Heresies of Shao Jing-yu

Excerpts from the proscribed paper titled “Walking the Path”, more coloquially known as “Heresies of Shao Jing-yu”.

Naturalness, or simplicity, is the second tenet [of Daoism]… the essence of naturalness is to strip from one’s mind the complications and obligations imposed by life, usually through meditation and ritual. By cultivating naturalness of the self, one is able to move closer to the primordial state—the basic state free of external pressures, in which one can most clearly sense the Dao. Through this meditation, we of the Sect learn cultivate clear minds and strong flow of Chi.

The essence of the third tenet, wu wei, is action without intent. Through cultivating a state of simplicity, we perceive the Dao; wu wei, then, is acting in accord with what we perceive, choosing our course not like a rat within a maze, but like a fish swimming with the currents of the world. Thus we act in harmony with the world, and our actions are free from misfortune or the capricious whimsy of chance—the backlash, the resistance from the flow of the world that is so often generated when one acts without care, just as one can be drawn out to sea by the riptide when walking in the ocean.

Through cultivating simplicity and wu wei, we gain understanding and enlightenment; this, above all, is the business of the Dragon Well Sect, the end to which we put all of our means.

The benefits of enlightenment are, to any member of our Sect, obvious; however, I will elaborate upon the manifold benefits in this paper for the sake of thoroughness. Because we are in harmony with the Dao, we are able to move in harmony with it, and therefore our actions do not generate the self-defeating interference that sometimes arises when others, in seeking to act, inadvertantly move against the Dao; further, through aligning ourselves with the Dao, we are part of its flow, and the world itself often seems to care for our basic needs.

In short, through enlightenment, we are freed from many of the concerns that plague those who are not enlightened.

I have listed many of the virtues we embody here. We are wise; our studies of the lore of Dao and our pursuit of ever higher levels of enlightenment see to this. We are wealthy, as well—the Longjing tea that we cultivate, cultivates wealth for us in turn. Many of us could even be considered strong, as the world measures such things, due to the physical aspects of our training as we seek to harmonize our bodies and minds. But… are we truly great?

Let us consider this.

Wealth is not greatness. Physical strength is not greatness. Even enlightenment is not greatness. These things are base ingredients from which greatness can flower, just as our fabled Longjing tea grows in the soil and the climate here in the Five Dragons, but they are not greatness themselves.

Greatness could be said to be a form of power, though not precisely the form of power we cultivate: the enlightenment we so ardently seek is a type of power inherent to the self. Greatness, on the other hand, could be considered a form of power external, wrested from the world and worn like a cloak of gold, drawing the envy of all those around—for it is the nature of greatness that it will inevitably inspire envy in those who lack it.

Many would scoff, exclaiming that a true follower of the Dao certainly does not need the envy of others and has little use for ‘greatness’. They would say that envy, that greatness, that any power other than that afforded by enlightenment is a fleeting, fragile thing, an illusion of the world that blinds the eyes; what need for illusions, for appearences, for seemings, has one who can see clearly? Many would say that only the power inherent afforded through cultivation of enlightenment is worthy of pursuit.

I will agree that power inherent is a goal worthy of pursuit; after all, increasing one’s personal, inherent power is accomplished by self-cultivation, self-improvement. That in itself is certainly worthwhile, both for its own virtue and for the fact that inherent power makes a fine, even necessary, soil for greatness to spring from—after all, how can one inspire envy if one is not in some way superior?

But for all of its incontestible benefits, it must be said that inherent power—any form of inherent power—ultimately suffers from the equally inherent limitations of the self. Through relentless cultivation it is possible to push those limits can back… but ultimately those limitations remain, and every time one pushes them back, it requires vastly more effort. External power, on the other hand, can expand far more quickly and to a far greater extent. As a basic example… it is possible for a man to run as quickly as a horse, or to be as strong as an ox, given sufficient time and an unyielding regimen of training and cultivation. Yet the common farmer can wield the same strength simply by mounting his horse, or fixing an ox to the harness of his plow!

Further, it must be said that there are goals—worthy goals—that cannot be attained through cultivation of power inherent alone. Even an enlightened man with a righteous cause can fall if he stands against a baneful army of a thousand men, for in the end he is but one man… an enlightened man who is also great, however, can fight such a battle and only victory will come to him, for he will have become the head of an army of a thousand, and will scatter his foes like dust before the wind.

Even the most ardent follower of the Dao must surely agree that the greatness of which I speak has some virtue; now, then, I ask again: are we great?

I must answer that we are not.

We of the Dragon Well Sect are wise, we are strong, and we are enlightened, and all of these can be considered forms of power inherent, assuring any that greatness lies within our reach… yet we are not great, for all of our efforts are turned inwards.

Greatness cannot be attained solely through meditation and self-cultivation, and greatness cannot be attained solely through devout study of the Dao; as greatness is a form of power external, it comes from the world outside the self—from properly leveraging one’s power to affect the world, from performing deeds, and for all that our enlightenment give us the means to do so, we do not. We turn a blind eye to the world beyond our walls…

Heresies of Shao Jing-yu

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