Tao Te Ching Teachings: Living in Compassion

beautiful ducks

“The best relationships are compassionate”

Our conception of what the word ‘relationship’ means is rather limited today. We tend to think of it as a designation exclusively used for those we love or are close to. But, as we exist relative to all things, in an interconnected and interpenetrating web of life, we have a relationship with absolutely everything. Some of those relationships are intense, obvious, and immediate; others are much more subtle and distantly removed.

Our relationship with The Way is the same. To begin with it is weak, erratic, and unstable, only here now and then, but seemingly absent much of the time. These numinous concepts seem so lofty and far-off. But the more one practices and perseveres, the more stable, regular and close at hand our relationship with the Tao appears, until it is, indeed, everywhere we look. We realize it was not Tao that was distant from us – how can the omnipresent ever be distant? Rather, our distorted and deluded consciousness was far-off from seeing it. This is how a relationship with the unknown can become the most immense and intimate thing we will every experience.

The word jen which I have rendered as compassion, here includes all the concepts of humanity, benevolence and kindness, which were strongly associated with Confucianism. When we allow these qualities to be at the root of our relationship with everything, then all of our relationships will be the best they can be.

This might sound too obvious to state, but how many of our relationships are actually rooted in humanity and kindness? How often do we associate with other beings only out of self-interest, personal gain, hostility, or bitterness? If you can cherish that which you share with others, and not that which distances you from them, then you will automatically feel closer to all beings.

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