THE NUMINOUS RESERVOIR V

We will finish this series with a consideration of a passage recently mentioned in our discussion of the opportunities for self-cultivation that the unavoidable circumstances of life provide. Zhuangzi has “Confucius” tell us that we need not allow these circumstances to enter our “Numinous Reservoir”, and then tell us what this means for our experience:

“That is what allows the joy of its harmony to open into all things without losing its fullness, what keeps it flowing on day and night without cease, taking part everywhere as the springtime of each being. Connecting up with This, your mind becomes the site of the life-giving time. This is what it means to keep the innate powers whole” (5:16-17; Ziporyn).

This amazing passage seems to promise an experience of the celebration of Life itself in opening up to the “life” found in all happenings (things and events). This is an exciting prospect, and well worth pursuing. But let us begin by sobering ourselves up a bit. The passage is obscure and difficult to translate. This may not be what Zhuangzi had in mind at all. So what? Is this scripture? Is Zhuangzi’s intended meaning the truth of things? Did Zhuangzi actually experience it, and if so, in what sense? Could we possibly experience it even if it is not what he had in mind?

All these questions are important principally because they serve to shift our relational focus away from belief and toward open-minded, imaginative exploration. “Release the mind to play.” It’s all psychological. It’s all about how we can experience life, not what life and reality really, really are.

We are not “followers” of Zhuangzi. We find his philosophy an incredibly insightful and inspiring point of departure for our own exploration of the possibilities for enjoyment that life provides us. And in the end, it is the exploration itself which must be that enjoyment, irrespective of any imagined discoveries or destination. It’s all about the journey; the final destination is unavoidable however we get there.

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