Before And Beyond

The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao.
That is what gives her 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.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 21, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday’s was a very personal experience for us. Lao Tzu shared what it is like to be alone, to be different from everyone else. Having chosen not to value what others value and avoid what others avoid, you find yourself in the center of the circle, drinking from the Great Mother’s breasts. Today, he returns to talking about the Master. She, too, stays in the center of the circle. She keeps her mind always at one with the Tao. And it makes her radiant.

And we wonder, even after the very personal revelation from Lao Tzu, yesterday, how can this be? Since the Tao is ungraspable, how can her mind be at one with it? Since the Tao is dark and unfathomable, how can it make her radiant?

It is important for us to understand this. Because we, too, need to be one with the Tao. And, we want to have that radiance, too! But how?

Today’s chapter doesn’t do anything to make the Tao more graspable. It leaves the Tao just as shrouded in darkness and mystery as it always has been. We have these ideas. Ideas about how we think the Universe should be. We’ll talk about time and space, what is and what is not. We could talk about these ideas for hours on end; and still cling to these ideas long after their usefulness has passed.

This isn’t helpful. We will never be able to grasp the ungraspable. If we truly want to be one with the Tao, we will have to let the ungraspable grasp us. Stop clinging to ideas. The Master doesn’t cling to them. She understands that the Tao is before time and space were. Our ideas of time and space aren’t going to help us. But they do hinder us. It is dark and unfathomable. You can’t fathom what is unfathomable. So stop trying. Let it go. Let it be. All our ideas about what is and what is not, we have to get beyond. Let it go. Let it be. That is the only way to the Tao.

The Tao is both before and beyond. It precedes everything we think we know and is far beyond it, as well. How can I know this is true? Isn’t that the question everyone should be asking. For Lao Tzu, it is a simple matter of looking, not out and around, but inside myself. You want answers? That is where the answers are to be found. Look inside yourself and you will see.

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