Saturday, May 19, 2012

The View From Dao

Scott Bradley


"How could daos be so obscured that there could be any question of genuine or fake among them? How could words be so obscured that there could be any question of right and wrong among them? Where can you go without it being a dao?" (Zhuangzi, 2:15; Ziporyn) [Dr. Ziporyn translates Dao as "the Course"; I have substituted "Dao".]

Imagine you are an entomologist with a specialty in ants. You study hundreds of species of ants and know the myriad ways they are similar and different. Some raise and eat fungus; others eat flesh. You do not judge among them, thinking one right and another wrong; every behavior is understood as an expression of Nature and honored as such. The view from Dao enables us to see humanity in this same light. All human behavior is Dao.

Do you not want to go there? Do you require that there be a right and a wrong? Good; you have discovered the difference between the view from the human and the view from Dao. It may be that this is not your understanding of Reality; then Zhuangzi does not speak to you. It may be that you do understand Reality in this way, but also realize your inner resistance to it; you are most fortunate. Perhaps it would help to also understand that Daoism does not ask you to abandon your humanity and the relative requirements of morality that it requires to function harmoniously. It would only seek to inform you of a more transcendent view, and with that view, empower you to "walk to roads", to participate fully in the human and yet be free of the narrowly human. Can you see how you might better fulfill the valuable ends of morality when you are free of a narrow, partisan, and possibly angry, view?

Here are extracts from two commentators on this passage:

Lu Huiqing (1032-1111), a Confucian classicist, writes: "Dao is everywhere, so all words are Dao. How could Dao be so obscured that some words are true and others false? All things are Dao, so words are also Dao. How could words be so obscured that some are right and others are wrong? Knowing that Dao is everywhere, where can you go and fail to find it present? Knowing all words are Dao, where could they be present and fail to be acceptable?"

Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692), another Confucian, writes: "Wherever the understanding consciousness may reach, all of it is within Dao. Some partial, some comprehensive, some left, some right, but every dao can be seen as part of Dao. Those who limit themselves to their understanding consciousness, making it into a fully formed mind [self-contained], depending on whatever way their vital energy is roused, failing to understand how both alternatives are always both acceptable and unacceptable, instead considering only one way right and one way wrong — these people take the small completions and successes of their understanding and opinions and make them into a theory."

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

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