Teachings From The Tao Te Ching: Speaking Truly

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“Too much talking

Brings about ruin

Better to abide by

The Middle way”

Excessive talking is ruinous, because words cannot express The Way – thus, an inordinate attachment to them misdirects us from The Tao, which, when it speaks, speaks only silently. Speech is inherently deceptive. It enables us to create truths about ourselves that simply don’t exist. How often do you say things in a conversation that are absolutely meaningless to you, but which you say anyway to abide by the rigid preconceptions inherent in social intercourse? How often do your heart and your words completely co-exist? If many of us were asked to speak only when we had something truly meaningful to say, we would either find ourselves mostly silent, or be wrestling with an attempt to express an infinite fund of knowledge we know we can never put into words.

So, one along The Way should speak only when they have something purposeful to say, avoiding meaningless dialogue, words spoken only to pass the time, or fill up space. Words spoken without meaning are tremendous insults – it is throwing shit on the perfect body of silence. A wasteful expenditure of energy, no worse than eating when you’re not hungry, having sex out of habit instead of love, buying what you don’t need, or spending time actively pursuing things you know cause harm to everyone involved.

Abiding by The Middle Way, The Sage speaks when he needs to, does what he needs to, and then stops once he’s fulfilled his purpose. Then he rests, and conserves his energy through keeping his mind empty, so that he will be fully prepared for the next time The Way calls upon him to act or teach.

 

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Tao Te Ching Commentary: Bellows of Heaven

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“The space between

Heaven and Earth

Is like a bellows

Empty yet inexhaustible

Each motion pouring out

More and more”

Moving away from impartiality – (which could be called the ‘emptiness of wisdom’) – Lao Tzu returns to the inherent emptiness of all things. Like a bellows, it is this inherent emptiness that enables the universe to create continually, always producing more and more. Flutes or saxophones are only able to make music because they are hollow inside. We are only able to speak and breathe thanks to the hollows and cavities within our bodies which enable resonance. If we were nothing but solid matter, we would die in an instant, destroyed by the rigidity of our own density. Even our bones are largely hollow, filled with spaces, and comb-like cavities. If they were nothing but pure calcium, and devoid of space, they would break as easily as a brittle branch, incapable of sustaining any shock or impact.

So, space leaves room for creation, like the blankness of a canvas, or the hollowness of a womb. Space is the essential mystery behind all creation. To try and be rid of it would be to pour cement into all your orifices. Death is density – life is space.

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Straw Dogs Part Two

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“The Sage is without bias

Regarding the mass of men

As if they were straw dogs”

As The Sage – The Taoist – aspires to mirror Heaven and Earth in all things, so does he mirror them in their dispassionate sobriety – their undifferentiated awareness. In Chapter Two, it was said that The Sage nurtures all beings, and rejects none. But, if The Sage were biased or predisposed to partiality, how would this be possible? He would nurture some, and then leer at others; show special affection to some, and then scorn others. Thus, it is because the sage is free from bias that he is also free to disseminate his compassion in all directions.

But what of The Sage regarding men as straw dogs? How benign could it be to compare someone to a sacrificial object? A straw dog is assembled from separate parts. But, once it is burned, all those separate parts become one, dissolving into immaterial smoke. The Sage understands men to be the same. We are assembled together from assorted aggregates: our parents’ DNA and chromosomes, individual atoms, cells, organs, organelles, bones, senses, nerves and specific colorations of awareness. It is amazing we are even considered a ‘single’ entity – even each of the individual organelles within our cells could all be considered living beings in their own right!

But, once we are burned up by the experience of life, all of those unique aggregates of ours that were carefully woven together begin to unravel. Burned to ashes, worthless as even maggot food, it is only the smoke of the Tao that enlivened us that still remains. That is the dog behind the straw dog – the changeless symbol behind every ephemeral life.

Seeing men like this, The Sage is able to love all beings without being deceived or attached to them. Unattached and with a clear mind, he is completely free, and thus, capable of freeing others. This is what Don Juan Matus would call ‘ruthless kindness.’ A kindness that always helps, but does not indulge people.

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Straw Dogs

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“Regarding The Ten Thousand Things

As if they were straw dogs”

Straw dogs were objects used in ancient Chinese rituals, burned as offerings to ancestors, spirits, or demons. There are references to sacrificing dogs to mountain spirits in The Classic of Mountains and Seas, so, it is quite likely that straw dogs was substituted in place of live dogs, so that the practice could continued, without cruelty.

So straw dogs are objects that are made for a specific purpose, and then disposed of once that purpose is fulfilled. They are not kept out of sentimentality, fear or habit – only for as long as they are required.

The same is true with human lives. We are assigned to these earthly bodies with a specific purpose. Once we have achieved that purpose, we die, and return to eternity, perchance to be allotted more tasks to carry out in the cosmos. That Heaven and Earth allows beings to suffer and die may seem barbarous to us, but, to The Eternal, life and death are meaningless – all the sufferings of the aeons are just a single pinch we soon forget. Heaven and Earth do not weep for the dead, any more than we would if one of our best friends gave away all their clothes. The body and illusory self are the only things lost at death. But eternity is gained.

Though Heaven and Earth may be without partiality, they love us more than we can ever know. But they are wise enough to love us, not for what we think we are, but for what we actually are. That is the supreme distinction.