Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly

"Chuang Tzu dreamt that he was a butterfly flittering and fluttering around as he pleased. Suddenly he woke up and realized that he was Chuang Tzu. But he did not know whether he was Chuang Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Tzu. This is called transformation."

I love this story and when invited to lecture on the art of doing nothing, I often started with this story. I find it most fascinating but I did not quite understand the implication of the story. So today I sat down to contemplate and to read some interpretations focusing particularly on that of Kuang Ming Wu. I think this story is about how often we like to create division between dream and reality believing that we really understand what is real. And this understanding itself causes a form of rigidity that prevents us from flowing and being flexible. We are often held captive by what we believe to be real. And Chuang Tzu would have argued that these things we called real is nothing but "three in the morning" or the things of our very own imagination and creation. Our fixation prevents us from adapting to the flow of life and thus makes it difficult for us to be at a place where we can just enjoy being, flittering and fluttering around like a butterfly.