Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hsin-Hsin Ming VI: Equalizing

Scott Bradley

"Do not remain in a dualistic state; / avoid such easy habits carefully. / If you attach to even a trace / of this and that, of right and wrong, / the Mind-essence [heart] will be lost in confusion. / Although all dualities arise from the One, / do not be attached even to ideas of this One." (Clarke)

As Zhuangzi tells us, One and the saying makes two. One does not admit to objective knowing. We can talk about it as an idea, but we can never experience it as such, nor can we experience it through any objective means.

By 'objective' is meant perception by a subject. Object and subject makes two. The experience of One is transcendent of object versus subject, of self and other. Thus, the experience of One is the loss of the self-identity and is only realized through that loss.

If and how this can happen remains unclear, at least to me. But a good place to start is to discover how my 'dualistic state' manifests itself and to see how I might 'avoid such easy habits'. The ease of a habit is, of course, inversely proportional to the difficulty of overcoming it. The manifestation of the dualistic habit to which Seng-ts'an points us is discrimination between things. 'This and that', although necessary to cognitive thought, can be transcended.

Zhuangzi attempts to do this by way of 'equalizing' the philosophical opinions of his day. The 'this' of one, is the 'that' of the other, and vice versa. Since they cancel each other out, in the end there is no 'this' and 'that'. But since we live in a world of 'thises' and 'thats', the way of harmony is to accept them all and oppose none. Going along with every 'this' is not a philosophical or moral endorsement of every idea or behavior, however, but an acceptance that it is there. And having oneself transcended the rightness or wrongness of ideas, in both a moral and intellectual sense, the idea of endorsement does not begin to apply.

This is a very real and practical exercise that one can do. We can try and 'equalize' all the ideas which we presently oppose. Try it. I find it incredibly difficult. Right and wrong says, no way. Reason says, get real. But mostly, self says, but that robs me of the sanctity of my own cherished opinions, and without these, who am I?

Unlike physical exercise, where we begin easily enough and then tire, this equalizing exercise seems to immediately encounter an immovable object. Only some kind of existential leap would seem capable of delivering us to such a freedom. Yet however that might take place, if it indeed can, it will most likely be while we are exercising ourselves in the exploration of this possibility. And even in the 'failing', some transformation, however less-than-ultimate, may still take place.

Since "all dualities arise from the One", every not-one is also One. Equalize.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. "Thus, the experience of One is the loss of the self-identity and is only realized through that loss.
    ...If and how this can happen remains unclear, at least to me."

    I may be wrong or pig-headed, but I think meditation is expected to assist here.

  2. This overall theme is dear to me and I find that thinking it over is a big hindrance to its realization.

    It is the case whenever you're not thinking about it.

  3. Hence, the meditation....sitting forgetting.


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