Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yuan Dao: Dao Surfing

Scott Bradley


There is a poster which shows the stereotypical Indian guru — long grey beard, robes and beads — surfing a wave. The caption reads something like: "You may not be able to change things, but you can learn to ride them." This wave-image is in many ways apropos to the presentation of Dao (Reality) understood as a processional, indeterminate, unfolding. This is Dao as Becoming. There is nothing which is other than this unfolding. There is truly no difference between the surfer and the wave, only one can allow oneself to be spun and tumbled by it, or one can learn to ride it. In the realized human, Dao rides Dao.

To reiterate, Reality is understood as Happening. No appeal is made to a fixed, unchanging Source. Source is itself this all-embracing Endless Event-ing. There is nothing fixed which one may grasp; there is no known purpose or goal, beginning or end; there is only Transformation. The sage rides this dragon. She surfs this wave. Her harmony is with apparent chaos.

The human is on the leading edge of this Unfolding Dao. This is because the human experience makes it so; it is not because it is metaphysically or purposively so. What is apparently unique about the human is that it is aware of both itself and the Wave and can thus stand up and ride it. This apparent uniqueness does not imbue humanity with any special purpose in the Whole; to believe so would be to violate the fundamental understanding of Dao as indeterminate arising.

When the ride is over, the sage re-integrates into the Wave of which she was never anything but. What was the point of the surfing? All we can say is that the surfing guru has a smile on his face.

This understanding of Dao has far reaching implications in how we might choose to harmonize with the personal realities in which we find ourselves. If selfhood is understood as a complex of relationships rather than a fixed 'entity', as Ames (Yuan Dao) suggests, then the Daoist harmony is one of establishing the most efficacious alignment within those relationships. This efficacy is evinced in the smile.

I find this image of Dao very helpful and expect it will be instrumental in my own harmonizing. But it needs to be remembered that it is only an image. It is a working paradigm, not a statement of truth about Reality. There are only working paradigms. I throw out a great many imagined meanderings here, numerous Daos and daos, and some might find that unsettling. I sometimes do. The 'understanding consciousness' wishes for and requires for its peace, possession of the Answer, the final and correct formulation.

If Ta-Wan has his Daily (Cup of) Dao, perhaps I sometimes have my Dao of the Day. Both are simply attempts to stand up and ride the wave. The important thing, it seems to me, is to always maintain the meandering as surfing, not searching for the bottom. We ride the dragon; and the Classic Chinese dragon (long) is no single beast, but a composite of ‘every beast’, every possible expression.

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