Something is happening in my life. I think I'm finding Tao. In particular, the Tao Te Ching. It's a book on Tao, written by Lao Tzu in the 6th century BC. 2,600 years ago.
I first found a conscious recognition of Tao last night, in a book I was looking at over at a friend's house. It had a few quotes that I really liked, which were attributed to Tao. I've since looked up some more Tao this afternoon, and discovered that it's a philosophy, a way of being, that really seems like a good way of being. Learning about Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching has been a development of only the past hour.
I'm going to investigate this Tao business, and see what it means for me. Being a philosophy, I may start to focus on it and follow it, because it really sounds like me.
(A while after writing the above)
I thought I'd put in some quotes from Tao which appealed to me in my most recent wanderings on the internet….
This one made me laugh, considering what I wrote above:
When a superior person hears of the Tao,
She diligently puts it into practice.
When an average person hears of the Tao,
he believes half of it, and doubts the other half.
When a foolish person hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud at the very idea.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao
Am I superior? According to Tao I am, but I'm not. I like it.
Without opening your door,
you can know the whole world.
Without looking out your window,
you can understand the way of the Tao.
The more knowledge you seek,
the less you will understand.
The Master understands without leaving,
sees clearly without looking,
accomplishes much without doing anything.
Act by not acting;
do by not doing.
Enjoy the plain and simple.
Find that greatness in the small.
Take care of difficult problems
while they are still easy;
Do easy things before they become too hard.
Difficult problems are best solved while they are easy.
Great projects are best started while they are small.
The Master never takes on more than she can handle,
which means that she leaves nothing undone.
When an affirmation is given too lightly,
keep your eyes open for trouble ahead.
When something seems too easy,
difficulty is hiding in the details.
The master expects great difficulty,
so the task is always easier than planned.
I like Tao. I'm going to delve into it.
The Taoist sage consists of paradoxes that would mortify most people, but do not seem to bother him at all:
– is detached, yet compassionate;
– enjoys life, yet does not cling to it;
– is a perfectionist, yet indifferent to success or failure;
– is a man of honour, yet avoids reaping honour;
– ignores ethics and morals, but lives a life of the highest moral order;
– does not strive, yet achieves;
– knows the answers, but prefers to remain silent;
– has the innocence of a child, but incredible inner strength.
These paradoxes are in harmony in the sage, the same way nature itself seems to be a harmonious blend of paradoxes. This makes it difficult to describe the sage in conventional terms and categories. In fact, in most societies the sage's qualities would be seen as negative, even harmful.
The sage is a loner. He avoids unnecessary contact with people. He does not feel at home with small talk. He abhors gossip. He avoids talking too much. Most people would probably find his company dull. Not that he would mind, for he is indifferent to his own popularity.
The sage is timeless. He lives outside the collective paradigms and ideologies controlling and manipulating society at any given time. He seems immune to even the subtlest efforts of indoctrination or manipulation.
He moves in society without being immersed in it. He stands aloof from the conceptually fashionable. He does not become part of socially acceptable prejudices. He refuses to participate in the pretentious verbal exhibition of the latest in intellectual chic.
The Taoist sage does not have the Western intellectual's desperate belief in the liberating power of knowledge. Knowledge, he instinctively knows, is just another form of bondage, just another commodity with which to parade one's superiority. It is just another means to control and to manipulate. As such, it is a form of power that has nothing to do with the bliss that comes when living in harmony with the Tao. Therefore the sage would rather sit in the shade of a beautiful tree, sipping wine in blissful union with his surroundings, than waste time in the hectic pursuit of knowledge that ultimately leads to greater bondage.
The above is why I just don't study!
The Taoist sage instinctively knows that he could only become knowledgeable, wise and virtuous by not making these three qualities his ultimate goal.
The Taoist sage understands that it is mostly futile to argue about imponderables. He realizes that our concepts of God are imperfect images created by our own minds. He would not argue about whether the Tao exists or not. He knows that you cannot understand the incomprehensible and prove the unprovable. He accepts that man is partially blind, in particular to spiritual dimensions, and that arguing rarely increases man's ability to see more clearly.
I came to this conclusion in a conversation with Moghal on MSN today.
The Tao sage avoids "managing" other people's lives, for he knows the world is a spiritual thing that should not be controlled or interfered with. He tries to restrict his own influence on others. He will rather suffer loss than manipulate others to reach his aims. Freedom to him has spiritual implications: it is to avoid any form of interference or manipulation. He therefore rejects the basic tenets of power. He prefers to be seen as a loser if success entails tampering with the lives and fates of others.
The Taoist sage is honest in his relationships, never calculating. He does not flatter. He would treat his "superiors" with the same honesty than he would deal with his "colleagues" or "subordinates." He does not cringe when threatened, nor laugh ingratiatingly at the boss's jokes. He has no hidden self-promotional agendas. Responding to his natural impulses, he would spontaneously do what is virtuous, and instinctively avoid the false and the mean. He would participate in an organization and obey orders as far as they are of benefit to sentient beings, but he would go no further, no matter what it might cost him in terms of career, promotion or prestige. His incorruptibility is remarkable, for it springs from the inner strength of a person who has diminished his own ego to a degree where he has become independent of the judgement of society. He is essentially, genuinely anarchic: he is master of himself, and he will not be controlled by any system of power.
The sage instinctively avoids becoming too busy, which he sees as the worst form of laziness. Mostly, being too busy is nothing but the effort to sidestep the issues that really matter in your life. No matter how lofty or altruistic your goals might seem to be, being too busy is often a form of egomania, regularly accompanied by a martyr complex, in which the protagonist overtly or subtly displays how much he is "sacrificing" himself and "suffering" for "others" or for "the company" or some "worthy cause". Instead of giving meaning to your life, hyperactivity can create delusions which alienate you from your own self and increase your confusion.
Definitely! Relaxation, happiness and enjoyment is Number One in my life. All 3 of them.
The Taoist sage seems strangely detached. He functions unconstrained by his own emotions. He knows that his own observations, emotions, thoughts, concepts and judgements are just ripples on the mind's surface, inconstant and perpetually changing. He realizes that the mind can only reflect compassion clearly – like a tranquil pool the perfect moon – when it has become free of the ripples of thoughts and emotions.
By almost any Western standard, the sage qualifies as irreligious. Stale ritual has little meaning to him. Even if liturgy should be filled with emotion, the sage remains aloof and suspicious of it. Emotions come and go, and religions that depend on something so volatile as emotions usually forsake their followers when they need comfort most.
The Taoist sage shuns competition, for it nurtures egotism, fosters brutality and justifies humiliation. The triumphant pose of the strutting victor is a sign of spiritual bankruptcy to the sage. The demonstratively humble acceptance of the prize, with the losers looking on in awe, is the pinnacle of vanity, and might corrupt even the purest of hearts.
The Taoist sage has the tolerance of someone who knows his ideas are less important than his own well-being. He lives with the constant awareness that his convictions are not as precious as the well-being of others.
He has the patience of someone who knows his insights are limited and subject to continuous change.
He has the humility of someone who realizes what really matter are mostly beyond the grasp of mind and language.
Creating discord to defend your own limited vision is absurd to the sage who believes that harmony is the essence of meaningful life.
Therefore the sage does not take sides in intellectual pursuits.
He does not wear the colours of any sect or party.
He does not wave flags patriotically in the wind.
He does not sing anthems with tear-filled eyes.
He refuses to "die for his country".
He refuses to kill for some nationalistic cause, or in patriotic fervour, or to satisfy the greed of his rulers, or because he has fallen for some propaganda.
He is a true warrior. He would rather be declared a traitor than betray himself. He has conquered himself and therefore cannot be conquered.
God or Tao or the Absolute or Allah or Jehovah or Brahma – or whatever you prefer to call whatever is or is not wherever or nowhere or everywhere:
It is not a feeling that can be conjured up in liturgy.
It is not a riddle that can be solved intellectually.
It is not a concept that can be captured in science or philosophy.
It is not a dogma that can be formulated in Theology.
It is not something lurking in the ultra-depths of our psyche.
It is not going to be discovered in our DNA.
It is not something still undetected on the sub-quark level.
And yet it is all of these.
For all things come from it
and all things return to it.
The whatever-you-prefer-to-call-it becomes real to you if you live in harmony with it.
It is there to be lived, and that's that.
You either live it, or you don't.
The Taoist sage lives it, and yet he doesn't.
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