Archive for December, 2010

content with this moment

December 22, 2010

Lao-tzu, who lived ~2,500 years ago, is the author of the Tao Te Ching, one of the most important Taoist texts.  Chuang-tzu, who lived after Lao-tzu, wrote extensively on the principles that Lao-tzu laid out in the Tao Te Ching.   As I’ve been reading Alan Watts’s book Tao:  The Watercourse Way, in the chapter entitled “Te–Virtuality,”  I came upon Chuang-tzu’s beautiful reflections on Lao-tzu’s birth, death, and way of being:

“Lao-tzu” by Ren Adams

“The Master came because it was time.  He left because he followed the natural flow.  Be content with the moment, and be willing to follow the flow; then there will be no room for grief or joy.  In the old days this was called freedom from bondage.  The wood is consumed but the fire burns on, and we do not know when it will come to an end.”

–Chuang-tzu, quoted in Alan Watts’s book Tao:  The Watercourse Way, in the chapter entitled “Te–Virtuality”

Another translation of this passage is below:

“I obtained life because the time was right.  I’ll lose life because it’s time.  Those who go quietly with the flow of nature are not worried by either joy or sorrow.  People like these were considered in the past to have achieved freedom from bondage.  Those who can not free themselves are constrained by things.  However, nothing can overcome heaven. It’s always been so.  Why should I dislike this?”

–Chaug Tzu as quoted in Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition, Lecture 8, Professor Grant Hardy, The Great Courses, Course 4620, The Teaching Company

“Be content with the moment…”–it’s worth dwelling on that phrase, worth considering it at length and repeatedly.  Lately I’ve been watching David Grubin’s PBS video “Buddha:  The Story of Siddhartha.”  Siddhartha was the Buddha, and the founder of Buddhism.  Siddhartha’s central dilemma was how we as humans can deal with suffering, e.g. the inevitability of our and our loved ones’ eventual aging, illness, and death.  The commentators in the video point out that the word that Siddhartha used for “suffering” might be better translated as “dissatisfaction” or “discontentment.”  If I understand the video correctly, we are chronically discontented because we don’t realize that this moment is all that we have, that this moment—right now—is everything, is Nirvana, if we could only recognize it as such.  The 13th century Japanese Zen Master Dogen wrote,

“Each moment is all being, is the entire world.  Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.”

–Dogen, “The Time-Being” in the book Moon in a Dewdrop:  Writings of Zen Master Dogen, 1985, p. 77

Like the present moment that contains the entire world, a single dewdrop reflects the entire moon and sky.  Dogen writes,

“The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water…The depth of the drop is the height of the moon.  Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.”

–Dogen, “Actualizing the Fundamental Point” in the book Moon in a Dewdrop:  Writings of Zen Master Dogen, 1985, p. 71

Rather than being centered and aware in the moment, most of us are dissatisfied, thinking about what we would want to be different, or worrying about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.  What the Buddha and Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu seem to agree on is the inestimable value of being aware of what is happening in this moment, right where you are, right now; being content with this moment, valuing this moment, whatever is happening (easier said than done!); and allowing yourself to follow the natural flow.

©2009-2011 Aspiring Taoist.  All Rights Reserved


awareness, tranquility

December 7, 2010

“Tree Dreams in Winter” by Ren Adams

I’ve been reading Alan Watts’s book Tao: The Watercourse Way and came across his wonderful description of a way of practicing awareness, of practicing being present in this moment—a very Taoist way of being:

Later in the book, Watts quotes Chuang-tzu, a quote that Watts describes as the closest that Chuang-tzu came to outlining a method of attaining the Tao.  In this passage, Chuang-tzu writes in the voice of Nu Chu, a sage who is teaching another sage, Pu Liang I, about the Tao:

“To teach the Tao of a sage to a man who has the genius, seems to be an easy matter.  But no, I kept on telling him; after three days, he began to be able to disregard all worldly matters [i.e., anxieties about status or gain and loss].  After his having disregarded all worldly matters, I kept on telling him; after seven days, he began to be able to disregard all external things [as being separate entities].  After his having disregarded all external things, I kept on telling him; after nine days, he began to be able to disregard his own existence [as an ego].  Having disregarded his own existence, he was enlightened.  Having become enlightened, he then was able to gain the vision of the One.  Having the vision of the One, he was then able to transcend the distinction of past and present.  Having transcended the distinction of past and present, he was then able to enter the realm where life and death are no more.  Then, to him, the [end] of life did not mean death, nor the prolongation of life an addition to the duration of his existence.”

I love this quote.  It reminds me of the John Blofeld quote toward the end of my earlier post, Liberation from the fear of death.

©2009-2011 Aspiring Taoist.  All Rights Reserved

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