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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Living Simply by the Tao 4

pt 1 | pt 2 | pt 3 | pt 4 <<you are here | pt 5 | pt 6 | pt 7

(This will make more sense if you read earlier parts first - see above!)

 The general idea is that ill considered changes made by humans to their total environment will ultimately produce the wrong result, and unhappiness is bound to follow. To the Taoists, what they describe as non-action is the principle by which to guide one's life.

 Tao abides in non action,
 Yet nothing is left undone.
 If kings and lords observed this,
 The ten thousand things would develop naturally.

 Practise non action.
 Work without doing.
 Taste the tasteless.
 Magnify the small, increase the few.
 Reward bitterness with care.

 See simplicity in the complicated.
 Achieve greatness in little things.

 In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy.
 In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds.

 The softest thing in the universe
 Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
 That without substance can enter where there is no room.
 Hence I know the value of non action.

 As may be seen from these verses, 'non action' does not mean 'inaction' or 'doing nothing', but relates to the earlier point about the law of reversed effect. It means doing things in what may best be described as a 'natural' way. It is necessary to understand or be in accord with the natural laws that govern the universe, not those we arbitrarily make for ourselves.

 When applied to the mind, it is a state of what may be described as 'creative quietude', or 'total consciousness', of which our normal sensory intellectual consciousness is just a part.

 The artist does not perform well under too much stress. Our best thoughts often come when we are not consciously thinking about a particular problem. Everyone has experienced the phenomenon of solving a problem unconsciously through the night, or waking at an unearthly hour with the answer to some question the conscious mind has obscured.

 What might be called the subconscious mind (for want of a better term) has grasped the whole problem and not just one conception of it. In this state the whole self is in a state of harmony, receptivity and awareness.

 Natural harmony is essential to Taoist philosophy, yet most people are rarely in harmony with themselves. The universe works in cycles of birth, growth and decay, and to fly in the face of this truth, or to deny it, is to create unhappiness and frustration for oneself.

 So often we see only one side of a problem, but there is always another side. We know one thing only by comparing it with others. We see things only because they are contrasted with the background, and yet we tend to forget that the background is there and think that we see the thing in isolation. There are only wrong things in this world because there are right things.

 This is the critical point. We as social animals have devised a notion of right and wrong, and both are artificial, because what is deemed wrong in one society may not be so in another.

 If we can get away from socially constructed notions of righteousness we can get away from evil as well. This explains the following verse that on the surface seems so enigmatic:

 Therefore when the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
 When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
 When kindness is lost, there is justice.
 When justice is lost, there is ritual.
 Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.

 The world then is a place of relativity, where things are hot only because we compare them with something cold, or large because other things are considered small. Reality encloses this world of transience and relativity but is not separate from it, and can be grasped when we understand that this ever changing world is but one aspect of something much greater.

pt 1 | pt 2 | pt 3 | pt 4 <<you are here | pt 5 | pt 6 | pt 7

(This will make more sense if you read earlier parts first - see above!)


  1. It is so soothing to read those words about harmony ,and the natural cycles of birth, growth and decay. Often with me it is all or nothing. I think too that in our society the dichotomy, not the both/and of yin/yang, is emphasised. This is typified by the naming of events or people as 'evil, or as heroes if they score a try in the footie. (Yes I did watch the Wallabies and Springboks match and was hyper excited1!) I'm so glad you are posting this.

    Julie xx

  2. Relativity: so we compare ourselves with others to understand who we are and lose that whole beautiful unique world -the truth of the moment.


  3. Thanks, Julie. Yin and yang are coming! Heroes and villains... so much in the eye of the beholder. Osama or Obama? Neither or both? Now THAT'S relativity!

    Comparisons, in a lot of cases, are indeed odious. Unless, of course, you have absolute knowledge, and there's not too many around with that!

    ps as to that Rugby match, I have South African friends who were furious with the umpires, yet I didn't see most of the things they complained about! This has nothing to do with right or wrong, just the world of relativity we live in. (I won't try saying that to my SA friends though.... It's amazing what you'll forgive if you finally come out on top, and what you won't if you believe you've been robbed.)

  4. The same umpires were supposed to have been hard on the Aussies in a previous match. Imagine what the next one will be like, Aus vs NZ!! Still, it was a weird game, since SA had control of the ball about 95% of the time! Now how taoist is this??? :)


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