“Words are the knife with which you cut reality.” – Swami Sarvapriyananda
The first part of “Tao is” was introducing Taoism from the perspective of presence.
In this part we are going to discuss the limitation of words and why absolutely no words or phrases are going to help you live a life of fulfillment, of peace, and of internal contentment.
I had gone back and forth whether this should have been a part of the introduction, but I thought it was important that you first understand on an intellectual level what presence is, so that you can begin to understand it on a non-intellectual level.
Understanding it on a non-intellectual level, or the level of thought will better help you understand why words are limited in their nature.
The first part of this book, is going to be heavily emphasized by the first chapter of Alan Watts book: Tao The Watercourse Way: The chapter of the book is called: The Chinese written language. For those who aren’t familiar with the background of Lao Tzu, he was an ancient philosopher originating from China.
So Taoism began in China, hence, it is from their language that, once understood, we can begin to understand communication from an entire different point of view.
“An often quoted Chinese proverb is that one picture is worth a thousand words, because it is so often much easier to show than to say. As well known, Chinese writing is unique in that it does not employ an alphabet, but rather characters or ideograms that were originally pictures or conventional signs.”
A portion of this chapter explains why it is the English language that is limited, because of its linear nature.
Linear meaning by sequence, in order, progressing from one stage to another.
We read language from left to right, all the words relating to one another, and as we continue to read, moving to the right, the order of the sentence begins to be digested by the mind linearly, registering the purpose of the sentence.
Alan Watts continues to say…
“The natural universe is not a linear system. It involves an infinitude of variables, interacting simultaneously, so that it would take incalculable aeons to translate even one moment of its operation into linear, alphabetic language. Let alone the universe! Take the planet Earth alone, or even what goes on in a small pond, or for that matter, in the structure of an atom. This is where problems of language relate to Taoists philosophy.”
This is where problems of language relate to Taoist philosophy, for the Lao-Tzu books begins by
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.” – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching.”
What this is essentially saying is regarding the only time that the Tao can be followed, in non-linearly, timelessly, through presence.
The mind in the very deepest core of its nature understands the same way that it created language to understand which linearly or before, now and after.
In fact, if some people understood that, in the absolute sense time doesn’t exist in the absolute sense, it might not be that shocking to them, and their lives would not change in the least bit by knowing that.
“So what? I’m here, and have always been here, and life continues to move on regardless.”
One might say, however, the entire point, and the basis for coming to the obvious fact that time does not exist, is not for it to be understood as a philosophy, a perspective, outlook, opinion or viewpoint (intellect).
The Tao will not be known, presence will not be known, until this present moment will be felt on the level of your cells, your particles and your inner body. You cannot wait to breathe, breathing happens now.
True transformation will not happen on a linear level, although it can happen in the future the way the mind understands it; presence is going to be known through the body right now, and only right now.
Trying to understand “feeling presence” by using the mind or using any words that are written, are not going to register in your essence.
“Our organisms have ways of intelligent understanding beyond words and conscious attention, ways that can handle an unknown number of variables at the same time.” – Alan Watts
This is where the ideograms in the Chinese language come in, as it pertains to Taoism. You can see here…
You can see here that, just a few icons can describe what we would call an entire sentence. It’s kind of like for you Emoji junkies out there, how you’re feeling and typing it out using absolutely nothing but an emoji, like the picture below.
Say for example you’re feeling sad, and you want to let your BFF know that.
You would not need to write out an entire sentence saying that you are sad, that one sad emoji does that for you.
Now imagine an ENTIRE LANGUAGE using nothing but Emoji’s, how much simpler your life of communication through texting and Facebook messenger would be!?
Meanwhile not leaving a single expression, emotion, or feeling behind!
“Every culture is based on assumptions so taken for granted that they are barely conscious, and it is only when we study highly different cultures and languages that we become aware of them.” – Alan Watts
Alan Watts could possibly be showing us in one quote here how, from the very start, our LANGUAGE has created a lot of suffering in the English lives of those who are attached to words and their meanings.
“We cannot talk of “knowing” without assuming that there is some “who” or “what” that knows, not realizing that this is nothing more than a grammatical convention.” – Alan Watts
Remember in the introduction, about how what ‘we’ have always known was known knowledge, mind information, mind understanding and intellectual knowing and that ‘we’ is a group of people who are probably identified with the thinking mind.
So what we know is already misconstrued, if you take yourself to be the thinking-mind, which is unconsciously accepted for “I,” and then we take that “I” to know, which is only relative knowing (knowledge), which is only a linear system of patterns learned by a culture, that was doomed from the start of thinking that the English language, can set me free.
And by the way, this is in no way, shape, form, fashion anything against the English language.
If it were not for the English language, I would not have likely awakened to presence, and there would be absolutely no communication on the part of most of the world.
Words are VERY POWERFUL TOOLS, especially when they are learned to be used in a fashion that points you away from their own non-linear nature.
Alan Watts on regarding the natural flow of the universe…
“We have no idea of how many variables could be distinguished in any given natural situation. A variable is a process. (e.g., melody, pulse, vibration.) which can be isolated, identified, and measured by conscious attention.”
And by conscious attention, he’s referring to the attention of the thinking-mind here.
He’s simply saying that there are different factors in the world going on at one time for us to ever believe that the thinking mind could understand, grasp, interpret the universe as a whole, which renders a limitation in words again.
So, then when someone says
“I DEMAND YOU TELL ME THE TRUTH!”
“I DEMAND YOUR HONESTY!”
What truth are they referring to?
The relative truth in this world that has an INFINITE many things going on at once truth?
Or the truth of your being which….is and cannot be denied?
The truth cannot be spoken; the spoken truth cannot be.
The truth lies inside of the smell of a flower.
The truth lies inside of the taste of taste of honey.
The truth lies inside in the feel of something soft.
The truth lies inside of the sound of music.
The truth lies inside of the sight of the moon.
The truth lies inside of the drinking of water.
And the truth is, you cannot smell from the WORD, flower.
You cannot TASTE the WORD, Honey.
You can hear the WORD, Music.
You can see the WORD, Moon.
You cannot touch from the words rough texture.
And you cannot drink from the WORD, Water.
Just as you cannot feel the words present moment, you can only feel this moment, through PRESENCE, through the breath.
“When your last breath arrives, Grammar can do nothing.” ― Adi Shankara
The point is, the most significant thing (isn’t a thing) on this planet IS this breath.
Now let’s take this a step further and look from the standpoint of Politics.