Posts Tagged ‘Lao-tsu’

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 25

There was something formless and perfect.

Born before heaven and earth

In the silence and the void.

It is serene. Empty.

Solitary. Unchanging.

Infinite. Eternally present.

It is the mother of the universe

I do not know its name

Call it Tao.

For lack of a better word, I call it great

Being great, it flows.

It flows far away

Having gone far, it returns

Therefore, the Way is great,

Heaven is great,

Earth is great,

People are great.

Thus, to know humanity,

Understand earth.

To know earth

Understand heaven,

To know heaven,

Understand the Way.

To know the Way,

Understand the great within yourself.

Lao-Tzu

According to scholars the twenty-fifth verse of the Tao Te Ching is considered to be one of the most significant lessons in the entire manuscript. I do not necessarily look at this verse as a significant lesson; instead I look at it as a creation story. The Tao Te Ching was written by Lao-tzu over twenty-five centuries ago. I interpret the first ten lines as describing the big bang. Considering how long ago it was written I think Lao-tzu nailed a concept that would not be known for centuries later. I was honestly wondering when a creation concept would be brought up, so I was relieved when I read this verse. I love the way he describes existence prior to the big bang when the Tao gave birth to the universe.

Lao-tzu says “there was something formless and perfect.” Whatever was before the universe was created will always be a mystery, but Lao-tzu says whatever it was it was perfect. I am a firm believer that the Tao created heaven, but in doing this he also gave birth to Gods. I believe the Gods we know today were created by the Tao.

Lao-tzu could not find the words to describe the Tao; all he could come up with is the word “great.” This greatness is responsible for everything that has and will be.  He says “being great, it flows. It flows far away. Having gone far, it returns.” I am sure this could be interpreted in many ways. I look at it as the process of dying and the journey of our shen. When we die we go to the center where the universe was born. This center is formless and perfect, and is where we all return. Having gone far to the center; we return. This comforts my fears of death and calms my anxiety over it. The atheist in me comes out from time to time to trample my visions of salvation, so I lack faith. I wonder if my lack in faith is the reason I cannot live the lessons of the Tao on a consistent basis? If this is the case then my journey should be that of faith. Once I find faith perhaps I will find understanding.

This verse touches on things being great. It starts with the Way all the way down to people. This is a tough yet great message for me. I do not see myself as great; therefore I can never realize greatness. If I dwell in my negative emotions then I will attract negative things. This concept is brought up in the last eight verses. Lao-tzu says to truly know the way you need to understand the greatness within you. Since everything stems from the Tao is great therefore I to should be great because I am a product of perfection. This is a great lesson to learn.

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 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.