Tao Te Ching Teachings: Shining Forth

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“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.

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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: 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.

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: The Supreme Goodness of Water

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“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.

Teachings From The Tao Te Ching: Speaking Truly

Tiger

“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.

 

Tao Te Ching Teachings: Artifice and Desire

Immortal Looking at Mountains

“Always keeping people

Free from artifice and desire”

What is usually translated as ‘knowledge’ here I have translated as ‘artifice.’ Whilst the word chih does have the meaning ‘knowledge; knowing; learning’ it also has the additional meanings of ‘craftiness; cunning; wiliness; cleverness.’ The Taoist isn’t renowned for keeping people free from knowledge – he’s all about wising people up! However, a distinction should be made here between intellectual knowledge – which is purely provisional and limited – and ultimate knowledge, which comprises everything, and has no limits. What the sage is keeping people from here is artificial knowledge and artificial ways of being and behaving – hence, artifice.

Intellectuals want to explain everything, because it gives them a sense of power, as though their knowledge enables them to control the world. And, to a degree, it does. Knowledge is power, because it is capable of giving us the key to the secret working of things. This is why we must remove our craftiness and wile – that ruthless part of us that is willing to destroy everyone else in order to succeed. Many people have attained great power through The Way, only to be corrupted from it, because they have not completely overcome their wiles and desires. Thinking their power is their own, rather than something bestowed on them by heaven, they become egomaniacal, and think it is their right to abuse others, because of their superior strength.

But the greatest strength is having strength, but not using it. The greatest martial artists in the world never fight; the wisest men in the world never show off their learning. Approach knowledge and power with a selfless heart, and a limitless mind, then you will truly use your power to benefit all beings.

Teachings from the Tao Te Ching: Killing The Competition of Competition

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“Do not exalt great men over others

And people will not compete”

Taoists, like most mystics, are anti-hierarchical. As soon as we designate one thing as ‘superior’ that automatically makes something else ‘inferior.’ With such tiered thinking as this, how could we ever achieve true unity in the world?

Hierarchies make men and beasts compete with one another. In a communion of equals, everybody co-operates with one another, and functions in accordance with their own natures. But, as soon as hierarchies are introduced, and, with it, the possibility of being better or worse off than one’s neighbours, co-operation and integrity go out the window. People fight, debase and kill one another, all in the hopes of winning a higher position, or being able to lord it over others. So, the concept of being ‘better off’ than someone else does not make for a ‘better off’ world.

In contrast, many indigenous peoples, such as the Australian Aborigines and Native Americans, were completely without hierarchy. European invaders were frustrated to discover they had no ‘chiefs’ or ‘kings’ with whom they could negotiate. They would perfunctorily nominate some member as ‘the leader’ and use that conceit to enable their insidious dealings. But amongst the Australian Aborigines, even great elders, who might be respected for their wisdom and spiritual attainment, would be considered as essentially no greater than anyone else. It was no one’s right to rule over any other, for the only just rule is self-rule. When beings rule themselves, and see all others as their equal, there is no opportunity for divisive conflict to arise.

Tao Te Ching Commentary: Acting Without Expectation

Master

Act Without Expectation” – Lao Tzu

In helping others, we must not be attached to rewards or results –  we must not even be attached to our role as helper, teacher or liberator. If we only show compassion to people in the hopes that they reciprocate, or only help people in the hopes that they will help us too, we are being governed by profit – not The Way – by personal gain – not kindness. This is where empty selflessness comes in. You do not feed a homeless person because you think one day they might become a millionaire and buy you a mansion; you feed them because they’re starving, and you don’t want them to, anymore than you would want anyone to starve. Allowing them to starve is allowing yourself to starve. There is no difference between self and others.

So, don’t be good because you expect to get some good out of it. Just be good because it is good to be good. You don’t need any greater reasoning than that. Nor is there any reason to be attached to the outcome of your actions. Just do your best, and let what comes, come as it will.