Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Great Mystery As Teacher VI: Ever-Transforming

Scott Bradley

This human form is merely a circumstance that has been met with . . . but those who have become humans take delight in it nonetheless. Now the human form in its time undergoes ten thousand transformations, never stopping for an instant — so the joys it brings must be beyond calculation! Hence, the sage uses it to roam in that from which nothing ever escapes, where all things are maintained.
(Zhuangzi 6:28, Ziporyn)
If nothing else, we have to hand it to Zhuangzi that he has an incredibly positive outlook on life. Even he who has been grossly disfigured and contorted by disease crawls to the well that he might see his reflection and rejoice in his transformations (6:49). Every transformation, whatever it might be, is an opportunity for joy. Needless to say, this is well beyond my experience and capabilities, but it does offer a vision worthy of aspiring to.

"Look on the sunny side of life", sings Brian on the cross in Monty Python's "The Life of Brian", but he does not tell us how or why. Zhuangzi does. Understanding that apparent reality is ever-transforming, he suggests we let go our grip on anything fixed and instead join the party. Become everything. This is roaming; wandering; unfixed living. All is transformation; we are that transforming.

"Hiding the world in the world", hiding ourselves "in that from which nothing ever escapes", this is letting go our claim of being any one sacrosanct thing to become all things.

This is what enables Zhuangzi to declare: "So it is precisely because I consider my life good that I consider my death good" (6:26). It's all good — from a certain perspective.

This is the essence of Zhuangzi's mysticism. In a sense it is simply a question of taking life and what life observes at face value, adding nothing. It is saying "Yes" to things as they manifest, rather than conjuring up elaborate explanations about how things are other than they seem, providing an escape from the frightening prospect of our individual extinction. Since we have never been in any fixed and permanent sense, there is nothing to lose; this is the way with all things. Embracing this, we become the ever-transforming.

Take it or leave it; things are as they are in any case; no souls will be lost; no cosmic failure impends. The only difference it makes is in how much we enjoy life.

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

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