TAO TE CHING 67

mon

Everyone Under Heaven

Says my Tao is great

And unlike anything else

It is great

Because it is unlike anything else

And beyond description and distinction

If it were like other things

And could be described

How quickly it would vanish

And become small!

I have three treasures

That I cherish and preserve:

One is the love of a mother

That knows no bounds

The second is moderation

The third is not presuming

To be foremost under Heaven

Love empowers one to be fearless

Moderation enables one to be generous

Not presuming to be first in the world

Enables one to be a perfect and lasting vessel

Nowadays, people forsake love

Yet expect to be fearless

Discard moderation

And thus cannot give

Refuse to be humble

And yet demand to lead

Such things are certainly doomed

But if you love deeply

You can fight and overcome anything

Defend through this love

And you will be strength itself

Heaven rescues and saves the people

By using unconditional love to protect them

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Shining Forth

rain.jpg

“Shine forth

Your pure enlightenment everywhere

Without doing a thing”

When we first set forth on the Way, helping and benefiting people is something that we have to actively try and do. It’s something that takes effort, and which has to be forced due to our conditioning. But, as we progress, and we become more and more enlightened, we find we help people not through doing, but through being. Our mere cultivation and vibrational rate benefits people – we do not have to consciously direct it.

There are plenty of stories like this in the biographies of holy men. Paul Ekman, the leading expert in body language, had long suffered from problems in anger management. But, after holding The Dalai Lama’s hand for several minutes during a Buddhist-scientific dialogue, his daughter reports that his temper was almost completely curtailed following the experience.

Striving soon becomes non-striving – benefiting through action eventually turns into benefit through non-action.

TAO TE CHING 59

KoreanPainting020

When taking care of the people

As a service to Heaven

Nothing beats moderation

Truly, to be moderate

Is to recover quickly

To recover quickly

Is to accumulate Integrity

Accumulate Integrity

And there is nothing you cannot master

And mastering all things

We become limitless

Having no limits

We become fit to guard the country

And guarding the country

We become its mother

Thus are we able

To endure forever

This is known as

Deep roots

Sturdy Trunk

To Way to live long

And behold the eternal

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Minimum for Maximum

sword

“Pounding and hammering it –

You won’t preserve it long!”

Carrying on in the same vein, Lao Tzu continues to warn us against the perils of over-doing things. In this context, Lao Tzu uses the metaphor of refining or sharpening a blade. Continually trying to refine and perfect it, trying to make it ever sharper, even once it’s reached its peak level of sharpness, we damage what we are striving to perfect.

If we interfere and meddle with things constantly, we do not give them an opportunity to develop by themselves. If you over-water a plant, you’re likely to drown it in its pot. If you constantly poke and scratch a healing wound, you prevent it from being able to heal.

So, in working, do what you need to do and no more. Give time for your actions to resonate, so you can proceed according to the consequences they beget. It’s like speaking. If you start saying one thing while you’re already in the process of saying another, you will stammer, and people will not hear your message clearly. If you strike another note before letting the first one ring, you’ll end up with dissonance.

The notion that doing more always gets you more is incorrect. Doing things in the right way, to the right degree, at the right time is what makes the difference. If you do lots, but it is all wrong, then you will just be sowing difficulties. If do what is right, but to an extreme degree, you produce a response that may be opposite to the one you intended.

It is like stroking a cat. Cats want to be stroked. But you have to stroke them in the right way, to the right degree, and at the right time. If you stroke a cat too often, it is likely to scratch you. Make a habit of it, and the cat may even avoid you completely. But if you a stroke a cat well, but only a little, it will be clamouring for your attention to receive more of the affection it has tasted.

Using the absolute minimum of energy to reach the maximum effect – this is the way of the Taoist.

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Not Over Doing It

faded

“Attached to over-doing it?

Better not do it at all!”

It is better to do nothing than to do something wrong. This is why mastering restraint is one of the most important things a Taoist can ever learn.

Restraint is all about prevention and self-control. It is about not doing something we would otherwise very much like to do. If you feel angry or frustrated, and would like to express your anger and frustration through violence, then you know beforehand that such an action would have bad consequences. If you hit someone, there will be pain. Causing another being pain engenders bitterness, resentment, enmity, and fear. It could even lead to a life-long feud that just grows ever more dangerous and complex. Your life would be so much simpler if you had just not done it!

You desire to eat or drink something that you know is unhealthy. You know that it will make you sick, and that consuming it on a regular basis will fuck up your health and make functioning easily much more difficult. But, if you go ahead anyway, letting your desires govern you instead of your wisdom, then you are knowingly permitting danger and disharmony to become a part of your life, developing asthma, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and any number of related health problems. Once again, you save yourself so much pain and interference, simply by not doing something!

So restraint is non-action. Not acting unnecessarily, only acting when it is essential to act, we keep our lives simple, and avoid amassing chaos and complexity. Over-doing things always invites destruction. The original Chinese here uses the metaphor of filling a vessel beyond its capacity. If you blow up a balloon beyond its capacity to stretch, it will burst. If you fill a pool beyond its capacity, it will flood. If you fill a belly beyond its capacity, you will get fat and sick. If you act beyond your capacity, you will wear yourself out. If you have sex beyond your capacity, you will drain your vital force.

If we follow the way of balance and restraint, we fill things to their capacity, and then no more, if indeed we must fill them at all. Making sure things do not transgress their limits, how much benefit we gain by simply not doing stupid things!

Tao Te Ching Teachings: The Importance of Timing

folk

“The best actions are well-timed”

The universe has rhythm. It has beats, breaths, spans, cycles, grooves and a gradually reoccuring network of ever-evolving revolutions. Though on a transcendent level all things are timeless, on a practical level we still have to function within the confines of linear time, even if we no longer feel its restrictions. So, for this reason, it is essential to investigate and comprehend the overlapping cycles of life so that we can harmoniously align ourselves to them.

It is not just enough to act in the right way; we must also act at the right time. The right time is when all of the appropriate factors are properly in place; though, sometimes, when these factors our lacking, if our aim is s selfless one, then it is necessary to create these salubrious factors through our own doings.

In living life, it is necessary to respond to life. But a large portion of our response is based not just in responding to what arises, but in being prepared for their arising to begin with, and so cultivating a sense of vigilant alertness; always remaining in a state of fluid alacrity, ready and prepared for any circumstances we might have work with.

A good example would be a martial arts battle. Naturally, you need to respond to the blows your opponent throws at you. If you only defend after you’ve been hit, then you’re doing things in the wrong order! In order to be effective, it is not only necessary to respond, but to be prepared to respond. If you have this prescience, then you can see the arising of things before they actually arise, thanks to your comprehension of the simple natural principles that cohere everywhere.

A man who does not see a blow coming, or even suspect one is coming, will be completely overcome, because it will have occurred when he was most vulnerable. Not being prepared for sudden swift changes in life keeps you in a state of perpetual vulnerability. However, if you make one move, and know your opponent is likely to respond to this in a given way, then you can use the momentum of his response against him. Being prepared for the sudden swift transformations of life, we ride the wave instead of being overcome by it, using it to our advantage.

For those who want to search out these transformations further, study and use The I Ching, astrology, tarot, and any other relevant divinatory practices, in addition to regular meditation.

 

 

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Being Efficient

mah jonh

“The best work is efficient”

The reason Taoism has survived for so long, despite its secrecy and obscurity, is because of how practical and pragmatic it is. In our deeds, tasks, duties, and all the other manifold actions of our daily life, we should always strive to be as efficient and competent as possible.

We hear the word ‘efficiency’ a lot. But what does it really mean? Efficiency means doing everything as directly and accurately as possible, with no superfluity or wasted effort. Directing all your energy to one purpose, and performing your function in a gentle, detached, concise and skilful way – this is true efficiency.

If you want to be efficient, analyze your own actions and practices. Always ask yourself ‘Is everything I’m doing necessary? Are certain things slowing me down? What can I do to cut away the excess fat, and keep everything taut and lean?’ If you get into the habit of asking and applying these questions to everything in your life, you will lessen energy expenditure, function more fluidly, and prevent the arising of obstacles before they’ve even occurred. So many obstacles are generated from oversights made early in the game. If you learn to follow your intuition, and are mindful of dangerous possibilities in advance, you avoid a lot of trouble and hardship by being prepared for it.

Of course, just because efficiency helps you accomplish things quicker, that does not mean always doing things quickly is necessarily efficient. I’m sure your lover would find that very disappointing if that were the case! It is more important to do things slowly and carefully than in a self-conscious rush. Things that take a long time to build up and come to fruition are also those that tend to last the longest. Those that are swiftly set up, are swiftly knocked down. According to cosmologists, the universe took billions of years to reach its current state. After all that time, and earth is still here! Why? Because earth does not rush things. She just let’s things take as long as they take.

Humans, however, seldom live older than a century. Rushing around, afraid of death, trying to achieve as much as possible to try and appease their frightened egos, they wear themselves out through constant striving which they think will get them somewhere, but which only further entrenches them in misery.

Be efficient and concise. Work when you need to. Rest when you need to. Stick to these two things, and then you will be close to The Way.

 

 

 

 

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.

TAO TE CHING 44

river town

Fame or your being –

Which is closer to your heart?

Your life or your wealth –

Which is more valuable?

Gain or loss –

Which is more destructive?

Loving excess

Incurs great waste

The more you hoard up

The more immense your losses

Know what is enough

And you won’t be disappointed

Realize restraint

And you won’t be endangered

 Thus are you able to last

As long as the ancients

Tao Te Ching Teachings: The Supreme Goodness of Water

dragon water

“Supreme goodness is like water”

Supreme goodness is like water. Here, the word shan refers not just to moral goodness and virtue, but supreme excellence in all its manifestations – excellence in wisdom, excellence in action, excellence in being.

Why do we this say this manifold excellence is like water? Water is fluid, flexible, yielding, and unconquerable. It is immensely powerful because it can adapt to every possible circumstance. If it gets too cold, it simply transforms itself into ice. If it gets too hot, it transforms itself into steam. Nothing can kill it – it just keeps changing form.

The reason water can keep changing its form is because it is essentially formless. Its form is determined by what is around it. Put it in a cup, and it will be cup-shaped. Put it in a ravine, and it will be river-shaped. It needs no form of its own, because it harmonizes with everything around it, taking other beings as its outline, instead of imposing itself upon others.

The sage strives to mirror these qualities. Fluid and flexible too, he adapts to every situation. When faced with untoward events, he simply transforms himself to suit the situation. Because he is selfless, he has no fixed personality, and can take on whatever personality is most appropriate to his needs. If he needs to be wise, he will be wise. If he needs to be silly, he will be silly. If it were better that he remain unseen, he will remain unknown. Like a great actor, he puts on the right mask to fit the mood.

This might sound insincere to some. Isn’t it wrong to pretend to be something you’re not? But, the sage has renounced his identity, so he can have any identity he likes. Knowing that he is part of the eternal, there is nothing he is not. But, in the same way as the celestial design, however he manifests himself, he does not do so out of self-interest, or with personal profit in mind – only with the ideal of helping enlighten other beings. Thus, any act that helps point beings towards the truth is a compassionate act, no matter how strange it may see on the surface.