March 25, 2013

What Lao Tzu Means by Nonaction, (and Dzogchen Trechod Nonthought, While We're At It)

The meta-geniuses of philosophy and religion use special words, and sometimes use normal words, in different ways than the usual. If you wish to receive the teachings, you will need to have a new way of using language.

For example: Lao Tzu's "nonaction."

The nonaction that Lao Tzu speaks of is the humble action that we can perform in order to return to the bliss of God/Tao, the correct way of life.

We have to have dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of experiences of nonaction, becoming finally stabilized in nonaction, in order to make our return.

Since we're human and in action, it will take an action to accomplish nonaction, esoteric stillness.

If you're walking you'll have to do the act of stopping walking in order to be "not acting,"purely in terms of walking. But stopping of walking is an action too: Lao Tzu is making you try to understand something very different when he says "nonaction."

In the famous words "the sage practices nonaction," the key word missed by the novice is “practices.” Sounds like an action--such as walking. The doorway to harmony with Tao (God, buddha, dharmakaya) is opened by--hear ye, hear ye--nonaction.

What the sage does is this nonaction. In other words, what they do is not do. It takes an act of will for the sage to let go like that.

The sage is comfortable in transcending activity. The transcendent activity of nonactivity is the sage's practice. We have our many worldly activities, but the sage is the one who doesn't cling or become frantic about them.

The sage knows that it's in their not-knowing that they are blessed and made their big comeback to wholeness which is Tao. Not-knowing is the mental aspect of nonaction. When we say the sage doesn't know, it doesn't mean the sage doesn't know anything. It means he doesn't cling to any concepts or situations as having an ultimate import in themselves. The sage engages fully in life, okay with its flux and flow, successes and disappointments.

The sage is not at all upset about all the stuff that he has to do. A sage may have a family and may need to earn a significant living to support them. The sage may have a complicated or challenging job or problematic situations. Whether life is simple or complex, the sage does his best, then proceeds to not worry about it. They simply act and do what needs be done and not a bit more. They "know when enough is enough." For the sage, neuroses can be said to have been put to rest. Not by avoiding, but by properly engaging life: the practice of nonaction.

When the sage doesn’t have much to do, it doesn't really bother him: he isn't compulsive to self-proving. This is the security of his wisdom. But also, if does have a lot to do, he just does it; it's no difference either way to him.

If you want to know Tao, you'll need to stop practicing the pseudo-Tao of being against complexity or an active life. To know Tao, we get our stuff done the best we can, without overthinking it. Overdoing fills our life with the fuzz of confusion and it's hard for inborn harmony to arise.

If you worked all day and didn't take a break for lunch, that would mean you don't know Tao very well. Overdoing is damaging, for obvious reasons. Take breaks and rest a bit. Get the things done that need to be done. Do them, get them done, and then you're done. But remember too, superstitious underdoing is also bad for you.

And what does the sage say when his work is done? Great, but it's not a big deal one way or the other: work to be done or work complete; either way he is in the continual practice of nonaction. Because the sage practices nonaction and its mental aspect, not-knowing, it doesn't matter whether there's a lot to do or a little to do. The sage just handles what needs be done, when possible, then stops. The sage could make up something to do in the joy of Tao. But the sage may be very busy and have a lot to do.

If you're doing too many things or working for too long, that would be bad for the chi. Take breaks and vacations. That's what vacations are for and breaks and such. It's why we have weekends. Everybody understands Tao a bit.

But the sage goes much further. He performs everything he does with firm nonaction.

Life is action. Saying the sage practices nonaction could sound anti-life. But since the essence of life isn't merely the function of getting things accomplished, the sage knows the bliss of the big picture that the rest of us may be missing.

Action means movement, so when you take creative action, that's a movement of some sort or another. There's nothing wrong with taking action. Without action a singer couldn't sing a tone, a drummer couldn't pound a drum. A driver couldn't drive a car. A factory worker couldn't build a product. A farmer couldn't sow the field. People wouldn't procreate. Nothing would occur. Nothing would come into being from Tao.

Creativity is intrinsically good, which is a way of saying that there's nothing wrong with getting something done. Maybe creativity is good, and God/Tao is correct in saying that He created the world and said "it was good." There's nothing essentially bad about creativity in itself.

Dzogchen practitioners should note that Lao Tzu's "nonaction" is very similar to the Dzogchen trechod term "nonthought." For both the practice is perfect peace, and one is complete in God with no need for action/thought. This nonaction/nonthought "arises," accompanied by bliss and lucidity. The sage reaches the point where he can create thoughts and take actions without any clinging to them. These actions he is taking are the nonactions of Tao, his thinking is the nonthought of Dzogchen.

Nonaction is rare to understand. If there is one great tip we can all take from Tao Te Ching, a beneficial action you might say, it's that, when we overdo, we suffer. Start with that premise. But the test of really understanding Lao Tzu's "don't overdo" arises in knowing that nonaction has nothing to do with "doing nothing," Not comprehending this, Tao remains beyond our understanding.

March 22, 2013

Lao Tzu Kicked Out of the City (originally posted on August 4, 2006)


Chalking his hand
Looking toward that 300 score
Lao Tzu had a hissy fit:
They ran out of Budweiser.

Dog Zen is easy
But you still have to do it.
Your way is hard
But you still have to stop it.

After you begin the beating of the bushes
Rip out roots, just to make sure.
Still, you'll have to use the chemicals,
Even still, you won't be close to pure.

Dead roots point a shine toward infinity
Looking from the back, clockwise becomes counter:
You can't fool me again, no friend would hold lies
No mixing is allowed without the chan master's affinity.

While this wild plant, it silently grows
The fraud primps and arranges the styles that he chose,
Further and further back from his chance:
He never entered into the source of romance.

If there's one lick of passion in your blood
You'll take to roaming with the dharma thugs
Where you'll learn the chod that cuts the bone:
Then again, the odds are you'll stay home.

Gold, a bad choice,
Steel is better.
How you 'spect to get around
Up there on that ladder?

Glory to God our Father in Heaven
Yes, just the way that it already is!
Our meal ends in a toast, better than ever
Ain't no complaints in this line of biz.