In the philosophy of the Tao, iIt is said, it’s always being said this is. You read this in every art book about Chinese art that in Chinese painting, man is always seen as in nature rather than dominating it. You get a painting in titled poet drinking by moonlight. And you see a great landscape and after some search with a magnifying glass at last you see the poet, stuck in a corner somewhere drinking wine. Whereas, if we painted the subject poet drinking by moonlight, the poet really the most obvious thing in a picture. There he would be, dominating the whole thing the landscape out somewhere behind it. But of all the Chinese painters, I mean, the painters of the great classical tradition there are Chinese painters who specialize in family portraits and do these very formal paintings of someone’s ancestor sitting on a throne it’s quite a different category but the Taoist inspired painters Zen inspired painters, have this view of man as an integral part of nature. Something in it, just as everything else is in it flowers and birds and not they’re sent into this world, commissioned by some sort of supernatural being to come into this world and find it and dominated.
The whole conception of nature is as a self regulating self-governing, indeed democratic organism. But it has a totality it all goes together and this totality is that our. When we can speak. In Taoist and of following the course of nature following the way. What it means is more like this. Doing things in accordance with the grain. It doesn’t mean you don’t cut wood, but it means that you cut wood, along the lines where wood is most easy to cut, and you interact with other people along lines which are the most genial. And this, then is the great fundamental principle which is called wu-wei, which is not to force anything. I think that’s the best translation . Not doing, not acting, not interfering, but not to force seems to me to hit the nail on the air. Like don’t ever force a lock while you bend the key or break the law you jiggle until it revolves. So wu-wei, is always to act in accordance with the pattern of things as they exist. Don’t impose on any situation act a kind of interference that is not really in accordance with the situation.
For example, we have a slum, and that people are in difficulty and so on and they need better housing. Now if you go in with a bulldozer and bulldoze the slum, and you were put in its place by some architects imaginative notions of what is a super efficient high rise apartment building to stop people you create a total mess. Utter chaos. A slum has what we would call an ecology It has a very complex system of relationships going in it. By which the thing is already a going concern even though it isn’t going very well. Anybody who wants to alter that situation must first of all become sensitive, to all the conditions and relationships going on there. It’s terribly important than to have this feeling of the interdependence of every form of life upon every other form of life. How we for example cultivate animals that we eat, and look after them and build them up and see that they breed in reasonable quantities. We don’t do it too well, as a matter of fact. Troubles arising about supplies of fish in the ocean. All sorts of things.
But you have to see that life that the so called conflict of various species with each other is not actually a competition. It’s a very strange system of interrelationship. Of things feeding on each other and cultivating each other the same time the idea of the friendly, the necessary adversary who is part of you. You have conflicts going on in your own body all kinds of microorganisms are eating each other up and if that wasn’t happening you wouldn’t be healthy. So all those interrelationships, whether they appear to be friendly relationships, as between bees and flowers or conflicting relationships as between birds and worms, they are actually forms of cooperation. And that is mutual arising. You have to understand this. As the basis, apply this, not forcing anything and you get spontaneity, a life which is so of itself, which is natural, which is not forced. Which is not unduly self-conscious.
Now, another term that is important although I’m not aware that this word because in lots of the book it’s found in greater use at a much later time in Chinese thought in philosophy that is called neo-Confucian. And it’s also used in Buddhism. But it is a very useful word for understanding. The sort of order that all this constitutes it’s the word Li. And this means originally the markings in Jade. Or perhaps the graining would all the fiber and muscle. It is translated nowadays in most dictionaries as a reason for principle. But this isn’t a very good translation. Joseph Needham suggested that organic patten was an ideal translation of this word. Now you see the markings in Jade are always regarded as beautiful. You might say so you look down at the water here when you see the waves break that are patterns in the foam.
Now if you watch those patterns you know they never make an aesthetic mistake. Never. But they’re not symmetrical and they’re very difficult to describe. They’re wiggly. So the markings in Jade’s I was the Great in wood but we love the grain wood and you see a judge who has done these paintings of rocks based on exams. I think in the Chinese book called The mustard seed garden. These all exhibit live. That is to say they are forms which we know are orderly. And we can distinguish them from messes quite clearly. And so in the same way the phone patterns the rock patterns, the patterns of vegetation, are at once extraordinarily orderly, but they don’t have. An obvious order, nobody can ever pin it down. That’s what I’d like to say you know that there is order there something quite different from a mess but there’s no way of really getting it.
Now in order to be able to paint that sort of way. Or to live that sort of way or to deliver justice that way if you were a judge. You have to have it innately. You have to have an essential sense of Li, and there’s no way prescribing it. This is the very devil for teachers. Because you see all our university of them schools now trying to teach creativity. That’s the great thing these days now and they are here at Esalen, all of the people are giving courses and workshops and creativity. Now the trouble is that if we found out a method whereby we could teach creativity., and everybody could just explain how it was done it would no longer be of interest. What always is an essential element in the creative is the mysterious. The dark. It’s like the black in lacquer. The impenetrable. And yet the profound depth out of which glorious things come but nobody can see why. There’s a poem which says that when the bird calls. The mountain becomes more mysterious. You imagine for example you’re in a mountain valley and everything is very silent. And suddenly a crow. Squawks somewhere. You don’t know where that crow is, and the little sound emphasizes the silence. Now, all those things have in them, you see, an element of mystery. There’s a Chinese poem which puts it this way. It is a poem written by a man who has gone to find a sage in the mountains and the Sage has a little hut at the foot of the mountain and a boy there who is his servant. I asked the boy beneath the pines he said the master’s gone alone herb-gathering somewhere on the Mount. Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.
In so many athletic and artistic skills you will find a teacher who teaches you how to do it without forcing it. I once started the piano. I am absolutely no good at it now because I don’t practice. I’m involved in other things. But I had an absolutely superb teacher for a while. He was a very very great musicologist you know. There was nothing sloppy about his standards, they were of the highest perfection. But when I went to him, he said “Let me see what you can do so”, so I played him a scholarly Sonata. He said “Yeah but the trouble with you is you’re trying too hard. You’re hitting the piano when you should never hit a piano.” He said actually all you’ve got to do in order to play a piano is to drop your hands on it and you need to have relaxed arms so he made me practice for a while he felt my muscles to see what I was relaxed got not and he’s not just dropping out on the piano I don’t care what notes you get but just drop your hand let it fall so there’s enough energy in the weight of your arm to play as loud as you will, or as soft as you will, but just let it drop, he said that’s all you have to do, drop your hands, and kept feeling my arms. He said no no you’re getting too tense you must pretend you are Lao Tzu. And he was a very educated man he knew about these things, then he said Now after dropping your hands all you’ve got to do is hit the right notes. And he said you know, the same thing is involved in making a very complex trill. And he demonstrated, he just dropped his hand on the piano and at the same time his fingers went for a loop like that and there was this magnificent on a mentation. And then we went on with practices for some time he said Now let’s get around it in the right notes and. He found immediately I had a block on reading music, because when I was a small boy started piano at the age of roughly eight, I had a pestiferous teacher who was the mistress in this private school I went to in England. And she used to sit beside you would hit your fingers with a pencil every time you made a wrong note. Gregory Bateson, I think was taught piano and as a child in such a way and he has a total block on reading music. He really has got a brilliant mind you know he’s a mathematician and great anthropologist, ethnologist and so on the other total block to reading music. And so this man had to teach me to overcome my block. And he said now, first of all, feel perfectly free to make mistakes, if everybody’s going to make some mistakes and it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake and if you do make a mistake don’t don’t go back and do it over again but just go on. So play as slowly as you like don’t hurry it just along as you keep the relative rhythm the relative values of thing go slow and take it easy.
Another thing is to not to pay so much attention to the notes but to the distances or intervals between because that is the significant jump. And this sort of overcomes to the difficulty of key signatures where we start out with as we started out learning music with this weird system that the lines on the stave really represent the major scale of C., and that therefore when you put a key signature at the beginning you remember that every time you exposing your playing F. every time you hit B. It should be B. flat. Well that’s extremely tedious way of learning music, and we would just have to think in different keys that’s the only way to adjust to a key signature and play in the thing according to the intervals appropriate for that. But you see in this instance this man although he was a great perfectionist and was highly skilled in music he used intelligence first of all to give you a shortcut and then he also used relaxation to enter into a difficult thing by the easiest route.
In Zen training, in its initial stages, the master discourages intellectualization. You know, you come in with a lot of ideas but this difficulty you have is not going to be solved by ideas it’s not going to be solved by talk and intellectualization. So in the same way this is discouraged because intellectualization sets up a kind of interval or lack of rapport between you and your life. You think about things so much that you get into the state where you’re eating the main you head of the dinner. We all valuing the money more than the wealth. You are confusing as Korzybski would say, the map with the territory.
And what they want to do is to get you into the territory to get you into a relationship with what is as distinct from ideas about what is. And this is an important preliminary discipline. But later on you can realize that the process of thinking is also what is. Thoughts, in their own domain are as real as rocks. Words have their own reality, as much as the sky and water. Thoughts about things are in them their own turn things, and so they lead you eventually to the point where you intellectualize and think in an immediate way. Let’s go on and ask then a further problem. How about thinking about thinking? Wouldn’t that be pretty far off? Here is a person removed from life because he’s in the intellectual world, and he’s all in a living in symbols is a kind of or a kind of a living book. Now what about a librarian? A person who writes books about books, a bibliographer. A classifier of classifications that’s a pretty dusty occupation and as we know. Sometimes librarians seem to be very dusty people they. Seem away removed from life all tied up in their categories and catalogues and musts. That, you see, is also its level of reality. And thinking about thinking. Can be lived with just as much direct fresh spontaneity as just living without thinking, but in order to live it with full spontaneity. You have to be in a position where you no longer feel the symbol before the idea of the words as a block to Life. No longer feel it as something you are using as a sort of means of escape. To be able to use the symbol not as a means of escape, you have to know in the first place that you can’t escape, and not only that you can’t escape but there is no one to escape. There is no one to be delivered from the prison of life. That then the liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols. Is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments. The illusion of a self, a continuing self that travels. From moment to moment and picks them all up, corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave, and the moving lion, the solid circle created by the moving cigarette point in the dark.
This is the meaning then, that there is no one who perceives anything, no one who experiences anything there is simply seeing, and experiencing. Then we introduce all these redundancies through talk. We talk about seeing sights hearings sounds, feeling feelings, all that is irrelevant. There are sights. There are sounds, there are feelings. You don’t feel a feeling the feeling itself already contains the feeling of it. They see, it is very simple. To have sight of you don’t need something to be seen on the one hand and a sea of something to be seen on the other and then some some mysterious way they come together. The see-er and the seen, the knower and the known are what we call terms. Terms mean ends. And they are what in mathematical language are called limits. Now when we take a stick, the stick has its two ends. They are the terms of the stick, but the ends of the stick do not exist as sort of separate points which encounter each other on the occasion of meeting at a stick. They are actually abstract points, the ends themselves considered as themselves, they’re purely geometrical, they’re Euclidean imaginations their reality is the stick in thing. So in the same way with that phenomenon called experience the reality is not an encounter of the know and the known. The reality is an experience which can be termed as having two aspects to end the know and the known. But that’s only a figure of speech neurologically.
This is true. Everything that you see is yourself. What you are aware of is a state of your nervous system. And there is no other knowledge whatsoever. That doesn’t mean that your nervous system is the only existing reality, and that there is nothing beyond your nervous system. But it does mean that all knowledge is knowledge of you, and that therefore in some mysterious way, you are not different from the external world that you know. If you see then, that what you experience, and you, are the same thing. Then realize also, going beyond that, that you are in the external world you’re looking at. You see, I’m in your external world, you’re in my external world. But I’m in the same world you are. My inside is not separable from the outside world it’s something the so-called outside world is doing. Just as it’s doing the tree and the ocean and everything else that is in the outside world. Now isn’t that great, you see. We’ve completely got rid of the person in the trap. The one who either dominates the world or suffers under it. It’s vanished. It never was there. And when it’s when that happens you see. You can play any life game you want to. Link the past and the present in the future together. Play roles. But you know you’ve seen through this great. They call it the great social lie that one accumulates owns experiences, memories, sights, sounds and from that, other people. Possessions, so on, and building up always this idea of oneself as the haver of all of this. If you think that you’ve been had.