UNDER HEAVEN XLVII

“In motion be like water, in stillness like a mirror, in responding like an echo. Vague and ambiguous, as if not really there! Still and quiet, like something transparent and clear! To merge with it is to form a harmony, but to try to gain something from it is to lose it.” (p 123)

This wonderfully captures the Daoist vision. But what is the “it” with which we are meant to merge? That’s the question upon which the entire philosophy turns.

We call it “emptiness”—very much like Laozi does not know its name and so calls it Dao. (Laozi 25) But to name it is to lose it. Thus our naming must be unfixed—it must be a process, a continuous self-emptying. But then, right here, we are engaged in the process of venturing into our own emptiness—and that’s the sum of it.

We naturally think that “it” is out there. But in the process of naming and un-naming it we discover that it is really just in here. We cannot name it, because we cannot name ourselves, and vice versa.

“To try and gain something from it” is equivalent to stopping the process. Only “someone” can gain something from it. But “it” is precisely our sense of no-one-ness.

I like the to quote the ostensible words of Gautama in this regard: “I gained nothing at all from Supreme Enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called Supreme Enlightenment.”

For me, this says all that needs to be said on the subject. The rest is a journey.

Since so much of what travels as Daoism is very much about gaining something from “it”, it is worth yet another mention. This is simply not the “Daoism” of Zhuangzi.

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