In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.
To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.
If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.
Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 52, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, I talked about how love of our fellow beings is something innate in all of us. I concluded by saying, let’s all start doing what is really already natural for us, the love of the Tao, loving unconditionally. Resisting the Tao, and by that I mean, resisting loving our fellow beings unconditionally, is not natural. Today, Lao Tzu goes into this further.
He opens today’s chapter by reminding us that we can trace our way back, all the way to the beginning, to find the Tao. All things issue from it, and all things return to it. How do we trace our way back to the Tao? By tracing back the manifestations. Lao Tzu identified what the manifestations, or expressions, of the Tao are, yesterday. We are. All of us, all beings in the universe. We are all the children of the Tao. If we want to find our way home to mother, we only need to recognize the children. That is how to be free of sorrow.
The reason we are experiencing sorrow, instead of contentment with our mother, is because, instead of recognizing that we are all children, we close our minds in judgment, and we traffic with desires. This is important for us all to understand. Our hearts are troubled because we are resisting that something which is innate in all of us. Our minds are closed. We are not the masters of our own minds. Our minds are our masters. And they judge our fellow creatures as being separate from us. How can we love unconditionally, when our minds keep insisting that our love can only be offered conditionally? And, we still insist on being led by our senses. That is what Lao Tzu means by trafficking in desires. The problem is, our senses can only tell us the way things seem to be, only what is apparent to our senses. Our senses cannot show us the eternal reality before and beyond the way things seem to be. That is not their function. Observe the world, yes; but, trust your inner vision. That is what Lao Tzu has insisted on, all along. It is the only path to serenity, the only way our heart will find peace.
Okay, I get it! Now, how do I put this practice of the Tao, you know, into practice?
Understanding that I can no longer allow myself to be led by my senses, I begin trusting my inner vision; this is like a leap of faith, my friends. When you are looking inside yourself, all you will see, to begin with, is darkness. How can I trust this? Wait for it. Let your eyes get adjusted to the dark, so to speak. Clarity will come, if you will wait for it. If you get antsy, impatient, your heart will remain troubled. The practice of the Tao takes patience. It takes knowing how to yield. But if you will wait it out, you will find the source of your strength, your own light. It was there all along. We just let our minds be closed and our hearts be overwhelmed by desires. That is why there was so much darkness. But, now that you have found your own light, you can use it to return to the source of light.
Congratulations, you are now practicing eternity. It is a whole other realm of existence. Now, you are seeing what is before and beyond the way things seem to be. You see your fellow beings as yourself. You aren’t resisting anymore. All things are issuing from the Tao. All things are returning to it. You are at one with that flow, as it goes through you, inside and outside. You don’t just feel the love, you are the love.