Reading the Book of Changes at the morning window, I rub the million stick of ink in the deal that drips from the pine trees. Discussing the sutras with a visitor, the sound of the wooden clapper is borne away on the wind from the bamboo. An ancient worth says, ‘The shadow of the bamboo sweeps over the stairs, but the dust does not move.’ The disc of the moon passes through the water of the lake, leaving no trace. One of our Confucians says, the stream rushes down swiftly but all is silent around. The flowers fall incessantly. But we feel quiet. If you have grasped the meaning of this in all your relations with things you are free in mind and body.
Zen and Taoism in common, involve not a system of doctrine, not a set of beliefs as we ordinarily understand religion, they involve a transformation of your consciousness that is to say out the way in which you experience your own existence at every moment. One might say that the average individual, not only in the West, but also in the east, has a feeling of himself as separate from his surroundings. From his, from other people, and from the Earth itself and from the space and the stars and everything around the earth.
He feels this in such a way that it’s expressed in all the phrases of common speech. We talk about coming into the world. I came into this world. As a matter of fact you didn’t. You came out of it, just in the same way as an apple comes out of an apple tree, as an expression of the apple tree. We say, I’m facing facts, as if facts, that is to say that the things going on in nature around you were something you confronted as a being alien from different from those facts. And meeting them as if they were total strangers. We talk about the conquest of nature, as a phrase expressing man’s control over his environment, which is a very hostile phrase. Now, in order to get the Chinese point of view, may I be so simple as to take you back to the old lesson about the bees and the flowers. Not to illustrate how sex works, but to illustrate the very fundamental property of nature. There are no flowers where there are no insects. There are no insects where there are no flowers. They go together, just in the same way as your head goes with your feet. Or as the head of a cat goes of the tail of a cat. Except in the case of Manx cats that don’t have tails. But ordinarily, if you were watching a cat walking, and you had never seen a cat before, and you were looking at at it through a narrow crack in a fence, you would see first the head and then the tail. Then the cat would turn around and walk past again, and you would see first the head and then the tail and you might assume that the.. your experience of the head of the cat was one event. And the tail was another example that they would be separate from each other but they would be related as cause to effect. But if you are a crack in the fence but widened, and you would see it was all one cat and that the head and the tail go together.
Now we have a way of attending to life which we call conscious attention, and that is like a narrow crack in a fence. Our speech reflects it, you can only think of one thing at a time. And that is our one of our ways of experiencing the world. Bit by bit, for example if you want to eat a chicken, you have to cut it up, and so you go to the grocery and you get a cut up fryer where else you cut it up at the table. Chickens do not come out of eggs as cut up friers. They come out the entire chicken. And so the world that we live in and we experience, is not caught up into things and events. It all goes together in the same way that the bees and the flowers go together, only we don’t notice this we’ve got a way of thinking which splits it all up, and as a result of that we think of ourselves and so feel ourselves as if we were something separate from the whole domain of nature.
And to make a long story short and to tell you the whole quite right at the beginning, the the disciplines of our them and of Zen supposed change of consciousness in such a way that you will no longer feel that you are an isolated unit locked up inside a bag of skin but that you will actually experience the fact that your real self, the real you, is everything that there is. But concentrated on expressing itself at the point called your physical organism. There is of course, there are of course intimations of this in the west just as much as in the East. For example, to go back to something that is. Whole partly superstitious.
To my point of view that is to say astrology. Astrology does not seem to me to be an effective method of predicting the future. But it had some sense to it in that, when a child was born and people consulted the astrologers what he did was to draw a map of the person soul, his character. And this map consisted in a symbolic picture of the universe as it was at the moment when the child was born. Now, if the picture of that child’s soul is the same thing as a picture of the universe. It shows that your soul is not in your body, your body is in your soul. And what your soul is, is the entire pattern of everything that there is, focused at the point you know as here and now. Just like you can focus the sun on a small point with a with a magnifying glass. Now, we know this to be true from the point of view of twentieth century Western science.
The science of ecology, which studies the relationship between organisms and environments is very acutely aware in an intellectual way. That an organism whether human or animal or insect or plant it doesn’t matter what it is is not merely a something in an environment. Like you might say you are in this room. But the organism and the environment behave together. They go with each other. In the sense of the saying in the Gospels, figs do not grow on thistles, nor grapes on thorns. Has this application that human being in this do not grow in a cosmos which is unintelligent. If human beings are intelligent, and we define intelligence as the behavior of human beings. And their way of thinking, feeling and so on you will not get an intelligent organism in an unintelligent environment. An apple tree doesn’t grow apples all the time. Planets and stars do not produce life all the time. But every so often, they do.
So if an apple tree may be said to Apple, this kind of universe in which we live peoples. It’s a peopling world. And we go with it. But the problem you see, is we don’t feel that. In the ordinary way we feel strangers in the earth and so talk about the conquest of nature and facing facts and all that nonsense. So that there is proposed then to get a transformation of our everyday consciousness which is a new kind of sensation. The sensation that what is going on outside you. Is all one process with what’s going inside you, and that you are all that there is now you don’t necessarily know this in the same way as you know something else out over there.
Let me just take this illustration. Conscious attention, which is the faculty we use most to negotiate and get around, is rather like the headlight of a car. And the headlight illuminate the road in front but it does not shine on the wiring that connects the headlight with the battery and the battery with the engine, so we are not ordinarily aware of how we are aware. And as a result of that, we don’t understand our connection with the world, and we are unaware of what our real self is. Therefore, we get anxious. And we are afraid that death may be the end of us, and that somehow we will just pass out of this world altogether that will be that. Well this is of of course the purest superstition. Because you’re everybody is indestructible. We, as individual organisms as what we call physical bodies we come and go like leaves on a tree but there’s the tree. And you are the tree. In the saying of Jesus ‘I am the vine. You are the branches.’ But that I am Before Abraham was I am. Is the self and this what the Hindus call the Brahman and the Chinese call the doubt. And are. The Tao is curious.
And so, the basic idea in this is that life is a dance. Of flowing downs which consists of going on and stopping that is to say what the Chinese call yang and yin. Yang is the southern side, or the sunny side of the mountain. It is a sunny south side of a mountain or the north bank of a river, where ever the sun falls. Yin in a therefore a shadow side. Now imagine a mountain with only one side nobody has. A river with only one bank. Now life, you see, is a highly a game of Now You See It Now you don’t. On up a wave. Moves in crests and trucks. Now you can have a wave unless you have both a crest and a truck. This is true in hydraulics, in terms of water, in electronics, in terms of physics, without the one you don’t have the other. And so the relationship between least two things is call it this is the most important term there is in in Taoist philosophy, is called mutual arising, and it’s done like this.
This is the most important idea in the whole thing, this character means reciprocal or mutual, and this is based on an old idea ground for of a plant growing a rise to come into being and the whole of the fundamental idea is that the yang and the yin come into being together. You never find one without the other there’s a sort of secret conspiracy, like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee agreed to have a battle. So that, although there are different, like front and back are different too high and low are different, being and nonbeing are different. Nevertheless they always go together so that to be on not to be is not the question. See it is the question for the west for all existentialist thinking to be on not to be that really if the question therefore man must necessarily be anxious, trembling always, the moment he knows that he is, he faces the possibility that he might not be. And so he trembles.
So, it is because of this then that the individual person all comes to feel that he is not something strange in this world. He comes to feel that he’s an expression of it, and of the world as himself rather than his physical body alone. His physical body yes, that’s you. And it has a certain degree of independence. But it’s an expression of the whole thing in the same way as a wave as an expression of the ocean. See the ocean waves, and says yoo-hoo, I’m here. So in the same way, the whole cosmos waves with you and says I. And to the other waves hello glad to meet but we are all really. The one center expressing itself play in an infinite variety of ways.
Now then you say well what does this lead to in terms of practical consequences. Well it leads to a respect for the external world as one’s own body. It leads to knowing how to get with it. Knowing how to do things, to act with the grain, rather than against the grain. And this is a, the most important lesson that ancient China has to teach the modern west, the modern technological west, is how to get with it. Because you see we have in technology as fantastic power to altering the not only the external environment, but for altering ourselves. What we can by technology, by neurological surgery, and by drugs and all sorts of things, we can change our own brains and begin to interfere technologically with our own characters. Now, the most asinine thing for us to do, would be to live in this lovely environment and spoil it by living in it. That’s ridiculous.
So if you are a skillful architect works on the principle of the traditional Taoist and Zen architecture. You go to your environment let’s say it is great still here and you say to it Good morning. And you even about so to it and say ‘I want to live here but what kind of house would you like to have on the Hill.’ Well the Hill says ‘I would like a house that will disrupt as little as possible, because I have a game going on.’ I have a huge complexity of plants and insects and small animals that manage to keep this hill here all these plants retain the hill they they prevented from falling down the they prevent avalanches and all sorts of things like that so the Hill suggest to the sensitive artist the architect to build a house that does not interfere with the ecology of the hill. And so he thinks now, how will I do this, and he comes up with a solution where the only alteration he need to make to the Hill is to build some sort of a road to the house. But actually, what we’re doing instead of that is we’re going into our kills with bulldozers and we’re terracing them, so as to make room for houses that would be appropriate on flat land and put them in the hills now we need the flat land for agriculture. All flat land anywhere available in California should be farmed, and people should live in the hills. But in order to do that we’ve got to understand how to treat hills. You see?
So if you look at the way the hills on the north side and the east side of Kyoto have been civilized. Why they never did that thing that…They have the most beautiful way of concealing houses in the hills so that you hardly know they’re there. They don’t know they didn’t have any bulldozers. And the way the farmers have adapted their land to the landscape and done contour farming in the in the hills it’s exquisite. So that a country, which is eighty percent of the land,is non Arab or because it’s mountain. Has been made in combination with the sea eighty percent self-supporting. It’s simply fantastic. They farm in the sea of eight seaweeds and things that we don’t eat but all along the California coast there is a fantastic abundance of money in food kelp. You know how to cook it was just great. But we have to learn these lessons you see, in order to get by because we’re going to have a terrible time if we don’t know so this is the principle that is call him in Taoist philosophy wu-wei. This means not to force things. That’s the best English translation, I’ve come to. It’s sometimes translated not doing. No artificiality and no interference. But our work forcing as when a forced laugh forcing a lock forced behavior forced kindness fostered love in that sense forcing don’t force it.
So, it means action in accordance with the character of the moment, and of the circumstances in which you’re acting you see you can’t not interfere with the world. Everything you do interferes with your environment and nobody knows this better than a chemist or physicist. Because he realizes the especially the physicist, that whenever he so much as inspects the behavior of electrons the things he has to do to inspect their behavior alter the way in which they behave. Another was shine a light on something to look at it and that bombardment of light effect it. Especially at the nuclear level.
So in another way, let’s say you, you put fertilizers in the soil, and that alters the ground. Now, ground that has had fertilizers put into it is not the same kind of ground as ground that hasn’t. You understood the ground before you put the fertilizers in it and decided what to put in, but after you put it in it you’ve got to study it all over again to see what’s happened to know what to do next time. And you see this constantly keeps moving. To know things is to change them. You cannot, not interfere. So the idea is to learn how to interfere skillfully. That’s wu-wei. How to act with the grain.
And then there’s one other thing but it has to be understood. Which goes into this this is not found in ancient Taoism but it is found in Zen it comes in later Chinese philosophy but it’s based historically on the Taoist view of the world and this is the word Li. Now this is a very fascinating expression. It means, originally, markings in Jade. Grain in wood. Fiber in muscle. Western scholars have translated it reason or principle, but this isn’t very good it doesn’t get the feeling of it. Li is the word used to designate the character of the order of nature. And so our scholars tend to translate it the laws of nature, see? But the Chinese have no word that we can correctly translate as the laws of nature. Because they don’t look upon nature as oberying laws. They look upon it as orderly but not legal.
Now you cannot write down the rules of fair play. It something that we know without being it’s too complicated to be put into words. Just in the same way exactly, that we cannot describe our own nervous system. It’s too complicated. And will always elude us, but where we’ll get somewhere near it, right now the judge who understands equity goes beyond law. Because he is informed with this principle. Here Li. And the markings in creators like this when you get a piece of jade and look at its markings and. You don’t think of them as chaotic. When you see a dirty old ashtray with cigarette butts in it and rolled up bits of paper the pieces of Kleenex and things that everybody is throw away, you know that that’s a mess. And you don’t want that kind of a mess around. You get rid of it. But, when you look at the patterns on rocks or the shapes of clouds or the outlines of trees, you’ve got something which isn’t orderly in the sense of being symmetrical. It doesn’t form fours, you know? But you know it’s beautiful.
And so the painter in the Western tradition has copied clouds and trees and everybody when he copies clouds and trees as it were that’s a picture I know what that’s about. But clouds don’t mean anything. They’re not a picture of anything they’re just clouds, they’re just clouding. And so the poem. I don’t know if I wrote it that now I didn’t there’s one called. ‘Blue Mountains are spontaneously Blue Mountains white clouds are spontaneously white clouds. They just do that you see that’s their game. But they what they are definitely something that we recognise as having an order and not being chaos. But we can’t quite pin down where in that order consists. We know it is order. And we can analyze it physically, chemically, and we can find out a lot about the behavior of surface tensions, which are a way of explaining why our bubbles in water form the way they do white clouds form the way they do it separates etc. But, what we get is only an approximation to it. Like for example, when you measure a piece of land, you’re a surveyor, and you’ll reduce it to so many small triangles and you measure those triangles and that measures the land that’s only an approximation to what’s actually there. Fine, so far so good, but we never quite get it.
So there is there’s always I’m graspable indefinable principle of order in things which is Li. And that explains why Chinese art appreciates in all that it does a certain element of the uncontrolled. Now you see when you use for example a brush. Let’s take it right here. In our Here the brush runs a little dry. And you are at the mercy of the hairs of this brush. Now some painters like to let everything go wild. In a certain sense, the man who did that has let things go pretty wild. But what the ideal that they’re aiming at is what you have to be a tremendous master to accomplish is to let it go wild within limits. To create a situation which overall is orderly, but allows for the unexpected random surprises. And so they look upon our daily life in exactly the same way.
I was talking about bees earlier on, and somebody suggested to me the other day that these are quite remarkable for this reason. That every bee does exactly what it feels like doing. And yet. It’s all orderly. Imagine that, supposing you could get up at the beginning of the day and live in such a way that you did just exactly what you personally wanted to do. You didn’t pay any attention about what anybody else thought of doing or the schedules are anything like that you did just what you felt like. But it so turned out that what you felt like was what everybody else felt like doing with you, and it was an orderly performance.
Well the bees have it. And so to follow the Tao. is to acquire the art of doing exactly what you feel like doing. And at the same time it wu wei, in the sense that it does not force anything on anybody. Or impose on you. But, to do that, to act naturally, you have to understand this word, which in Chinese is called ziran. That which is. Now where this mean so, this means self. Self -so. What is so of itself this is pronounced ziran. And this we translate into English nature. Although it’s very unlike our word nature. It means what happens without being shoved. Without being forced. What is so, of itself. What happens naturally we do have it in that sense it comes naturally when we say that. It’s second nature. Something like that, when we say that we get this thing so the Tao. Passage and Lao-Tzu’s writing places the Tao’s method, is to be so of itself.
Now, we have had an image of the universe in which it’s run by somebody the Lord God is in control. And he made it all he engineering it all, understands all about it and he remains in control. The Chinese is exactly the opposite. It looks as a part of the universe as not being in control at all. But is being perfectly orderly of itself. So he says the great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lauded over them. And when good things are accomplished it lays no claim to them.
I know for example, an order, in a sort of a religious order in Japan, where it’s both men and women. They live in about two hundred of them they live in families. And they live very simple way and they’re fantastically happy people. But what there they do is they they round their garden and farm and so on, but they also they they are always buzzing around town finding out if somebody is sick and a family is in a hopeless mess. Everybody is sick, they can’t even clean up their toilets they can’t do their washing and so on these people move in and they do clean out the toilets they do the washing and they clean up the whole house and disappear.
You know it’s a very curious kind of a thing but they just vanish. So there’s a poem inZen which says ‘Entering the forest he does not disturb a blade of grass. Entering the water he doesn’t make a ripple.’ Because he was so in accord with the scene. And he flowed so easy through it that nobody noticed.
Water not disturbed by waves, settles down of itself. A mirror covered with dust it is clear and bright. The mind should be like this.