I’ve come back once again to Wu-Wei. Wu-Wei is defined (in philosophical Taoism) as action accomplishing its purpose in accordance with the natures of things and events. There are other more esoteric definitions but I will use this one as it relates to my experience, or rather brush stroke, with Wu-Wei that was expressed in a previous post The Art of Patience (6th March, 2014).
I contemplated Wu-Wei from the perspective of the Chinese painter’s and the ‘open way’, to express ‘the natures of things and events’. I focused on one painting – unnamed – that reflected a moon on water. I recalled how standing before it, it held me, the observer, in sparkling peacefulness: a state of surrender to the innate emptiness of oneself that is difficult, if not impossible, to define (even with calligraphy).
I’ve come to realise that for many years my search for ‘self’ was in fact a disguised search for Wu-Wei. I just hadn’t realised it. And without knowing I would look for depictions of Wu-Wei elsewhere in literature, poetry and musical notation. In short Wu-Wei, consciously acknowledged, has become a quest for ‘direct seeing’ of oneself – the nature of things and events.
And this still ripples and resonates within me in different moments; typing on a keyboard, driving the car, listening to birdsong, making cups of tea, playing chess, meditation, the ripples continue on and on. An example of this comes from a piece by J. Krishnamurti. His volume of works relate to a view that learning from experience is of deepest value once we know, and come to terms with, the conditioned mind (something those Wu-Wei masters knew all about).
There is an opening narrative that introduces Distraction (Series I Chapter 82) which expresses Krishnamurti’s poetic spirit, something that I find in-between his words, in a way similar to those simple ink brush strokes. Here, I believe, Krishnamurti is pointing to the same moon.
It was a long, wide canal, leading from the river into lands that had no water. The canal was higher than the river, and the water which entered it was controlled by a system of locks. It was peaceful along that canal; heavy-laden barges moved up and down it, and their white triangular sails stood out against the blue sky and the dark palms. It was a lovely evening, calm and free, and the water was very still.
The reflections of the palms and of the mango trees were so sharp and clear that it was confusing to distinguish the actual from the reflection. The setting sun made the water transparent, and the glow of evening was on its face. The evening star was beginning to show among the reflections. The water was without a movement, and the few passing villagers, who generally talked so loud and long, were silent.
Even the whisper among the leaves had stopped. From the meadow came some animal; it drank, and disappeared as silently as it had come. Silence held the land, it seemed to cover everything.
Noise ends, but silence is penetrating and without end. One can shut oneself off from noise, but there is no enclosure against silence; no wall can shut it out, there is no resistance against it. Noise shuts all things out, it is excluding and isolating; silence includes all things within itself.
Silence, like love, is indivisible; it has no division of noise and silence. The mind cannot follow it or be made still to receive it. The mind that is made still can only reflect its own images, and they are sharp and clear, noisy in their exclusion.
A mind that is made still can only resist, and all resistance is agitation. The mind that is still and not made still is ever experiencing silence; the thought, the word, is then within the silence, and not outside of it. It is strange how, in this silence, the mind is tranquil, with a tranquillity that is not formed.
As tranquillity is not marketable, has no value, and is not usable, it has a quality of the pure, of the alone. That which can be used is soon worn out. Tranquillity does not begin or end, and a mind thus tranquil is aware of a bliss that is not the reflection of its own desire.
She said she had always been agitated by something or other; if it was not the family, it was the neighbour or some social activity. Agitation had filled her life, and she had never been able to find the reason for these constant upheavals. She was not particularly happy; and how could one be with the world as it was? She had had her share of passing happiness, but all that was in the past and now she was hunting for something that would give a meaning to life. She had been through many things which at the time seemed worth while, but which afterwards faded into nothingness.
She had been engaged in many social activities of the serious kind; she had ardently believed in the things of religion, had suffered because of death in her family, and had faced a major operation. Life had not been easy with her, she added, and there were millions of others in the world like herself. She wanted to go beyond all this business, whether foolish or necessary and find something that was really worth while.
The things that are worth while are not to be found. They cannot be bought, they must happen; and the happening cannot be cunningly planned. Is it not true that anything that has deep significance always happens, it is never brought about?
The happening is important, not the finding. The finding is comparatively easy, but the happening is quite another matter. Not that it is difficult; but the urge to seek, to find, must wholly stop for the happening to take place. Finding implies losing; you must have in order to lose. To possess or be possessed is never to be free to understand.
But why has there always been this agitation, this restlessness? Have you seriously inquired into it before?
“I have attempted it half-heartedly, but never purposely. I have always been distracted.”
Not distracted, if one may point out; it is simply that this has never been a vital problem to you. When there is a vital problem, then there is no distraction.
Distraction does not exist; distraction implies a central interest from which the mind wanders; but if there is a central interest, there is no distraction. The mind’s wandering from one thing to another is not distraction, it is an avoidance of what is. We like to wander far away because the problem is very close. The wandering gives us something to do, like worry and gossip; and though the wandering is often painful, we prefer it to what is.
Do you seriously wish to go into all this, or are you merely playing around with it?
“I really want to go through to the very end of it. That is why I have come.”
You are unhappy because there is no spring that keeps the well full, is that it? You may once have heard the whisper of water on the pebbles, but now the riverbed is dry. You have known happiness, but it has always receded, it is always a thing of the past. Is that spring the thing you are groping after? And can you seek it, or must you come upon it unexpectedly?
If you knew where it was, you would find means to get to it; but not knowing, there is no path to it. To know it is to prevent the happening of it. Is that one of the problems?
“That definitely is. Life is so dull and uncreative, and if that thing could happen one wouldn’t ask for anything more.”
Is loneliness a problem?
“I don’t mind being lonely, I know how to deal with it. I either go out for a walk, or sit quietly with it till it goes. Besides, I like being alone.”
We all know what it is to be lonely: an aching, fearsome emptiness that cannot be appeased. We also know how to run away from it, for we have all explored the many avenues of escape. Some are caught in one particular avenue, and others keep on exploring; but neither are in direct relationship with what is.
You say you know how to deal with loneliness. If one may point out, this very action upon loneliness is your way of avoiding it. You go out for a walk, or sit with loneliness till it goes. You are always operating upon it, you do not allow it to tell its story. You want to dominate it, to get over it, to run away from it; so your relationship with it is that of fear.
Is fulfilment also a problem? To fulfil oneself in something implies the avoidance of what one is, does it not? I am puny; but if I identify myself with the country, with the family, or with some belief, I feel fulfilled, complete.
This search for completeness is the avoidance of what is.
“Yes, that is so; that is also my problem.”
If we can understand what is, then perhaps all these problems will cease. Our approach to any problem is to avoid it; we want to do something about it. The doing prevents our being in direct relationship with it, and this approach blocks the understanding of the problem.
The mind is occupied with finding a way to deal with the problem, which is really an avoidance of it; and so the problem is never understood, it is still there. For the problem, the what is, to unfold and tell its story fully, the mind must be sensitive, quick to follow.
If we anaesthetize the mind through escapes, through knowing how to deal with the problem, or through seeking an explanation or a cause for it, which is only a verbal conclusion, then the mind is made dull and cannot swiftly follow the story which the problem, the what is, is unfolding. See the truth of this and the mind is sensitive; and only then can it receive.
Any activity of the mind with regard to the problem only makes it dull and so incapable of following, of listening to the problem. When the mind is sensitive – not made sensitive, which is only another way of making it dull – then the what is, the emptiness, has a wholly different significance.
Please be experiencing as we go along, do not remain on the verbal level. What is the relationship of the mind to what is? So far, the what is has been given a name, a term, a symbol of association, and this naming prevents direct relationship, which makes the mind dull, insensitive. The mind and what is are not two separate processes, but naming separates them. When this naming ceases, there is a direct relationship: the mind and the what is are one.
The what is is now the observer himself without a term, and only then is the what is transformed; it is no longer the thing called emptiness with its associations of fear, and so on. Then the mind is only the state of experiencing, in which the experiencer and the experienced are not. Then there is immeasurable depth, for he who measures is gone.
That which is deep is silent, tranquil, and in this tranquillity is the spring of the inexhaustible. The agitation of the mind is the usage of word. When the word is not, the measureless is.
J. Krishnamurti Commentaries on
Living Series I Chapter 82