Friday, June 11, 2010

#72. "Great Mystery" in the Tao Te

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With regard to my posts (#68-71) about the Tao Te Ching, reader and friend Mary Conrow Coelho said in a recent note:

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I find some of the things said about the Mystery in your Tao Te most remarkable. The predominance of the subject-- the Great Mystery-- is itself most compelling. For example, I like this one: "The Mystery of the Universe doesn't do anything, yet everything happens by way of it."

I would like to select several of the paragraphs that are about the Mystery for our new story group to ponder and discuss as they are very valuable and helpful in moving out of some of the assumptions that have gone along with dualistic thinking.

You have done a lot of work putting them in contemporary language.

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Mary's plan to make use of some of the verses with her New Cosmology study group gives me the idea of selecting for blog readers those verses which contain an explicit mention of "the Mystery."

I've found about 20 of them, and have listed them below. If you find these verses helpful "in moving out of some of the assumptions that have gone along with dualistic thinking," as Mary puts it, please know that you are invited to share your thoughts with readers.

Many thanks to Mary for her excellent idea!

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1. Describing the Mystery out of which the universe emerges is impossible. It simply can't be described.

But we can say something about it from the way the world works. 

We can't understand the Mystery in itself, but to some extent we can see its power and presence operating in the world.

In itself, the Mystery is utterly unknowable. It is what makes knowing possible!


4. The way the universe works is like a deep well that never runs out. It is full of unlimited possibilities.
We can't see the Mystery from which the universe emerges, but its power is always present. It is the overflowing source of everything.

6. The Great Mystery is not any thing, but its inexhaustible power is always present and available to us.


21. Balanced persons are always aware of the Mystery behind the universe and this gives them a certain aura. But the Great Mystery is unknowable, so how can they be aware of it? The answer is because they are not stuck in thoughts and concepts.

The Mystery behind the universe is also beyond light, so how can it give those always aware of it an aura? The answer is because they let it.

The Mystery of the universe is beyond space and time; it doesn't "exist" but it is. How do we know this? Because we look inside ourselves and experience it.


25. Even before the universe came to be, there was something-- without form or limit. It was peaceful, empty, alone, unchanging, infinite, present.

It is the mother of everything. Although it has no name, we can call it the Mystery behind the universe. It moves within all things, inside and out, and everything emerges from it.

There are four great realities: humanity, the Earth, the physical universe and the Mystery behind the universe. Humanity emerges from the Earth, the Earth emerges from the universe, and the physical universe comes from the Mystery behind it. The Mystery has no source other than itself.


28. While we need to acknowledge manhood and the masculine, we especially need to honor the feminine, and so embrace the world as a mother does a child. When we do, we are one with the Mystery of the universe and are as comfortable and snug as a baby.

While we need to be aware of our conscious minds, we especially need to be attentive to the unconscious, and thus be a model for all. When we are, the power and presence of the Mystery are ours, and nothing is impossible to us.

While we need to be sensitive to individuals, we need to not underestimate the importance of being objective and of accepting reality as it is. When we do, the Mystery of the universe shines within us and we are what nature made us to be.

The world is formed from no-thing, like a tool carved from a piece of wood.

Balanced persons make use of the tools but remain aware of the uncarved block they come from; so balanced persons can make use of everything.


30. Those who are in charge of others and rely on the Mystery of the universe don't try to force issues or defeat others with weapons; because it's true that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," even well-intentioned violence rebounds on the one who initiates it.

Balanced persons do what has to be done, then stop. They understand that they aren't running the universe and that to try to control events goes against the Way the world works.

They trust themselves and so don't depend on others. They are content, and so don't need the approval of others. They accept themselves, and so they are accepted by all.


32. The Mystery behind the universe can not be perceived. It's smaller than an atom and bigger than all the galaxies.

When persons in charge are centered on the power and presence of the Mystery, everything is in balance. Then, everything will be fine and everyone will be peaceful; people will know the ways of the Great Mystery without being taught.

We need to see all rules and laws as temporary; we need to know when to stop letting patriarchal institutions have any influence over us.

If we know when to stop we can avoid all danger. As rivers flow to the sea, so everything flows from the Great Mystery of the universe.


34. The power and presence of the Mystery is everywhere. All things flow from it, yet it doesn't exert itself in producing them. It's constantly working, yet it makes no claim to them. It nourishes all things, yet it doesn't consider itself their owner.

The Great Mystery is "humble" because it is one with all things at their core. It is "great" because it alone includes all things. And it is "truly great" because it's not concerned with being great.


35. Balanced persons who are centered on the Way the world works can go anywhere without danger. They see cosmic harmony everywhere.

Music and the smell of good cooking attract people's attention, while words about the Great Mystery sound boring.

Look for it, there's nothing to see. Listen for it, there's nothing to hear. But use it, and you will never run out of life-energy.


37. The Mystery of the Universe doesn't do anything, yet everything happens by way of it.

If persons in responsible positions can center themselves in the Way of the universe, everything would be transformed naturally. 

Humans will be happy, and every day life will be lived in harmony and freedom from fuss.

When there are no hankerings or addictions, then everything is peaceful and content.


40. The way the Mystery works is to welcome and make room for everything. Everything comes from it, but it comes from nothing.


41. When balanced persons learn about the Mystery they immediately begin to live in accordance with the way it works. 

When individuals who are not yet in balance hear of it, they don't know whether to take it seriously or not. When foolish persons learn about it, they laugh. (It wouldn't be the Great Mystery, if they didn't!)

And so we have these old sayings: Moving toward the light looks dark, moving forward feels like going back, the most direct path seems very long, power appears weak, purity appears tarnished, steadfastness appears changeable, clarity appears obscure, greatness look like naiveté, love looks like indifference, wisdom looks like childishness.

The Mystery behind the universe is nameless, nowhere and no thing, but it nourishes and completes everything.


42. From the Great Mystery comes its dynamic power which gives birth to a world of opposites-- dark and light, male and female, mind and matter-- which, when combined, evolves into all things.

Everything comes from one opposite and so is oriented towards the other. When the opposites unite, balance, peace and harmony result.

Unbalanced persons hate being alone but balanced persons make use of solitude. They embrace it, because they are aware that they are in communion with everything that exists.


51. Everything in the world is an expression of the Mystery behind the universe. Because of it, things spring into existence, take on a physical body and let the flow of things bring them to completion. Thus everything that exists honors the Great Mystery.

The Mystery gives birth to all things, nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself-- creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.

The Mystery of the universe is an ever-supporting power and yet a self-effacing presence in the life of every thing.


52. In the beginning was the Mystery. All things come from and all things are oriented towards it. When we know that we are the children of the Great Mother, we are free from sorrow.

When we make snap judgments and pursue addictions and desires, we are troubled. But if we can keep from judging others and can control our addictions, then our hearts find peace.

We need to look at the smallest details of the very biggest picture. 

We need to know that not yielding to desires is a great strength. We need to constantly be aware of the source of our awareness.
This is the fullness of life.


54. Those who are grounded in the Great Mystery's power can not be uprooted. Those who hold tight to the Mystery's presence will not loosen their grip. They will be remembered by their children and their grandchildren's children.

When the Mystery is present in our lives, we become genuine and authentic. When the Mystery is present in our families, they flourish. 

When the Mystery is present in our country, the nation is an example to all the world. And when the Mystery is present in all the world, the universe sings.

How do we know all this? By looking within, to our own deepest reality.


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.


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!


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.


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.