Tao Te Ching Teachings: Clarifying Your Consciousness

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“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.

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TAO TE CHING TEACHING: Houses of Gold

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“A house filled with gold and jewels

No one is able to protect”

Having more things does not mean having more happiness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It just means we have more things to worry about and accept responsibility for. Poor people don’t need security guards or CCTV cameras, because no one can steal what you do not have. No one can take emptiness away from you. It is your private treasure forever.

But the story has been played out over and over again throughout history. Blessed with an extraordinary amount of wealth, one’s life becomes mired with paranoia and distrust. People only come to you to seek out emoluments – no one cares about the hidden wealth of your character. Knowing of your prosperity, every thief and bandit will want to rob from you. Even if you have people to guard it, it will not prevent you from worrying about it. Thus:

A bank full of gold

Is a mind full of worries

A house full of riches

Is a heart full of woe

A belly filled with desire

Is a life filled with trouble

A chest full of treasure

Is a soul bereft of any

Don’t treasure wealth

Treasure integrity

And you will be as rich

As the Buddhas themselves

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Minimum for Maximum

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“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

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“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: Being Efficient

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“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 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.

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.