Friday, June 22, 2012

Taking My Dao To the Laundromat

Scott Bradley


Some time ago I wrote a post entitled Taking Zen to the Laundromat in which I bemoaned the fact that, though Zen is rich with spiritual insight, it is so encrusted with religiosity I find it difficult to access that insight. It would be nice if we could launder out the religious paraphernalia. Yes, I agree; that's my problem.

Here's another take on the same theme, this time a bit closer to home. Since I have used Zhuangzi as a place of departure for the growth of my own path (a dao), a great deal of my thinking and vocabulary is naturally that of his form of proto-Daoism. Dao, de, qi, yin, yang, Vastness — all these terms belong, in some sense, to a religious tradition. Even though I do not see Zhuangzi's philosophy as strictly religious, Daoism in general quickly became so.

I use these terms, but I don't believe any of them; none of them represent actual realities; they are merely terms descriptive of various aspects of spiritual experience, just as the word 'spiritual' does not, for me, denote the existence of a "spirit" within me. As such, I have for the most part been able to comfortably use them. Yet, there is a tension here (in myself) which I have tried to clarify by stating that I am definitely not a Daoist. In another post ("Faith Crisis!"), I said, "Thanks for the leg-up Zhuangzi (or pseudo-Zhuangzi); I can take it from here!" Taking my dao to the laundromat would be the process whereby I distilled out what I have learned and experienced consequent to my study of Zhuangzi and other traditions so as to free it from any religious matrix.

Doing this would, I believe, bring a great deal more clarity to this philosophy and make it more thoroughly my own. The more I can do this, the more I am likely to receive from Zhuangzi himself, in any case. Needless to say, I have been doing this all along, but I feel there's a long way to go.

I have previously made up a few "sages" (Sue-tzu, Chen Jen, Zhouzi) through whom I have been able to develop my philosophy at a remove — they were not I, and consequently I could somewhat paradoxically learn from them. As a mere devotee, I was also not obliged to embody their teachings; I was less a hypocrite. If I make up a new "sage", he will be a thoroughly modern one, one who teaches that distilled philosophy I mentioned above. All that holds me back is that he would be more "me", and thus, to avoid the hypocrisy this would entail, I wait.

(I apologize for having used "I" 31 times in the post!)

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

2 comments:

  1. Love this post. It mirrors my own experience with Zen and Daoism. However, I *have* met a real Daoist sage: Raymond Smullyan, whom I mentioned to you before. He doesn't follow any spiritual or religious path, but everyone who spends a little time with him comes out slightly more illuminated, so to speak. (Here's a long bio; worth reading as it captures Ray's spirit rather well -- scroll down a bit to read his own words: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeeaya7/raymondsmullyan/).

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  2. From that link I ended up here www.zenfortherestofus.com/rambles.html and found it enjoyable. I also noted I'd actually read his book some time ago. I remember enjoying the book but disliking, at that time, how he could make such a statement that the Tao is or is not anything :-)

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