The Great Secret

A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 27, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

When, in yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu talked about light, he was talking about a different kind of light. Light as it relates to heavy. Today, when he is talking about embodying the light, he is talking about the illuminating kind of light. We aren’t talking about trying to shine, we are talking about how to let the light shine in and through us. How do we embody the light? By understanding the great secret: good and bad need each other.

Yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about how to be a good traveler; but he brings it up again, today, along with how to be a good artist, and how to be a good scientist. Traveler? Artist? Scientist? These aren’t just random vocations that Lao Tzu is pulling out of thin air. We are, all of us, fellow travelers, artists, and scientists. He could have easily referred to the generic “human” here; but he is using these metaphors to illustrate a point. The point being that we can be a good traveler, artist, and scientist; or, we could be bad. Lao Tzu wants to show us how to be good, otherwise, we will get lost.

The good traveler is a metaphor for our need to let go of fixed plans: to not be so intent on arriving. The good artist is a metaphor for our need to be guided by our intuition: to let it lead us wherever it wants. The good scientist is a metaphor for opening our mind to the way things really are.

We can, of course, be bad at these things. Often, we are. We make our travel plans, intent on arriving; because it is our destination, not the journey, that interests us. But Lao Tzu would have us understand that it is the journey, and not the destination, which is of prime importance. The journey is everything. Why? Because we want to be available; ready for anything life happens to bring our way. That destination entices us, yes; but who knows what the future holds? We need to be available to all; ready for whatever situation. There is no other way to go with the flow than that. Don’t confuse this with being blown to and fro. We covered that yesterday when we talked about the heavy being the root of the light. In our travels, we are rooted, grounded. But we still need to be available, ready.

We need to learn to trust our intuition. How do we learn to do that? Can we trust our intuition? Through countless years of programming, aka education, indoctrination, brainwashing, we have established and fixed concepts, preconceived notions, that tend to drown out that still, small voice of intuition. But it is there, however still, however small, if we will just listen. Though we have become inured to the way things seem to be, we can open ourselves to the way things actually are.

When Lao Tzu talks about being good or bad, he is talking about the relationship between the master and the apprentice, between the teacher and the student. In your travels, you are going to encounter all sorts of different situations and people. Are you ready? Are you available? Over and over again you will find yourself in situations where you are either good or bad. Are you prepared to be either the teacher or the student, the master or the apprentice?

This is why it is so important to trust your intuition. What is it we have been saying about being open to the Tao and doing what comes naturally? Everything falls into place. The Master is available to all, and never has to reject anyone. Whatever situation he finds himself in, he never lets a thing go to waste. That is embodying the light.

We need to embody the light, in order to be available to everyone that we encounter; both those who are good and those who are bad. A good man is a bad man’s teacher. A bad man is a good man’s job. Sometimes, I find myself being one; and sometimes, I am the other. Situations change. People come into and go out of your life. Have you been ready and available to all?

Are you open to what is? Are you letting your intuition lead you wherever it wants? Nature’s way has an ebb and flow; yin and yang complement each other. Free yourself of fixed plans and concepts. Don’t be so intent on arriving that you aren’t available to help, or to be helped by, a fellow traveler.

There never is a shortage of people who are good and people who are bad. There is only a shortage of people who are following their intuition and making themselves available. It isn’t a question of intelligence. It is a question of embodying the light. It is the great secret. Understand this, and you won’t get lost.


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