So he has no use [for categories], but relegates all to the constant. The constant is the useful; the useful is the passable; the passable is the successful; and with success, all is accomplished. He relies upon this alone, relies upon it and does not know he is doing so. This is called the Way.
But to wear out your brain trying to make things into one without realizing that they are all the same – this is called “three in the morning.” What do I mean by “three in the morning”? When the monkey trainer was handing out acorns, he said, “You get three in the morning and four at night.” This made all the monkeys furious. “Well, then,” he said, “you get four in the morning and three at night.” The monkeys were all delighted.
There was no change in the reality behind the words, and yet the monkeys responded with joy and anger. Let them, if they want to. So the sage harmonizes with both right and wrong and rests in Heaven the Equalizer. This is called walking two roads (是之謂兩行。).
~ Chuang Tzu
by Scott Bradley edited by O Society July 25, 2019
Chuang Tzu’s parable of Three in the Morning/ Walking Two Roads expresses the heart of his way. It is a recurring theme with many applications.
The monkey keeper understands the equality of things and thus can adapt to the contingencies of everyday, immediate reality. He Walks Two Roads. He is both transcendent and engaged, able to “follow along with the present this” because he understands since nothing is lost from the Totality, every contingency is equalized.
The path of growth is a simultaneous walking of two roads. We have a personality, the behavioral expression of our egoic identity, and we have a more fundamental ‘self’ which is the precondition for the expression of personality. The path of growth takes us into both realms. We seek, by various means, to realize our ‘true self’, the undifferentiated up-welling which is the root of our being. And this provides the transcendence necessary to truly see and work through those dimensions of personality which enslave us. Understanding the nature of our bondage, we better understand the nature of the transcendence we seek. The way of growth is never a rejection of one thing and a flight to another. It is a holistic endeavor.
A personality is the product of a past which began beyond memory: the first gentle coo-ings and harsh words of parental caring. It expresses a growing perception of body as reflected in the eyes of others. It is the cumulative experience of every affirmation and every rejection, every act of love and violence. Thus it develops and becomes the supreme habit. It sleeps at night, but awakes each morning ready to play the same old tune, following the grooves like an old vinyl record.
Yet transformation is possible. The old vinyl can be made a re-writable disc. And this is made possible by the two-road work of growth.
The insular nature of the egoic identity is the most fundamental cause of our bondage. This identity has its own unique expressions, and many of these are themselves particular expressions of root bondage. Thus, as we work to discover our non-egoic selves, and find liberation therein, still we do the work of self-understanding, which helps free us from the particular habits which likewise bind us.
When we speak of bondage, remember this is not a devil, or a demon, or even a dragon — it is not an enemy. It is the present expression of Reality, and as all things in the wide, wide world of the external, this inner world also can be thankfully embraced and affirmed. It is from the ground of the All-Affirmed the seeds of change germinate and grow.