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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
*note* worthy of reading the comments of Nan Huai-Chin about buddhism and meditation practice...this guy was born in 1918 and so far he is still alive and kicking....plus,while his hair is white,his eyebrows are black..marvelous...kisses to him!
*update*.. Nan died at the age of 95 on Sept. 29th, 2012 in Suzhou, China.. from
-added by danny- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nan_Huai-Chin
Nan Huai-Chin (simplified Chinese: 南怀瑾; traditional Chinese: 南懷瑾; pinyin: Nán Huáijǐn) (March 18, 1918 – September 29, 2012) was a spiritual teacher of contemporary China. He was the student of renowned lay Chán Buddhist teacher Yuan Huan-Xian (袁煥仙; 1887–1966), and has received confirmation of his enlightenment by various masters of the Buddhist traditions. He is considered by many to be a major force in the revival of Chinese Buddhism. While Nan is regarded by many in China as one of the most influential Chán Buddhist teachers, he is little known outside the Chinese cultural sphere. Nan died at the age of 95 on Sept. 29th, 2012 in Suzhou, China.
THE PATH OF CULTIVATING ENLIGHTENMENT
There is a story behind this book. An old friend, Mr. Xiao, came to see me. As he was about to leave, he asked me a question: "Shakyamuni Buddha left home when he was 18, and finally--much later, after years of effort--lifted his head, saw a bright star, and was enlightened. What was it that he was enlightened to?"
If it had been someone else who had asked this question, it would not have had any great importance. But Mr. Xiao has been studying Buddhism for many years, so when he raised this question, it was no ordinary matter.
According to what is recorded in the scriptures and the traditional accounts, as soon as Shakyamuni Buddha was born, he was already equipped with an extraordinary natural endowment. Because he had cultivated enlightenment practices through past lifetimes over many eons, as soon as he was born in this life, various kinds of auspicious things happened. He renounced his princely position and left home, and for twelve years he sought enlightenment. Everyone should pay attention to these twelve years, because it is very easy to pass over them lightly.
At the moment we will emphasize the twelve years when Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated various religious practices. At that time there were many Indian religious sects that had been in existence for quite a while, each with its own methods of cultivating practice. Shakyamuni Buddha fully studied the various kinds of ascetic practices and used various methods to cultivate and refine himself. He was not like present-day students who study Buddhism and who vacillate back and forth, paying homage to one teacher after another, going from one conventional formulation to the next. Every time Shakyamuni took up a method of practice, he would study with complete sincerity and dedication, and do the necessary work.
After Shakyamuni worked his way through all of them, he recognized that none of these methods was the true, ultimate way to enlightenment.At this point, he went into the freezing snow-covered mountains and practiced austerities. After six years, he also recognized that austerities were not the path to enlightenment and that it would be best to leave them behind. After this, he sat in meditation under the bodhi tree on the banks of the Ganges River and made a vow he would not arise unless he achieved supreme perfect enlightenment; if not, he would stay there until he died. After all these efforts, he one day looked up to see a bright star and awakened to enlightenment.
Certainly everyone knows this story. I have told it again because I want to focus everyone's attention on it: I want everyone to know what Shakyamuni Buddha did during those twelve years, and how he cultivated practice. When we read his biography, we read only that he studied avrha-samadhi,"concentration without thought" for three years, and in the end, "realized it was wrong and abandoned it." We always overlook the fact that during these twelve years he earnestly cultivated practice.
. . .
Readers should note that Shakyamuni Buddha recognized that these are not the path to enlightenment and at the time he could not find an enlightened teacher, so all he could do was go by himself into the mountains to practice austerities. Every day he ate only a piece of dried fruit, so naturally he became emaciated, to the point that he barely looked human any more. By practicing like this, Shakyamuni wanted to find the real truth. But after six years he realized that austerities are not the path to enlightenment either, so he came down out of the mountains. When Shakyamuni Buddha reached the banks of the Ganges River, a shepherd girl offered him some fine milk curds. Because he accepted them, the five attendants sent by his father abandoned him. They left because they thought that Buddha had abandoned his will to cultivate practice. Later on, these five men were the first to be delivered by Buddha at the Deer Park,and became his first great disciples.
When Shakyamuni accepted the milk curds from the shepherd girl, everyone thought he had retreated from the path--that he had backed out. The men following him withdrew, because at that time in India everyone thought that one who left home to cultivate the path must practice austerities.
There is one point that we must pay attention to! Buddha saw the bright star and awakened to enlightenment only after he had accepted nourishment and recovered his physical strength. This is why I always alert the people around me to pay particular attention to their physical health and nourishment. Without a healthy body, there is no way to cultivate the path and realize enlightenment-this is a fact. We must investigate, step-by-step, the relationship between physical health, nourishment, and the cultivation of the path to enlightenment.
Only after Buddha accepted nourishment and recovered his physical abilities did he cross Ganges River and arrive under the bodhi tree. At that time, he had no way to find an enlightened teacher able to guide him: all he could do was rely on himself, sit in meditation under the bodhi tree, and make his vow.
The few simple words of Shakyamuni's vow are easy to ignore. When we read them, it seems we have understood their meaning, but we have not entered into them deeply or comprehended them fully. The vow that Buddha made at that time dispensed with religion, and dispensed with grand phraseology. It was like making an oath or making a bet: "If I do not achieve enlightenment this time, then I will die right here, and that's all there is to it. I will not get up from this seat." With these sentences, he expressed how intent he was on seeking enlightenment.
. . .
Shakyamuni raised his head at that moment and was enlightened. Tell me, after he was enlightened, was all the cultivation he had done before wasted, were those twelve years of effort all in vain? In other words, when. he awakened to enlightenment, he was about 30 years old, and when he began to spread the Dharma, he was no more than 32. His disciples were all much older. All the instruction he received. from childhood on, and all the various forms of cultivation and austerities he practiced after he left home--were these all done in vain or not?
At the time I answered my old friend Mr. Xiao by saying, "What he was enlightened to was interdependent causation and inherent emptiness." Mr. Xiao said, "Oh ... right" pushed the door open, and left.
I don't know whether everyone has taken note of this or not. This is a very serious question. After he left, a thought came to me: Mr. Xiao has studied Buddhism for many years. If someone else asked this question, it wouldn't matter much, but since he was asking this question, it was very serious. In other words, when he asked this question, it had extraordinary depth.
In truth, Shakyamuni Buddha awakened to inherently empty interdependent origination. Interdependent origination is inherently empty: this truth is very simple, so at the time, why was it so difficult for Shakyamuni to awaken to it? What was the difficulty? Buddha left home and cultivated practice for many years, and only then was able to understand this truth. But now all of us understand it, everyone who reads a Buddhist scripture understands it right? What is so special about this? If he was enlightened to the inherent emptiness of interdependent origination, then he penetrated everything with this one principle, he comprehended everything. So what truth is this? Assuming that he awakened to this truth correctly, then what do we say about his previous efforts? How can we account for them?
The second question is this. Right now we are studying Buddhism. Having read the Buddha Dharma, we then understand that inherent identity is fundamentally empty, we understand inherent emptiness and interdependent causation. Though we understand these truths clearly, why then do we still have to cultivate practice for such a long time? Moreover, we ourselves have been unable to become even first stage arhats of the lesser vehicle,let alone bodhisattvas. How it makes us lament, that in this present age, we have not seen anyone who has been able to realize even half of the fruit of enlightenment.
Thus, after Mr. Xiao had left me, a certain thought made my mind uneasy. I lamented that in the civilization of the present-day world, where religious activities and spiritual studies of various kinds and styles are all so extraordinarily well-developed both at home and abroad, society is getting more and more chaotic, cultured thinking is getting more and more confused, and the general mood is getting worse and worse. Everywhere there is confusion and chaos. Alas! It is true that everything and everyone is in chaos: this is what is called a world in chaos.
This question of Mr. Xiao's--where does the question lie? Take note! All of us who study Buddhism are to some extent inverting cause and effect. What do I mean by this? "Inverting cause and effect" means that we are reversing cause and effect, basis and results, and taking the cause for the effect.
We all understand that inherent nature is fundamentally empty; we all understand that everything is a product of interdependent causation and so on. But these principles, these truths, are not truths that we have discovered on our own. They are the answers that Shakyamuni Buddha gave to his disciples after he spent so many years practicing austerities. After other people took these answers and recorded them, and we read them, we understand them. In fact it is not that we have understood them ourselves. It is only that with the aid of the Buddhist scriptures, we have accepted the results achieved by the Buddha and appropriated them for ourselves.
So what should we do? The answer is that we ourselves must travel the road of cultivating practice. We must imitate Shakyamuni Buddha and travel the road of meditative concentration. We must seek realization on the road of true, correct practice. We ourselves must realize and witness interdependent origination and inherent emptiness.
After we have understood these truths, we often mistakenly assume that they are results we ourselves have achieved. In recent years, those who lecture on sitting meditation all understand Taoism, and understand Esoteric Buddhism, and are full of things to say. But when we take a look to see how they really are, it doesn't seem that way at all. As for whether they have achieved anything or not, whether they have found realization or not one glance and it is obvious that they have not. As the Sung dynasty Zen master Ta-hui Tsung kao said, "I know whether or not you are enlightened when you just stand there: what need is there to wait for you to speak?"
But people nowadays have many theories, especially theories of the special meridians and eight ch'i channels. They open this one and that one and they get very excited. I say to them, "You shouldn't get your bodies into total chaos."
All of this happens because we have learned a bit of knowledge from the Buddhist scriptures and have appropriated the results achieved through the practice of the people before us. We have reversed cause and effect, taking the effect as the cause and the cause as the effect.
This great canon of teaching by Shakyamuni Buddha is truth, sure enough, and it is also experience. He had doubts about the question of birth and death, and about the question of life. What Shakyamuni pursued was how to completely comprehend human life. It is very easy to use the experience of people who have gone before, adopt the insights that they have accumulated, appropriate these insights for ourselves--thus inverting cause and effect--and make this the study of Buddhism. The result is that we remain ourselves, and the study of Buddhism remains the study of Buddhism: the two are placed in opposition, and it is useless for cultivafing practice. Therefore I always say that the Buddha Dharma--which is one method of cultivating practice and the merely conceptual study of Buddhism, have totally different implications. Right now we follow the road of preparing to learn to be buddhas. This is the reason for this book.
Notes from the editor of the web edition
 There are two accounts of the age of the Buddha when he left home to practice asceticism. The more popular account is that he left home at the age of 29 and attained enlightenment at the age of 35. Master Nan portrayed the second account here.
CARRYING OUT VOWS
The basic principles of this series have been seeing truth, cultivating realization, and carrying out vows, and the main emphasis has been on the aspect of cultivating realization and doing meditation work. Until now, I have only said a few words about carrying out vows.
In fact, when all of us study Buddhism and cultivate the Path, we all want to experience the fruit of enlightenment. But why is it that so many people study Buddhism, and so rarely do we see people who are truly able to realize the fruit of enlightenment? The main reason is that most people do not carry out their vows sufficiently, not that their meditation work is inadequate.
If you do not carry out vows, then your perception of truth cannot be thorough and complete. Without the genuine carrying out of vows, your work of cultivating realization cannot progress. But it is this aspect of carrying out vows that is so easy for us to neglect. This is why all of you try hard but feel you are not getting on the right track.
Now let me explain by unifying the three aspects of seeing truth, cultivating realization, and carrying out vows. For example, there is a psychological question that is very obvious. Why do so many people in the world want to study the Buddhist Path? Even if they don't follow the road of studying Buddhism and seeking the Path, they still look for some other religious belief. Those people who do not seek religious belief search elsewhere for something to rely on. Fundamentally speaking, subconsciously, they all have something they are seeking. It is like doing business, and looking for the greatest result for the lowest price.
It is the same way with people who seek the supernatural protection of bodhisattvas. They spend a few dollars on bananas, and a few dollars on cakes, and a few dollars on incense, they spend at least a hundred dollars altogether on offerings. When they go to a temple, they burn incense, and bow their heads to the floor, and prostrate themselves. They ask for their husbands to be well, and their children to be healthy. Or they ask for promotions, or for wealth. After they have finished asking for everything, they burn incense, and at the end they take their bananas home with them, and slowly eat them themselves.
How terrible this mentality of praying for gain is! It's the same way when a person who has made a mistake kneels there praying, and makes his confession. What kind of mentality is this? We must think this over for ourselves.
As for those of us who cultivate practice, in our minds we will surely be thinking: "I certainly do not have this kind of mentality." But the way I see it is all the same: it is only a different style. Though we do not have this mentality of praying for gain, nevertheless, we think that by sitting in meditation we will be able to attain enlightenment. Though we are not seeking with bananas, we are seeking with our crossed legs.
Everyone sits in meditation wanting to illuminate mind and see true nature, to achieve buddhahood and consummate the Path. What people like the most is meditation work and experiential states. All you have to do is hear that someone has the Path and has meditative accomplishments, and no matter what, you feel curious and go off to find him. You are not clear about what the Path and what meditation work ultimately mean: this means your perception of the truth is not pure. Why isn't your perception of truth pure? If we pursue this matter rigorously, it is because you do not correctly carry out your vows.
The foundation of the Buddha Dharma is built on the six planes of cyclical existence, on past, present, and future cause and effect. But based on what I know from several decades of experience, very few of the people who study the Buddhist Path really believe in the six planes of cyclical existence, and even fewer believe in past, present, and future cause and effect. Or at least they do not believe absolutely in these basic Buddhist teachings. These are not superstitious beliefs. No one understands it clearly in principle, and even fewer people seek and find realization of it in actual fact. All of you ought to reflect back within yourselves on these points.
Because you do not believe in the six planes of cyclical existence, and you do not believe in past present, and future cause and effect, no matter whether you study Zen, or Esoteric Buddhism, or Pure Land, your basic foundation is wrong. It is like wanting to build a house on sand: it is impossible. But our mental activities are always going in this direction.
. . .
Another example are the spiritual powers. What are spiritual powers like? What is the power to know things in advance like? So many people who claim to have spiritual powers die of high blood pressure and diabetes. So what about an even bigger question? Have we given careful thought to what studying Buddhism and cultivating practice are ultimately for? We always indulge in high-flown talk, but it is not realistic.
In genuine cultivation of practice, in the end there is just one road: carrying out vows. So what does it mean to carry out vows? It means to correct your own mental conduct. Our thinking, the process of arousing mind and setting thoughts in motion: this is behavior that has not yet come forth. All conduct is the active expression of thoughts. When we want to seek emptiness, this is a matter of seeking a metaphysical issue, seeking the root source that can give birth to thinking. To really reach emptiness at the behavioral level and at the level of thinking is almost impossible. If someone manages to have his or her thinking entirely empty, and has become unknowing, then why would he or she have to cultivate the Path? Thus the principle of emptiness is not like this.
. . .
When we work at sitting meditation, why can't we make progress? All of you are sure to think that it is because our method is incorrect, and do all you can to find an enlightened teacher to ask about methods. This is not it! Don't deceive yourselves. Why can't you advance in your meditation work? Why can't you attain samadhi. It is because your mental activity has not been transformed. If you have not changed your mental activity at all, your meditation work cannot progress, and your perception of truth cannot be complete. In Chinese civilization, no matter whether Confucian or Taoist, all teachings are united on this point, all agree on this view.
. . .
What are virtuous practices? By Taoist standards, to rescue someone who is in imminent danger, and on the brink of death, and save his life, is just one virtuous practice. Using this as the standard, you must complete three thousand virtuous practices and accumulate several thousand merits, and only then will it be enough to cultivate and attain the station of the heavenly immortals. It is the same for Confucianism and for Buddhism.
Buddhism requires us to transform completely the way we give rise to mind and set our thoughts in motion, our internal thinking and behavior. But based on what I know, not one of you has budged at all in your mental activity. This is very frightening. Why can't you realize the fruit of enlightenment? Because you have not untied your mental bonds. The bonds of the eighty-eight compulsions are strong and deeply rooted.
People who study Buddhism have one basic defect. All of you should reflect on this. First of all, because you study Buddhism, you look upon the human world as empty. Therefore you seek to leave it behind, to leap beyond it and pay no attention to it. Because you leap beyond it and pay no attention to it you are incapable of compassion. We constantly speak of compassion. You should check into your own mental state and see how much compassion you are capable of. This is a very serious question. The second thing is this: to what extent have we eliminated greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt?
Here is an example. The better all of us cultivate practice, the more quick-tempered we become. why is this? You sit in meditation and are sitting very comfortably. If someone comes and bothers you, don't you get angry? Isn't this sort of mental functioning the opposite of compassion?
. . .
To my knowledge, generally people who have studied Buddhism or people who believe in any other religion are more arrogant than anyone in the world. They think that other people are devils who have no faith, and they think they themselves are sages. We who study Buddhism make the same mistake, only we call it by another name. When we see someone outside the Path we feel: "Alas! How pitiful! These are the seeds of hell!" The same principle is involved here: we are unwilling to be humble.
. . .
This is especially true of people who have done a bit of meditation work. All they have to do is study Buddhism and do sitting meditation for three days, and already the attitude that "In heaven and on earth, I alone am the honored one" arises. They think that other people's meditation does not work. They specialize in measuring other people by the standards of a sage, but they themselves have arbitrarily set this standard: things are the size they say they are. Of course when they measure other people, none of them are sages. But they never measure themselves to see how long they are or how big they are. They never reflect back on themselves: this is what's most terrible.
What can be done about such mental behavior? Why can't they realize the fruit of enlightenment? Why can't they attain samadhi? Because they have not transformed this mental behavior one little bit, they have not transformed greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt at all. This is very frightening. When we reflect on it, it is very serious.
I emphasize over and over again to everyone that if you cultivate the Path without realizing the fruit of enlightenment and you are unable to experience emptiness, this is because you have not been able to transform your mental activity. Thus, when you sit and meditate, you are only holding onto a bit of emptiness created by the realm of consciousness, and you think that is the Path.
. . .
So I always tell students that among the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching, there is not one that is entirely good, and not one that is entirely bad. There is bad in the good and good in the bad. There is only one hexagram which may be reckoned to have all its lines auspicious, and that is the hexagram "Humility." So when Buddhism tells us to study emptiness, the first precept is that we must be humble. How many people can do this? Reflect back yourselves: who is humble?
Only if you can truly achieve humility will you be capable of the compassion of the bodhisattvas. The Taoist Lao-tzu said: "I have three treasures: humility, frugality, and not presuming to take precedence in the world." Not presuming to take precedence in the world is humility. It's the same way in Buddhism. To what extent does Buddhism take humility? It extends humility to selflessness. when humility reaches its ultimate point this is selflessness.
Therefore, if we only want to sit in meditation and reach emptiness, and we cannot achieve selflessness at the level of mental activity, then we cannot become empty. This is because as we sit there preserving emptiness, it is the self that is trying to preserve emptiness, and we have not achieved selfless emptiness. If there is no self, what's the need to seek emptiness? Selflessness is already empty.
. . .
Now the foregoing refers to practice, but what about vows? That is even harder to talk about. If you cannot carry out your vows, you cannot manage to see truth. To put it another way, if you cannot carry out your vows, then you cannot succeed in the work of cultivating realization. What's the use of sitting well? You may say: When I sit in meditation, I can sit for three hours, and my mind becomes very pure." But really you are sitting there being lazy. This can be called a form of what is described in the play on words in classical Chinese: "The Tao means stealing [tao]." The meaning of this saying from The Yin Convergence Scripture is that people make use of the essence of heaven and earth, and borrow the original capacity of life, in order to be able to cultivate themselves and achieve the Path. Once people are born, they steal food and air from heaven and earth. They sit in meditation at all hours of the day and night wanting to imbibe the correct energy of heaven and earth, and the refined essence of the sun and moon. How terrible this thievery is! But The Yin Convergence Scripture is encouraging us to be thieves. If we really steal certain things from the universe, then our lives will be perfected: our lives will be the universe. After you do this, then you can let other people steal from you. This is the Taoist viewpoint.
The thought of the classical Chinese philosopher Mo-tzu [fl. fourth century B.C.] came out of Taoism. Mo-tzu demanded that we "sacrifice ourselves to benefit the whole world." This is equivalent to the Buddhist spirit of great mercy and compassion. Self-sacrifice is the philosophy of Mo-tzu. Mo-tzu is a figure in the Taoist classic Biographies of the Spirit Immortals, where it says that Mo-tzu was still in the world during the time of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty [who reigned 140-87 B.C.). But who still saw him then?
Yang Zhu [c. fourth century B.C.], another classical Chinese philosopher, advocated the primacy of absolute individualism and self interest. His philosophy, which resembles classical 19th century liberalism, also came out of Taoism.
Now let us return to the main topic. We who study Buddhism are there sitting in meditation stealing, while at the same time, out in society so many people are busy on our behalf. For this reason the Buddhists have a saying which is very special, a saying that is recited every morning and evening: "To those above we repay the four major forms of benevolence. Below we help those beings suffering in the three mires." This is a vow. Every day it alerts us to do meritorious deeds. We who study Buddhism must examine ourselves at all times wherever we are to see if we are fulfilling this vow. Every day we must repay the four major forms of benevolence. We are indebted to all four forms of benevolence: the benevolence of the buddhas, the benevolence of our parents, the benevolence of the nation, and the benevolence of sentient beings.
What is the benevolence that sentient beings show toward us? A person lives in the world, and depends on the fruits of the labor of many people. This is why we must repay the four forms of benevolence. To live for one day, we must trouble many people to provide us with the necessities of life. This is really the way it is.
"Below we help those beings suffering in the three mires," means that at the same time we must be mindful of the sufferings of those in the three lower planes of existence: animals, those in hell, and hungry ghosts. In other words, we must be mindful at all times of the sufferings of those who are not like us humans, and we must think of ways to help them. But do we do this or not? We who study Buddhism only think of how to find for ourselves companions who have the wealth of the Dharma, so they can help us achieve the Path. This kind of motivation is the basis of selfishness. Why don't you first help someone else achieve the Path? So first I spoke of practice, and then I spoke of vows. Have you really taken vows or not? Think it over.
Consider the classic Mahayana vows: "I vow to deliver infinite numbers of sentient beings. I vow to cut off endless afflictions. I vow to study innumerable Dharma Gates. I vow to achieve the supreme Path of the buddhas." In reality, while we are chanting sutras, we chant through these vows, and that's the end of it. There are actually no such things in our minds. The first vow is to save infinite numbers of sentient beings, but all we want to do is save ourselves. The second vow is to cut off endless afflictions, but we think: "It would be best if you helped me cut them off." The third vow is to study innumerable Dharma Gates, but we think: "You teach me, and it will be fine." The fourth vow is to achieve the supreme Path of the buddhas, but we think: "One day in the future I may succeed." Usually this is the way we interpret these four vows. Just reflect back, and you will see how serious this is. This is why it is said that the gate of practice is very hard.
The whole Buddhist canon tells us about the practice of carrying out vows. Practice means the thirty-seven components of the Path and the myriad practices of the six perfections. The foundation for studying Buddhism is here. When you understand past present, and future cause and effect and the six planes of cyclical existence, and you improve yourself at the level of mental activity, gradually you will naturally advance in your meditation work and your perception of truth. In saying this I am not just repeating the Buddhist teaching: this has been my personal experience. If you do not start your work from here, it is an insoluble problem, and you will not be able to realize the fruit of enlightenment. Changing your mental activity is much more important than sitting in meditation or cultivating realization. All you have to do is correct your mental activity for one day, and your samadhi power and your sitting meditation will improve along with it for that day.
. . .
To summarize what's been said, you need three things to succeed on the Path: to see the Path, to practice the Path, and to always be correcting yourself, to rid your conduct and behavior of defilements. Now in this entire series of lectures, we've given enough for you to be able to find the Path, and we've presented enough indications for you to be able to practice meditation and achieve samadhi. We've discussed what is and what isn't samadhi as well as the various semblance Dharmas that tend to mislead people. We've explained the use of anapana and contemplations on provisional existence for achieving concentration and insight, the genuine basis behind any of the methods for attainment. So what's left is for you to put energy into the effort and actually get to it. If you put your energy into cultivation work, and into the effort to correct your faults and shortcomings, you will develop enough merit to surely succeed. In this way you can become the savior of self and others.
On the Path of cultivation, you must know that everything starts with and ends with behavior. The whole Path has to do with conduct and behavior, the carrying out of vows. This is the highest truth and also the simplest truth: like a great circle, to do good and refrain from evil, is the very beginning and end of the path. Enlightenment has little to do with supernormal powers and supernatural feats, but rather with accessing our great transcendental wisdom awareness and employing our potential for great functioning in order to help others. You now know that reaching this stage requires that we both accumulate merit and work hard at meditation so as to rid ourselves of defilements. But after they're gone, what's left is to exercise our clear functioning capacity in compassionate behavior for the welfare of others. This is carrying out vows.
So strive hard with your efforts and don't settle for simply building an intellectual edifice of cultivation, like some university professors or academicians do with Zen. Without attainment, such efforts are quite useless. Rather, throw yourself into the cultivation of realization in order to gain attainment. Seeing the Path is one thing, but you will gain power in the Path only through the cultivation of practice. The buddhas and ancients have given us all we need to know, so it's left up to you to make the effort. Don't wait until it's too late. Start now and the blessings of the Path are sure to reach you. Cultivate with your entire mind and body. Settle for no less. This is the way to succeed.
Friday, October 17, 2008
*note* from Alice Ouzounian's site ...read it and ponder,then read it again...it's beautiful.
-added by danny-
" To know who and what you are you must first find who and what you are not". How can we know who we really are? Is it possible to discover our own mystery? Are the ideas and concepts that we have about ourselves real or just passing illusions? How can we find out?
There are so many questions that we must learn to answer by more questions? I remember a vivid dream that I had when I began my spiritual quest more than 25 years ago... in which enlightened masters who were watching and interrogating me... encircled me.
I will never forget their question... which was:" Who are you?" and my answer was the following: "In the spiritual world I am a cosmic being...and in the material world I am called Alice...etc." I didn't know better then... and as a "cosmic" being or as "Alice" I still gave a limited view of who I thought I was... Because whatever I "Think" I am, can only be a self-image a projection of a thought that I have and identify with... and yet we know that thoughts change, ideas about ourselves change also, from day to day and from moment to moment...
The opinions and the way that others perceive us, not only change, but are often different and sometimes even conflicting, yet they do send us images about how others perceive us... and these perceptions about who other people think we are, do influence our own perception of ourselves... Taking all these facts into consideration, let us ask once more the same question: How can we possibly say that we know ourselves when there are so many different images that we have about ourselves? Our moods, thoughts emotions change with our experiences, anger, vulnerability, fear, bereavement, and the loss of a job can make us change the image that we have of ourselves...
So, we can understand that we cannot rely on these fleeting and changing images that we have of ourselves... So how can we find out who we really are? The answer is simple; to know who and what we are, we must investigate and know what we are NOT... And to know what we are not, we must WATCH ourselves thoroughly...carefully rejecting all that does not bring us back to the basic experience of "I AM"...
Hence, this shows that twenty five years ago in my vivid dream, the answer that I gave to the Sages gathered around me was a wrong answer: I was looking at myself as an "object" and therefore my answer to them was the following: "when here in the spiritual world I am a Cosmic being - "and when I am in the physical world I am called Alice" Why was it wrong? Because the answers came from mental thoughts, ideas and images that I had about myself... thus, without knowing it I saw myself as an "object" ... I am this cosmic being when in the Spiritual world... and I am that person when in a physical body" Therefore, I automatically separated myself from who I AM.
To find out and learn to question yourself about who and what you really are, you should try to separate regularly and constantly the "I AM" from the "I am this or that..." the moment you add this or that, you look at yourself as an "object" and an object you certainly are NOT... and while you are questioning yourself, try to feel and experience deeply what you really are...and what it means to just BE... feel the I AM...empty of anything else... without adding I am ...this...or that... be conscious of not having images of any subpersonality...You will find out that to feel EMPTY and just be the pure "I AM" will be difficult, but worth all the effort...
Unfortunately, we are so much used to look at ourselves, as "objects" that we don't realize what we are doing to ourselves... In fact, all our mental and emotional patterns tell us different stories about who and what we
are... sometimes we are a father, a mother, an employee, a teacher, we are this one moment and that at another one... we identify all the time with one or a multitude of subpersonalities... when what we need in reality, is just to be open and become the unconditional "I AM"... pure Consciousness.
I do hope that this essay will send a clear message about the importance of discovering the SUBSTANCE of your BEING-NESS - which is the I AM without attachments...The clearer you understand that on the level of your thought
and emotional patterns you automatically describe yourself to yourself and others as an object...and as a result become something separated from who you really are...just pure Essence...
However, the moment you succeed in describing yourself in negative terms only, meaning in knowing that you can never be anything else than pure Essence - a sublime Substance... and when you understand that descriptions of what you do and the way you act and react are just fleeting descriptions, changing actions and events that are created to make us interact with others in a world of our own creation...
When this realization takes place in you, then, you will know that by saying: "I am doing this or that.... or I am this or that, are necessary subpersonalities created by the ego to describe a role or many roles that we play whilst carrying our responsibilities... Therefore, the "I AM" can never become a "tool", but the "I am this or that" is just a device used to describe something in the world of duality... The quicker you experience the difference between the two aspects of the "I AM" and the "I am this...I am that" the better and nearer you will come to realize your limitless BEING... and awaken to a new Reality...
Thursday, October 16, 2008
*note* a text from Longchenpa(the tibetan master) ,taken from Alice Ouzounian's site above...marvelous compilations of HERMETIC PHILOSOPHY AND THE MYSTERY OF BEING.
-added by danny-
Dzogchen Way of Living
Know the state of pure and total presence to be a vast expanse without center or border.
It is everywhere the same, without acceptance or rejection.
Blend the nature of mind and its habit patterns into non-duality.
Because entities, whether subjectively conceived or directly experienced,
Are present as ornaments of one's own state of being,
Do not accept or reject them.
And, Because they are not divided into self and other,
The apparitional, spontaneously present objects are the play of pure experience.
Listen: this majestic awareness, freely transforming itself,
Displays the integrated structure centered around the inner reality of form.(*1)
Everything that exists and appears
Displays itself in the space of unborn reality.
In this inner reality there is nothing to accept or reject.
All that exists is displayed by me, the supreme ordering principle.
Listen: this teacher of teachers, the majestic creative intelligence,
Displays the integrated structure centered around the inner reality of communication. Everything that exists and is designated
Displays itself as linguistic communication coming from the unborn field
And is gathered into this inexplicable inner reality of communication,
The supreme ordering principle's symphony.
Listen: this teacher of teachers, majestic creativity
Displays the integrated structure centered around the inner reality of awareness.
Know everything thought or attended to
To be the substance of the unborn ordering principle itself.
The realms of form, communication, and awareness of the creative intelligence
Are the three naturally occurring, uncontrived integrated structures of reality.
One who understands the reality of these integrated structures as complete in a moment without having been set up,
Has understood the core meaning of the spontaneously complete inner reality.
Thus, because all that is present as form, sound, and thought ever since they appeared in time has existed as these three unborn integrated structures, from the start live this great natural non-duality without going into any conceptual analysis. Through realizing beings and their worlds to be these integrated structures, affirmations, negations, antidotes, and hindrances will definitely be freed in their own place.(*1) This is the distinction between the path of self-liberation and the lower paths.
*note* great job from this woman,Bronte Baxter(former TM meditation teacher) in explaining her doubts.
-added by danny-
Did you ever wonder why a good God would build a world where the only way to survive is by taking life? How long would you stay alive if you refused to eat? You may love animals and grow plants inside your home and flowers in your garden, but every time you eat, you destroy the life of something. A something with a consciousness, that feels and desires to live, as we do.
The other day I grabbed an onion from a basket to chop up, and I saw it had sprouted a beautiful, tender, light-green shoot. It had a life inside it, a consciousness that wanted to take root, breathe air and thrive. Any tears in chopping that onion did not come from the fumes.
I’m not a sentimentalist. I’m a person questioning, increasingly aware of an insidious thread woven through biological life. We are born, we feed, and we die. Life is a process of consuming other living things in order to stay alive as long as possible until death in turn consumes us. We tell ourselves life is a whole lot more, but it’s reduced to that as long as we must feed to survive. If we can’t stay alive more than a few months without food, how can eating not be fundamental to how we define our existence?
Eating is a requirement for biological life as we know it. It’s the thread that holds together material existence. More than a thread, it’s a chain, binding us to the law that we must consume each other. Rebelling is punishable by death.
What kind of God or gods would create a world predicated on killing? We don’t like to ask that, and we find every excuse to avoid looking at this question. But every time a dear one dies, or you find a nibbled bird in the yard destroyed by an idle cat, or you read about an animal that has suffered mercilessly, or another molested child, or a nation ravaged by a quake that’s buried thousands of living people, your mind goes back to that nagging question. Who would make a world like this? Was it truly a God of love?
According to much evidence, it wasn’t. The world was created by something else. Or if it was created by the loving God our hearts insist exists, then creation has been tampered with by someone else so merciless that it barely resembles the original divine vision. The biological universe is controlled by the law that to live we must take life or die. That is sinister. Something there is that makes us have to eat, that makes us age and disintegrate. This is the “something wrong with the world,” the crack in the universe. Knowledge of it works “like a splinter in the mind, driving you mad,” quoting “The Matrix.” Yet awakening to the truth of our predicament is the first step toward radical change. Only radical change can possibly right the fundamental flaw woven into physical creation.
And how well-woven it is. Not only does violence wind through the lives of all Earth life like the fibers of a time-bomb attached to a victim. It reaches out into space, where supernovas implode, collapsing millions of stars along with all living beings on all their attendant planets. Death and devouring are so pervasive most people can’t conceive of a world without them, or if they can conceive it, they label the concept preposterous. Yet quantum physics shows that matter is nothing but atoms: emptiness vibrating. Emptiness does not die and neither does the energy it oscillates. So why must bodies die that are made of up of these things?
Robert Monroe, in his book “Far Journeys,” writes of contact he had with a light being in an out-of-body experience. (Monroe is arguably the world’s foremost researcher on OBEs; he started an institute with trainee/researchers to scientifically investigate the phenomenon.) Reportedly the light being told Monroe that when humans die, their energy is released and harvested by trans-dimensional beings, who use it to extend their own life spans. The claim is that the universe is a garden created by these beings as their food source.
According to Monroe’s story, animals are intentionally positioned on this planet to feed on plants and on each other, thereby releasing the life force of their victims so it can be harvested. In a predator-prey struggle, exceptional energy is produced in the combatants. The spilling of blood in a fight-to-the-death conflict releases this intense energy, which the light beings call “loosh.” Loosh is also harvested from the loneliness of animals and humans, as well as from the emotions engendered when a parent is forced to defend the life of its young. Another source of loosh is humans’ worship.
According to Monroe’s informant, our creators, the cosmic “energy farmers,” intentionally equipped animals with devices like fangs, claws and super-speed in order to prolong predator-prey combat and thereby produce more loosh. In other words, the greater the suffering, the more life force is spewed from our bodies, and the tastier the energy meal for our creators.
This story told to Monroe (which threw him into a two-week depression) corresponds to reports in some of the world’s oldest scriptures, the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas of India. There we read that “the universe is upheld by sacrifice” (Atharva Veda) and that “all who are living (in this world) are the sacrificers. There is none living who does not perform yagya (sacrifice). This body is (created) for sacrifice, and arises out of sacrifice and changes according to sacrifice.” (Garbha Upanishad)
“(Death as the Creator) resolved to devour all that he had created; for he eats all. . . He is the eater of the whole universe; this whole universe is his food.” (Mahabharata)
In the writings of Carlos Castaneda, who chronicles the life and teachings of a Yaquii sorcerer called Don Juan, we find another story of the Divine devouring humans, in this case human consciousness. Reports Castaneda:
“The Eagle is devouring the awareness of all the creatures that, alive on earth a moment before and now dead, have floated to the Eagle’s beak, like a ceaseless swarm of fireflies, to meet their owner, their reason for having had life. The Eagle disentangles these tiny flames, lays them flat, as a tanner stretches out a hide, and then consumes them; for awareness is the Eagle’s food. The Eagle, that power that governs the destinies of all living things, reflects equally and at once all those living things.” (“The Eagle’s Gift,” by Carlos Castaneda)
The idea that man must sacrifice (must kill something or be killed in order to appease the gods) is apparently intrinsic to all the world’s root religions. We find blood ritual, including human sacrifice, in the Druidic tradition, Tibetan Buddhism, among the Indians of the Americas, in Greece and Rome, Africa, China, Arabia, Germany, Phoenicia and Egypt. Even the Old Testament (Judges 11:31-40) has a little-advertised story of human sacrifice, with the Israelite judge Jephthah ritually slaughtering his own daughter to fulfill a vow he made to Jehovah.
While we may not think of Judaism as typically promoting human sacrifice, it more than promoted it if we count the genocide Jehovah demanded of the Hebrews. In one day alone, they murdered 12,000 Canaanites “and utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey with the edge of the sword.”(Joshua: 6:21)
In Islam, the situation is similar. Allah, while paying lip service to the immorality of human sacrifice, orders his servants in the Koran to practice jihad against all unbelievers. “When the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.” (Koran: 9:5)
Peace-loving Moslems interpret such passages as “symbolic” in their desire to justify their faith, much as Christians try to justify Jehovah’s sociopathic behavior with excuses. In many ways, the god of Islam reasons and rants like the god of the Israelites. Could it be the same entity? It isn’t contradictory that he would support two separate peoples, then lead them to fight each other. Not if his agenda is to stimulate and harvest plenty of loosh.
Christianity, the religion of brotherly love, is implicated in blood sacrifice by being rooted in the Jewish tradition. The Bible declares Jesus is the son of God (Jehovah), and Jehovah announces at Jesus’ baptism, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew: 17:5) Where was Jesus when his father was slaughtering the Canaanites? Jesus himself becomes a blood sacrifice, a fact that Catholics reenact in the mass and that Protestants bathe themselves in to be “saved.” Christians are no strangers to sacrifice.
If suffering and death were part of creation that no one, including the gods, could help, there’d be some reason to be more forgiving. I might even buy the story that they need us to support them with our homage and we need them to keep the universe running. But when you add blood sacrifice into the equation, I abandon ship. It’s one thing if the gods can’t prevent earthly suffering and death – quite another if they seek it out and thrive from it – or worse yet, created it. And that’s what blood sacrifice, and the scriptures around it, indicate.
When the oldest scriptures of the world tell us we were created as food for the gods, I have to ask myself if I want to live in a universe where that might be true. The fact is, I don’t. I can no longer give my approval to that kind of reality. So if I won’t live with it, I have to come up with something better. I have to find something more fundamental than the physical universe to locate my identity in, and my power in. I sense, as many do these days, that there’s something beyond the universe as it has been presented to us, something outside this box, outside this system. That’s what I seek to know, connect with, and draw from.
Robert Morning Sky, a truth seeker of the Hopi and Apache traditions, tells a story he learned from his people about a race of beings who knew no limitations, who existed far outside this physical universe. One day one of them declared his intention to visit Earth and take on a body just for the adventure of it, for the experience. His friends cautioned him, as this universe had a reputation as amnesia-producing, a place of no return. But the entity laughed that off and promised to come back after one lifetime.
Centuries passed, and the entity never came home. One of his comrades decided to enter the physical world to go look for his friend. He promised not to get lost in matter and to return with the other individual. More centuries passed, and neither being returned. So another immortal entered physical mass, and he also never came back. In time many members of these unlimited beings incarnated in human form, and the story goes, none of them yet has gone home.
Maybe we are those people, starting to remember who we are. Maybe it’s time to break out of the hypnosis we’ve lived under for eons, the unquestioned assumptions that we must kill and eat, suffer and die, live in lack and sadness, and undergo all the human drama as it has been defined for us.
Is it insane to think that humans can beat the system? That we could make a choice to stop the activities that supply our up-line with fuel? That we could minimize – even stop – our own refueling from the life force of creatures lower than us on the food chain? Is it madness to think that our bodies, made of undying energy, could themselves not have to die, that we might learn to live on the power of infinite consciousness, which we can access within ourselves, being part of it?
While some may call that madness, I prefer it to the world I see around me. I certainly prefer it to death. I prefer it to loss of my dear ones, and to sickness and poverty. The greatest experiment mankind can engage in is mastery of the principles of freedom, creation, abundance, and immortality. We’re wearing body suits that in 70-some years of use are programmed to self-destruct. What could be more important than changing that programming?
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna warns: “He who does not follow the wheel thus set revolving lives in vain.” The wheel is the cycle of birth and death, karma and retribution, human sacrifice and divine blessing. To rebel against this system is to fail in our life purpose as defined by those who say they are our creators and gods. But surely life was meant to be more than dinner for the next rung up on the food chain. If “living in vain” means breaking out of that, I’m all for that kind of failure.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
*note*..nice song..and listen to the lyrics...lol... keep on whispering in my ear tell me all the things I wanna hear
cuz its true thats what I like about you
thats what I like about you...to tell me not the truth,but the things I wanna hear...that's all I like about you,to keep me in ignorance.,and tell me I am great!
-added by danny-
Monday, October 13, 2008
Selections by Ajahn Chahfrom Reflections, Compiled and Edited by Dhamma Garden..
really cool stuff.
-added by danny-
If your mind is happy, then you are happy anywhere you go. When wisdom awakens within you, you will see Truth wherever you look. Truth is all there is. It's like when you've learned how to read - you can then read anywhere you go.
People have suffering in one place, so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises there, they run off again. They think they're running away from suffering, but they're not. Suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don't know suffering then we can't know the cause of suffering. If we don't know the cause of suffering then we can't know the cessation of suffering. There's no way we can escape it.
Some people get bored, fed up, tired of the practice and lazy. They can't seem to keep the Dhamma in mind. Yet, if you go and scold them, they'll never forget that. Some may remember it for the rest of their lives and never forgive you for it. But when it comes to the Buddha's teaching, telling us to practise conscientiously, why do they keep forgetting these things? Why don't people take these things to heart?
Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.
A devout elderly lady from a nearby province came on a pilgrimage to Wat Pah Pong. She told Ajahn Chah she could stay only a short time, as she had to return to take care of her grandchildren, and since she was an old lady, she asked if he could please give her a brief dhamma talk. Ajahn Chah replied with great force,
"Hey, listen! There's no one here, just this! No owner, no one to be old, to be young, to be good or bad, weak or strong. Just this, that's all - just various elements of nature going their own way, all empty. No one born and no one to die! Those who speak of birth and death are speaking the language of ignorant children. In the language of the heart, of Dhamma, there are no such things as birth and death."
Friday, October 10, 2008
*note* Interesting article by Young-Sook Lee...from the THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR FIELD-BEING...Aways be without desire in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire so that you may observe its manifestations(Lao-Tzu)
-added by danny-
Language and the Experience of the Tao
by Young-Sook Lee
Eastern Illinois University
Carleston, IL, USA
IJFB, Vol. 1(1), Part 2, Article No. 8, 2001.
¶1. It is a general assumption that the Taoists have a very skeptical or negative view
about language. One of the grounds for this assumption is certainly the Taoists' claim
that language does not reach the Tao, the ultimate. For example, Chuang Tzu says:
¶2. ... that which words can adequately describe, that which understanding can
reach to, extends only as far as the level of 'things,' no farther. The man who
looks to the Way does not try to track down what has disappeared, does not try
to trace the source of what springs up. This is the point at which debate comes
to a stop.
¶3. In other words, a major function of language is to make distinctions-to determine a
form and to qualify; but the Tao cannot be qualified, because the Tao is not a thing:
¶4. ...While there are names and realities, you are in the presence of things...The
Way cannot be thought of as being, nor can it be thought of as nonbeing. In
calling it the Way we are only adopting a temporary expedient.
¶5. The Tao is beyond any kind of division and distinction:
¶6. What you can look at and see are forms and colors; what you can listen to and
hear are names and sounds. What a pity!-that the men of the world should
suppose that form and color, name and sound are sufficient to convey the truth
of a thing. It is because in the end they are not sufficient to convey truth that
"those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know."
¶7. The Tao is like an unhewn log:
¶8. The Way is eternally nameless.
Though the unhewn log is small,
No one in the world dares subjugate it.
As soon as one begins to divide things up,
there are names.
¶9. In other words, language merely prevents us from directly approaching the Tao; or,
alternatively, language veils and obfuscates the reality, the Tao, like a filter. If you
want to understand the Tao, therefore, you should free yourself from attachment to
language. The Taoist negative view of language of this kind seems to contrast with
Confucius' philosophy of language. Confucius emphasizes in his doctrine of the
rectification of names the importance of the correct use of names (or language).
¶10. The question I want to raise in this paper is whether this story completes the Taoist
view of language. Is it the case that the Taoists take a completely negative view of
language? To tell the conclusion first, I do not think that they do, or they can. I do not
deny that it is a very significant part of the Taoist view of language to emphasize that
language cannot reach the Tao. But I do not believe that it completes the story of the
Taoist view of language. I also do not believe that the Taoist critique of language
contradicts the Confucian doctrine of the rectification of names.
¶11. Moreover, when we remember that the verbal meaning of "Tao" is "to speak," I
cannot but feel that the assertion that the Taoists espouse a skeptical and negative
view of language must be an oversimplified version of the Taoist view of language. I
will try to explain why in this paper.
II. Two Aspects of the Tao
¶12. It is true that Lao Tzu makes clear in the very first chapter of Tao Te Ching that the
Tao is unnamable:
¶13. The ways that can be walked are not the eternal Way;
The names that can be named are not the eternal name.
¶14. Any attempt to define the Tao in words fails. However, in the very next line, Lao Tzu
¶15. The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;
the named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
Both of these derive from the same source.
¶16. By "these" in the above quote, Lao Tzu means, according to Wang Pi, the nameless
and the named; and by "the same source," Lao Tzu means the Tao. Hence, the last
line can be paraphrased as follows: "Both the nameless and the named derive from
the Tao." That is to say, it is true that the Tao cannot be named when it is seen in its
essence, or alternatively, when the Tao is seen as an origin of the myriad creatures.
However, the Tao can be named when it is seen in its function, or, when the Tao is
seen to fulfill its motherly role, nurturing and nourishing the myriad creatures. In
other words, the Tao fulfulls its motherly role by giving names to the myriad
creatures, and thus cutting, dividing, and making distinctions. For to name is to cut,
divide, and make distinctions. Namely, the named has its origin in the Tao as well.
¶17. To put it another way, there are two aspects of the Tao: the nameless, the essence of
the Tao; and the named, the function of the Tao. Though the first is obfuscated by
cutting, dividing, making distinctions, etc., namely, by naming, the second is not; on
the contrary, it fulfills its function through cutting, dividing, making distinctions,
¶18. What I am driving at here is that cutting and making distinctions through naming (or
by using words) is not necessarily to go against the Tao. On the contrary, this is the
very way that the Tao participates in and relates to the world, or, alternatively, that is
the very way that we experience the Tao in the world of myriad creatures. Otherwise,
how can the Tao manifests itself and how can we experience it? Therefore, to claim
that the Taoists must have a negative view of language because they emphasize that
language cannot reach the Tao is an oversimplified version of the Taoist
understanding of language, I would think. The Taoists must have a very positive
conception of language as well. I will discuss in detail what that is in the next section.
¶19. A very similar story can be told about the Taoist view of desire as well. The Taoists,
like most other spiritual teachers, are taken, on the whole, to advance a negative
conception of desire. For the Taoists emphasize that desire beclouds the Tao. For
example, Lao Tzu says:
¶20. Stopple the orifices of your heart,
Close your doors;
Your whole life you will not suffer.
Open the gate of your heart,
Meddle with affairs;
Your whole life will be beyond salvation.
Evince the plainness of undyed silk,
Embrace the simplicity of the unhewn log;
and you will be without worries.
¶21. However, this is also only a half of the story as well, in my view. The other half is a
positive view toward desire by the Taoists. Lao Tzu says:
¶22. Aways be without desire in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire so that you may observe its manifestations.
¶23. This passage suggests that desire is not necessarily a hindrance to the understanding
of the Tao. On the contrary, desire of a certain kind helps the Tao to manifest itself in
the world of myriad creatures. For, as Wang Pi comments, desire has its root in the
Tao. Of course, we have to ask what kind of desire is like this. On what occasions
does desire becloud the Tao, and on what occasions does desire manifest the Tao? I
will discuss it soon.
¶24. In brief, my point is that just as the claim that the Taoists have a negative view of
language is only partially true and an oversimplified version of the Taoist philosophy,
so the view that the Taoists have a negative attitude toward desire is only partially
true, and due to an inadequate and fragmentary understanding of their philosophy. I
will try to find out in the following a more adequate picture of the Taoist view of
language and desire.
III. Two Kinds of Naming and Two Kinds of Desire
¶25. It is suggested above that there are two different kinds of naming as well as two
different kinds of desire: the positive and the negative. The positive naming and the
positive desire are those that help reveal and manifest the Tao, whereas the negative
naming and the negative desire are those that becloud and obfuscate the Tao. I will
consider the latter first.
A. Negative Naming and Negative Desire
¶26. What are the negative naming and the negative desire that becloud the Tao? We can
find ample examples of this kind in both the Lao Tzu and the Chuang Tzu. For it is
the kind of naming and desire both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu focused on when they
advanced a severely critical view of language and desire. Let us start with the
negative naming first.
¶27. The naming you apply when you make an evaluative distinction such as the good and
the bad, the beautiful and the ugly is taken to be negative. For example, Chuang tzu
makes a sharp criticism of this kind of naming:
¶28. Men claim that Mao-ch'iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them
they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly
away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which
knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world? You can never find a
fixed standard for these evaluative terms (the good and bad or the beautiful
and the ugly distinctions). They are all relative.
¶29. If you impose your own standard of the beautiful and the ugly on others, it necessarily
creates conflicts among people. For each one is different in his/her judgment of the
beautiful and the ugly. Besides, by imposing a certain standard and thus implicitly
programming people to perceive things in a certain way, unhealthy and unnatural
cravings are provoked as well, and the result is competition and disharmony. You
may see this phenomenon in everyday mass media influence, for instance. That is to
say, it is a kind of naming that does not have a positive impact on people's lives. The
same can be said about the good and the bad. So, Lao Tzu says,
¶30. When all under heaven know beauty as beauty,
already there is ugliness;
When everyone knows goodness,
this accounts for badness.
¶31. Secondly, the naming you apply when you make a discriminating judgment between
right and wrong, true and false, etc., is taken to be negative as well. It is a kind of
judgment which is most likely to end up in hopeless disputations which have no
ending, according to Chuang tzu:
¶32. People suppose that words are different from the peeps of baby birds, but is
there any difference, or isn't there? What does the Way rely upon, that we have
true and false? What do words rely upon, that we have right and wrong? How
can the Way go away and not exist? How can words exsist and not be
acceptable? When the Way relies on little accomplishments and words rely on
vain show, then we have the rights and wrongs of the Confucians the the
Moists. What one calls right the other calls wrong; what one calls wrong the
other calls right. But if we want to right their wrongs and wrong their rights,
then the best thing to use is clarity.
¶33. Since the Confucians and the Moists use names in this manner, Chuang Tzu criticizes
¶34. To apply names in the manner of the Confucians and Mo-ists is to invite
evil. ... names do not stick to the sage.
¶35. The way I see it, the rules of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of
right and wrong are all hopelessly snarled and jumbled. How could I know
anything about such discriminations?
¶36. But what is wrong with these distinctions and discriminations? Why do they end up
more often than not with disharmony, wrangling and endless disputations? Do they
share any common features among themselves? I think they do. They are the kind of
distinctions and namings which are invented and imposed by humans who do not
have clarity of vision. So, Chuang Tzu says above that, "if we want to right their
wrongs and wrong their rights, then the best thing to use is clarity." We must ask
however what Chuang Tzu means by "clarity." I think Chuang Tzu means by clarity
to see things from the Tao's perspective. From the Tao's perspective or from the axis
of the Tao, no such distinctions or discriminations arise. No distinction between the
good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the right and the wrong, the true and the
false, etc. Everything is one (or, united) from the Tao's perspective. Chuang Tzu calls
this the "Heavenly Equality":
¶37. The ten thousand things all come from the same seed, and with their different
forms they give place to one another. Beginning and end are part of a single
ring and no one can comprehend its principle. This is called Heaven the
Equalizer, which is the same as the Heavenly Equality.
¶38. But waiting for one shifting voice [to pass judgment on] another is the same as
waiting for none of them. Harmonize them all with the Heavenly Equality,
leave them to their endless changes, and so live out your years. What do I
mean by harmonizing them with the Heavenly Equality? Right is not right; so
is not so. If right were really right, it would differ so clearly from not right that
there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so
clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument. Forget the years;
forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home!"
¶39. From the axis of the Tao, nothing is better or worse than anything. This also explains
why Lao Tzu advances such a severe critique against the Confucian ethical system:
¶40. When the Way is lost,
afterward comes integrity.
When integrity is lost,
afterward comes humaneness.
When humaneness is lost,
afterward comes righteousness.
When righteousness is lost,
afterward comes etiquette.
Therefore, When the great Way was forsaken,
there was humaneness and righteousness;
When cunning and wit appeared,
there was great falsity;
When the six family relationships lacked harmony,
there were filial peity and parental kindness;
When the state and royal house were in disarray,
there were upright ministers.
¶41. Now, the naming of this negative sort (i.e., the sort invented by humans) provokes
desires of the same sort as well. That is to say, the desires provoked by this kind of
naming are not the kind of desires the possession of which make you observe the
manifestations of the Tao. Namely, they are not rooted in and derived from the Tao.
On the contrary, they are the kind of desires the possession of which keep you from
understanding and experiencing the Tao. And just as this negative naming has its
roots not in the Tao but in humans, so do these desires have their roots not in the Tao
but in humans. In Chuang Tzu's words, they are "the human," not "the heavenly":
¶42. 'What do you mean by the heavenly and the human?' Jo of the North Sea said,
'Horses and oxen have four feet-this is what I mean by the heavenly. Putting a
halter on the horse's head, piercing the ox's nose-this is what I mean by the
¶43. To sum up, both the naming and the desire that originate from and are motivated by
humans, not from the Tao, have a negative impact on human life by beclouding and
obstructing the Tao. These are the exact sources which are mainly responsible for the
generally taken assertion that the Taoists have a negative conception of language and
desire. But this assertion is inadequate in that it is just half of the story. This leads us
smoothly to the next question: what is the other half of the story, namely, the positive
conception of language and desire in Taoist philosophy?
B. Positive Naming and Positive Desire
¶44. As I have mentioned earlier, Lao Tzu suggests on the one hand that the named has its
origin in the Tao:
¶45. The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;
the named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
Both of these derive from the same source.
¶46. On the other hand, he also suggests that desire has its root in the Tao:
Aways be without desire in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire so that you may observe its manifestations,
¶48. What is the kind of naming and desire that has its origin in the Tao, not in humans?
How does that kind leave a positive impact on human life? How can we distinguish
the one from the other? Let us try now to identify the naming and the desire of this
kind, first. I have said above that the naming that issues from distinction or
discrimination making, such as good and bad, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong,
true and false, etc., does not originate from the Tao but from humans, and is likely to
cause disharmony and wrangling. Accordingly, they are to be excluded here.
¶49. What, then, is the kind of naming that does not have its root in humans? The names
used, for instance, to designate one's role or function in family such as father, mother,
son, daughter, etc., or in society such as ruler, minister, teacher, etc., belong to this
category, I would submit. It seems obvious to me that they are not the mere arbitrary
product of human convention. They transcend time and space and apply universally.
Applying these names do not cause disharmony, wrangling, or disputation as the
other kinds do. In other words, they do not have their roots in humans.
¶50. Incidentally, these are also the kinds of names Confucius employed when he
propounded the doctrine of the rectification of names. According to Confucius, names
(ming) of this kind have their corresponding actualities (shih). This means, in turn,
that names (or words) are not a mere collection of sounds but have an intrinsic power.
It is important therefore that we apply correct names so that their corresponding
actualities can be realized. A wrong or an incorrect application of names (words)
would definitely interfere with the intrinsic connection between the names and the
actualities, and accordingly bring about confusion and disorder on people's lives. For
example, the word "father" has its corresponding actuality, i.e., its essential meaning,
which is to show a deep affection toward his children. It is important, therefore, for a
person to be called "father" to fulfill his fatherly role (or function), namely, to show a
deep affection toward his children. Only when he fulfills this essential role, he
deserves to be called "father." And the result is manifested in peace and harmony of
the families. Now, peace and harmony are some of the essential features of the Tao,
or, alternatively, the Tao manifests itself into peace and harmony. In other words,
when names are correctly applied, the Tao manifests itself. When a person called
"father" does not fulfill his role and thus does not meet the actuality (essence) of the
word, however, you can see the result in conflict, struggle, and disharmony of the
family members, which is actually nothing other than the beclouding or the negation
of the Tao. The same is true in the cases of "king," "minister," "husband," "wife,"
etc.; namely, all the names of this category work this way. Confucius emphasized and
used this principle on the art of governing on this ground. The point I am driving at
here is that the names of this kind have their roots in the Tao so that by using those
names correctly we can eventually see the Tao manifest itself and produce a positive
impact, such as peace and harmony, on human life.
¶51. As regards positive desire which has the root in the Tao, I will use the same example
above. To fulfill one's role as "father" (or, to show a deep affection toward one's
children as "father") is not only an obligation, but also a desire, a natural instinct, or,
alternatively, a heavenly impulse in Chuang Tzu's term, I would think. A true "father"
desires to fulfill his fatherly role. The same is true about other names of this category
such as "king," "minister," "husband," "wife," "older brother," "younger brother," etc.
A true "king" has a natural heavenly desire to be kingly, namely, to rule one's people
with benevolence; a true "minister" has a natural desire to serve his ruler with
faithfulness, etc. Now, to fulfill the desire of this kind is to fulfill the Tao. In other
words, one experiences the Tao by following one's true desire (of this kind). They are
therefore the kind of naming and desire that does not becloud the Tao; on the
contrary, they manifest the Tao.
¶52. Another kind of naming, or rather saying, which is rooted in the Tao, helps the Tao
manifest itself, and guides one to experience the Tao is Chuang Tzu's "goblet words."
Chuang Tzu divides words into three kinds: imputed words, repeated words, and
goblet words. The repeated words are the words that are intended to put an end to
argument. For they are the words of the elders, and have authority. They work seven
times out of ten. The imputed words are the words that you utter by lodging yourself
temporarily at the other person's standpoint for the purpose of exposition. They are
effective nine times out of ten. The goblet words are the words that come forth day
after day, harmonizing things in the Heavenly Equality: "With these goblet words ... I
harmonize all things in the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes,
and so live out my years." According to Graham, "goblet" is "a kind of vessel
designed to tip and right itself when filled too near the brim," and the name, "goblet
words" is taken from it.
¶53. I would think that the goblet words have their roots in the Tao because they are the
words uttered when one follows wu-wei, the mode of action of the Tao. They are not
the words intentionally prepared, pre-meditated, calculated, planned, or reflected.
Rather, they are the words of natural spontaneity. They come into being when one
just follows the flow of each situation and responds to it. Because they are not the
words pre-meditated, reflected, calculated, etc., the speaker immediately forgets the
words once he has transmitted his meaning:
¶54. The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish, you can
forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you've
gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning;
once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a
man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?
¶55. In brief, the goblet words are the words of the Tao that take the highest place in
Chuang Tzu's hierarchy of words. By uttering them, one practices wu-wei and
experiences the Tao.
¶56. Along the same line, it seems to me, Chuang Tzu emphasizes that it is neither silence
nor words that can express the Tao. For, the goblet words (or the words of the Tao)
are free from both silence and words. As the words that have the form of sounds and
meaning, the goblet words are certainly not silence, but they are very different from
the ordinary words which are produced by wei, i.e., premeditation, reflection,
¶57. The perfection of the Way and things-neither words nor silence are worthy of
expressing it. Not to talk, not to be silent-this is the highest form of debate.
¶58. That is to say, what is important is neither silence nor words, but to talk in a worthy
manner following wu-wei and become one with the Tao:
¶59. If you talk in a worthy manner, you can talk all day long and all of it will
pertain to the Way. But if you talk in an unworthy manner, you can talk all day
long and all of it will pertain to mere things.
¶60. You can follow the Tao, sometimes through silence (or, words of no-words), and
sometimes through words, depending on the context.
¶61. I have shown in this paper that the Taoist view of Language cannot be taken to be
completely negative. The negative view of language is relevant only to the kind of
naming (and also of desire) that originates from humans. But there is also the kind of
naming (and desire) that originates from the Tao. By uttering the words (and fulfilling
the desire) of this kind, we actually experience the Tao itself. In other words, the
words (and desire) of this kind are the very tools through which the Tao manifests
itself in the world of myriad creatures. All that matters is therefore to pick up these
words and talk in a worthy manner.
¶62. Unfortunately, however, such words-the words of the Tao or the words talked in a
worthy manner-are not easy to find: "Lofty words make no impression on the minds
of the mob. Superior words gain no hearing because vulgar words are in the
majority." Nevertheless, there are such words. According to Chuang Tzu, they are
complete, universal, and all-inclusive. They are, unlike little words which are
shrill and quarrelsome, clear and limpid. By uttering these words, we experience
the Tao and are united with the Tao.