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Unmindfulness and the World Outside of The Peach Blossom Spring
T’ao Ch’ien’s Peach Blossom Spring, The Return, and Returning to the Farm to Dwell are significant works in which unmindfulness, and the allegory of the haven that T’ao Ch’ien compares to the outside world he does not want anything more to do with, correlate with each other.
The fisherman didn’t know how far up the river he floated when he came upon the grove of peach trees trailing peach blossoms in the water. He was led by his not being mindful of the present. He found something while not aware of his surroundings. The fisherman had a eureka moment. Because he was unmindful, he found the cave. When he concentrated on the path, he could not retrace his way back to the cave. It is a paradox that being unmindful leads us to something of worth, yet using our mind to produce a cause fails us.
Walking away from a problem which challenges us, we return refreshed. Because we walked away from a problem we were able to solve it when we put it out of our mind for a period of time. We clear the mind. It’s like losing something and forgetting where we put it, and later when we least think of it, when it is out of our mind, we remember.
The “small opening in the mountain” in The Peach Blossom Spring led to a fertile land akin to the wonder of the Garden of Eden. Happy denizens welcomed the fisherman. This excerpt from Returning to the Farm to Dwell exemplifies how the author perceives his world.
My home remains unsoiled by worldly dust
Within bare rooms I have my peace of mind.
For long was I a prisoner in a cage
And now I have my freedom back again. (17-20)
T’ao Ch’ien feels that piece of mind can be found in his home, the home that is unsullied by the outside world, by wars and history, using dust as an allegory. The outside world has complications like betrayal and is burdensome with obligations to others. The fisherman eagerly betrayed the villagers by telling others about the lost village. In T'ao Ch'ien's home, his place of peace, the opening in the mountain is a place of freedom where he can cherish the mindlessness and individuality of Taoism.
Without going out of your door, You can know the ways of the world. Without peeping through your window, you can see the Way of Heaven. The farther you go, The less you know. Thus, the Sage knows without traveling, Sees without looking, And achieves without struggle. Lao Tse.
In The Return, T’ao Ch’ien doesn’t want to work in service to the community. He doesn’t like the rigidity and structure his job forced upon him. A confucianist lifestyle had it's limitations. He didn’t like the responsibility. He didn’t want to care for the world or material things. He wanted to pursue his individuality and in order to do so he needed the world to take care of him. That way he could follow his truest nature in writing poetry.
T’ao Ch’ien fulfills his need to live the life of a well respected poet. He left his post as a magistrate and returned home to his farm, his eden. He becomes unmindful in his home, insulated against the outside world and its responsibilities.
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