Chuang Tzu’s Pivot

A full accounting of my visit with Chuang Tzu the first week of October 2016 and acknowledging the pivot 

 My trip to Anhui Province and Huangshan Mountain the first week of October 2016 is two-fold. First to write about my relationship with Chuang Tzu and wu wei, and secondly to make an adjustment and begin making a concerted effort to live the life I have written. All that I have ever written is autobiographical in nature and simply a road map for me to follow. That I abhor contention and strive only for a life of contentment and study the art of transcendence…  That I live in the state of becoming and that is tied solely to my writing while knowing that the more I lose in attachments the more I gain. This is where Chuang Tzu comes into play. It has been my own lack of discipline that has kept me from achieving my ultimate goal. This lack of disciple is why I am here, generally speaking. For an eternity I’ve been reminded that I have always known the words, it’s putting them into practice internally that has eluded me. As if I have this upper heaven thing worked out, but it’s this lower heaven thing that has eluded me.  I begin anew reciting the line that my weaknesses are my strengths…  Chuang wants to know after all this time if am I ready to make the pivot? This is why I came here to be near his hometown to visit with my old friend once again.

On Wednesday October 5, I am up at 5 AM to join tour bus for the day to spend the day on Huangshan Mountain. Huangshan Mountain is one of the five most famous mountains in Taoism. I have now been to three of them. (Qing Yang Mountain near Chengdu, Mount Taishan near Qufu, and now Huangshan Mountain in Anhui). Finding yourself above the clouds is about as close as one can get to Chuang Tzu. There’s a feeling you get when you are here above the clouds on these mountains that you find nowhere else. It’s easy to find yourself above earthly concern because you are no longer attached to them. This detachment from self is the central theme of understanding the purpose of meditation. For the Taoist, it is about as close to home as you can get.

When I first began writing in 1993 my moniker or name given to me was Cloud Dancing. Finding myself as one with dragons above the clouds… above earthly endeavors… and here I am twenty three years later above the clouds at home with Chuang Tzu. As if I am here for a full accounting of where I have been and more importantly where I am going with all this and if I am ready to make the pivot. It’s amazing how the hundreds of thousands of words I have written over the years take on new meaning as I approach the edge of my own humanity, or become nearer to my ultimate destination. I came to Anhui unsure I would meet with Chuang Tzu. But living in spontaneity creates the essence of what true living is all about. It becomes wei wu when you revert to your cosmic essence in total humility realizing your own nothingness and life itself becomes totally forgetful. You become rooted in the nature of things, full of life and awareness… often referred to by others as having mindfulness, or as Joseph Campbell would say, you have come to a place where you can begin to find you bliss. Or better said I think when you rise above transcendence and become just you. You my say that one does not need to be above the clouds on a mountain to understand this, but you must be in a place where you are truly at peace and home with yourself. There are many great sages and Taoists, who over the centuries have left all earthly attachments behind to live on these mountains in a reclusive lifestyle to be nearer to nature and the Tao. They have come, seen the other side, and decided to stay. But with this cosmic understanding of the ultimate pivot along with a deep personal sense of the meaning of wu wei, come an acknowledgement of why we are truly here, and once found we come to know our purpose.  It is as if here atop Huangshan Mountain with my mentor Chuang Tzu alongside, he is telling me to take the great leap and truly learn how to fly.

I say all this as a preface to what comes next. I think I am extremely thankful to two college students, Sherlock and Lilly, (their English names) who came to find me on the mountain when I got separated from the tour group. If they didn’t find me I would probably still be on the mountain… with my friends above the clouds. Oh, and the bus got us back to the hostel about 8 PM that evening.

On Thursday, October 6, the day spent in quiet meditation and fasting thinking only about Chuang Tzu and the eternal meaning of the pivot. The central element of true writing is you don’t simply write about something, you become someone that epitomizes what you have internalized and written about. It is as I have said… your writing becomes you. The central core of this began with the shaman eons ago needing to impart eternal wisdom beyond the spoken word. The shaman knew that to sway people he/she had to become the word himself. What Chuang Tzu understood was each of us had to endure what was to be called the “pivot”. Understanding and becoming this are two separate things. What you need to know is not something new, it is what you have always known but forgotten. Meditation and self-awareness is simply coming to know who you really are and becoming it. Chuang Tzu laughed and made humor about Confucians because they were too full of themselves and what they sensed was the way to live. He and the Taoists understood that what was good for one had to be good for all, or it was not good at all. Life for the sage became so much less complicated and simpler on top of mountains. They understood that the riches of a lifetime were at mere flash of lightening in eternity, so why bother. The Taoist differs from others in his heart. He is centered on the Tao not himself. Ultimately he concluded that the true sage must engage himself in the world, not follow his innate reclusive nature to retreat to mountaintops and in doing so become the Perfected Man. He must be the change he wants to see in the world.

The central understanding to the pivot is how opposites complement each other. You cannot just stop with a sense of opposites. This is the basis of the true meaning of the I Ching. It is when you can pass through both yes and no, the I and not I, to understand that all things are in a state of flux. That like all things in nature, nothing is all set, or permanent. What is yes today could easily be no tomorrow and vice versa. It is in refusing to grasp either yes or no as absolute that the complimentary opposite automatically comes forth to find the way to proceed, or find common ground. It is the ability to watch yes and no pursue their alternating course of action as if in a circle, that you can begin to understand the central meaning of the pivot. It is that opposites produce each other, depend on each other, and complement each other. It is the inability to wait and not be impatient that most men lose their best opportunity for good results. Bad results often occur when we act to soon before our time to act appears. Wisdom and luck are often in knowing the right time to act in the proper way. Who can know?  In early China this became the central role of the shaman.

How did Chuang Tzu put this central tenet of the I Ching, this idea of complimentary opposites, into play? By using his concept of the Perfected Man in living a life in wu wei. Wu wei has taken on several meanings over the centuries depending on the needs of the commentator. Often it has taken on the simplistic meaning as the”Art of Doing Nothing”. But it is so much more than that.  It is that when what you do becomes so much a part of who you are that it appears as if you are doing nothing outside yourself, or who you naturally have become. What you do is nothing more than an extension of who you are. Chuang Tzu takes this a bit further. It is action that is performed effortlessly, as if spontaneous in perfect harmony with our nature and the Tao. In this way all relationships find their proper order and expression. Nothing can then exist or occur that is beyond self-conscious expression.  You can see why becoming the sage is no easy task.

It was by returning to human form one lifetime after the next that one can begin to get a glimpse of his ultimate endeavor and destiny. Many have come to know and see the Way, few have followed the path some might say to enlightenment and where it might lead.

What can all this mean and why should one be concerned with all this? Especially as a “foreigner” when almost no one I meet cares about any of this… especially the people I meet here in China. They live in the midst of 5,000 years of history. It surrounds them in all they see, do, and are. It is as much a part of them as the air they breathe, the ground they walk, and the water they drink every day. It is what I found in the countryside when visiting the families of my students in Shandong who have lived and farmed the same piece of land for hundreds of years. Most of their ancestors are buried out in the field they toiled in for a lifetime. They don’t just farm on the land they become and are the land itself. It was easy to see in the eyes of the grandparents who have seen so much change in China over the past eighty years or so. My students were usually the first in their family to try to break the cycle. If they did not do well in school it would be back to the village and the land of their parents and grandparents, etc., etc…  This was fairly common at Qufu Normal School in Qufu where I taught. For most of the students the brass ring was too high and the frog at the bottom of the well was them. They knew that they had to say they tried. As if there was an innate attempt to find their place in the universe outside of who they were and as such what occurs becomes you and you become it as well. But it is not that simple. Again the law of complimentary opposites come into play. Their exposure to life away from the village would in and of itself change who they would become. In their own way, my students were the pivot of today.

On Friday October 7th, I went back to Old Town this morning to buy the two pocket watches I saw that Katie would like for her collection. I saw another hostel entitled Ancient Town Hostel I would stay at if I return to Huangshan and bought a small tourist guide of the Huangshan area that will help with my writing. I leave this afternoon at 1:30 to go to train station. We’re still on the first week of October holiday and its Friday. I have my ticket but it could be crowded.

My thoughts return to Huangshan Mountain with time spent above the clouds and Chuang Tzu and where I left off yesterday. It’s knowing what I know, how can I not follow the path that has been laid out before me. As if your mind has become sealed to your own eternal truth. (this was further confirmed by my study of the book The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic when I returned home to USA). To truly follow the Tao is to live the Way as if you are on a glide path following a current of no return that you cannot resist. You have become a part of the path itself so that everything depends on how quickly you want to get to your ultimate destination. Or stop and stay with attachments you have found. You have paved the way for yourself with your journey leading only to the virtue within. The only remaining question as to the time of departure is do I finally find the discipline to follow my highest endeavor and ultimate destiny. Lack of discipline and patience – my Achilles heel in eternity.  Old nemesis’s who seem to always keep calling or holding me back. The ultimate attachments I find so difficult to shed. It’s time to finally tell them goodbye.  I can hear Chuang Tzu giving his knowing laugh just now. He knows and hopes my visit will finally serve its purpose. Do I stay or do I go?  Do I answer eternity’s call to become the Perfected Man living only as wu wei dictates? The siren call has always been present in the background just waiting to come forward. It’s time, it’s time to go.

This is what this week has ultimately been about. To follow as if instructions what I have already written and know is but a decision for eternity’s sake. The path begins and ends as Lao Tzu has always said in the Tao Te Ching, the Way of Virtue… We are only to live moment to moment as the embodiment of virtue and the Tao.

Pay the balance of room at hostel (218 RMB, pd 100 at check-in Total for room was 318) at 12:45 PM. Take taxi to train station at 1:30 PM Friday afternoon for 4 PM departure. Arrive in Beijing at noon on Saturday.

Postscript to the above:   When I returned to Qufu the following week before returning to USA, there are a meeting in Qufu of the I Ching/Confucius Society. I was elected the vice president of the national organization. It seems the door has been opened for a much greater accounting of the role I am here to play.

Ah! my brother Chuang Tzu, who has seen and known so many who have come this way running towards the comfort of the Tao. To begin to know and understand some eternal sense of the universe and what the shaman came to know and love so well. To have been to the mountaintop and seen the other side and still turn back in voyages of self-discovery. The search for the Perfected Man that lies within each of us. Knowing that in death we are simply returning to review our progress as our eternal destiny awaits us as we always simply return to our beginnings and our home amongst the stars. Until we meet again I will be forever grateful that you are my forever friend and mentor.

As Chang Tzu’s Perfected Man

As Chang 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 traveled. 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 is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.

Eternity existing forever both 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 over and over again. A great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.

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

A year later I wrote Chuang Tzu’s  Argument in May 1995 having just arriving in Florida to begin a new job in Boynton Beach. Of all the things I have written over the years this is a personal favorite. It encapsulates the folly found in those rushing head of heals to always follow the structure found outside themselves as in following Confucius. Challenging authority and the nonsense sometimes found in those who “make up the rules for their own sake” has always been the hallmark found with Chuang Tzu. He was the perfect foil in arguing against following authoritarian or “conventional” wisdom. I think I admire him so much because he fits so well into by own sense of identity and character. He epitomizes the idea that the Perfected Man only looks within to his own virtue and proceeds as if unknowingly accordingly. Confucius may rule one’s head as you go about the business of dealing with others, perhaps as Kongdan maybe, but in your heart you will always be Dantzu… following the dragons to your ultimate endeavor and destiny. Kind of like living in a dream as you go back and forth between upper and lower heaven found elsewhere here on the website in the I Ching and the Dazhuan. Chuang Tzu’s writing also gave rise to what would later become Chan Buddhism in China.

Chuang Tzu’s Argument

Who can think things out in analytical terms and why should they when there can be no judgment? No determination as to what can be right or wrong in our thoughts, actions or deeds. If alternatives are non‑existent to time and space, what could be the difference?  If as the Tao says, no thing is either noble or base (good or bad) and all thing say they are noble and another base, then where is judgment?

As conventional wisdom or what may be considered common sense expands, then       neither good or bad can stand alone and cannot depend upon themselves. If you try to judge by degree or get the upper hand then arguing from one position or the other can lead only to seeing one place in relation to another. If judgments are rendered from a position where something is big in relation to smaller things, then all things become big. If you argue that they are small, then all things become small. If you can argue that heaven and earth may be treated as a tiny grain of sand, then all things remain perfect and can be seen as such.

If you make judgments based on the function of something then if you judge them from those which they have then all things have them. If you judge them from what they lack then all things lack them. If you know that east and west are opposites, yet cannot do without each other, then is not their function predetermined?  What can all this mean? Can any judgment be made by what is considered rational? Who can know? Who can say?

Just as in arguing tastes. If you argue that to people who consider them to be good, then all things are good. If you argue for those who disapprove or disagree and say they are bad, then they must be bad. If you know of two people who believe the opposite has occurred, that one believes he is right and the other wrong, standards of xssssssssssssstaste will be seen in proportion.

In the end if all things remain equal, or in balance as such, then who can there be to judge right and wrong? And can right and wrong truly exist?     4/14/95

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