Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Of students and masters (3)

Perhaps to understand why the real masters of old seldom take in students to learn the Way, we turn to listen to what Zhuangzi has to say:

“The Way has its reality and its signs but is without action or form. You can hand it down but you cannot receive it; you can get it but you cannot see it. It is its own source, its own root. Before Heaven and earth existed it was there, firm from ancient times. It gave spirituality to the spirits and to God; it gave birth to Heaven and to earth. It exists beyond the highest point, and yet you cannot call it lofty; it exists beneath the limit of the six directions, and yet you cannot call it deep. It was born before Heaven and earth, and yet you cannot say it has been there for long; it is earlier than the earliest time, and yet you cannot call it old.”

“Hsi-wei got it and held up heaven and earth. Fu Hsi got it and entered into the mother of breath. The Big Dipper got it and from ancient times has never wavered. The Sun and Moon got it and from ancient times have never rested. K'an-p'i got it and entered K'un-lun. P’ing-i got it and wandered in the great river. Chien Wu got it and lived in the great mountain. The Yellow Emperor got it and ascended to the cloudy heavens. Chuan Hsu got it and dwelt in the Dark Palace. Yu-ch'iang got it and stood at the limit of the north. The Queen Mother of the West got it and took her seat on Shaokuang - nobody knows her beginning, nobody knows her end. P'eng-tsu got it and lived from the age of Shun to the age of the Five Dictators. Fu Yueh got it and became minister to Wu-ting, who extended his rule over the whole world; then Fu Yueh climbed up to the Eastern Governor, straddled the Winnowing Basket and the Tail, and took his place among the ranks of stars.”

Nan-po Tzu-k'uei said to the Woman Crookback, "You are old in years and yet your complexion is that of a child. Why is this?"

"I have heard the Way!"

"Can the Way be learned?" asked Nan-po Tzu-k'uei.

"Goodness, how could that be? Anyway, you aren't the man to do it. Now there's Pu-liang Yi - he has the talent of a sage but not the Way of a sage, whereas I have the Way of a sage but not the talent of a sage. I thought I would try to teach him and see if I could really get anywhere near to make him a sage. It's easier to explain the Way of a sage to someone who has the talent of a sage, you know.”
[Extracts of Section SIX - THE GREAT AND VENERABLE TEACHER translated by Burton Watson.]

In the third paragraph, Zhuangzi named the ancients who got the Way. (Like Zhuangzi, Daoist sects keep a register of immortals that have attained Tao.) Those who read ancient Chinese history and myths may know that the named ancients were already virtuous before they attained Tao. Perhaps they have the talent of a sage, before they were taught (Think Yellow Emperor) or found the Way of a sage.

Perhaps even today real masters and heavenly immortals may not really teach to students who do not have the talents of a sage, The Way. If a student is not virtuous by nature (purity) (Think Guan Yin - Goddess of Mercy) or through cultivation (rectification of heart/mind), he or she may not be the right person to attain Tao. For Heaven favors the good.

Unless you really think that you are already virtuous or a sage, it is better to start or continue the cultivation of virtues while practising your meditation and contemplation. This to the ancients including Laozi, Buddha and Confucius; Boddhidharma, and the heavenly immortals is dual cultivation of the Way. It is simple as that. Yet many students and ‘masters’ may disagree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How true! I don't have anything to offer, except praise.