# Tao Te Ching Reflections, 14 through 25

14

Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom.

It's hard to describe the great Oneness connecting everything. I don't think it's beyond conception, though: in quantum physics there is the vast configuration space over all particles everywhere at once, that ties us all together. We are all made of the same stuff: realize this, and become wise.

15

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

If we could truly describe all the wisdom of the ancient masters, we ought to at least be that wise ourselves. Patience is an important virtue, waiting an important skill. In the American culture of fast food and faster cars, people do not take time to think, take time to wait. We're always expecting, constantly looking at the future, we've lost track of the moment. For me, planning is important, and my beliefs should shape my expectations. However, welcome what comes, and should what comes mismatch your beliefs, you must change your beliefs.

16

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

I have to regard this as yet another rationalization for seemingly inevitable death. It's probably one of the better ones though, and thousands of years ago it was probably okay advice to give since there was no realistic hope of living forever like there is now.

17

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"

The Master is detached from his self and his work and his possessions. He should encourage people and make them feel happy and accomplished. If he is governing, his rules function like the laws of physics. Most of the time we're hardly aware of gravity even though it is all around us. Personally I'm for that form of "government", one that acts like laws of physics, but I don't trust the position to any human. While humans are in power, I consider Anarchy better.

If you don't trust people in general, that already makes them untrustworthy in your eyes, and when they pick up on that they will not try to be trustworthy in your eyes thanks to your prejudice.

18

When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.

My comment on this is a quote from Gandhi: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, always."

19

Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won't be any thieves.

If these three aren't enough,
just stay at the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.

Get rid of all these silly doctrines trying to tell people to do the right thing. Because really, humans have evolved morality that is internalized as a child and people will tend to do "the mostly right thing" most of the time. A lot of doctrines are bad anyway. Getting rid of a monetary system will get rid of thieves (along with poverty!). But for that I think nanotech is necessary or else a great moral awakening.

20

Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.

He who is embraced in the Tao is different. Until people everywhere embrace the Tao, it's like those that know are alone. But don't worry. It's not always a good idea to follow the crowd, especially when the crowd is irrational.

21

The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her radiance.

The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn't cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

You can't really touch the configuration space, even though that's fundamental reality and the closest thing to the Tao we have... Don't cling to ideas. They make you a zealot. Always be ready to relinquish your most cherished beliefs should the Way suggest it.

22

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn't display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn't know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds.
When the ancient Masters said,
"If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,"
they weren't using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.

This is one of those things that may sound absurd reading it at first, but it makes perfect sense when you really understand it. I'm not capable of transmitting my understanding of this passage in words.

23

Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
when it blows, there is only wind;
when it rains, there is only rain;
when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.

If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.

Open yourself to the Tao,
and everything will fall into place.

24

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

25

There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.

It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.

The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.

Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself.

The universe is great, it gave birth to the Earth and the first replicator through sheer chance. The Earth is great, after the first replicator Evolution began, and created Man. Man is great, he possesses the very powerful optimization process known as Intelligence. The Tao is great, for only with it are all these things possible.

#### Posted on 2010-03-23 by Jach

Tags: taoism

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