Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yuan Dao: Dao as Process

Scott Bradley


Ames (Yuan Dao) makes the point that Western thought has traditionally approached Reality as essentially static; its metaphysics has largely viewed Ultimate Reality from an ontological perspective. The world may be in flux, but with respect to the 'One versus many' debate, this has resulted in an emphasis on the One as diminuating the many. Somewhat ironically, he calls this the "two-world view"; the differentiation of the One from the many, in an effort to exalt the One, creates a dualism.

The classical Chinese approach he calls the "one-world view". Dao, as representative of Reality, is not static Being, but an unfolding process inseparable from the particulars of its expression. This follows from the concept of the cosmos as a self-creating arising as opposed to a creation ex nihilo by a Creator.

With reference to the Daoist belief 'in the oneness of things', Ames writes "this is not to surrender the particularity of things, dissolving them into some unitary and perfect whole. . . Because the world is processional and because its creativity is ab initio rather than ex nihilo — a creativity expressed across the careers of its constitutive phenomena as opposed to being invested by some independent source — its patterned regularity and content are always provisional and under construction. Phenomena are never either atomistically discrete nor complete."

Dao is a process, an endless transformation. For this reason, the sage is envisioned as one who 'rides the dragon' of transformation. Harmony with Dao is fully embracing indeterminate becoming.

It is things in their particularity, moreover, in which Dao is seen, not in some imagined purity of being. Becoming is, to Western thinking, imperfection. To the classical Chinese mind, it is the absolute given of Reality, and thus perfection.

Because Reality is processional, every phenomenon within it is a 'happening' within a dynamic, relational context. Thus, one seeking how to most happily live in the world must "seek to understand the continuities that define and give meaning to this particular moment and this particular place in life's ongoing process."

Harmony with Dao is harmony with the realities of each individual and necessarily unique circumstance in which one finds oneself, because these circumstances are Dao. Harmony with the apparent imperfection of process is harmony with Dao. “Finding it in oneself” is not finding some core reality within, some spark of Dao, but surrendering into the process which one is.

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