Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"The Infamous Yiming" II

Scott Bradley

Zhuangzi's philosophical Daoism is so radically different from any other 'spiritual' paradigm for the realization of a transformative mystical experience that it is very difficult for us to truly grasp. This is in large part because the entire enterprise is an attempt to break us free from the "normal human inclinations" through which we interface with the world, and into which we automatically default no matter how hard we try to do otherwise. The entirety of this philosophy might therefore be likened to a Zen koan; the only way to truly 'grasp' the 'meaning' is to experience it, and should we do so, there would be no meaning to grasp, for ultimately the experience is content free.

The reader will know that I am of the opinion that Brook Ziporyn largely 'gets it'. He has an uncompromising appreciation of what he calls "the ironic Dao", the Dao that is no Dao, and lets this "knife that has no thickness" cut through to the intended meanings of Zhuangzi. I frankly cannot always follow him into Zhuangzi any more than I can follow Zhuangzi, but I am at least able to get glimpses of this ironic Dao through his commentary. This is does not make him a "guru", but simply a scholar who is able to get at Zhuangzi's unique point of view; I do not even know if he 'agrees' with it or in any way attempts to apply it in his life. I do, however imperfectly.

The above is intended as an introduction to a restatement in Ziporyn's words of just how different Zhuangzi's vision is. To my thinking, to miss this is to miss Zhuangzi. [Though in missing him, one might just as easily realize transcendent experience, since this is not dependent on understanding anything.]
This term [ming] is often taken to be the point at which Zhuangzi takes refuge in a kind of intuitivism, thereby discarding his therapeutic skepticism; that is, if this ming is translated to mean something like ‘illumination’ or ‘enlightenment’, we get the impression that Zhuangzi is telling us to forget all these logical disputes, which solve nothing, and rely instead on our language-transcending intuition, which alone will show us the truth, reveal the way things really are. My reading of this term yields almost precisely the opposite meaning.
(“How Many Are the Ten Thousand Things and I?” in Hiding the World in the World, p. 48).
I have previously quoted what this opposite meaning is, namely as what is obvious about our existential reality. In context, this points primarily to the fact that all things affirm themselves and negate others so that, taken together, there is really neither affirming nor negating. However, this “illumination of the obvious” suggests a perspective which applies to all our experience. This is what it means to allow all things to “bask in the broad daylight of Heaven.” And, as Ziporyn further elucidates, “Heaven then is not the secret hidden essence of things, the harmonious creator behind their present conflicting appearances, but rather that surface of obvious conflict itself . . .” (p. 49) Heaven is us.

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

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