Belonging Nowhere


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

No Should, No Must

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.