Friday, December 23, 2011

Walking Two Roads

Scott Bradley

Zhuangzi's parable of Two Roads expresses the heart of his way. And it is a recurring theme with many applications. A monkey keeper told his monkeys that he would be giving them two chestnuts in the morning and three in the afternoon. The monkeys were outraged. So he offered them three in the morning and two in the afternoon. The monkeys were content.

The monkey keeper understood the equality of things and thus could adapt to the contingencies of everyday, immediate reality. He Walked Two Roads. He was both transcendent and engaged. He was able to "follow along with the present this" because he understood that, since nothing is lost from the Totality, every contingency is equalized.

I also see the path of growth as a simultaneous walking of two roads. We have a personality, the behavioral expression of our egoic identity, and we have a more fundamental 'self' which is the precondition for the expression of personality. The path of growth takes us into both realms. We seek, by various means, to realize our 'true self', the undifferentiated up-welling which is the root of our being. And this provides the transcendence necessary to truly see and work through those dimensions of personality which enslave us. Understanding the nature of our bondage, we better understand the nature of the transcendence that we seek. The way of growth is never a rejection of one thing and a flight to another. It is a holistic endeavor.

My personality is the product of a past which began beyond memory — the first gentle coo-ings and harsh words of parental caring. It expresses a growing perception of my body as reflected in the eyes of others. It is the cumulative experience of every affirmation and every rejection, every act of love and violence. Thus has it developed and become the supreme habit. It sleeps at night, but awakes each morning ready to play the same old tune, following the grooves like an old vinyl record.

But transformation is possible. The old vinyl can be made a re-writable disc. And this is made possible by the two-road work of growth.

The insular nature of the egoic identity is the most fundamental cause of our bondage. But that identity has its own unique expressions, and many of these are themselves particular expressions of that root bondage. Thus, as we work to discover our non-egoic selves, and find liberation therein, still we do the work of self-understanding which helps free us from the particular habits which likewise bind us.

Always when I speak of bondage I wish to remember that this is not a devil, or a demon, or even a dragon — it is not an enemy. It is the present expression of Reality, and like all things in the wide, wide world of the external, this inner world can also be thankfully embraced and affirmed. It is from the ground of the All-Affirmed that the seeds of change can germinate and grow.

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

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