Author: cheok hong chuan
Date: 05-13-12 14:43
The Three Pillars of Chinese Society – Why the Tao is the Supreme Way?
I may appear to be an enigma, admitting that I still remain a Jesuit Catholic and giving weekly Gospel discourses to my Christian family members, relatives and friends and yet cultivating and giving Mahayana Chan or Zen Buddhism tutorials to Taoist/ Buddhist family members, relatives and friends at the same time.
To be honest, there is no conflict at all, even though it appears to be incongruent and even upsetting to some. In relation to Christianity my mission is to inculcate true Christianity excised of all false corrupt ‘gweilo’ teachings of Christianity. In relation to Chan or Zen Buddhism my mission is to tutor them on proper cultivation, for in Malaysia, most of them are either simple Guanyin devotees or merely doing ‘Amitabha Buddha’ Chanting or still ensconced in the Theravada [Smaller Vehicle] School of practice of 5 Precepts or 8 Precepts and what I ‘mockingly’ describe as ‘sitting comatose under a coconut tree’ thinking that ‘enlightenment’ will soon come out of the blue.
However, to put it beyond disputation, the Three Pillars of Chinese Society is supreme on all counts of spirituality, no matter how you define or evaluate the merits of spirituality. And, the core of the Three Pillars of Chinese Society is comprised in the Way of the Tao, which in a practical sense, in modern times, is found in Chan or Zen Buddhism taught at Buddhist Temples. The reason being, there are no recognised Schools of Taoism or Taoist Temples, where you have the accredited lineages and spiritual authority of the Patriarchs and the requisite monks practising celibacy to be ‘outside of or removed from this world’ and yet being part of this world.
It is not apparent in the beginning or start of any spiritual journey that religion and faith in God or Gods actually stand in the way of true spirituality. Christianity and other religions are like that. They profess to offer a ‘one way ticket to the moon’! They all demand mandatory strict compliance, obeisance, love and devotion and adherence to rules and performance of holy rituals. They prey on the vulnerability of the human condition; either those, who have drawn the ‘short straw’ in destiny or karmic terms, ‘suffering’ in worldly existence, or those having a good fortunate worldly life, who wishes to prolong their happiness in an afterlife of a perceived immortal soul or eternal spirit. What have been somehow conveniently overlooked are the inherent ‘egotism’ and the false hypothesis that the human form is the ethereal eternal form? In a broad sense, any religion, whether it is true or false, whether it relates to one God, a ‘tripartite’ or ‘tri-entity’ God or many Gods, still binds and fetters the believer or the faithful. You are not strictly free spiritually. In religious ‘salvation’ you surrender yourself to another. You are basically going from one ‘prison’ to another ‘prison’. True spirituality should set you totally free, free from everything and anything, including yourself, the world etc, whatever and forever. Spiritual ‘freedom’ must be ‘totally free’.
Admittedly, at a certain level of practice, some Buddhist practitioners ‘worship’ Buddha like a ‘God’. Some Buddhist practitioners are in morbid fear of breaking the ‘precepts’ lest they should suffer punition; when these precepts are in a strict sense not ‘Holy Commandments’ but matters of moral discipline! Some Buddhist practitioners falsely believe that when they get enlightened they can become ‘Buddha’; their quest is more like an ‘ego’ trip, to attain or achieve ‘paranirvana’, as if to be a ‘Buddha’ were to be like ‘God’. Certain Taoist practitioners experiment or indulge in alchemy of the ‘chi’ to attain sexual vigour and prowess exceeding the ‘viagra’. They carry weights designed for the penis! All these people are either naïvetés or deviants!
Whether you are naïvetés or deviants in any way, manner or form, or a devotee or acolyte or a religious zealot or fanatic of whatever religion, it does not matter in the broad universe and the mystery that is Tao. That is why the Way of the Tao is supreme. Let me explain.
In Chinese, when we say, you journey on the Way of the Tao; we say that you ‘cultivate’ ‘spiritual fields’. There is nothing about or involving God or religion. It is your personal journey and what you make of it. Cultivation is like farming, for the Tao or the thought about the Tao took place in Chinese antiquity when the people were still agrarian or farmers. How you cultivate and what you cultivate and what you harvest depends on the type of farmer you are and where and the conditions you are farming under! Let us consider and weigh out some scenarios. An experienced farmer as against a novice farmer! A rice farmer as against a wheat farmer! A hardworking farmer against a lazy farmer! A rich farmer with rich fertile land as against a poor farmer with poor infertile land! A farmer in a locality endowed with good rainfall and weather as against a farmer in a locality beset with droughts, floods or pestilence! A farmer with primitive farming techniques as against a farmer with a PhD. in agriculture! The computational matrix abound! What about the vagaries of the seasons, of life and of destiny?
Given the diversity in the situation, capability and capacity of cultivators or practitioners it is only reasonable and rationale that they can only individually cultivate in gradual progressive stages in accordance with the expedient means suited to their individual capability and capacity. As quoted in the Huayen or Avatamsaka Sutra – “The Buddha appears throughout the ten directions expounding the subtle truth by various means with an ocean of practices aiding all sentient beings according to their faculties and dispositions.”
The Tao is not a God nor a thing nor a concept. The Tao is just the Tao and that is why it is the Tao. A mystery can only be and remain a mystery!
That is why the Way of the Tao is supreme. The Tao [through its emanation as the Buddha] takes you as you are. The Tao accepts you as you are. All are equal before the Tao. The Tao accommodates you and gradually and progressively unfolds its mystery to you, weaning you off the world, by expedient means suited to your individual ‘faculties and dispositions’. There are no marks, no labels, no achievements, no knowledge, no wisdom, no discrimination or judgment and no ‘salvation’ in the way of the Tao. If you realise or achieve anything it is absolutely ‘personal’ so that it is totally meaningless and irrelevant to others! In Taoist terms we say that you have to poo or pee yourself! Another’s experience is nothing to you. The Tao does not evaluate or judge and there is nothing to evaluate or judge.
Tao is mysteriously ‘so’ or ‘thus’! You are what you are! You are where you are! Everything is what and how it should be! When or where you are, you are there! There is no past; there is no future; there is no present! There is just the experience of the moment of now, and it is gone as we speak! Oh! The beauty of the imponderability of the mystery of the Tao! The moment you think you are ‘near’ it, it is ‘gone’!
The Tao is ungraspable! If ‘it’ can be clung to, can be attached to, can be owned and possessed, then it is not the Tao! This sentence is specifically for Coyote. If you ‘have’ an ‘ego’ then you are not with the Tao! In the ‘silence’ beyond silence, the Tao is louder than Thor’s hammer! In the darkest remotest part of the Earth, on any clear night, the skies are sparkling like a treasure trove full of diamonds!
In the journey of the Way of the Tao, taking a Buddhist parable, we are all like fellow ‘blind’ travellers in the depths of an ocean of darkness of ignorance, hoping to reach the light of wisdom on the ocean surface, and the security and repository of some floating driftwood for sanctuary. If you get this koan in Zen Meditation – What is ‘driftwood’?, you now know how to reply! As it is a personal journey, until we get there it is no use hypothesizing which methodology is right. By analogy there are many ways to get up the spiritual mountain. It is no use going by the Western face when you live in the East. Here, I am having a ‘snipe’ at Western ‘gweilo’ religions! We are like the blind men arguing as to why their respective perception of an elephant is the correct one! Tao is like that. What ever each blind man says the ‘elephant’ is, it is not! In this allegory, the ‘elephant’ represents the Tao!
This is why the Tao is supreme! It is so magnanimous, so benevolent, so compassionate, so accommodating, so flexible, so tolerant and so non-judgmental! It allows the proverbial ‘blind’ man or the proverbial ‘farmer’ or ‘cultivator’ to be a pagan, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian or whatever takes one’s fancy! So be it, if you see the Earth as ‘flat’, see the Sun as the giver of life, see wisdom in the owl, see cunning in the wolf, evil in the snake, invasiveness in the cockroach and elusiveness in the butterfly! Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! A glutton’s eyes are bigger than his stomach!
That is why the Tao is supreme! No one can personally claim the Tao as his own. The Tao is equanimity itself! It is blind to us in its equanimity but in the subjectivity of our ‘ego’ we are blind to the Tao. How wonderful? How profound!
In the Way of the Tao spiritual freedom is not ‘freedom’, if it is not alive in a profound liberation of immanent consciousness that understands the blissful elocution of non-discriminating repose; that the Buddhists termed – “Thusness”.
The “Thusness” of Tao is like a pendulum at rest, like a placid pond, like a rainbow, like the rhythm of ‘pitter-patter’ of rain on the zinc roof or the memory lost in time of a mother’s love since her death – prescient but ungraspable!
The “Thusness” of Tao is not enlightenment. Neither is “Thusness” morality, meditation or wisdom, although you have to surpass all three fields to attain enlightenment. Yet without enlightenment you cannot come near the “Thusness” of Tao! Yes, I repeat, the “Thusness” of Tao is not enlightenment. For, the “Thusness” of Tao is not the ‘luminous awareness’ of the ‘light’ in enlightenment or the detachment or the ‘not clinging and attachment’ to the world or worldly sensual pleasures and displeasures, as in the ‘lighten’ in enlightenment.
The “Thusness” of Tao is when :-
- There is no destination, so where is the journey?
- There is no enlightenment!
- There is no Nirvana!
- There is no Buddha!
- There is no ‘YOU’!
- There is no duality!
- There is no conceivability!
- There is no abiding!
- There is no abode!
Remember always that the Tao has no marks or labels or words or concepts or anything to grasp, cling or attach to.
The “Thusness” of Tao is when you are a ‘nobody’ going ‘no where’. Thusness is just like when there is just the moment of the ‘now’, just like the experience of the ‘essence of life’ in the ‘breathing’ but the reality in and of the ‘function’ of the ‘breath’ in the ‘breathing’ is gone beyond grasping before we can grasp it!