Phenomenal life, the waking dream, may be said to take place on a plane surface – not as it is visually perceived but temporally. On that plane surface every action is followed by its reaction, every cause by its effect: this is the world of karma, of the force of circumstances, and is what we know as our life.
But an awakened sage lives and thinks vertically. If his body is flowing horizontally in the stream of time like the rest of mankind, his mind has acquired the vertical dimension which rises at right-angles from each moment of that time-river. While B hits A because A has hit B, tic-toc, the sage has no such reaction, and knows no occasion for such automatic reflex – for, from the vertical dimension, the height from which he perceives, he sees not each moment’s incident but the whole picture stretched out before him. He may ignore the blow, or he may turn the other cheek for the striker’s sake, but the detachment of his vision will admit of no reaction. Perceiving the preceding circumstances of the blow, he is free from constraint to react to it, and the chain-reaction is broken.
To A and the rest of mankind, the sage’s inaction is unaccountable, foolish or contemptible, though a few may regard it as wise. In fact it is none of those things: it is the exercise of a freedom which he alone can have.
Vertical vision is a consequence, not a method. It cannot be practised. But the understanding of it, its being envisaged, may point towards the state of wisdom from which it will result.
– Wei Wu Wei, from the Wei Wu Wei Archives