It Is The Supreme Virtue

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 10, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Two chapters ago, Lao Tzu called it the supreme good. It is like water. Nourishing without trying to nourish, and content with the low places that people disdain. It is being in harmony with the way things are, the Tao. Lao Tzu gave us six ways to be in harmony with the Tao, to be content to simply be ourselves. In yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu explained how it is that we disdain this. It was a picture of people who are never satisfied, who never know when enough is enough; it was a picture of people who are not content. Their hearts never unclench. They live their lives in prisons of their own making, always seeking to compare and compete with others. And he said, then, the only path to serenity is to do our work and then step back.

In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu begins with six rhetorical questions, six “can you” questions. These questions deal with our minds, our bodies, and our hearts. They speak of loving and leading; and of letting, maybe the single most important word in philosophical Taoism. Are we willing to be behind and beneath? Can we be content with being simply ourselves? Or, will we still insist on trying to be ahead and above?

Our minds are prone to wandering. Left to wander, we lose our connectedness, our harmony, our oneness, with the Tao. We start to feel disconnected from everybody, everything; we start to see ourselves as separate. But this is a distortion of the eternal reality.

While my own experience with mind-altering substances is very limited, I like to read or hear first-hand accounts from those who have used them to coax their minds back from its wandering. That is exactly what I think is going on. Users may be attempting to create some escape from reality; but I think what they are actually accomplishing is an escape back to reality. And, I think that is exactly the reason why so many of those substances are banned. The powers that be, the establishment, doesn’t want us experiencing a reality that is different from the one they have manufactured for us, one that enables them to be ahead and above, every one and every thing else.

Now, I am not suggesting that the use of mind-altering substances is the only way to coax your mind from its wandering. I am just not opposed to people choosing for themselves how they might coax their own minds. I know I can and do coax my own mind back to the original oneness every time I catch it wandering. And that isn’t just a daily thing. My mind is prone to wandering, all of the time, all through every day.

Can I make my body as supple as a newborn child’s? Of course not. That ship sailed long ago. I am 52 years old now. But Lao Tzu doesn’t ask us if we can make it supple like that. He asks if we will let it become… This may seem shocking to some; but, I honestly believe there is a whole lot more power in letting things happen, than there is in trying to make them happen.

How clean is your heart? Is your inner vision so clear that you see nothing but the light? Are we in a hopeless situation here? (Maybe some drugs would help.) Seriously though, I think we have our work cut out for us – if we insist on holding onto desires. It is those desires that cloud our inner vision. I have found that as I let go of desires, my inner vision becomes clearer and clearer. Less and less do I see darkness all around me. Oh, there is still darkness, my friends. I see darkness every time I look outside of myself at what is going on in the world around me. People choosing violence. So much darkness. But, inside my heart, there is so much light. Much more light, as I let go of desires. And, I am not alone, separate. That light is in us all; in every thing and in every one.

Lao Tzu is talking about the supreme virtue today; so, it isn’t at all surprising to find him talking about love. Do we really know what love is? Can we love people and lead them without imposing our will? I would be so bold as to say it a different way. Are you loving and leading people when you are imposing your will on them? I just don’t think that loving and leading can be done in any other way than by letting go of our need to be in control.

I am in the process of watching “Sense8” for the second time. It is a Netflix original series; and I give it my highest recommendation, if you haven’t watched it yet. You don’t have Netflix? I think they still offer the first month free to new subscribers. Get your subscription, and watch it. That is a show that speaks to the truth of a love that doesn’t wish to impose its will. I could talk on and on about the show. And I will, if you will message me.

Can you let events take their course? See how Lao Tzu keeps coming back to the need to let. I have found it is the only way to deal with the most vital matters. And even the inconsequential ones. Are you having trouble dealing with life? Maybe, you aren’t dealing so well, because you aren’t letting. We so want to be in control. We want what we want. We want to impose our will. We want things to be our way. And we can’t deal with it. Let it go!

Take a step back! That is what Lao Tzu said, yesterday, is the only path to serenity. Be like water. Be like the Tao. It is the supreme virtue. It is giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control. It is freedom from all our desires. And, it is the only way to realize the mystery of the eternal reality.

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