Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tao Te Ching

“Yield and remain whole,
Bend and remain straight,
Be low and become filled,
Be worn out and become renewed,
Have little and receive,
Have much and be confused.

“Therefore the sages hold to the one as an example for the world,
Without flaunting themselves, and so are seen clearly
Without presuming themselves, 

“And so are distinguished,
Without praising themselves,

“And so have merit
Without boasting about themselves,

“And so are lasting,
Because they do not contend, the world cannot contend with them
What the ancients called ‘the one who yields and remains whole’
Were they speaking empty words?

“Sincerity becoming whole, and returning to oneself.” – and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006

“Your practice did not go well today.”

“Sensei, I have been distracted.”

“What is the nature of your distraction my dear?”

“I am angry.”

“What is the source of your anger?”

“I am disappointed.”

“Disappointment cannot live with contentment my dear.”

“Sensei, how can I achieve contentment?”

“Come with me. Take my hand…”

“Sensei, what is this fog? I cannot see.”

“Hold to my hand, the fog will not harm you.”

“Where are we Sensei?”

“We are in the gardens of an ancient temple in Lanzhou, China.”

“And who is that boy and who is that man?”

“The boy is you and the man is your teacher—the teacher is me.”

“How is that possible? I am a girl, not a boy and we are Japanese and not Chinese.”

“The Tao begins and ends in oneness. It is like the ocean that follows its destiny into rivers and rivers that branch into streams—to find its source again in the ocean.”

“The Tao is life?”

“Tao is life and Tao is the way of life. Tao teaches us about the journey and Tao teaches us how to navigate the journey.”

“What is the first lesson?”

“The first lesson is to assume nothing and to ask nothing. Assumptions lead to disappointment. Do not assume and you become content.”

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises,
When it knows good as good, evil arises,

“Thus being and non-being produce each other,
Difficult and easy bring about each other,
Long and short reveal each other,
High and low support each other,
Music and voice harmonize each other,
Front and back follow each other.

“Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions,
Conduct the teaching of no words,
They work with myriad things but do not control,
They create but do not possess,
They act but do not presume,
They succeed but do not dwell on success,
It is because they do not dwell on success,
That it never goes away.” 
– Ibid

“Sensei, are you saying that I have unrealistic expectations about life?”

“My boy,that is exactly what I’m saying. That is why you are always disappointed and angry.”

“But Sensei, is it too much to ask that people get along, that they stop hurting each other, that people are kind and helpful to each other?”

“You can ask, but without expectation of a favorable outcome. My boy, we live in an age where shadows are long and light is dim. It is an age in which people despise their neighbor’s success—even their own brother’s success. What you wish for is only possible in another age, a golden age, and that age will come again, but that age will pass again.”

“Sensei, your words make me sad, life has to better than it is.”

“Why does it have to be better than it is?”

“Because it can be, and if it can be, than it has to be.”

“My boy, life serves another purpose, to be wrongfully involved with life, is to miss the point of life. I have been reminding you of this very truth even before the time when we sat in the garden of the temple in Lanzhou. The Tao is the beginning and the Tao is the end and the Tao is the Way between. Learn to listen to the Way.”

“And Sensei, how will I know if I am following the Way?”

“My boy, the Tao will let you know. When you are happy in your contentment, that is the Tao’s way of telling you that you have not strayed. When you find yourself angry and discontent, that is the Tao’s way of letting you know that you have strayed.”

“Look at it, it cannot be seen—
It is called colorless.
Listen to it, it cannot be heard—
It is called noiseless.
Reach for it, it cannot be held—
It is called formless.
These three cannot be completely unraveled
So they are combined into one.

“Above it, not bright,
Below it, not dark,
Continuing endlessly, cannot be named,
It returns back into nothingness—
Thus it is called the form of the formless,
The image of the imageless—
This is called enigmatic.

“Confront it, its front cannot be seen,
Follow it, its back cannot be seen.

“Wield the Tao of the ancients,
To manage the existence of today.

“One can know the ancient beginning—
It is called the Tao Axiom.” 
– Ibid

“Heaven and Earth are everlasting.
“The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
is that they do not exist for themselves,
thus they can last forever.
“Therefore, the sages
place themselves last but end up in front,
are outside of themselves and yet survive.

“Is it not due to their selflessness?
That is how they can achieve their own goals
. – Ibid

“Sensei, is the Tao one or many?”

“My boy, pass the light through the prism, does it not become seven?”

“And Sensei, is the Tao about life, or is it about the Goal?”

“The Tao does not speak about the goal because how can you reach the thing you already are? Light the prism the Tao is made up of seven ways, but we can also speak about three ways, and then, again, there can be seen an infinite number of ways.

“Today I will speak about three ways that make up the Tao. The three ways are the way of no, the way of slow, and the way of go. The way of no, consists of living life without any sense of more. It is a very natural way. The way of slow, is a forced way. It is very showy, but in the end can take a very long time. The way of slow is through spiritual experience. The way of go is the fastest. It depends on finding a master who has achieved the goal and has accepted the responsibility to guide you. The way of go is the fastest and does not give you spiritual experience, until then, the Goal—the Way—the Tao— is realized. The way of go resembles more the way of no, then the way of slow.”

“Cease learning, no more worries.
“Respectful response and scornful response—
How much is the difference?
“Goodness and evil—
How much do they differ?
“What the people fear, I cannot be unafraid— so desolate! How limitless it is!
“The people are excited, as if enjoying a great feast,
As if climbing up to the terrace in spring.
I alone am quiet and uninvolved,
Like an infant not yet smiling,
So weary, like having no place to return.
“The people all have surplus while I alone seem lacking.
I have the heart of a fool indeed – so ignorant!
“Ordinary people are bright,
I alone am muddled.
Ordinary people are scrutinizing,
I alone am obtuse.
Such tranquility, like the ocean,
Such high wind, as if without limits.

“The people all have goals,
And I alone am stubborn and lowly,
I alone am different from them
And value the nourishing mother
.” – Ibid

“Favor and disgrace make one fearful;
The greatest misfortune is the self.
“What does ‘favor and disgrace make one fearful’ mean?
Favor is high; disgrace is low,
Having it makes one fearful,
Losing it makes one fearful,
This is ‘favor and disgrace make one fearful.’

“What does ‘the greatest misfortune is the self’ mean?
The reason I have great misfortune
Is that I have the self.
If I have no self,
What misfortune do I have?

“So one who values the self as the world
Can be given the world,
One who loves the self as the world,
Can be entrusted with the world.” 
– Ibid

“Sensei, please tell me more about the way of slow, the way of no, and the way of go.”

“My boy, the Great Way—the Tao—is seldom journeyed in a single life-time and the wayfarer’s destiny may lead him from one way to another, though, after entering the way of go—the way guided by the Master—the way of go is never lost, though it may take on the appearance of the way of no or the way of slow.

“Sensei, I am still confused.”

“Trying to understand with the mind is like trying to hold the ocean in your palm and trying to explain ties the tongue in knots—beware when lifting the drowning scorpion from the stream for it will always be true to its nature and continue to sting.

“My boy, the Tao is within and without, it is the experience and the experiencer, it is the journey and it is the wayfarer. All of the great teachings are meant to help you find your place in the Tao and act accordingly. The way of no and the way of slow and the way of go all are meant to help you find your place in the Tao.

“For the unenlightened, the Tao is perceived as life. How you act in life determines your happiness and your misery. In the way of no—the no way—the wayfarer has only the life he leads. Over time, he learns to make the correct choices. He learns that lust, anger, greed, hatred, selfishness and pride, lead to suffering for all concerned. In time, the way of no leads the wayfarer to realize that expectations leads to disappointment. Expect nothing from life and disappointment will cease. Why, my boy, do you expect that life can be anything else than what it is?

“The way of slow appears fast, because it appears to offer a way out of life, yet only leads to a series of other rooms in the house of life. The first three rooms are the rooms of energy and power. The wayfarer experiences heavenly sights and sounds, sees angels, and commands powers unknown to the first room of life. No doubt, the bliss experienced in these three rooms is overwhelming and, in fact, that is what makes the way of slow so slow, because the wayfarer, journeying on his own, cannot help but to lose himself in his experiences and thereby lose all motivation for continuing his journey to experience fully the Tao.

“The way of go also leads through the rooms of experience but with the difference that the Master leads the wayfarer through these rooms blindfolded. Blindfolded means that the wayfarer is not aware of—does not experience—the allurements of these rooms and thus does not get caught in them. What is experienced resembles the life experienced in the way of no, with the difference—and this is a big difference—that the Master is always guiding the wayfarer, always reminding him that the life he experiences is not real and yet, must be led as if it was real not to please the wayfarer, but to please the Master—to become aware of His wish.”

“The sages have no constant mind,
They take the mind of the people as their mind.
“Those who are good, I am good to them,
“Those who are not good, I am also good to them,
Thus the virtue of goodness.

“Those who believe, I believe them,
Those who do not believe, I also believe them,
Thus the virtue of belief.

“The sages live in the world,
They cautiously merge their mind for the world,
The people all pay attention with their ears and eyes,
The sages care for them as children.” 
– Ibid

 “The highest goodness resembles water,
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention.
It stays in places that people dislike,
Therefore it is similar to the Tao.

“Dwelling with the right location,
Feeling with great depth,
Giving with great kindness,
Speaking with great integrity,
Governing with great administration,
Handling with great capability,
Moving with great timing—
Because it does not contend,
It is therefore beyond reproach.”
 – Ibid

“Sensei, is there some practical advice you can give me to live my life in the world?”
“My boy, time makes even the best advice become hard like stale bread—because the Tao is ever in motion, it can never be stopped, or minimalized, or formularized, but since you ask with all sincerity, I will offer you this: Be at ease and help others to be at ease.”

“This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness, And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech, humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied, unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

“Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful, not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.

“Wishing: In gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease.

“Whatever living beings there may be, whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, the great or the mighty, medium, short or small, the seen and the unseen, those living near and far away, those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!” – Metta Sutra,   (Thanks to Richard Goldman [ ] for sharing this quote).

“There is something formlessly created,
Born before Heaven and Earth,
So silent! So ethereal!
“Independent and changeless,
Circulating and ceaseless,
It can be regarded as the mother of the world.
“I do not know its name,
Identifying it, I call it ‘Tao’,
Forced to describe it, I call it great.
“Great means passing,
Passing means receding,
Receding means returning.
“Therefore, the Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
The sovereign is also great.

“There are four greats in the universe,
And the sovereign occupies one of them.
“Humans follow the laws of Earth,
Earth follows the laws of Heaven,
Heaven follows the laws of Tao,
Tao follows the laws of nature.” 
 Tao Te Ching

“Tao follows the laws of nature?”

“Yes my boy, did not Lao Tzu say, “The greatest of leaders, leads by following?”

“I have heard that.”

“And so, following the laws of nature, the Tao leads by following.”

“The sages have no constant mind,
They take the mind of the people as their mind.
Those who are good, I am good to them,
Those who are not good, I am also good to them.
“Thus the virtue of goodness,
Those who believe, I believe them—
Those who do not believe, I also believe them,
Thus the virtue of belief.

“The sages live in the world,
They cautiously merge their mind for the world.
The people all pay attention with their ears and eyes,
The sages care for them as children.” 
– Ibid

“Sensei, within the hour I will be leaving this monastery to return to my life in the world. I am most grateful to you for you have shaken my sleep, settled my mind, and sharpened my sense of the Tao. You have been most generous with your time and your wisdom. Now please, share with me, one more time, your awareness of the Tao and how to maintain its sovereignty in my life.”

“We dance the dance, we dance the Tao; the Tao dances the dance of Eternity. If you identify the mind with small and passing things, you become small and passing. That is why it is said that the sages cautiously merge their mind with the world. My boy, do not chisel your life in the stone, instead, write it lightly in the sand. Happiness is the Tao, pleasure and pain is the world. Become like salt—salt preserves and flavors life, but nothing grows in salt. Be at ease, and help others to be at ease. This is my advice to you.”

“Sages do not accumulate,
The more they assist others, the more they possess,
The more they give to others, the more they gain.
“The Tao of heaven
Benefits and does not harm;
The Tao of sages
Assists and does not contend.” 
– Ibid

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,