In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
- Dao De Jing, Ch. 48
For the past seven years, I have been on a "Journey to the West", in pursuit of knowledge -- Reason, Science, Modernity, and Progress. At 17, I headed West from China to Germany. At 18, I went across the Atlantic to college on the East Coast of the US. Four years after that, I moved further West to the San Francisco Bay Area to live and work.
The Journey to the West is not over, nor will it ever. But as this pilgrim of knowledge heads further and further West, he has encountered more and more of the perils and contradictions of this path. At the edge of its logical limit, West turns into East; the "pursuit of knowledge" turns into "the practice of the Tao", into the longing for wisdom, for embodiment, for returning home, for rediscovering what he has left behind at the beginning of the Journey.
Seven years after I left China, I feel called to go on another pilgrimage -- a Journey to the East. After "adding something every day" for so long, it's about time to do some subtraction, some shedding, peeling, reunion, and rehabilitation.
Seven years ago, the pilgrim headed West in order to know. Today, he heads East in order to not know. Just as the Journey to the West will never end, so has the Journey to the East already begun, many moons ago.
Perhaps, at some point on this Journey to the East, the pilgrim will find himself right there, right here, all along, both East and West, and at the same time, neither. There is only one way to find out.
What's in a name
For this upcoming pilgrimage (of bicycling from San Francisco Bay Area eastward to China), I am calling it the "Journey to the East" -- for apparent reason -- but also to remember and honor the true pilgrimage made famous by the Chinese classical literature "Journey to the West". Many might be familiar with the character Monkey King from that novel. The novel tells the story of the Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang's westward odyssey around 630 A.D., to study and bring back true Dharma from India. That epic pilgrimage, and its boundless symbolism and wisdom, have delighted and nourished me since childhood.
Auspiciously, two years ago, when I embarked on the previous cross-USA cycling trek, I already named my bicycle (a graduation gift from a mentor) the "White Dragon Horse." According to folklore, White Dragon Horse is the horse that carried monk Xuanzang all the way to and from India. In early 2016, I will ride the same bike for another pilgrimage.
With the same faithful companion that has brought me safely across the USA once already, the rubber (of bicycle wheels) shall meet the road again soon :)