The subject of this seminar is going to be Taoism as contained in the teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, who Lived approximately four hundred years or more before Christ. Separated probably by one hundred years from each other, as is often repeated. Lao Tzu started out. By explaining that which can be explained is not the eternal Tao. And then went on to write a book about it. Also saying, those who say do not know, those who know, do not say. Because there’s nothing to be explained. You must remember that the word explain means to lay out in a plane. That is to put it on a flat sheet of paper. All mathematics is done on a flat sheet of paper, until very recent times. But it makes a great deal of difference because this world isn’t flat. If you draw a circle on a flat sheet of paper, it has an inside, and an outside which are different. On the other hand if you draw a circle around a donut, the inside and the outside of the same.
So, what we are first of all saying, is that the Tao, whatever that is, cannot be explained in that sense. So it’s important, first of all, to experience it, so we know what we’re talking about. And, in order to go into Taoism at all, we must begin by being in the frame of mind, which can understand it. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind. Any more than you can smooth disturbed water with your hand. But let’s say that our starting point is that we forget what we know, or think we know. That we suspend judgment, about practically everything. Returning to what we were when we were babies. When we have not yet learned the names, or language. And although we have extreme this sensitive bodies, very alive senses, we have no means of making an intellectual or verbal commentary on what is going on. Now can you consider that as your state? Just plain ignorant. But still very much alive. And in this state you just feel what is without calling it anything at all. You know nothing at all about anything call the next world in relation to an internal world. You don’t know who you are, you haven’t even got the idea of the word you or I. It’s before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control.
So, you don’t know the difference. Between the noise of a car outside. And the wandering thought that enters your mind they’re both something that happens. You don’t identify. The presence of the thought which might be just an image. Of a passing cloud in your mind’s eye. Or the passing automobile they happen. Your breath happens. Light all around you happen. Your response to it by blinking happens. So you simply are really unable to do anything. There’s nothing that you’re supposed to do, nobody has told you anything new, you’re unable completely to do anything. But be aware of the buzz. The visual buzz, the audible buzz, the tangible buzz. The smell of all bugs it’s gone. Watch it. Don’t ask who’s watching it you know information about. That it requires a watcher for something to be watched, that’s somebody’s idea. You don’t know that. And loud so says the scholar learn something every day the amount of Tao unlearns something every day. Until he gets back. To non-doing. And that’s what we’re in at the moment. Just simply. Without comment. Without idea in your head. Be aware of. What else can you do? Don’t try to be aware, you are.
You will find of course, that you can’t stop the commentary going on in your head. But at least you can regard it as interior noise. Listen to your chattering thoughts as you listen to the singing of a kettle. We don’t know what it is we’re aware of. Especially when you take it all together. And there’s this sense of something going on. I want to even say that this is what I said, it was going on. That’s an idea. It’s a form of words. Obviously I wouldn’t know if anything was going on unless I could say something else wasn’t. I know motion by contrast with the rest.
So while I am aware of motion, I’m also aware of rest so maybe what’s at rest isn’t going on and what’s motion is going on, so I won’t use that concept because I’ve got to include both. And if I say Well here it is, that excludes what isn’t, like space. And if I say this it, it excludes that. I’m reduced to silence. But you can feel what I’m talking about. That’s what’s called Tao in Chinese. That’s where we begin.
Tao means basically that way. And so course. The course of nature. Of which allowed Lao Tzu says, Which means. That Tao means. The way of functioning of the Tao is a yawn is all of itself so. That is to say is spontaneous. Watch again what’s going on. If you approach it with this wise ignorant. You will see that you are witnessing it happening. In other words, in this primal way of looking at things, there is no difference between what you do on the one hand, and what happens to you on the other. It’s all the same process. Just as your thoughts happen, the car happens outside. The clouds, the stars. When a Westerner hears that, he thinks of fatalism, or determinism. That’s because he still preserves in the back of his mind, two illusions. One is,that what is happening is happening to him. And therefore he is the victim of circumstances. But when you are in primal ignorance there is no you different from what’s happening, and therefore it’s not happening to you. It’s just happening. So is you ,you know, what you call you what you later call you was part of a happening. You’re part of the universe, although the universe strictly speaking has no parts. We only cause certain features of the universe possibly you but you can’t disconnect them from the rest without causing them to be not only nonexistent, but never to have existed.
So, when you have this happening the other illusion that Westerner is liable to have, is that it’s determined in the sense that what is happening now follows necessarily from what happened in the past. But you don’t know anything about that in your primal ignorance. Cause and effect. Why, obviously not. Because if you are really naive you see. that the past is the result of what’s happening now. It goes backwards into the past. Like a wake goes backwards from a ship. All the echoes are disappearing finally, go away and away in away, and it’s all starting now. What we call the future, is nothing. The great void, and everything comes out of the great void. Thus the way a naive person. As I explained if any of you were at my lecture last night. If you shut your eyes and contemplate reality only with your ears, you’ll find there’s a background of silence, and all sounds are coming out of that. They stop out of silence if you close your eyes listen just listen. You see the Bell came out of nothing floated off off off off and then stopped being a sonic echo and became a memory, which is another kind of echo. Awake, it’s very simple. It all begins now. And therefore it spontaneous. Isn’t determined. That’s a philosophical notion. Nor is it capricious. That’s another philosophical notion, as we distinguish between what is orderly and what is random. Because we don’t really know what randomness is. If you talk to a mathematician about randomness he’ll make you feel quite weird.
What is so of itself sui generous in Latin. That means coming into being spontaneously on its own accord the real meaning of virgin birth sui generous. That’s the world that is the Tao. That makes us feel scared, perhaps, because we say well of all this is happening spontaneously who’s in charge? I’m not and that’s pretty obvious. But I hope with God all somebody’s looking after all this. Well why should there be? Someone looking after him, because then there’s a new worry that human other thought of. Like who takes care of the caretakers daughter while the caretakers visit taking care. Who guards the guards? Who supervises the police? Who looks after God?God doesn’t need looking after. Oh, well then nor does the Earth. Tao, because Tao is a certain kind of order. And this kind of order is not quite what we call order, when we arrange everything geometrically in boxes or in rows. That’s a very crude kind of order. But when you look at a plant it’s perfectly obvious that this plan has order. We recognize at once that that is not a mess. But it is not symmetrical. And it is not geometrical looking. It looks like a Chinese drawing. Because the Chinese appreciated this kind of order so much. That they put it into their painting non-symmetric or. In the Chinese language this is called Li. And the character. For Li means originally the markings in Jade also means the grain in wood and the fiber in muscles. We could say too, that clouds have Li, marble has Li. The human body has Li. And we all recognize it. And the artist copies it, whether he is a landscape painter or a portrait painter or an abstract painter, or a nonobjective painter. They all are trying for Li. And the interesting thing is that although we all know what it is there’s no way of defining it.
But because Tao is the course. We can also call Li the watercourse. Because the patterns of Li are patterns of flowing water. And we see those patterns of flow memorialized as it were, in sculpture. In the grain and wood which is the flow of sap. In marble. In bones. In muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles that is the Taoist principle of flow. There is a book called sensitive chaos by Theodore Shrank with many many photographs and studies of flow patterns. And there in the patterns of flowing water you will see all kinds of motifs from Chinese art. Immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle the yang-yin. Like this.
So Li means then, the order of flow. The wonderful dancing pattern of liquid. Because Lao Tzu likens the Tao to water. The Great Tao, He says flows everywhere to the left and to the right. Like water I’m contemplating that it loves the nourish is ALL THINGS. But does not lord it over them. Because he says elsewhere water always seeks the lowest level which men abhor. Because we are always trying to play games of one upmanship and be on top of each other. Lao Tzu explains that the top position is the most insecure. Everybody wants to get to the top of the tree, but then if they do, the tree will collapse. The fallacy of American democracy. You too might be president. The answer is no one but a maniac would want to be president. Who wants to be put in charge of a runaway truck?
So Lao Tzu says the basic position is the most powerful. And this we can see it once in Judo. Or in Aikido. Which are, wrestling arts, or self-defense of Arts where you always get underneath the opponent. And so he falls over you. If he attacks you, the moment he moves to be aggressive, you go either lower than he is, or in a smaller circle than he is moving. And you have spin if you know aikido. You’re always spinning, and you know how something rapidly spinning exercises centrifugal force So somebody comes into your field of centrifugal force you get flung out. But by his own bounce.
It’s very curious. So for the watercourse way is the Way of the Tao. Now, that seems to light Anglo-Saxon Protestant into Irish Catholics. Lazy. Spineless, passive. And I’m always being asked when I talk about things, if people did what you suggest, wouldn’t they become terribly passive? Well from a superficial part of you, I would suggest that a certain amount of passivity would be an excellent corrective for our kind of culture. Because we are always creating trouble. By doing good to other people. You know we wage wars for people’s benefit. And. Educate the poor. For their benefit. So that they desire more things which they can get. I mean that sounds rather callous. About our rich people are not happy. Whereas the poor people of height are. To judge by the way they live. And we think. We’re sorry really not for the poor but for ourselves. Guilty. So a certain amount of doing nothing and stopping rushing around would cool everything. But also it must be remembered that passive it is the root of action. Where do you suppose you’re going to get energy from just by being in a Jedi. No you can’t get energy that way. That is exhausting yourself. To have energy you must sleep. But also much more important than sleep is what I showed you at the beginning. Passive a theory of mind mental silence. Not you come as I try to explain be passive as an exercise that’s good for you. You can only get to that point by realizing there’s nothing else you can do. So for God’s sake don’t cultivate passivity as a form of progress. That’s like playing because it’s good for your work. You never get to play.