Embracing everything is the Way. Yes, dualistic practices do little to change the world. How many spiritual people have you met who have done years of some kind of repetitive chanting technique or mantra meditation or have done some kind of mind holding practice or visualization or ritualistic devotional practice or line of study and have changed very little over the years or have even gotten worse; more conceptual and closed minded. Wars still go on. Poverty continues no matter how many world wide group meditations go on. All practices that work on manipulating or controlling the mind or body or tell you you have to conform to them to reach the goal can be of some help in living a more balanced life, and millions of people meditating on peace or chanting together may very well help the world, but still people suffer, wars continue and ones own practice can become a crutch an obstacle on the path and an addiction. Religions can breed intolerane, greed and war. So what can you do to be free of suffering in a world that is full of pain and suffering ignorance and greed? Chant more? Bow more? Meditate more?
On the other side of this duality of practice are those who assert that all things are empty or void and so they do not have to do anything at all. Although they still experiencing suffering they try to imagine it away with spiritual concepts. The True way is beyond assertion and denial. To tell someone who is suffering to "Cultivate the Dao: by doing this or that practice with their body or mind, when they are suffering may help them deal with the problem better but ultimately giving them spiritual intellectual concepts wonít help someone who is in the throes of deep painful mental anguish.
Yoga, Chi Gong, reading Taoist Sages, taking herbs and eating according to time tested healthy guidelines can all be helpful in balancing ones life but in itself will not answer the deeper questions of how to be truly free of pain and suffering in the moment.
Spiritual practices become a hindrance spiritually if it makes you less open, more dogmatic in your views and opinions less willing to look into your most cherished beliefs to see if they are really true or are something you have been conditioned to believe from religion or society. This is what in Zen is called putting a head on top of your head. It is good to teach peace and tolerance in your daily life, it is good to do things internally and externally to live in balance, But as youíve said the world continues to be in Chaos and commotion. What is the solution?
The main problem with the ideas about cultivation and non cultivation is that they tend to set up a division between the cultivator and the goal of the cultivation. One side of the duality is the assertion that the goal is Enlightenment as an end to suffering which will take place by practicing something that will bear fruit in the future, the other side is that the best we can do is learn to live with suffering and be relatively content with it and do ones best to be balanced and accepting of others and of your own suffering, because that makes us human, while the mind remains all along still full of suffering and discontent and caught in sorrow and fear of death.
So how can you go beyond these obviously limited ways of practice? How can you alleviate suffering, yours and others and be truly free. Master Hongzi called it Cultivating the empty field. He said:
"The empty field] cannot be cultivated or proven. From the beginning it is altogether complete, undefiled and clear down to the bottom. Where everything is correct and totally sufficient, you attain the pure eye that illuminates and is thoroughly, fulfilling
"When you reach the truth without middle or edge, cutting off before and after, then you realize one wholeness. Everywhere sense faculties and objects both just happen. The primal wisdom, silent but also glorious, responds to conditions [naturally]Ē
If you are deep thinking you will inevitably arrive at the level of openness and tolerance, that you have; that goes beyond dualistic practices. You may still enjoy yoga or health practices or devotional practices but they are a reflection of the ever increasing wholeness of vision you are experiencing.
Living the Way is something anyone can experience right here and now by simply exploring the deep wellspring of your own being. The teachings of all the Sages point to this,. Lao Tzi or the Complete Reality Taoists, for instance, point to this unnamable inexpressible source , which is the place of inner peace, and happiness within that has always been there when you are free of concepts that cloud ones vision of it. Years of bowing to an altar may not help you arrive at this. The Ever Present Experience of openness and freedom which is our true Self is always self revealed when you look into it. It is available to us all right here and now. When we stop thinking we have to attain something or do something or not do something to be it. Being it is our natural state, right here and now, when we are not clouded up by and veiled by ideas or concepts we hold that obscures it.
So what can you do to help a friend who is suffering over a great loss? Everything you are already doing. Right there, the heart of compassion and wisdom within you knows the Way. All things pass in this life and are ephemeral and fleeting so to be attached to anything of course is the folly of the human mind. But you canít tell this to someone who is suffering over something.. It will not help. What you can do is go to that place within you that is the source of the love and compassion you have found within yourself and share it with her. Remind her what is important. The heart of wisdom that can look beyond transiency ďAll things must passĒ and is directly experienced when you look to see what it is in you that really matters.
Today, wars, environmental devastation, the corporate greed machine that wants to dominate the world for profit, the world today, yes, is enough to make you cry. To look into how the world gets that way is the way to go beyond it. When a coworker is angry for no apparent reason. When an enemy wants to harm you. When you or someone you know is the victim of bigotry. Each one thinks they are right. Each one believes the concepts in their minds and are not looking to the heart center; to that place of love where opinions and ideas fade away and we truly see each other; see we all have the same one true nature and can be it; can awaken to it at any time.
The answer for overcoming suffering in yourself or your friend is to drop out. Not contribute to that world of discord and disharmony hate a greed, within yourself and return to the center. The source of the love and happiness we all most treasure and share that place of optimism and light of goodness where opposites do not apply. Then do as you wish to try to make the world a better place, while remaining detached. The more you do this the more you experience love and can let negative ideas and emotions that used to cause you to suffer pass and you remain that which is peace and happiness. This place of peace and happiness is our true nature.
The mistaken way of seeing the world, through the ignorant mind that causes pain and suffering to ourselves and others is what Taoist call human consciousness or in Zen the conditioned mind. Abiding in unconditioned consciousness the source of unconditional love and happiness within you, the conditioned consciousness of humans that causes all the trouble in the world fades away in you and in living from there at that moment your friend will see it in you and be able to go beyond her travail much better than if you were to try to indoctrinate her into some kind of doctrine or mental or physical practice. Abiding in, unconditioned consciousness you still see the world, itís stupidity and ignorance, itís wars and violence but can accept it as something that you can work to change in whatever way suits you while remaining free of it by abiding as that which is the freedom you wish to embody. That which is of real value is that place in you that is always free and is the source of love and happiness within. Discovering that and learning to live by it regardless of the circumstances is the greatest gift you can give yourself and the world. Your ability to stay free and happy and not contribute to and live in ignorance yourself is the True Way.
: Enjoyable exchange, Zentao. I very much
: appreciate the "atmospherics" of
: it. Instead of attacking each other's
: experiences and sincerity (the norm, it
: seems, on internet boards), we're exploring
: and challenging each other's ideas. That,
: in my opinion, is how things should be.
: "On the other side of the duality it
: is just as foolish to allow needless
: suffering to rule your life and do nothing
: about it, thinking that by doing nothing
: freedom will just falls out of the sky
: We're in agreement on this. The
: disagreement, I think, is on what and how to
: "do" in order to alleviate our
: Have all the spiritual beliefs and practices
: and regimens that have existed since the
: beginning of time made one dent in the
: ongoing and persistent sufferings of the
: world? One dent?
: Perhaps you will agree... they have not.
: Here we are in 2014 and the world is in
: turmoil. The environment -- the air we
: breathe, the waters we bathe in, the food we
: eat -- are being poisoned. In the name of
: "spiritual truth," thousands,
: millions, are persecuted or slaughtered.
: What "escape from suffering" is
: possible in such a world. How can I not
: suffer, after reading the daily newspaper or
: watching the local news on television.
: Efforts to escape this dilemma through
: spiritual means, I would suggest, constitute
: the ultimate cop-out of the ego. This is
: what I mean when I suggest that
: "spiritual cultivation" and the
: hunt for enlightenment are the most
: ego-maniacal activities known to humankind.
: "Being content with your suffering
: swings to the flipside...."
: The issue, as I see it, is not one of being
: "content" with suffering, but how
: to live and breathe with it. How to reach a
: certain "peace" with it. An
: "accommodation" with it, if you
: "Yet if you are suffering because of
: negative ideas you carry there must be a way
: to go beyond them? Which is just common
: sense. The Sages teach common sense."
: So when a friend of mine tells me she is
: suffering because she has lost something of
: great value in her life, what should I tell
: her? How should I counsel her? Should I
: tell her to "cultivate the Dao,"
: as so many internet Daoists might advise?
: I think not. Instead, I share with her my
: own experiences with suffering. I explore
: the commonalities of the human experience
: when it comes to the joy of receiving and
: the sorrow of losing. Together we embrace
: the essential elements of our humanness, and
: we move forward.
: There is, in my experience and in my
: opinion, nothing to "escape."
: There is, instead, everything to embrace.
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