The Major Religions Of The World Essay — страница 7

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understood. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind, anymore than you can smooth rippled waters. But let’s say that our starting point is that we forget what we know, or think we know, and that we suspend judgment about practically everything, returning to what we were when we were babies when we had not yet learned the names or the language. And in this state, although we have extremely sensitive bodies and very alive senses, we have no means of expressing what is going on around us. You are 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 called an external world in relation to an internal world. You don’t know who you are, you haven’t even the idea

of the word you or me. It is before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control, so you don’t know the difference between the noise of a car outside and a wandering thought that enters your mind- they are both something that happens. You don’t identify the presence of a thought that may 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, happens. Your response to it by blinking happens. So, on one hand you are simply unable to do anything, and on the other there is nothing you are supposed to do. That’s what is called Tao, in Chinese. That’s where we begin. Tao means basically “way”, and so “course”; the course of nature. The 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 is a very crude kind of order, but when you look at a plant it is perfectly obvious that the plant has order. We recognize at once that is not a mess, but it is not symmetrical and it is not geometrical looking. The plant looks like a Chinese drawing, because they appreciated this kind of non-symmetrical order so much that it became an integral aspect of their painting. In the Chinese language this is called li, and the character for li means the markings in jade. It also means the grain in wood and the fiber in muscle. We could say, too, that clouds have li, marble has li, and the human body has li. We all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape

painter, a portrait painter, an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying to express the essence of li. The interesting thing is that although we all know what it is, there is no way of defining it. Because Tao is the course, we can also call li the watercourse, and the patterns of li are also the patterns of flowing water. We see those patterns of flow memorialized, as it were, as sculpture in the grain in wood, which is the flow of sap, in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles of flow. In the patterns of flowing water you will all kind of motifs from Chinese art, immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle of yang-yin. So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing

pattern of liquid, because Lao-tzu likens Tao to water: The great Tao flows everywhere, to the left and to the right, It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them. For as he comments 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. But 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. That is the fallacy of American society. Lao-tzu says the basic position is the most powerful. So, therefore, the watercourse way is the way of Tao. Now, that seems to some Protestants, lazy, spineless, and altogether passive. I think it would be wonderful to be that

carefree and relaxed, but nearly an impossible goal for anyone raised in the fear of God. From a superficial point of view 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. We wage wars for other peoples benefit, and attempt to help those living in “underdeveloped” countries, not realizing that in the process we may destroy their way of life. Economies and cultures that have coexisted in ecological balance for thousands of years have been disrupted all around the world, with often-disastrous results. 348