I would like to refer to something Thomas Merton wrote who I referred to a few entries ago. The importance of silent reflection and meditation that serves or seems to guide us in the direction of our highest endeavor. Not as a be all or end all, but as the continuous thread we innately follow as meditation becomes how we manifest each moment of our day. Who or what vibrations are we listening to and what actions we take in response to them? On what plane of consciousness and vibrations are we most attuned? Or are we living to work to pay for attachments that define us? Thomas Merton and Chuang Tzu, a Taoist philosopher from two thousand years ago, help us with the answer.
It is difficult to synthesize a person’s life, his interests and influences, and his passion for knowledge as to how everything becomes connected to everything else. Or are we just floating through time and life like the feather floating in the sky at the end of the movie Forest Gump, as described by actor Tom Hanks.
Merton’s study of comparative religions and writing took him, I think, to a universal flow few will know. How it is that silence and meditation become the doorway or portal to this universal flow when our own vibrations become calibrated in such a way, that we can become in tune with what too takes us there. Merton was special because he could not only understand how this universal flow worked but was able to become enmeshed within the flow himself. Like many great writers, it was attuning his imagination, thoughts, and writing that took him there and why Eastern thought and philosophy attracted him and became his passion. His training as a Catholic priest and monk gave him the spiritual benchmark or starting point to go where few had ventured before. His writing illustrated the connection between Eastern and Western thought and how others could take the next step and enter this flow for themselves. For many it is simply an acknowledgement. Finding contentment within who we are yet to become as life becomes intuitive to approaching traditional virtue and wisdom. He reminds me of Alan Watts and his book, The Way of Zen, as we each take the next step to greater understanding.
What first attracted me to Merton was his book The Way of Chuang Tzu written in 1965 that I read and studied in the early 90’s thirty years ago. That I am rereading now with much greater appreciation in part due to my own travels over the past thirty years. When you become passionate about something and can translate that from the heart, it becomes more than a book. It speaks to you in a way that describes this ancient wisdom as a way of life, i.e., the way of virtue that transcends time.
On a personal level, Chuang Tzu has become like a brother, or mentor. Chuang Tzu lived in 300BC, and to appreciate his role and writings you must first gain an appreciation of Taoism. It means that your own writing becomes more autobiographical and speaks to those beyond only the present, to both the past and future. To go there first requires an internal sense of mindfulness and grace where our thoughts carry us through the day. Bringing their words forward to the present for more current accounting. Why silence becomes the norm because you spend your time listening.
When I wrote my first book on the I Ching and Taoism it served as a personal introduction to Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu. Written in 1993-94 and published in China in 2004 entitled “An American journey through the I Ching and Beyond”, (found here on my website as The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon) towards the end is the following entry:
70. As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man
As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way.
Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased. Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on your finding and staying on the road yet to be travelled. Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before. Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things. Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what it is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.
Eternity existing forever before, now, and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively. A deep sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.
The Retreat Qingcheng Mtn north of Chengdu in China
Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge of the Tao and understanding what it means. Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow. 4/12/94
What a standard to try to live up to. The above written in 1994 three years before our first trip to China to adopt our first daughter Katie. This idea of living as Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man, with the reclusive Lieh Tzu’s teachings of the everyday man to follow (Also found here on my website) helping to internalize the seeming paradox or way we are to follow.
Gaining an appreciation for the Tao requires a sense of tranquility and self-awareness, I.e., becoming fully aware with a sense of self-assuredness. Knowing your path and sticking to it. Why meditation and Tai Chi practice gives us structure. But what is it that brings us to contentment? Seeing beyond ego and events of the day, to what will become of our ultimate role. Once gained, you sometimes become reclusive in your lifestyle as if transcending the present, happy to remain one with this eternal flow of energy beyond simply imagination.
Chuang Tzu stresses we are to have what may be called essential humility with a taste for simplicity and spontaneity. A cosmic humility when we acknowledge our own nothingness and become forgetful of ourselves. A sense of cosmic because it is rooted in the true nature of all things, but also because it is full of life and awareness, boundless vitality, and joy. He is a great teacher in that through his stories we learn to laugh at ourselves and not take life so seriously. On a more serious note, most feel that Chuang Tzu became the impetus for what was to become Zen Buddhism in both China and Japan. His philosophy is both religious and mystical.
Thomas Merton’s book is worth getting and reading about Chuang Tzu. A lot of Merton’s writing was about the universality of man, our role in nature, and beginning to see beyond who we think we are to finding and living our own role.
As we too become mindful, fully aware and know contentment. That all we are or will be – will be forever enough…