What does this mean for us? Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, names both heaven and earth as factors in battle, saying that the former “signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.” But there seems to be something else. That is, that these conditions are not the result of physics: mere atoms acting on each other, or a Big Bang. “Heaven” implies that there is a cosmic intelligence or agency at work, governing through various laws.
Today, we believe that we have unlimited possibilities. We can change anything we don’t like about ourselves and become totally physically, mentally, and spiritually different. There is a certain truth to this. If we work hard, persist, experience and face down whatever mental and other challenges such changes will require, and if we can do so long enough — perhaps years or more — we will achieve great things, if only within our personal lives and self.
But, belief in change is often promiscuous. If a man or woman wants to be more muscular then he or she has to exercise. Similarly, if someone wants to be a great painter, they have to learn the rules of painting and drawing, and they have to practice, and persist, for a long time. In other words, in whatever we do, we have to recognize the ordinance of heaven, we might say, and obey the laws that will facilitate the transformation.
However, as we know, many people believe self-transformation and superiority to be a kind of “right.” Novice artists with big ambitions believe that because there is a lot of bad art in galleries, their bad art has a right to receive recognition and applause too. Perhaps it does. But they are missing the real opportunity, because there is no thought of improving their art, or themselves, over a period, but merely of finding a gimmick that will sell.
Similarly, we find people who are unhappy with their bodies eating “diet food” that does not really work, and generally disobeying the laws of nature (or “the ordinances of heaven”) in regard to health, yet becoming frustrated that they are not seeing lasting improvement.
In a sense, the temptation of modernity is celebrity. It encourages us to find, or to pick, a gimmick — some way we can present ourselves to the world that is not really us, but through which we will receive admiration — even though it is for something we have not developed ourselves.
“Fame is possible through dreaming,” says Osho in The Tantra Experience: Evolution through Love, “in fact, it is only possible through dreaming, it happens only to dreamers. But Enlightenment is not possible through dreaming — the very existence of dreaming will make it impossible. Dream for it and you will miss. Wait for it and you will miss. Hope for it and you will miss… When dreaming is not, Enlightenment is.”
A better body, being a recognized artist, fame, even heaven itself may be a dream. But if we want the rewards of these things, we have to move past dreaming and into observing, through our actions, the ordinances of heaven as manifest in each of them. Exercise the body, learn your art — persist; experience life; make life a meditation; make your art, your self-development a lifelong practice; understand purpose; consider the natural law of things. Then you will begin to glimpse in yourself the superior man or superior woman.