It often occurs to me while trying to study English translations of Daoist alchemical texts that I am a Westerner who can not read or speak the language in which these texts were written. But indeed the texts seem to speak a meaning that transcends the cultural maxims from which they sprang into life.
What would the non-monastic, non-ascetic approach be? Make no mistake, these are the daunting limit cases of applied Daoism. Thankfully (in the Wuzhen Pian in particular), we are admonished to quit “roasting seeds” and “swallowing mist” and “fiddling with our noses”.
We are told to “experience the reversal while you are in the marketplace.”
What the world is a Westerner who isn’t even a practicing Daoist (really) doing reading the Wu Zhen Pian and the Jinhua Zongshi? What would it mean to mix these lifeways into mine? What is it I experience for fleeting moments during meditation or in passing, when I am reminded – “oh” – of the deeper nature of things and point my Heart in this direction?
When I sense the tug of this state approaching, I habitually close my eyes to orbit closer into this singularity of mind, but when I feel like I brush upon it, my eyes find themselves wanting slowly and gently to open and drink in what they see. How could the true nature of things be apprehended with the sensea? It is apprehended at all? Or merely brought nearer?
“The Dao” is quite ubiquitously translated as “the Way” – but what is the “way”?
Now, ask yourself absent a Daoist context and openly with your English-speaking mind…
What is the way? — the way in which all things must go?
I am reminded by these teachings to consider my life’s path and see it for what it is; and to appreciate uncertainty; and to relish in that subtle flowing movement which is the cycle of life and death of which I am a part; and to take time in all ways; and be reassured in some eternal faith.
If emptiness is form and form is emptiness, then what really is? That which is must be both and neither of these things. Spontaneously through the Eastern mystical lifeway we enter a world which is neither here nor there. A world which is somehow a projection on some ultimately illusory screen. The light with which this projection is composed is infinitely self-similar – it is everywhere the same.
If we peer behind the curtain, the world is revealed for what it truly is – one.
For emptiness and form to be the same, they have to be one. From the Dao to the ten thousand things we have the perennial irreconcilability of the one and the many, but this is not a case of chicken or egg. The Dao is primary in every way. Something is running the show, and developing a taste for the entertainment of Spirit – for the coming into being of consciousness – is perhaps the deepest purpose of the soul’s journey. The outline of the shadows on the walls of the cave are reflecting back at you their source – the fire behind you.
Turn your mind’s eye to the fire behind you while keeping your eyes gently open and ahead.
Take it all in.