The Sharpest Part of the Knife

The sharpest part of a knife is where the honed cutting side meets the infinity of space in non-dual actuality.


J.L. wrote:
[0]“could you please write something about:
[1] non-action?
[2] i.e. why, if it is not possible to attain rigpa through goal oriented activity, are there ati yoga practices?
[3] there’s no point upgrading to a better delusion.
[4] there’s no point to anything.
[5] meaning and truth are linguistic constructs.
[6] all there is is the cosmic dance and the primordial ground it emanates from.

much appreciated”

1. Non-action

There are different levels of meaning and different ways of understand what the Sages mean by non-action. First, ordinary humans are born as partially assembled beings with the possibility of completing themselves if correct knowledge is acquired and sufficient motivation supports the completion process. Although most humans are in this category, there are some who are indeed born already fully assembled and others who lack certain requisites for self-completion. An ordinary human, like all life-forms, is essentially, primordially and forever a pure dynamic of Being, with infinite possibilities. Let’s call this a person’s essence.

Essence descends from above and abides as the nucleus of a human being. There are four main layers that are then formed around essence. The first layer is formed at conception by influences originating from the center of our galaxy. The second layer is formed at birth by the particular arrangement of energies emanating from our solar system. The third layer starts being formed in early childhood from the influences of our immediate environment and other beings, particularly our parents, guardians, etc. The fourth layer is formed by an ongoing process of imitating and adopting the external characteristics of other people who have made a strong impression upon us. The first layer surrounding essence is a partially materialized radiation of essence itself. For all practical purposes, the differentiation of this layer from essence becomes meaningful only at the highest stages of spiritual evolution. The second layer can be understood as a person’s core personality. The third layer is the ego. And the fourth layer is what can be called, the persona.

Because ordinary people are delusively identified with ego and persona, all of their so-called actions are merely reflexive to scenarios that are, by definition, illusory. In other words, since ego and persona are psychic constructs, delusively assumed to be “ I “ or “one’s self”, the so-called acts generated from such unreal agency are really not acts at all, but rather, non-action in the sense that a reflex is involuntary and unconscious. Of course, ordinary people assume that they are conscious because they are conscious in the context of ego and persona. However, that is not the consciousness that affords the liberation from suffering. It is merely the consciousness of unreal dreamscapes. So, this kind of non-action is useless at best and constitutes the theater of evil, at its worst. The action of actual doing, that is, the possibility of being deliberate, can only begin to occur at the level of Core personality, which is devoid of any negative stains. Most people rarely, if ever, function at the level of core personality once they have advanced beyond the age of five or six years. The wonderful quality that we call innocence is the main manifestation of that stage. Although it is possible for an adult to be in, or return to, this stage, it remains very uncommon. So, in the context of ordinary behavior, the innocence of genuine action is far superior to the convolutions of mechanically reflexive non-actions.

The non-action that is lauded as enlightened behavior is a different matter. This non-action is a function of integrating with the dynamics of galactic essence. It is non-action in the sense that it is harmonic to the tonality of what is actually already the case, rather than a strategy of self-will that intends to make a difference. This kind of non-action is the actual mode of a totally enlightened being. But it can also be demonstrated by adepts at various stages of spiritual development. It can also be experienced momentarily by ordinary beings in certain circumstances. Here is an example of non-action given by master Zhuang Zi (360 BCE).

      Cook Ting was carving up an ox for his lord, Wen-Hui. His deft hands danced as his shoulders turned with the stamp of his foot and the bend of his knee — Zup, Zoop! His knife slithered along with a singing zing that was in perfect rhythm as though performing the Mulberry Grove dance or conducting the Qing-Shou orchestra. “How excellent”, cried Lord Wen-Hui, “that such a skill could reach such heights!” Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, thus I have gone beyond skill. When I first began butchering, all I could see was the meat of the ox. After three years of working, I could see the ox itself. At this point, I am in the spirit of my work and don’t need to rely on what meets my eye. Sensing and knowing can rest, allowing spirit to go where it will, discovering the natural contours of what is inherently so. This leads the blade through the openings that are endemic to form, never encountering tendons or ligaments — much less, bone. A good cook replaces his knife once per year, as he is still involved in cutting. A common cook must replace his knife once a month because his method is that of chopping. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and have carved up thousands of oxen, yet its blade remains as sharp as the day it was first polished on the whetstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the very edge of my knife has no thickness. So if I insert what has no thickness into space then there is plenty of room for the blade to move about freely. What more can be said? That’s why after nineteen years my blade is as good as though fresh from the grindstone. However, sometimes I encounter something intricate. Then I size up the situation and generate respect for it. I steady my eyes on the task and slow down the movement so that the blade moves with mysterious subtlety until — flop! The meat falls off like a crumbling clod of soil. Then I raise my knife and assess my work with complete satisfaction. I then wipe the knife clean and put it away.” King Wen-Hui exclaimed, “Excellent indeed! From listening to the words of Cook Ting I have learned how to cultivate the Way of Life!”

2. Why, if it’s not possible …

Although this question is comprehensible by inference, it erroneously refers to something that has not been asserted. It has not been asserted that Rigpa is not attainable through goal-oriented activity. Furthermore, Rigpa is a supremely subtle state of awareness that, if recognized, reveals itself as intrinsic and incorruptible. It is therefore unaffected by activities, be they goal-oriented or non-goal-oriented. In the Dzogchen method, a master can directly transmit the knowledge of Rigpa to a student. This is the unique feature of Dzogchen. If the student recognizes this state of Rigpa, that alone may be sufficient. Although this sometimes happens, it is usually not like that. Most commonly the student needs to develop more stability in order to be able to abide in Rigpa, hence the practices. So, there is: 1. the direct introduction and, if necessary, 2. the elimination of any uncertainty (through specific practices) and 3. full integration (through specific practices and also through everyday life events).

3. through 6. forthcoming

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4 Responses to The Sharpest Part of the Knife

  1. Kilaya says:

    I like the story of Cook Ting but I think that non-action is cinched not by skillful action but by true understanding. The skillful means that Cook Ting demonstrates, called “non-action,” the harmony that his life demonstrates, is the product of true understanding just like fragrance is the product of the internal ripeness to a strawberry but is not the ripeness itself. Without proper understanding we can never forcibly transform any action into non-action but, at the same time, certain actions, when well-guided by a master, can lead us to the wisdom behind non-action.

  2. “If secret rigpa, the actual buddha-dynamic, eludes us, to attain release by any purposeful action is no option … if we aspire to the supreme state of being we should cast aside all childish games that fetter and exhaust body, speech and mind; and stretch out in inconceivable nonaction, in the unstructured matrix, the actuality of absence, where the natural perfection of reality lies, we should gaze at the uncontrived sameness of every experience, all conditioning and ambition resolved with finality” p. 24 – 25 natural perfection,Longchenpa’s radical dzogchen, translation and commentary by Keith Dowman

    doesn’t that, and other passages, state that rigpa can’t be realised via goal oriented activity?

    also what is ambition other than a vivid display of absence?

    are we not urged to stop pretending that we understand what is essentially inconceivable and unutterable?

    • Yedruk says:

      First, if you can stretch out in inconceivable nonaction then by all means do so. I’m not sure why you are laboring over the issue of goal orientation. As stated, there are a number of meanings to non-action. Inconceivable non-action is inconceivable so you can neither say what it is nor what is isn’t. Rigpa can be realized in various ways. Dzogchen teachings advocate the direct approach of direct introduction. Maybe you missed the “IF” in the cited quote. And yes, to stop pretending is generally a positive thing.

      • well, i have no idea what nonaction is. that’s possibly because it’s inconceivable. perhaps it’s something to do with don’t know mind. who really knows what’s going on? perhaps it’s not even possible to not be nonacting, but only to be mistaken about it. is it possible not to dance?

        i am already buddha. there is nothing to do. yet it’s not possible to do nothing. the only thing that may be possible is to act without intention. at least that’s what it sounds like from my limited perspective.

        btw, which if are you referring to? there are two of them. I have clearly not missed the first one since it’s the crux of what i am asking: if no rigpa then no purposeful action will help. if you are referring to the second if, then are you saying that this is a childish game to be cast aside? if so you are probably right … and wrong … nor neither … sometimes … maybe

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