Monday, June 10, 2013

Equalizing Things XVI: The Heavenly Reservoir

Scott Bradley


The previous post discussed the "Shadowy Splendor" which is actually a synonym for the "Heavenly Reservoir". Here's the larger quote: "Hence, when the understanding consciousness comes to rest in what it does not know, it has reached the utmost. The demonstration that uses no words, the Course [Dao] that is not a course [dao] — who 'understands' these things? If there is something able to 'understand' them [in this sense], it can be called the Heavenly Reservoir — poured into without ever getting full, ladled out without ever running out, ever not-knowing its own source. This is called the Shadowy Splendor." (Zhuangzi, 2:36-7; Ziporyn)

Ziporyn understands the Heavenly Reservoir to refer to the 'Daoist mind", the way the Daoist relates to the world. I have previously argued for something a bit more ontological — that 'place' of interface between the mind and . . . Dao (I guess). This view is clearly not 'shadowy' enough. The Heavenly Reservoir is a mind that is open to that which is beyond knowing. The consequence of this openness is an experience of . . . well, feeling good. (For me, as an inkling, it is joy and thankfulness.) But it never knows where this comes from; certainly it does not think that it is open and thus 'Dao' pours in and out of it.

Zhouzi asks a disciple, Open your heart and what do you get? The disciple replies, Everything and nothing. A good answer, replies Zhouzi; but when asked how he would answer, Zhouzi says simply, An open heart. Virtue is its own reward. An open heart is its own reward. Openness is itself the source of its joy. The last thing that Zhuangzi would have us imagine is some kind of active agency whereby a metaphysical 'Dao' responds to an opened heart. Dao is the openness.

Open your heart and what do you get? A Heavenly Reservoir.

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

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