Thursday, February 09, 2006

Knowledge from a Daoist master

The following is from "The Secret and Sublime Taoist Mysteries and Magic" by John Blofeld. In this excerpt, he was asking questions of Tseng Lao-wenga who he considers to be a true sage [as posted by a Qigong master in the Tao Speaks forum for comments]:

"Venerable, please don't laugh at me. I accept your teaching that true sages have but the one goal. Still, here in China, there are Buddhists and there are also Taoists. Manifestly they differ; since the goal is one, the distinction must lie in their methods of approach."

The Daoist master answered thus:

"So you are hungry not for wisdom but for knowledge! What a pity! Wisdom is almost as satisfying as good millet-gruel, whereas knowledge has less body to it than tepid water poured over old tea-leaves; but if that is the fare you have come for, I can give you as much as your mistreated belly will hold.”

” What sort of old tea-leaves do Buddhists use, I wonder! We Taoists use all sorts. Some swallow medicine-balls as big as pigeon's eggs or drink tonics by the jugful, live upon unappetizing diets, take baths at intervals governed by esoteric numbers, breathe in and out like asthmatic dragons, or jump about like Manchu bannermen hardening themselves for battle -- all this discomfort just for the sake of a few extra decades of life! And why? To gain more time to find what has never been lost!"

"And what of those pious recluses who rattle mallets against wooden-fish drums from dusk to dawn, groaning out liturgies like cholera-patients excreting watery dung? They are penitents longing to rid themselves of a burden they never had. These people do everything imaginable, including swallowing pills made from the vital fluids secreted by the opposite sex and lighting fires in their bellies to make the alchemic cauldrons boil -- everything, everything except -- sit still and look within.”

“I shall have to talk of such follies for hours, if you really want a full list of Taoists methods. These method-users resemble mountain streams a thousand leagues from the sea. Ah, how they chatter and gurgle, bubble and boil, rush and eddy, plunging over precipices in a spectacular fashion! How angrily they pound against the boulders and suck down their prey in treacherous whirlpools! But, as the streams broaden, they grow quieter and more purposeful.”

“They become rivers - ah, how calm, how silent! How majestically they sweep towards their goal, giving no impression of swiftness and, as they near the ocean, seeming not to move at all!”

“While noisy mountain streams are reminiscent of people chattering about the Tao and showing-off spectacular methods, rivers remind me of experienced men, taciturn, doing little, but doing it decisively; outwardly still, yet sweeping forward faster than you know.”

“Your teachers have offered you wisdom; then why waste time acquiring knowledge?”

“Methods! Approaches! Need the junk-master steering toward the sea, with the sails of his vessel billowing in the wind, bother his head about alternative modes of propulsion -- oars, paddles, punt-poles, tow-ropes, engines and all the rest? Any sort of vessel, unless it flounders or pitches you overboard, is good enough to take you to the one and only sea.”

“Now do you understand?"

Since the knowledge (and not wisdom) shared by the Daoist master presented in an entire paragraph may cloud some readers’ thoughts, I have taken the liberty to break it down into smaller paragraphs to provide perhaps a clearer meaning of what he had wanted to say.

In case, readers still cannot catch his drift, Tseng is comparing between those Daoists who know and those who don’t. Not unlike what Laozi said about those who prefer bypaths instead of the Way. Such are people who chose knowledge over wisdom.

Hopefully you can understand what the Daoist master said in your first reading. A slower learner like me may need to read it at least twice to catch his hints.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading this has given me great pleasure.
I'm presently working on paintings of the TEN BULLS; as in the ten steps to enlightenment. They too are worth a Study.