could only seem so. Is Zhuangzi's emperor-sage an egoist? If so, then all those self-delighting and fulfilled creatures must be so as well. It's all about you. But when you self-delight, somehow others are allowed to do so too. Or so Zhuangzi would have us believe.
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.