Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Unborrowed I

The Unborrowed I
by Scott Bradley


There was a one-footed ex-con named Wang Tai whose teaching was so powerful that he divided the state of Lu with Confucius himself. Or so Zhuangzi spins the story. When a disciple asks the Sage how this man, who says nothing at all, could be so popular, Confucius replies that he himself has been remise in not becoming his disciple.

Zhuangzi was a very naughty boy and we are fortunate indeed that his iconoclastic and irreverent writings have survived more than two millennia to find their way into our hands. Those of so many others did not.

Confucius goes on to explain why those who come empty to this silent teacher leave full. "Life and death are a great matter, but they are unable to alter him. Even if Heaven and earth were to topple over, he would not be lost with them. He discerns what alone is unborrowed, so he is not transferred away with the things around him. He looks on the alterations of all things as his own fate, and thus holds fast to their source." (Zhuangzi, 5:2-4; Ziporyn)

What this sage seems to possess is that peculiar detachment which is achieved, not by seeing himself as other than part of this transient world, but by identifying himself with it completely. Were the entire Universe a sinking ship, he would gladly go down with her. For we are all of one Reality. How could anything be lost?

How does he do this? "He discerns what is unborrowed." And what is that? We have no idea, nor could an idea contain it. We discern it by its absence, as Zhuangzi suggests elsewhere. The idea is to release into this, and nothing more. Nothing is found. No Absolutes are discovered. Just release into the void. What could be simpler?

Well, there is this problem of 'me'. Where does my individual existence factor in? It doesn't. Or, at least, it doesn't have to. Isn't that the whole idea?

Admittedly, this idea of me is a problem, but when all is said and done, it's a rather momentary one — from a personal point of view.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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