This calligraphy shows the characters “Dayuan” (大圓) – this is a Chinese translation of the Tibetan term “Dzogchen” (རྫོགས་ཆེན་), which means “Great Completion” or “Great Perfection”. The character da (大) shows a person with outstretched arms – “big”, “great”, or “immeasurable”. The character yuan (圓) shows “members encircled” – all parts integrated together; yuan also suggests the round shape of the full moon.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen is considered the apex of the Nine Yanas, sometimes called Atiyoga – “utmost union” – the peak of the spiritual path. The full moon.
Dzogchen is characterized by view, method, & fruition. The view recognizes all beings as fundamentally luminous and complete by nature. The method – although it sits atop the various tantric arts – the central Dzogchen method is to simply abide in naturalness without doing anything in particular. Fruition is the direct experience of our nature unmediated by concepts or effort. Dzogchen is thus considered a path of immediate awakening.
My wuweidao lineage teacher, Liu Ming, received Dzogchen transmission prior to being adopted into the Liu-family Daoist lineage. Upon receiving Daoist transmission, he recognized that the Dao De Jing was essentially a pith Dzogchen scripture describing the utmost fruition of the spiritual path. Rather than being a secret teaching reserved for advanced practitioners who have striven through successive stages however, the Dao De Jing sits as the original inspiration of Daoism. Ming thus taught wuweidao as a non-conceptual abiding that sits at the basis – and apex – of Daoism.
What we refer to as wuweidao is thus a Daoist expression of Dzogchen. Ming even named his school “Dayuan Circle”. Our path is completion-stage teaching – it is NOT a path of progress or accumulation.
Much of Chinese Daoism is a path of learning and developing and working toward Dao. Refining and transforming toward an exalted spiritual goal. In our tradition, we encounter completion-stage at the very beginning – the “goal” (Dao-De) is already established by nature. So we practice wuwei not as some strategy to advance toward Dao – we practice wuwei as a means to embody and express what is fundamentally so of itself.
We don’t have to build an identity around spiritual cultivation. Actually, if we’re doing that, we’re not practicing wuweidao. Wuweidao means relaxing our identification with a generated self – this is the heart of practice. Transforming this self from a so-called “deluded mortal” to an “enlightened sage” – that might have some value in other paths, but it is not wuweidao if our experience centers around self-reference. Cue the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, which says: “The Bodhisattva who considers himself a Bodhisattva is not a true Bodhisattva.” Laozi likewise defines sagehood as “discarding self” and “withdrawing into the unborn”. So my wuweidao lineage teacher didn’t give us Daoist names. In some sense he took away my own Daoist name. He didn’t want us to identify as Daoists or sages or Buddhas. Just to practice and surrender all names to the great Immortal Stream.
Toward the end of 2020, I will begin issuing a complimentary public newsletter at each dark moon. These newsletters will introduce the heavenly stem & earthly branch of the new moon in accordance with classical Chinese almanac-astrology, along with a corresponding hexagram from the 3,000-year old Zhou Yi Jing to provide additional depth and dynamism on the qi-quality of the coming moon. Subscribe here to join me in this 60-moon project.
Lineage is very important in Chinese Daoism. My “wuweidao” lineage teacher told me however that as I came to occupy the space that he handed down I would find myself less and less affiliated with any particular sect – simply open, undefined, belonging nowhere (無所). As I become more comfortable abiding in the space that he shared, I come to understand what he meant.
Wuweidao doesn’t give us any job to do or goal to achieve. We’re not climbing a path up to some mountain peak but simply occupying the space we’re in – the true space we’re actually in. This space doesn’t have any characteristics. It’s neither Chinese nor Western. Neither driven nor accomplished. It has no forms or traditions. Anything we attribute to it is wrong.
In Dao De Jing Chapter 56, Laozi says: “Cannot embrace, cannot neglect, cannot help, cannot harm, cannot exalt, cannot debase.” This is sublime, high-level teaching that slips through the fingers of practices that seek to embrace, nourish, or exalt our condition.
Bodhidharma likewise said: “It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased. It’s not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future. It’s not true or false. It’s not male or female. It doesn’t appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a buddha or a mortal. It strives for no realization and suffers no karma. It has no strength or form. It’s like space. You can’t possess it and you can’t lose it.” (tr. Red Pine).
The space that Laozi & Bodhidharma occupy is the basis of our Daoism. Our lineage is simply sharing the continuous presence of this space. How do we do that?
Rat stirring in the dead of winter
Horse nickering in the heat of summer
My Daoist teacher introduced me to the non-conceptual space that has always been here, regardless of my aims, skills, emotions, or ideas. He didn’t give me any new aims or skills or ideas.
He used the Dao De Jing as a vehicle for transmitting the teaching, but what he was transmitting was not really captured in the words of the text in the way a scholar might look for understanding.
It was a wordless teaching, free of any dogma– although there was a requirement for daily practice to participate in his group, beyond this threshold of showing up, there was no “should” and no “must”.
“Laozi’s teaching isn’t about how we should be, it’s how we actually are.” His students always left his home silent and calm, with a full belly and no desires. No pressure and no spiritual aspirations.
Such fertile ground.