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Daoist Silence

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Here’s an inspiring description of the experience of ‘silence’ in the Daoist sense from John Blofeld’s,  My Journey in Mystic China…….


 In 1948, on the night before the Lantern Festival, I unexpectedly encountered a peculiar event. That day I had heard about a 'living immortal' who was staying in the western quarter of the city, and this came as strange news to me. Although I was not certain that there existed such a thing, I really wanted to go meet this so-called immortal. Because I'd heard that this living immortal would soon be going to the south and I might therefore miss my opportunity, I decided then and there to immediately pay him a visit.


It took over an hour to reach the immortal's residence. A note on the gate informed visitors that the immortal was in the midst of meditation and no one was permitted to enter. I was freezing to death, and needed to warm myself by a fire. Using this as an excuse, I mustered my courage and went resolutely inside. The gatekeeper told me that it was forbidden to enter, but he didn't dare raise his arm to block me and just stood there agitated, so he did not stop me from walking up to the front door and knocking. A servant opened the door and led me to the parlor to warm myself by the fire. And there before my eyes sat the immortal. He was sitting cross-legged on a mat, meditating. He sat with his back to the door and did not notice that someone had entered the room, and for a long time he just sat there like a lifeless statue.


When he finally stood up, turned around, and noticed me, he did not seem the least bit surprised, and said casually, "Good, good! Mr. Pu, you have arrived." Struck with wonder and curiosity by his prescience, I asked myself how he could possibly know that my name was Pu. Until the moment that I told my servant to find me a cab, even I did not know that today I would be going to visit this complete stranger. After arriving at his residence, I hadn't mentioned my name to anyone there. So the moment I heard him address me as "Mr. Pu," I stood there wide-eyed and slack-jawed with wonder, and felt very astonished.


He called for tea, and invited me to sit down. We sat facing one another, with a small tea table between us. I bowed to pay my respects, then said politely, "It's a great honor to meet you, esteemed immortal, and please forgive me for disturbing you. Do you have a few minutes to spare? Otherwise, I could .... "


It was obvious that he was not pleased to hear me address him as "immortal," and so he riposted with the question, "Is it possible that there exists such a thing as an immortal in this world? And if indeed there really are such strange creatures, by no means should you mistake me as one of them. In my humble opinion, immortals are characters fabricated by human beings. Regrettably, my humble self is sometimes praised by others as being an immortal. How on earth could there possibly be such a thing? Please, sir, address me as Taoist Dzeng." This white-haired Taoist wasn't wearing Taoist robes. He wore a long padded tunic of blue satin and felt boots. His hair was cut short, like most elderly men in contemporary China. It was clear that he felt great disdain for charlatans posing as immortals. I said, "Although the venerable Mr. Dzeng is not an immortal, you certainly are endowed with great spiritual power. Otherwise, how could you foretell that my name n Pu?" He poured me a cup of tea before replying, "My humble self may perhaps have a small measure of obscure clairvoyant ability. That's a very common result of practicing meditation."


"May I inquire, sir, what business brings you here, that you would risk the cold to come to my residence?" At this moment, Taoist Dzeng's expression seemed to carry a tinge of sarcasm. With a straight face I replied, "My humble self has for a long time wished to meet a Taoist adept who is highly accomplished in the mystical arts, and to ask him for guidance regarding which type of practices are most effective for restoring youth and prolonging life." The venerable old Dzeng smiled and said, "'If you don't believe in the teaching, you cannot obtain its benefits.” How can I possibly explain this in words? Ha-ha, Mr. Pu has climbed famous mountains, and has received teachings from many great Buddhist monks and Taoist adepts, so why would you find it worthwhile to ask for guidance from my humble self? I daresay, sir, that you must be familiar with some words of advice from the Tao Teh Ching. The general meaning of this advice is that visiting famous mountains and traveling afar to seek teachings about the Tao is not nearly as useful as staying home, shutting the door, and examining your own mind." When he finished speaking, he gazed steadily into my eyes, as though concentrating the full power of his attention on making me understand.


At that moment, a very peculiar sensation suddenly arose within me. All of a sudden, he, I, and everything in the space between us, while still retaining their external appearance, seemed to condense into an inseparable singularity, as though we had suddenly dissolved into one amorphous entity. This dimension of existence gave me a feeling a great joy. For a short while, my mind was mesmerized and my spirit was lost, but at the same time, I knew that this condition was definitely not a distorted fantasy. The strange thing was that although I felt very happy and at ease in that state, I also felt that I could not withstand this man's spiritual power much longer, and that if I did not soon break free of his gaze, I might never return to the normal world, and so I quickly lowered my eyes and terminated that mysterious sensation.


Just then, a group of visitors arrived to see him. They seemed to have come by previous appointment. Therefore, I did not wish to disturb him any longer, bade him farewell, and took my leave. A few days later I heard that the venerable Dzeng had already departed by train for the south. I had missed the opportunity to inquire in detail about several strange matters. For example, how had he known my surname? How had he known that I visited many famous mountains, and that I'd sought teachings about Buddhist doctrine and Taoist mysteries from numerous renowned masters? Relatively speaking, these few matters were not very important. Before we'd met, it was possible that the old man had casually heard that there was a Westerner named Pu living in Peking who had a strong interest in Taoism, and possibly he'd heard people discussing my appearance and other things about me. Although this was only a slight possibility, it was also not impossible. But Old Dzeng had definitely caused me to experience the phenomenon known as "myriad objects uniting into one whole," and for a very short time I had entered into this mysterious dimension.


I'd like to discuss in more detail the meaning of this so-called “uniting as one whole" phenomenon, both from the perspective of Taoist reaching as well as modern science. When Old Dzeng fixed his penetrating gaze on me, I definitely and very clearly perceived the inseparable and boundless nature of all phenomena. That is to say, my perception at the time was that even though all objects had their own separate relative identity, at the same rime they were also all completely unified as one primordial entity. That of course defies logic, and is a principle that lies beyond rational debate. I had long ago learned from my Buddhist and Taoist studies about the relative nature of reality, and that only through a higher level of wisdom could one really understand the true nature of phenomena. And yet, in only a few fleeting moments, Old Dzeng had given me a direct experiential perception of the fundamental nature of reality.


Regarding this matter, there is a passage in the Tao Teh Ching that states:


We look but we don't see it

and call it indistinct

We listen but don’t hear it

And call it faint

We reach but don't grasp it

and call it ethereal

Three failed means of knowledge

I weave into one

with no light above

with no shade below

too fine to be named

returning to nothing....

and discover the ancient maiden

This is the thread of the Way


The words "weave into one" in this passage refer to the essential, indivisible unity of all phenomena. The last sentence states that we must clearly understand that all phenomena arise from the same formless, invisible source, the infinite ocean of primordial energy, which Lao-tze refers to here as "the ancient maiden," the "mother of all things."


After my meeting with the old Taoist Dzeng, I never again had the opportunity to communicate with another genuine Taoist master in China. That was the last time I received the benefit of direct personal guidance from a traditional Chinese master regarding the ancient teachings of the Great Tao.



(For a longer version, originally posted by Gerald see:–-daoist-sacred-mountain/?p=683193


and:–-daoist-sacred-mountain/?p=682767  )

Edited by Yueya
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Glad you liked the story, Yueya. :)


Whether it's In the mountain (easier, less distractions) or in the village (harder, more obstacles), the perfected mind is free and has realised the true nature of reality but prior to that it has learned to let go:





Each finger symbolising the 'toughest' fetters to conquer (especially the last two): resentment, attachment, anger, lust and delusion.



Edited by Gerard
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Yes unfortunately what happened there with John Blofeld is that his sense of self (which was being blown away by the moment he describes) experienced fear and consequently, the nature of that experience was not complete and still attached to a sense of self.  


It is a little like the passage in the Bible (Exodus 33:20) that claims God said "you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live"


Is it that God's appearance is so terrible that if someone were to witness it they would die?  No, it is that their sense of self dies in the realisation they are That which is One and No-Thing.


Blofeld was close to that experience but fear got in the way.

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When the unity consciousness occurred, did you still find yourself thinking extraneous thoughts?

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When the unity consciousness occurred, did you still find yourself thinking extraneous thoughts?

I found myself able to arrest the arising thoughtform potential before it would manifest as thoughtform - but one has to conquer the neurological aspects of the 5 senses/12 cranial nerves in order to do so, methinks


how....turn the light around juuuuust a little more brightly.  the thoughtform arises like a bubble out of the midbrain, and turning the light around also turns that thoughtform potential back unto itself.  the bubble is like that first breath into a balloon where there is that bit of odd tension before the material really begins its expansion.  sensate input causes neural resonances to jump through the many logical loops in the brain's wiring, so it is a midbrain dynamic plus some sensate input that winds up creating the thoughtform energy - when there's a lot of sensate input going on, it easily rides those already-established-and-open pathways up into higher brain centers where the thoughtform energy manifests as an actual thought.  when  the cranial nerve input is quieted for long enough, it closes down that pathway - and only focused awareness can keep it closed.  I merely smiled, ever so slightly (because too much of a smile will wake the trigeminal) and kept the turning going on...didnt need to think 'wow, cool'....I just waited until I was done meditating to think that thought.  totally different than when the pathways are open and the thought pops up before one can do much about it ;)

Edited by joeblast
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