Friday, April 12, 2013

Depending on Nothing VI

Scott Bradley

When I first began reading the Zhuangzi I admit to having been put off by the opening trope about the fantastic flight of a mythical bird. This was my least favorite part of the Inner Chapters. Now it has come alive for me and I see how this story and its explication forms the backbone of Zhuangzi's philosophy. Thus do I dwell so long upon this theme of non-dependence. This philosophy, it needs to be remembered, is intended as a path to personal (and by extension, societal) liberation, not as an explanation of 'how things really are'.

Non-dependence leads to "far and unfettered wandering". Here's Wang Fuzhi's (1619-1692) take on what these mean:
For us forms lodged here between heaven and earth there is only this wandering, this play, and nothing besides. . . . Going forth but without any plan, coming back but not to any dwelling place—this is what it means to be free of dependence: not leaning on things to establish some identity for oneself, not leaning on projects to establish some merit for oneself, not leaning on actualities to establish some name for oneself. . . . 'Unfettered' means echoing beyond the dissolving tones—forgetting what has passed. 'Far' means pulled into the distance — not limited to the understanding consciousness.
He continues with a summary of the following six chapters in the light of this first:
Hence, the theories of things can be made equal [2], the ruling force of life nourished [3], the physical form forgotten but its Virtuosity fulfilled [4], the world entered but its harm kept at bay [5/6], things responded to in a manner worthy of a true sovereign so that the empire comes to order [7].
He concludes with a summary of what these mean:
All are ways of attunement with the great source, forgetting both life and death. All can be wandered in — indeed, all are nothing but this wandering. (Ziporyn)
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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