Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Day 339 - living like water

As you can tell by some of the pictures in this blog, much of my time out was spent traveling to the great rivers of the world.

Lao Tzu said:
"The highest excellence is like that of water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving, the low place which all men dislike. Hence it is near to the Tao."

And also:

"Living like water is to flow around obstacles, not confront them."

I recently read a great review by Tom Butler Bowdon of Hesse's Siddhartha:

'Siddartha concluded: "The only thing of importance to me is being able to love the world, without looking down on it, without hating it and myself - being able to regard it and myself and all beings with love, admiration and reverence."

It is the river which helped Siddartha arrive at this. He listens to the 'thousandfold song of the river', which sounds like life in its unceasing movement towards goals, its strivings, sufferings and pleasures, yet which also moves as one. Existence, though it may seem a bewildering and fearful tumult of separate people, places, events and feelings, is like the river in that it is really all one current. And in its oneness it is perfect.

The message of Siddartha is that we should not try to withdraw from life to have a superior feeling of holiness, but to throw ourselves into things; as Joseph Campbell put it, always saying 'Yes' to our universe. Filled with events, thoughts and relationships, life often seems terribly fragmented, but from the perspective of the river bank, it is one, smooth-flowing river of experience. If you can appreciate this unity, you become less wrapped up in yourself and identify with the larger flow of life. What Siddartha finds is that it is only when he gives up finding nirvana that a degree of enlightenment comes to him.'

I really got that.

Throughout my travels while taking time out, I never felt such oneness, peace and vibrancy as when observing, and living beside, our planet's rivers.


b said...

That oneness is the essence of life, indeed. In my latest post, I describe a dream in which I was confronted with a rapidly moving river. I've always been in such awe of water, to the point I've allowed myself to be afraid of it to a degree. And so, in my dream, I saw this river as an obstacle and my defeat. It was only because I realized a oneness that I was able to let go of that fear.

In my dream, as in what you say here and countless forms of symbolism (as in Siddhartha), I realize the incredible beauty of water is nothing to be afraid of nor is it something to overcome. It is simply a force to become one with. And when we give ourselves to that oneness, we do find enlightenment and a life that fully breeds a contagious vitality.

Anonymous said...

Listening to the ocean at night is one of the most peaceful things I can think of.

But I think of water as stubborn and strong though it "flow(s) around obstacles" it also devours them.