Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The World Simplified II

Scott Bradley

We have been considering how it is that a mourner, who's mourning (for his mother!) reveals him to be "unsaddedned to the depths of his heart", can be renowned as the best of mourners. It is because, 'Confucius' tells us, he has understood that in the face of our inability to understand either life or death, we are able to utterly entrust ourselves to the unfolding Dao.
For when you try to simplify things for yourself but find it impossible to do so, things have already been simplified for you.
(Zhuangzi, 6:48; Ziporyn)
Zhuangzi's Confucius continues:
"This mourner "understands nothing about why he lives or why he dies. His ignorance applies equally to what went before and what is to come. Having already transformed into some particular being, he takes it as no more than a waiting for the next transformation into the unknown, nothing more...As for him, his physical form may meet with shocks but this does not harm his mind. His life is for him a morning's lodging, so he does no real dying.... You temporarily get involved in something or other and proceed to call it 'myself' — but how can we know if what we call 'self' has any 'self' to it?...But when you rest securely in your place in the sequence, however things are arranged, and yet separate each passing transformation from the rest, then you enter into the clear oneness of Heaven."
Zhuangzi understood so much about not understanding.

Unattached to the concept of a fixed self, a 'me' that must remain me to be me, a 'me' that fears its loss, "he does no real dying." In what sense did the mourner's mother die? In the same sense as we might ask in what sense she lived. In the same sense of it being simply the unfolding of Dao, a single string, an arising and a returning within Dao.

This entire passage moves me greatly, but perhaps most profoundly in the closing sentence. We are liberated from fear in identifying with Vastness; entrusting to the Totality, we are freed from the grasp of the particular. "And yet, [we] separate each passing transformation from the rest." Identified with the Totality, every particular discovers its infinite worth. Transience, far from being the negation of the particular, becomes its joyful affirmation. (Roll over, Buddha.)

When Zhuangzi's buddy Huizi found him playing the lute before his wife's corpse, he was outraged. But Zhuangzi replied, Of course I loved and now miss her dearly, and I wept at her passing, but both the love and loss are a gift of the Great Transformation; now I celebrate her return.

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

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