The Devil Hears You Coming

Now that’s Taoism, that’s Wu-wei. And so now there’s another story with which I will exemplify this. A bit later than Lao-Tzu there was another Taoist sage called Ye-Tzu. And he had the reputation of being able to ride on the wind. Of course that’s metaphorical. We say walking on air. Walking on air, never a care, something is making me sing. And so when Suzuki was asked what it’s like to have the experience of Satori or enlightenment, he once said It is like ordinary everyday experience except it’s about two inches off the ground. Where you don’t feel burdened by your own body, you don’t feel you were something that you have to lug around and hold a club over and generally boss. So the sense of lightness, that’s the meaning of being able to walk on the air. But he told a story of how he managed to do it. He said he went to a great guru. And this guru paid no attention to him. So he just sat outside the door of his hut. And a year went by, and still this man paid no attention to him and Ye-Tzu went away disgusted. But then he thought it over a bit and realized this man had a terrific reputation and that if perhaps he’d been a little bit more patient he would have had some teaching. So he went back. And the great sage looked at him and said, ‘Why this ceaseless coming and going?’ So he sat down again at the entrance of the hut and for a further year attempted to control his mind in such a way as never to think of profit or loss or advantage or disadvantage. And then at the end of that year, the teacher looked at him.

 

For another year he practiced, and at the end of that the teacher invited him to come in the hut and sit on the mat. Then for the next year however, he did something quite different, and he says this. I let my eyes see whatever they wanted to look at. I let my ears hear whatever they wanted to hear. I let my mouth say whatever it wanted to say and I let my mind think whatever it wanted to think. And at the end of that year I didn’t know what was subject and what was object. I didn’t take any account of time. I was riding on the wind but I didn’t really know whether the wind was riding on me or I was riding on the wind. And this was when he got to float, you see. But seeing as how what he did he finally did. He allowed democracy to prevail. He said to his eyes, I’m not going to try and control you. You know better how to see than I do to his ears I’m not going to force you to listen to anything you know how to hear better than I can direct you and so on to everything he trusts his own brain he trusted his own organism. And so this is wu-wei. So in exactly the same way if you practice meditation. Don’t try to meditate like the choir was told not to try to sing, don’t force it. When you meditate let your lungs breathe the way they want to breathe. Let your mind think anything it wants to think about. Don’t try to repress thoughts. Let your eyes see whatever they’re looking at. And let your ears, your ear drums vibrate to any oscillations there may be in the air. Let go. You think that’s very risky. It isn’t. It really isn’t. It’s like a ship in a typhoon, they always shut the engines off, and drift. Because if the propellers are going and the tail end of the ship is thrown up so as to be above the water level, the whole ship will vibrate and be shaken to pieces by those revolving propellers. So in a big storm, and life is a big storm all the time, you let it go and you become like a cork on the water or a ping pong ball in a mountain stream.

 

So that’s the art of Taoism. That’s the whole thing, that’s wu-wei. Chuang-Tzu has the funniest tales about this. He often says ‘People who are trying to help things along are a nuisance.’ All the Do-gooders. He has a conversation between Lao-Tzu and Confucius in which Confucius is prating about charity and duty to one’s neighbor. And Lao Tzu to him this is nonsense he is just binding things on to people putting burdens on them with charity and duty to one’s neighbor. He says to Confucius look now at the universe. The trees grow up words without exception. The stars always follow their courses and the migrating birds of the various seasons always cluster with complete regularity, but they don’t say anything, they don’t have any religion. And your idea of eliminating yourself is a positive manifestation of self. You have brought much confusion to the kingdom, because you are like one who beats a drum in search of a fugitive. Or we would say like the police driving to a raid with their sirens on. And of course when the fugitive hears the drums he conceals himself and so when you sound all sorts of drums and promise to be virtuous and make resolutions to be virtuous, you’re in for trouble. Because the devil hears you coming.

 

alanwatts.org

 

 

 

 

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