“Thus I say, the Consummate Person has no fixed-identity, the Spirit Man has no particular merit, the Sage has no name” (Ziporyn, p 6).

We can consider these attributes objectively and subjectively. Objectively, that is from the point of view of the observer, “the Sage has no name”. But this is somewhat nonsensical. In this way, the sage is a bit like Dao—suggested, but nowhere to be found—nameless. If there are true sages, it is very unlikely that we would know them as such. Many of the fictional sages in Daoist literature try their best to remain unrecognized, and fault themselves severely when they fail. This alone suggests we be wary of self-designated sages, gurus and the like.

Still, there are those who legitimately teach. Many of Zhuangzi’s “sages” have disciples, and even Zhuangzi is said to have had some, though this is in no way verifiable. Ambiguity applies here as it does everywhere else. What is required is discernment; and the best way to nourish that is to understand one’s own motivations. If one is attracted to a charismatic guru who clearly has “a name”, especially a hyper-active ego, then a sense of the implications of this in oneself might help one avoid making a co-dependent commitment.

This is likely to leave the field pretty empty, if not altogether so. But we already have our own best and most intimate teacher—ourselves. We have self-inquiry. True, this is unlikely to lead us to “complete, unsurpassable enlightenment”, but then those that follow this chimera are no more likely to find it than we, though they will have expended enormous amounts of life-negating energy in the pursuit. But that can also be fun in its own way, I suppose—and is as affirmable as any other species of tree in the forest.

Subjectively, that is in the experience of the sage herself, this also seems nonsensical. The sage says to herself, I have no name? Somehow this idea of having no name seems to vanish into itself. How can we name what has no name? But we get the point, so we can forget the names.

I like to say, there are no sages, just as I have said, there is no Dao. This is completely mistaken, of course, for its dogmatism if for nothing else. But it does have merit when understood as simply describing one side of a coin when the obverse side remains unseen and unseeable. At least we know that by his own criteria the man named Zhuangzi was no sage. Thank Dao!

Beware taking the pointing finger for the moon; beware taking the finger as pointing to the moon; and beware taking the moon for the moon—it does have its dark side, after all, and that just might be green cheese.

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