Like Gautama Buddha who left his seasonal palaces when he was 19, Huang-ti has ruled his world in a seemingly endless childhood for 19 years. Huang-ti travels to see Master Kuang-Ch’eng to see if he can learn from him how to understand and attain the most perfect essence of Tao. His reasons, as he explains them to the Master, are to understand the essence of the natural world so he can nourish his people and create harmony, and to control the cosmic principles and ensure the growth of all living things.
Our reasons for first coming to inner work are always material in one way or another. They are for self-aggrandizement: to be a better person, to improve our primary relationship, to learn to love more, to be a more effective practitioner. But the unconscious reasons for coming to inner work are very often much deeper, more profound and authentic. It may take a month, three months, even a year, but the apparent reason, the stated reason, always gives way to a deeper purpose for true adherents of inner work.
In the story this is represented in poetic Chinese symbolism: “I would like to get hold of the essence of Heaven and earth and use it to aid the five grains and to nourish the common people. I would also like to control the yin and yang in order to ensure the growth of all living things.” Huangh-ti is after all a King, a ruler. So he seeks to serve his people. But his stated virtuous intentions are seen through by the superior Master Kuang Ch’eng. Ch’eng is somewhat longer in the tooth and he knows the subtle, and not so subtle, ways of the ego.
What part of us is it that desires to interfere in the world, in the unfolding of the universe, and the growth and development of a human life? What part of us is it that suffers the conceit that we may be able to, in some way or any way, do good in this world? Our very ideas of good and bad are challenged in the Sufi story where the master accepts a disciple doubtfully with the admonition that the disciple will not be able to endure a single day in his company without complaining. The disciple refutes this and happily follows behind the master until he murders someone, sinks a boat, and performs some further atrocity I can’t recall. The disciple can hardly bear this or handle his reactions, as the master predicted. At the end of the ordeal the master explains his actions: the man he murdered would have become a serial killer of many innocent people, the ship he sank contained an arsenal of concealed weaponry that would have been used to start a local war, and so on. The moral of the story is: how can we interfere unless we can see the full picture and how can we see the whole before becoming whole ourselves?
In our humanness we want to help, we want to act, we want to interfere and intervene, but a deeper wisdom has another take on things. Sometimes we simply leave it, feeling our concern, but acknowledging our lack of real influence. Sometimes inaction, acceptance, and non-interference are the wisest course.
Hence Master Kuang Ch’eng says, “What you say you want to learn about pertains to the true substance of things, but what you say you want to control pertains to things in their divided state.” In other words I—and notice the lordly I!—want to enlighten all living beings through nourishing the body, the soul, and the spirit. But the Master points out that this cannot be done through the mind of division—the mind of identity, separation, and division which characterizes the ego-processes.
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [...]