The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 38, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I spent some time, in my post yesterday, laughing at the so-called powerful, who are beside themselves wondering how they got Trumped. They could have avoided danger, if they had only known when to stop.
In yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu once again laid out the case for the solution to all of our problems. Center yourself in the Tao. That means, let things come and go, without desiring to interfere with them. If we didn’t interfere with the Tao, the world would transform itself, in its natural rhythms. People would be content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire.
Oh, but we can never underestimate the problem of desire. That has been our problem all along. How can we center ourselves in the Tao, when we can’t even perceive it? And, how can we ever perceive it, when we are caught in desire?
That is certainly the problem with the so-called powerful among us. It is what separates the ordinary person from the Master. And, just in case it has somehow been lost on you, the so-called powerful among us are the most ordinary, when it comes to being able to resist desire.
They keep reaching for power; but they never have enough. Masters are so very different. Being truly wise, they understand where true power originates. Because they are centered in the Tao, they don’t try to be powerful. They don’t try to do anything.
Just like the Tao does nothing, yet through it all things are done, the Master does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.
Ordinary people just don’t understand this. “How can we accomplish anything by doing nothing.” It makes no sense, at all. But they are caught in desire, living in an illusion. So, they are always doing things. Yet, many more are always being left to be done.
The desire to do something is paramount, when you are living your life in an illusion. The world could use some improving. Or, at least, that is the way things seem to be. This Tao that does nothing, yet everything is done, doesn’t mesh with the way things appear to be.
Lao Tzu keeps telling us, that is only an illusion. There is an infinite and eternal reality, before and beyond, what our physical senses perceive. That is what we really are contending against, when we interfere, when we intervene, when we try to dominate and control. When we strive for power, we will never succeed. When we keep trying to do things, we will never get them all done.
But, ordinary people can have such good intentions. I see it all the time. People pleading that someone do something! Kind people, just people, moral people. They all have the best of intentions.
But, when kind people do something, something always remains undone. And, when just people do something, many things are left to be done.
Is Lao Tzu saying, “Don’t be kind!” and “Don’t be just!” No! He is saying, “Center yourself in the Tao, and let all things come and go.” Don’t interfere, don’t intervene, don’t force, don’t dominate, don’t try to control, don’t do anything.”
And, in spite of their stated good intentions, there is always something else behind their attempts to “do something.” This ulterior motive becomes clear, when you witness the moral person do something. Then, the real motive reveals itself in all its ugly splendor.
Why are they really doing something? They are looking for us to respond. And, when no one responds, they roll up their sleeves and really begin to use force.
The problem is clear. It is our desire. Caught in desire, we can’t perceive the Tao. We can’t understand how the Tao can do nothing, yet through it all things are done. We can’t understand how we, too, could do nothing and leave nothing undone.
We have lost our connection to the Tao. For that connection is only possible, when we are free from desire.
With our connection to the Tao, lost, goodness tries to fill the vacuum. And, when goodness is lost, morality forces its way to the fore. But, once morality is lost, all we have left is ritual. And, ritual, is only the husk left over. There is no power in the husk. So, there is chaos.
This is where we are.
So, what do we do? Funny that you would ask that question, when we have been talking for so very long about the need to do nothing.
What does the Master do? It is time to regain our lost connection with the Tao. Nothing short of that will suffice. That means, we need to start concerning ourselves with the depths and not the surface. Throw away the husk. It is refuse. It is time to start looking to the fruit, and not the flower. Let go of all illusions. Dwell in reality. Let go of desire. Have no will of your own.
Yes, we have lost our connection with the Tao; but the Tao hasn’t gone anywhere. We have only lost our own way. We need to get back to our Source. And that means, looking deep within ourselves; until, we find our own light.
Don’t wait on the powerful to find their way. They are much too ordinary. But, don’t you be ordinary. Be the Master!