Thursday, June 3, 2010

#71. Sam's Tao Te, 55-81



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Except for the last sentence, this brief four-paragraph introduction is being used in posts #69, #70 and #71.

In Michael Dowd's extraordinarily comprehensive book on the new cosmology, Thank God for Evolution, he notes that people everywhere-- "if they are to function as individuals and cohere as a group"-- have always needed to answer "the big picture questions."

Those questions include "What is our relationship to other life forms and the powers of the Universe?" and "How are we to live in accordance with those powers?"

Although the Tao Te Ching is three thousand years old, it offers responses to those questions which fit remarkably well with the contemporary convergence of science and religion. I think of it as A Manual for the New Cosmology.

If you are new to this blog and/or to the Tao Te, you might like to see my introduction in post #68 before reading this post. What follows is a version of the last third of the ancient text.

As usual, your feedback is welcomed.


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Tao Te Ching, Sam's version, sections 55-81

55. A balanced person who is in harmony with the Way the universe works is like a newborn child, with soft bones and weak muscles, but a powerful grip.

A male infant knows nothing of sexual relations, but his phallos can stand erect with intense life-energy.

Infants can scream all day, yet never become hoarse, so total is their harmony with the power and presence of the Great Mystery.

This is how the power of balanced leaders works, too. They let things come and go-- effortlessly, without desire. They don't expect results and so are never disappointed. And not being disappointed, they do not grow old in spirit.

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56. Those who know, do not say. And those who say, do not know what they're talking about.

We need to stop talking, close our senses, blunt our sharpness, untie our knots, soften our glare, settle our dust. What's left is our most basic reality.

We need to be like the Mystery. It can't be approached or moved away from, benefited or harmed, honored or disgraced; it simply gives of itself continually.

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57. Those who would be good leaders must learn to follow the universe's Way: they must not try to control things. If they can let go of fixed plans and ideas, the world will take care of itself.

The more rules leaders establish, the less good people will be. 

The more weapons leaders make available, the less safe people will be. The more subsidies leaders provide, the less independent people will be.

Therefore, it's as the old Masters say: "They let go of law, and the people become honest. They let go of economics, and the people become prosperous. They let go of religion and the people become at peace. They let go of all hankering after the common good, and good becomes as common as grass."

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58. When a country is governed tolerantly, the people are comfortable and honest. When a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty. When the will to power takes over, high ideals give low results.

If we try to make people happy, that lays the groundwork for misery. If we try to make people moral, that lays the groundwork for vice.

Thus when persons in charge are balanced, they are content to serve as an example and not to impose their will. They are sharp, but don't pierce. Straightforward, but supple. Radiant, but easy on the eyes.

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59. For governing a people well there is nothing better than moderation. The mark of moderate leaders is freedom from their own ideas.

Tolerant like the sky, all-pervading like sunlight, firm like a mountain, supple like a tree in the wind, they have no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring their way.

Nothing is impossible for them. Because they have let go, they can care for the people's welfare as a mother cares for her child.

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60. Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. Push it around too much and it falls apart.

When responsible leaders center their country in the Way, evil has no power. Not that evil doesn't exist anymore, but the leader can move away from it.

When we give evil nothing to oppose, it disappears by itself.

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61. When a nation obtains great power, it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it. The more powerful it grows, the greater the need for humility.

Humility means trusting in the Way the universe works, thus never needing to be defensive.

A great country is like great individuals. When they make a mistake, they realize it. When they realize it, they admit it. When they admit it, they correct it.

They consider those who point out their faults as their most benevolent teachers. They think of their enemy as the shadow that they themselves cast.

When a nation is centered in the Way of the universe, nourishes its own people, and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others, then it will be a great light to all peoples of the world.

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62. At the center of the universe is the power and presence of its source. It is the treasure of every decent person and also the refuge of every not-so-decent person.

While honors can be bought with fine words, and respect can be won with good deeds, this power and presence is beyond all value, and no one can achieve it.

For this reason, when new leaders are chosen, they should not be offered economic help or taught political skills. Instead, they need to be instructed about how the power and presence of the Great Mystery works.

Why did the ancient wise ones so esteem the Mystery? Because when we are one with it we find what we seek, and when we make a mistake, we are forgiven. Everybody loves it!

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63. Act without doing; work without effort. Think of the small as large and the few as many. Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish a great task by a series of little tasks.

Balanced persons never reach for the great; that's how they achieve greatness.

When they run into a difficulty, they stop and give themselves to it. They don't cling to their own comfort, so problems are no problem for them.

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64. What is rooted is easy to nourish. What is recent is easy to correct. What is brittle is easy to break. What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises. Put things in order before troubles come to be. The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Rushing into action, we fail. Trying to grasp things, we lose them. Forcing a project to completion, we ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore balanced persons act by letting things take their course. They remain as calm at the end as at the beginning. 

Having nothing, they have nothing to lose.

What they desire is non-desire; what they learn is to not-learn. They simply remind people of who they have always been. They care about nothing except being aligned with the Way the world works. Thus they can care for all things.

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65. The wise leaders of old didn't try to bring the general population up to date, but taught people to be aware that always wanting to be up to date isn't helpful.

When people think they are knowledgeable they are difficult to guide. But when they know they don't know, then they can find their own way.

So if we are to lead people, we need to be neither clever or rich. The simplest pattern works best. When we are content with an ordinary life, we thereby show everyone the way back, each to their own true nature.

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66. All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. 
"Humility" gives water its power.

To govern the people we must place ourselves below them. To lead the people, we must learn to follow them.

While balanced leaders are above the people, no one feels oppressed. They go ahead of the people, and no one feels manipulated. Everyone is grateful to them. Because they compete with no one, no one competes with them.

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67. Some say that these thoughts are nonsense. Others call them idealistic and impractical. But to those who have looked inside themselves, the nonsense makes good sense. And for those who practice it, the idealism obviously has deep roots.

Only three things are being taught here: simplicity, patience and compassion.

These three things are our greatest treasures. Simplicity in thought and action returns us to the source of our being. Patience with both friends and enemies puts us in accord with the way things are. And compassion-- towards ourselves, first of all-- reconciles everything in the world.

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68. Good athletes want good opponents. Good generals try to enters the minds of their enemies. Good business persons serve the common good. Good leaders follow the will of the people.

All of them embody the virtue of non-competition. Not that they don't love to compete, but they do it in the spirit of play; like children playing happily, they are in harmony with the Way the world works.

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69. Balanced military leaders have a saying: "Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see. Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard." This is a way to go forward without advancing, of pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune than underestimating our enemies.

Underestimating them means thinking they are evil. But this risks losing our three treasures of simplicity, patience and compassion; then we become an enemy to ourselves.

When two great forces oppose each other, the victory always goes to the side that knows how to yield.

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70. These teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. Yet we can't grasp them by thinking and have trouble trying to practice them.

They are older than the world. And we can't understand them via rational thought. To grasp them we must use our intuitive ability to perceive what is deep inside ourselves.

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71. Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is illness. We need first to realize that we are sick; only then can we move toward health.

Balanced leaders are their own physicians. They have healed themselves of all superficial thoughts, thus they are truly whole.

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72. When people lose their sense of awe, they turn to religion. When they no longer trust themselves, they begin to depend upon outside authorities.

Therefore when those in charge are balanced, they step back so that the people won't be confused. They teach without teachings, so the people will have nothing to learn.

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73. The presence and power of the Way the universe works is always at ease. It overcomes without competing, answers without speaking, arrives without being summoned, accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe. And though its meshes are wide, it doesn't let anything slip through.

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74. When we realize that all things change, there is nothing we will try to hold on to. When we aren't afraid of dying, there is nothing we can't achieve.

Trying to control the future is like trying to take over the job of a professional carpenter. If we try to use a master carpenter's tools, we have a good chance of cutting ourselves.

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75. When taxes are too high, people go hungry. When the government is too intrusive, people lose their spirit.

So, balanced leaders act for the people's benefit. They trust the people and leave them alone.

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76. Humans are born soft and supple; dead, they become hardened and stiff. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they become brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is hard and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.

What's brittle and hard gets broken. What's supple and pliant persists.

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77. As it acts in the world, the power and presence of the Mystery behind the universe is like the bending of a bow. The top is bent downward; the bottom is bent upward. It adjusts for excess and deficiency, to make a perfect balance. It takes from what has too much and gives to what hasn't got enough.

Those who try to control others and to protect their own power by force go against the Way the world works. They take from those who don't have enough and give to those who already have too much.

Balanced leaders can keep giving because there is no end to their wealth. They act without expectation, succeed without taking credit, and don't think that they are better than anyone else.

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78. Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving hard and inflexible things, nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid. Everyone knows this, but not many put it into practice.

Therefore those in charge who are balanced remain serene in the midst of sorrow. Evil cannot enter their hearts. Because they have given up helping, they are people's greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical!

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79. Failure is an opportunity. If we blame someone else, then they blame others and the blame just goes on and on.

Therefore balanced leaders fulfill their own obligations and correct their own mistakes. They do what they need to do and demand nothing of others.
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80. When a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content. They enjoy the labor of their hands and don't waste time inventing new labor-saving devices.

Since they dearly love their homes, they aren't interested in travel. There may be a few wagons and boats, but these rarely go anywhere. There may be an arsenal of weapons, but nobody ever uses them.

People enjoy their food, take pleasure in being with their families, spend weekends working in their gardens, delight in what's going on in the neighborhood.

And even though the next village is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking, they are content to stay at home without going for an idle visit.

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81. True words aren't necessarily eloquent; eloquent words aren't necessarily true. Balanced leaders don't need to prove their point, and those in charge who need to prove their point aren't in balance with the world's workings.

Balanced leaders have no possessions. The more they do for others, the happier they are. The more they give to others, the wealthier they are.

As the Mystery's power and presence nourishes without forcing, so balanced persons lead without dominating.

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1 comment:

Sam said...

While trying to eliminate numerous spam comments, I inadvertently deleted all comments at the END of the posts up until #90. BUT... they are still preserved in the collections of comments found in posts #32, #67 and #83.

One set of comments, however-- for posts #84 to #89-- has been completely lost. If you happen to have copied any of them, I'd much appreciate your sending a copy to me so I can restore them. Thanks.