What’s the Role of Meditation in the Zhuangzi?

Artist: Kano Tan'yû (1602–1674)
Artist: Kano Tan’yû (1602–1674)

In one of my earliest posts, I mentioned that meditation and the ideas in the Zhuangzi are closely related. Actually, Zhuangzi made reference to meditation when a man (Yan Hui) asked Confucius about how to proceed to act with the Tao and be in the world of men. This passage can be seen in the “In the World of Men” Chapter of The Zhuangzi.

Zen Meditation?

    There’s this notion that meditation makes your will one, and is necessary for following the Tao, but why is this so? As it’s seen, meditation may be for relaxation, enlightenment, or for some other goal, and in these respects, one can say that they do contribute towards these goals. But, the aim of the meditation described in the book is much like Zen meditation, but it deviates in an important way; it deviates towards nondistinction (Zen meditation is towards enlightenment).

The Supposed Effect of Meditation

    I look at mediation as a period of exact nondistinction if done correctly, which is harder than it seems. As meditation becomes more frequent, and takes up more time, I’m inclined to think that being accustomed to the emptiness in meditation would manifest into a degree of nondistinction when not meditating.

    But, one can argue that more mediation equals less stress or more relaxation, which is causing some sort of effect that I irresponsibly dubbed “nondistinction.” The thought process might be along the lines of: “Nondistinction? It’s actually just relaxation because when one’s relaxed, he is more inclined not to keep in his mind little details or even notice them.” But nondistinction is meant as a means to the opposite of this, that is, in fully perceiving things due to not being bound by distinctions made, one can come to knowing (I know this is a little vague, but it has to be otherwise someone might start a million dollar campaign against the blog…).

Relegation to the Constant (The Tao)

Might this be a hollow that when blown upon, howls in chorus with others?
Might this be a hollow that when blown upon, howls in chorus with others? This represents a single distinction.

    And nondistinction also comes to the opposite of that opposite I just described, that is, in not perceiving things, but instead seeing the whole, one can come to the Tao, which may be said to be ubiquitous emptiness comprising unknowing knowledge, among other things, which is to say that nondistinction is the perceiving of the whole while each hollow (piece of “knowledge”) can be itself (reference to The Zhuangzi Chapter 2).


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Julius Ho

I attend the University of California, Berkeley, Law School. Before that, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in philosophy. I can be considered taoist, and I've been boxing since middle school. I contribute to taopracticed.wordpress.com and straight2boxing.com.

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