Master Tung-kuo asked Chuang Tzu, “This thing called the Tao… where does it exist?”
Chuang Tzu said, “There’s no place it doesn’t exist.”
“Come,” said Master Tung-kuo, “you must be more specific!”
“It is in the ant.”
“As low a thing as that?”
“It is in the grass.”
“But that’s lower still!”
“It is in the tiles and shards.”
“How can it be so low?”
“It is in the piss and shit.”
I love this entry from the Chuang Tzu/Zhuangzi. It’s probably my favorite entry in the whole book, because in my eyes, it talks about reality.
When I talk to some people about spiritual practice, they’re taken aback by how “ordinary” I seem. I swear a lot, I’m into punk music, I laugh at fart jokes, and have the sense of humor of a sailor. But the reason why people are weirded out by me is because many people’s idea of “spirituality” is an image of a sage with flowing robes, floating just above humanity, walking two inches off the ground, speaking in a sagely tone using the word “one” as a fucking pronoun (“one must…”), and that everything is puppy dogs and ice cream.
But that’s all bullshit.
Taoist spirituality and meditation practice is about reality. Reality isn’t about the world being such a pretty and perfect place, or at least the popular idea of what might be pretty and perfect. Reality is everything. Everything is reality. Reality is you, me, TPS reports, dick jokes, zebras, horny couples fucking on the floor, and of course, piss and shit.
The practice of Taoism isn’t an escape into a delusional reality where things look like a 1940’s cartoon with singing flowers and impromptu animal parades where everyone looks happy, the practice of Taoism is a skill that allows you to accept things for what they are in order to become the centered pivot around which the chaos spins. That’s what true inner peace is…. it’s not an escape. It’s being present in the thick of life, being exactly where you are, and finding harmony with whatever life hands you.
But the above entry by Chuang Tzu not only teaches that reality is everything around us, but he also means that in order to accept everything as reality, we can’t just concentrate on the things that we find “pretty” or “nice” or “pleasant.” Because those things are judgments relative only to the human ego. I’m not suggesting that you go out and drink some piss and eat some shit, however people have to understand that everything in nature has its purpose. To be honest, I don’t know what the purpose of piss is (I’ll look it up eventually), however, shit is not only just a stinky waste product, but it’s also food for flies and for the earth. Flies eat turds, then go on to be food for other insects or animals, who are then eaten by other animals, who are then eventually eaten by us. And if shit isn’t eaten by insects, then it eventually becomes compost to further nourish the earth and plants and trees. The ecosystem that helps give us our existence is in constant flow, and even something so “low” as excrement also has an important role in it. Hence, “the Tao is in the piss and shit.”
So what Chuang Tzu is suggesting is that everything can be both ugly and beautiful at the same time, and that if we can allow ourselves to view life past our limiting human egos, then we can truly see the endless ebb and flow of the universe around us… and to find peace within it.