Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Religion’

This blog like my mind is all over the place. Since 2014 the only connection between my posts is their randomness. I never considered if this was a good thing or not, and battled with my format several times. In the end I need to stay true to my mind and keep the randomness intact. Looking through my stats my most read posts involve Taoism and my interpretation of the verses, this is nothing new, although the theologian in me finds this rather intriguing. 

It’s been ages since I wrote my last post about the Tao Te Ching, in fact it has been ages since I have actively studied and put into practice the teachings of the Tao. As a result it is no surprise how unmanageable my life has become. 

Whether this is a direct coorilation or simply a coincidence is yet to be known. It’s been over a year since my mind has failed me leaving me broken and scattered. Perhaps returning to the teachings of the Tao things will begin to look a bit brighter as I become more centered. Now whether I actually wipe the dust from these ancient teachings remains to be seen. 

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Verse 24

If you stand on tiptoe, you cannot stand firmly.

If you take long steps, you cannot walk far.

Showing off does not reveal enlightenment.

Boasting will not produce accomplishment.

He who is self-righteous is not respected

He who brags will not endure.

All these ways of acting are loathsome, distasteful.

They are unnecessary excesses.

They are like a pain in the stomach,

a tumor in the body

when walking the path of the Tao,

this is the very stuff that must be

uprooted, thrown out, and left behind.

Lao-tzu

The 24th verse is about living without excess, Lao-tzu advises us to pull and discard our excess weeds. These weeds are ego-driven desires of self-importance. Our desire to feel important and our desires to brag and be boastful of our accomplishments are allowing our ego to drive us instead of the all giving Tao. It is this desire which keeps us away from walking the path of the Tao. The Tao teaches us that inner approval is healthy, but it is these mind frames of thinking you are better than anyone else which is destructive. These desires for self-importance are like a cancer on our souls. Our ego is our greatest enemy on our journey to discover the Way.

The verse starts with an analogy of standing on our tip toes. I believe this represents us trying to be greater than we are. If we try to fill ourselves with self-importance we will not be able to stand firmly. Lao-tzu’s advice is to stop trying to be what we are not, and instead live as we are. We should be humble in our daily affairs, and be content with who we are at all times. Everyday we should show gratitude for everything we have, and everything we are. Showing daily gratitude centers us and keeps us on the path of the Way. Practice focusing on what you have, and not what you want, then show gratitude for everything the Tao has given you. In the part about taking long steps; I think this advises us to live in the moment and not try so hard to get were going. Instead of focusing on our end goal we should be humble and enjoy the process.

The next part of this verse is advising us to not brag or be boastful. Showing off does not show enlightenment. Bragging about our accomplishments only make us look like fools. In the second verse of the Tao Te Ching it says “when the work is done, it is forgotten. That is why it lasts forever,” or in the ninth verse it says “retire when the work is done; this is the way to heaven.” These are all examples of working without bragging or taking credit for your hard work. It is nice to be acknowledged, but this should not be our primary goal. I see my faults in this part of the verse. I have written posts on my frustration with my writing career progress. I want to have five thousand visitors a day, and in my mind this would be an accomplishment worthy of bragging. In my mind I need to be successful immediately, or I am disappointed. I am standing on my tip toes and taking long steps. I need to just sit back and allow my writing career to happen.

I am most interested in the line “He who is self-righteous is not respected.” The definition of self-righteous is “a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.” This is an interesting line in that the Tao condemns being holier than thou in our religious affairs. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism do not send its followers out on missionary trips to spread the word. They do not pretend to be superior to others who believe differently. This is why you have never seen an inquisition in these faiths. The Tao does not judge you based on if you believe in the Way or not. It will still provide you with everything you need. I think this lesson is far different from some other religions out there, which is why I have found a spiritual home in this religion.

Instead of letting our ego drive us with the desire to boast, or only work for the accolades of a good job, we should instead be grateful for everything the Tao has given us. The Tao does not seek acknowledgement for all it does for us. The Tao does not come to us saying “look what I have done for you, now what will you do for me.” This is a lesson the Tao tries to teach us by example. We should not see ourselves as important or special for the gifts the Tao has given us. We should appreciate her, and her unselfish giving. The Tao teaches us to be a giver rather than a taker, we should be providing for others and ask nothing in return. The Tao always exists in a state of unlimited giving, and teaches us to do the same. If we are able to mimic this sense of gratitude and giving we will be closer to walking the path of the Way.

“By returning to radical humility and seeing the greatness within everyone you’ve than cleared your life of excessive self-importance…and this is the way of the Tao.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Verse 23

To talk little is natural:

Fierce winds do not blow all morning;

a downpour of rain does not last all day.

Who does this? Heaven and earth.

But these are exaggerated, forced effects,

and that is why they cannot be sustained.

If heaven and earth cannot sustain a forced action,

how much less is man able to do?

Those who follow the Way

become one with the Way.

Those who follow goodness

Become one with goodness.

Those who stray from the Way and goodness

become one with failure.

If you conform to the Way

its powers flow through you.

Your actions become those of nature,

your ways those of heaven.

Open yourself to the Tao

and trust your natural responses…

Then everything will fall into place.

Lao-tzu

I have been reading this verse over and over again and doing nothing but spinning my wheels. I just kept trying to find the meaning and how to articulate it. Whenever I am stuck in life, or in my journey through the Tao I will consult my wife. If I read her a verse she immediately can point out the meaning as if she has known this stuff her entire life. My wife and my son are the two most enlightened Taoist I have ever known, and neither are Taoists. The amazing thing is how quick she picks up the meanings and does a wonderful job articulating that meaning to me. I am being honest with you when I say she should really be writing these things not me. When I read it to her she looked at me funny and said “how do you not get it?” She went on to say that this verse is a great lesson to be learned by me. After a brief talk my eyes were opened to a few things.

When I looked into the analogy of storms not lasting forever I think the message is no matter how hard life gets it is but a passing storm. When it talks about heaven and earth not being able to sustain a forced action I translated that to mean if Mother Nature cannot sustain a storm that lasts a lifetime, than neither can any of our troubles last forever. This is a comforting statement for me considering I have a penchant for dealing with dark storms. When my darkness comes my mantra I say over and over in my head is “this to shall pass.” I think this is part of what the message Lao-tzu was trying to get across.

My wife saw a different translation. She said that heaven and earth not being able to sustain a forced action (storm) means that man cannot sustain a forced life. In this she explained trying to force things that should just be let go and allowed to flow. She brings up my OCD and how because of my compulsions I try to force things to be a certain way and control my surroundings to ease my anxiety. She said that this type of lifestyle cannot be sustained because things are being forced, being forced is not natural and will eventually wear you and the world around you down, just as if it were to storm and blow fiercely for days on end, nothing could sustain that.. This can also be true in the sense of trying to always be in charge, always be right and always in control. These types of behaviors cannot last forever and indeed go against the very laws of nature.

Lao-tzu urges us to follow the Way and to follow goodness. How true is it that those who follow goodness become goodness!! Its simple, you are what you do, you follow negativity, negative will come, you are disrespectful, disrespect will come to you, you are self-centered, and you will be all by yourself. Life will always give back what you give to it. Living as nature does is how we are supposed to live. When troubles come bend not break, for after the storm you will be standing tall once again. Nature moves along naturally nothing is forced every action is as it is supposed to be. Every reaction is in line with the Way. I think conforming to the Way is probably one of the hardest steps. First when I see the word conform or what have you I immediately feel the urge to do the complete opposite. If we live as nature does, if we flow like a river, listen more and talk less the power of the Way flows through us and with us. When our actions are one with nature we are living a Tao centered life, and our ways transform into the ways of heaven.

I look at a current conundrum I am in. I had this great idea for a gift for my wife. My wife sacrifices everyday for our family and I cannot remember the last time she thought about her self first. So I had this great gift idea, but the problem comes where we may not have the money to get it. She chose to get gifts for others instead of the gift for herself. I get this, but I really think she deserves this gift and it is perfect in my mind. My ego wants to step in and control the situation and say “this is what we are going to do, okay great let’s get it done.” This forceful approach has done nothing but cause problems. I need to step back take a deep breath and just allow whatever was meant to happen will happen. If we have the money then the gift will come if we don’t then it wont. I need to be at peace with this situation regardless of the outcome, and let the natural order just happen. I am happy to report that I was able to get her gift and she loved it. Amazing how the Tao works.

If we are living a Tao centered life trusting our natural actions and reaction without ego-driven thought and actions then we are at one with nature. If we are one with nature and ultimately the Tao then everything will always fall into place. This is by far the most comforting piece for me. The knowledge that if I trust in a power greater than myself and follow the Taos lessons then everything will always fall into the exact place it is supposed to be.

 Verse 22

The flexible are preserved unbroken.

The bent become straight.

The empty are filled.

The exhausted become renewed.

The poor are enriched.

The rich are confounded.

Therefore wise men embrace the one

And set an example to all.

Not putting on a display,

They shine forth.

Not justifying themselves,

They are distinguished.

Not boasting,

They receive recognition.

Not bragging,

They never falter.

They do not quarrel,

So no one quarrels with them.

Therefore the ancients say, “Yield and overcome.”

Is that an empty saying?

Be really whole,

And all things will come to you.

Lao-tzu

When I read this verse I think about my very good friend who is going through a rather rough patch in his life. He is suffering some great trials and tribulations and I feel how he handles it will make or break him. If he stands rigid and wallows in his misfortunes he will most likely break amidst his personal storm. If he stays flexible and goes with the storm like a palm tree he will be preserved unbroken. If he yields he will overcome. Dr. Dyer uses the example of a palm tree in a hurricane to illustrate the lessons in this verse. Even with winds of up to 200 mph the palm tree survives even though other trees are being ripped from the ground. The secret of the palm tree is its flexibility. It moves with the winds sometimes all the way to the ground. When the storm has passed the palm tree remains straight.

The first few lines of the 22nd verse of the Tao Te Ching gives me the same feeling of hope as in the book of Matthew. I know it is not an exact match but the feeling I get from this verse is the same I get from reading Jesus’ speech on top of the mountain. I feel a great sense of hope when I read these words. In embracing the one you will become flexible able to withstand anything life throws your way. When you hit a point where you are empty and life is dragging you by the heels rejoice because you will be filled. There is something comforting in these words. To me it gives me strength to weather my own personal storms. I take solace in knowing when I am completely empty I will be filled. I find peace in realizing everything I need is already given to me. I hope one day I can completely embrace the one and be a teacher to others.

I know I have said this before but the Tao Te Ching like other religious scriptures covers many of the same concepts. This verse gives us lessons to confront our greatest enemy our very own ego. If we stop trying to become noticed all the time whether it be at our jobs, with our friends, or in a relationship we will shine brighter. If we stop justifying ourselves all the time we will be heard. This is hard for me because I feel I need to justify myself all the time. I feel a compelling urge to always be right, and I will fight my point to the bitter end. I am certain if I were to shut my mouth and remain open minded to the words I am hearing the outcomes would improve ten fold. Not only would I truly hear what is being said; my points will then be better received. If we choose to listen and not argue or fight with those around us then no one will quarrel with us. If we are living a Tao centered life, then how can anyone truly be offended by your actions?

We need to plant a palm tree seed within ourselves nurtured with the greatness of the Tao. Our roots should be grounded in a Tao centered life. If we can accomplish this we can weather any storm. Like the palm trees in nature everything they need to survive is provided to them by the Tao. The reason these things are provided because the tree is receptive to the Tao’s nourishment. We need to have this same kind of faith, we need to trust that everything we need is here right now, and everything we will ever need will be provided as long as we are receptive. The Tao isn’t trying to get somewhere other than where it is. It has no goals, desires, or judgments it flows everywhere because it is the energy of creation. We are taught to be empty. I think the only way we can be filled is by becoming completely empty. We need to rid ourselves of possessions, attachments, desires, and ego. If we become empty and receptive we will be filled with the loving energy of the Tao.