TAO TE CHING 77

archer

The Way of Heaven

Is to be as bendy as a bow:

It brings down the high

And lifts up the low

It diminishes the excessive

And increases the insufficient

 

Heaven’s Way

Takes from what has too much

And adds to what has too little

 

The Way of Men

Is not like this:

Always taking from the needy

To make offerings to those

Who already have too much

 

Who accumulates wealth

Just to share it with the world?

Only those with the Way

 

Therefore, the sage

Acts and expects nothing

Succeeds and accomplishes

Without resting on his laurels

Has no desire

To be seen as greater than others

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Tao Te Ching Teachings: Clarifying Your Consciousness

g 1 Priming Love

“Purify the fathomless depths of your consciousness

So it is stainless and without distortion”

Consciousness is infinite. It is the substance of everything. Though we might think it is just confined to our bodies and brains, upon investigation, we discover that it is everywhere; no matter how much we try to reduce it, it can never be reduced. How else would such things as remote viewing, astral projection, and premonitions of past and future events be possible?

In Buddhism, the substance of mind has been compared to a diamond: unbreakable, crystalline, and clear. All of our minds are basically like this – serene, clear, and empty. But, in the same way that our oceans and coasts have been ruined by toxic waste and oil spills, so this empty clarity has been lost by our minds, filled with delusion, neurosis, and distorted perception.

Many of these erroneous views are forced upon us by the inadequacies of our culture; others are the result of having a physical form; others may be karmic in nature. Through constant analysis and awareness of our mental state, we begin to identity all of those qualities that limit, cloud, or hinder the infinite clarity of the mind. We put measures in place to prevent them occurring, and have sensible plans of action for responding safely to them if they occur anyway.

Through actively studying reality, we learn to tell the real from the unreal, embracing the former and rejecting the latter. Reality can only be known through deep investigation, acceptance, meditation, and the willingness to let go of everything you thought to be true. Let go of it all, and, at last, the truth will welcome you.

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: Speaking the Truth

lady tiger

“The best words to speak are the truth”

Truth is the only thing we should allow to lead our lives. But how often does it just seem like too much of a tall order? How often are we too cowardly or closed off to say what we really mean, instead just resorting to those convenient stock phrases, the artillery of etiquette? Telling people what they want to hear?

But, if we only tell people what they want to hear, and only hear what we want others to say, then the whole world will be clouded by delusion. Somewhere along the line, someone has to give, take the lead, and just tell the raw, honest truth.

This takes practice. It takes a lot of deprogramming – getting rid of all the fear, adherence to social norms, and self-repression that has allowed us to live and speak dishonestly for so long. But, once we get more confident and certain of ourselves, the truth will flow more readily. We have to be true to ourselves before we can be true to others. Then the internal will naturally be reflected in the external.

What’s the best way to speak the truth? Be direct, forthright, gentle and equanimous. Tell the truth as soon as it becomes too clear. Speak too rashly, and you might be telling a lie, inadvertently formulated on ephemeral feelings that passed as quickly as they arose. Speak too late, and the damage may be too entrenched to reverse.

We are often frightened of telling the truth, because we’re afraid of how people might respond. But, I can vouch from my own experience, that when you learn to tell the truth concisely and without artificiality, your communication and communion with others will become infinitely more effective and intimate. The people you speak to will be so relieved to hear the truth for once, that you will be doing them a greater kindness than all the false words in the world combined.

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.

The Bottomless Heart

redon_birth_of_venus

“The best hearts and minds are fathomlessly deep”

Most people have a limited conception of themselves. How we describe and conceive of ourselves often shackles us, preventing us from being so much more than we tepidly imagined. Whenever we have reached the limits of our mind, we must always know there is more; whenever we reach the bottom of our heart, we must realize it carries on without end.

People cling to tiny hearts and minds because infinity scares them. Not comprehending the patterns of Heaven, it all appears chaotic to them; a frightening morass, beyond comprehension. Thus, they dwell in confined personalities, restrictive social structures, and rigid classifications, because they are too afraid to confront the majestic spontaneity of the boundless.

The Wayfarer is not like this. He does not shirk things just because they do not give up their secrets readily. He is drawn to the fathomless like a magnet, for that is where he makes his home. Always approaching what he does not understand, and venturing into places he has never known, he consistently expands the purview of his heart/mind until it is without limits. With such depth within him, he is able to see that same depth within everything. What to others seems ordinary and prosaic, to him openly confides the enigmatic secrets of life. Being fathomless, he is a mystery to all around him. Incapable of being comprehended by narrower men, he cannot be corrupted, exploited, or understood. Only those who follow the Way will understand.

How can we cultivate minds/hearts of fathomless depth ourselves?

  • Meditate
  • Overcome attachment to material things, materialistic viewpoints and assumptions
  • Take emptiness as the foundation of your mind. Do not presume to know anything until you have investigated it carefully; and even then, proceed with caution
  • Be impartial – reject attachment to preferences – show kindness and compassion to all beings without exception
  • Refuse to let fear prevent you from seeking the truth. Losing boundaries and definitions is always scary –you must learn to love loss

TAO TE CHING 46

horse

When all below heaven has The Way

Racehorses are retired to manure the fields

When all below Heaven is without The Way

Warhorses are raised on the outskirts

No disaster is greater

Than not knowing contentment

No fault is worse

Than always wanting more

Therefore

Know the contentment

Of contentment

And you’ll always be content!

TAO TE CHING 45

fine-chinese-paintings-recirc-1

Great perfection seems imperfect

Yet its use is never exhausted

Great fullness seems empty

Yet its use is without bounds

Truth and justice at their best

Seem crooked and wrong

Skill and intelligence at their best

Seem clumsy and stupid

Eloquence at its best

Seems stammering and tongue-tied

Restless activity overcomes cold

Motionless tranquillity overcomes heat

Become still

Tranquil

Impeccable

And all Below Heaven

Will be as it should

Teaching Poem II

great sage

Benefit may attract you in the beginning

But Integrity will compel you in the end

Turn enemies into friends

Opponents into allies

Use the enemy to defeat the enemy

Use opposition to achieve harmony

Do not draw out conflict

Always look for the most enduring solution

Temporary measures

Are easily swept away

But build a solid foundation

And nothing will uproot it

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Water

water course

“It greatly benefits The Ten Thousand Things”

How does water benefit the ten thousand things? Scientists believe that water is one of essential components required in the gestation of life. Biologists believe that the very first physical organisms on this planet would have arisen from bodies of water. Whilst I believe there are plenty of organisms throughout the universe that are not dependent upon water for their survival, that it is integral to the proliferation of physical beings on our own planet (and dimension) is without question.

Most of us are composed largely of water. We need to drink and consume it on a regular basis just so we are able to function. Wherever there is water on planet – whether in the form of pools, rivers, the ocean, or rainfall – there is sure to be a hyper-abundance of life. A large percentage of the air we breathe comes not just from trees – which also need water to survive – but from the infinitesimal phytoplankton that resides in the world’s watercourses. Truly, water enriches and sustains the lives of all beings.

The Master of the Way also seeks to nourish and benefit all beings. But, rather than giving them water, he guides them back to the wateriness of the Tao. If water is the basic building block of life, then The Way is the basic building block of eternal life. It is the substance of everything. The Taoist guides people away from attachment to their physical forms, and helps them return instead to this.