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LIVING: THE ONENESS OF THINGS
by Bruce Lee


Note: The following has been excerpted from the book Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, Edited by John Little, Tuttle Publishing, Boston, 1999 Linda Lee Cadwell.

Many philosophers are among those who say one thing and do another, and the philosophy that a man professes is often quite other than the one he lives by. Philosophy is in danger of becoming more and more only something professed.

Philosophy is not "living" but an activity concerning theoretic knowledge and most philosophers are not going to live things, but simply to theorize about them, to contemplate them. And to contemplate a thing implies maintaining oneself outside it, resolved to keep a distance between it and ourselves.

In life, we accept naturally the full reality of what we see and feel in generalwith no shadow of a doubt. Philosophy, however, does not accept what life believes and strives to convert reality into a problem. Like asking such questions as: "is this chair that I see in front of me really there?" "Can it exist by itself?" Thus, rather than making life easy for living by living in accord with life, philosophy complicates it by replacing the world's tranquillity with the restlessness of problems. It is as though asking a normal person how he actually breathes! That will immediately choke the breath out of him when he consciously describes the process. Why try to arrest and interrupt the flow of life? Why create such fuss? A person simply breathes.

The Western approach to reality is mostly through theory, and theory begins by denying reality - to talk about reality, to go around reality, to catch anything that attracts our sense - intellect and abstract it away form reality itself. Thus philosophy begins by saying that the outside world is not a basic fact, that its existence can be doubted and that every proposition in which the reality of the outside world is affirmed is not an evident proposition but one that needs to be divided, dissected and analyzed. It is to stand consciously aside and try to square a circle.


Rene Descrates (1596-1650), the great French philosopher and mathematician raised the above problem. Since existence of anything, including my being, is not certain, what is there in the universe beyond any shadow of doubt? When one has doubts about the world, and even about the whole entire universe what is left? Let's "stand" outside this world for a moment and follow Descartes and see what is actually left.

According to Descartes, the doubt itself is left because for something to be doubtful, it must seem to me that it is; and the whole universe may seem to me doubtful, except for the fact of it's seeming to me. To doubt is to think and thought is the only thing in the universe whose existence cannot be denied, because to deny is to think. When one says that thought exists, it automatically includes saying that one exists because there is no thought that does not contain as one of its elements a subject who thinks.

In Chinese Taoism and Ch'an (Zen) the world is seen as an inseparable, interrelated field, no part of which can actually be separated from the other. That is, there would be no bright stars without dim stars, and, without the surrounding darkness, no stars at all. Oppositions have become mutually dependent instead of mutually exclusive, and there is no longer any conflict between the individual man and nature.

So if thought exists, I who think and the world about which I think also exist; the one exists but for the other, having no possible separation between them. Therefore, the world and I are both in active correlation; I am that which sees the world and the world is that which is seen by me.
I exist for the world, and the world exists for me. If there were no things to be seen, thought about, and imagined, I would not see, think or imagine. That is to say, I would not exist. One sure and primary and fundamentalfact is the joint existence of a subject and of its world. The one does not exist without the other. I acquire not understanding of myself except as I take account of objects, of the surroundings. I do not think unless I think of things - therefore on finding myself.

It is of no use to talk merely about objects of consciousness, whether they are thought sensations or wax candles. An object must have a subject, and subject-object is a pair of complementaries (not opposites), like all others, which are two halves of one whole, and are a function each of the other. When we hold to the core, the opposite sides are the same if they are seen from the center of the moving circle. I do not experience; I am experience. I am not the subject of an experience; I am that experience. I am awareness. Nothing else can be I or can exist.

Thus we do not sweat because it is hot; the sweating is the heat. It is just as true to say that the sun is light because of the sun. This peculiar Chinese viewpoint is unfamiliar because it is our settled convention to think that heat comes first and then, by causality, the body sweats. To put it the other way round is startling, like saying "cheese and bread" instead of "bread and cheese." This shocking and seemingly illogical reversal of common sense may perhaps be clarified by the following illustration of "the moon in the water."


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The Moon in the Water

The phenomenon of moon-in-the-water is likened to human experience. The water is the subject, and the moon the object. When there is no water, there is no moon-in-the-water and likewise when there is no moon. But when the moon rises the water does not wait to receive its image, and when even the tiniest drop of water is poured out the moon does not wait to cast its reflection. For the moon does not intend to cast its reflection, and the water does not receive its image on purpose. The event is caused as much by the water as by the moon, and as the water manifests the brightness of the moon, the moon manifests the clarity of the water.

Everything does have a real relationship, a mutuality in which the subject creates the object just as much as the object creates the subject. Thus the knower no longer feels himself to be separated from the known; the experiencer no longer feels himself to stand apart from the experience. Consequently, the whole notion of getting something out of life, of seeking from experience, becomes absurd. To put it in another way, it becomes vividly clear that in concrete fact I have no other self than the oneness of things of which I am aware.

The Master Lin-Chi of the T'ang Dynasty said, "just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water and when you are tired, go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand." A person is not living a conceptually or scientifically defined life; for the essential quality of living life lies simply in the living.

Do not, as when in the midst of enjoying yourself, step out for a moment and examine yourself to see if you are getting the utmost out of the occasion. Or not content with the feeling happy, you want to feel yourself feeling happy - so as to be sure not to miss anything.

Living exists when life lives through us - unhampered in its flow, for he who is living is not conscious of living and, in this, is the life it lives. Life lives; and in the living flow, no questions are raised. The reason is that life is a living now!


Completeness, the now, is an absence of the conscious mind to strive to divide that which is indivisible. For once the completeness of things is taken apart, it is no longer complete. All the pieces of a car that has been taken apart may be there, but it is no longer a car in it's original nature, which is its function or life. So, in order to live life wholeheartedly, the answer is life simply is.