Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Nameless

Scott Bradley

Stop! Don't scroll away! This isn't about that silly old Tao; it's about you, your favorite subject! Though I must admit that I have been here many times before. And, of course, I begin with my favorite subject, me.

There are bones that I worry about — the opinions of others. There are those who have a poor opinion of me. I know this because they have either explicitly told me so, or have somehow made it implicitly. I mention this not because I think my issues should be of interest to you, but because it is only through dealing with such issues that we begin to see alternative ways of being in the world.

In this case, the alternative is to not care what others think of oneself. This is a common enough expression of sentiment, but it typically does not eradicate the root of the caring. If I say I don't care, I obviously do.

Zhuangzi offers his alternative as a far and unfettered freedom through dependence on nothing. This nothing is primarily the absence of 'name'. In the Taoist context, 'name' represents the most obvious expression of egoic-self. We typically spend a great deal of time trying to be someone. This is 'name'. Not finding it in ourselves, we nurture it in reference to others. We create an image of ourselves born out of contrast with others, and seek to plant this image in the minds of others. We are someone in the world.

Zhuangzi speaks of a philosopher, Rongzi, who saw this dependence on external opinion and taught that one should learn to establish one's opinion of oneself solely on the basis of one's internal judgment. Establish 'name' on the basis of who you know yourself to be, he might have said.

Zhuangzi thought this was a good beginning, but failed to make that quantum leap where there is dependence on no 'name' at all. And this, of course, is the experience of no-self. It is namelessness.

If Tao is the Nameless, then so are we. We are mystery within Mystery. We say that Tao is Nameless, not because we aren't smart enough to give it a name, but because it is beyond identity, the essence of thing-ness. All this worry about 'name', about self-image and being somebody, is an attempt to deny our own namelessness. All this Who am I? inquiry arises from this namelessness. The Zhuangzian vision is to realize and experientially become that namelessness.

I attempt to psychologically include those who exclude me. This means, in part, wishing them the best. Yet I understand that not until I no longer care about their opinions, can I truly affirm and include them. It is not until we cease caring that we are able to truly care.

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

1 comment:

  1. I love the story about Hakuin Ekaku regarding not caring. His not-caring was evident in the way he LIVED. The following is taken from Wikipedia;

    A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near Hakuin Ekaku. One day, without any warning, her parents discovered she was pregnant. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

    In great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

    After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the child needed.

    A year later the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.

    The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

    Hakuin willingly yielded the child, saying only: "Is that so?"


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