If you over-esteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion in those
who think that they know.
and everything will fall into place.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 3, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
How Everything Falls Into Place
Having introduced us to the eternal reality, which Lao Tzu names the Tao, and telling us that the mystery of the eternal reality isn’t something we can realize until we are free from desire, we set out on our journey toward freedom. Lao Tzu told us that even though we are caught in desire, we can still see the manifestations of the Tao; and, because both the mystery and the manifestations arise from the same source, we can trace these manifestations, back to the source. That, my friends, is the gateway to all understanding.
So, we took our first steps, yesterday. Lao Tzu identified the manifestations of the Tao as all particular things; and, he said that naming is their origin. So, we began talking of how yin and yang create each other, support each other, define each other, depend on each other, and follow each other. The mystery of yin and yang is beyond us, right now. But their manifestations, being and non-being, difficult and easy, long and short, high and low, before and after, are something we can see, and understand.
As we come to understand how yin and yang complement each other, how they always work together to bring about balance, we will find ourselves getting closer to our goal, the Source. And, we will have the Master all along our journey, to show us the way.
Yesterday, we learned a lot from this wise and virtuous person. We learned about the power of letting things come and go. And we learned the importance of letting go of expectations.
Today, Lao Tzu opens the chapter with another lesson in yin and yang. Since yin and yang always bring about balance, if we want to be in harmony with the Tao, we must understand the importance of moderation in all things. Excess always results in deficiency. If you over-esteem great men, the people become powerless. If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal.
Notice, Lao Tzu is talking to you. Lao Tzu is writing to would-be leaders, and he spotted you, right from the start. So it is, that he shows us how a wise and virtuous person leads.
How do they do it? He already told us they teach without saying anything. Now, he shows us how they work with, rather than against, yin and yang.
Yin is emptying and weakening. Yang is filling and toughening. They accompany each other; and they work on us in the core of our being. Emptying people’s minds, weakening their ambition. Our thoughts, and our desires, are being dealt with here. As our minds empty, what we are in the core of our being gets filled. As our ambition weakens, what we are in the core of our being gets toughened.
This wise and virtuous person helps us to lose everything we think we know, and let go of everything we desire. And, those who resist, who won’t let go of what they think they know, can expect confusion to be the result.
These are the lessons we will be talking about throughout our journey to freedom. If you don’t want to be confused, practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.
Not-doing isn’t doing nothing, just sitting idly, and getting nothing done. Not-doing is doing without doing. It is the realization that all things do get done, without our interference, without the need to intervene in places we have no business. It is working with, rather than against, nature. Let things come and go without interfering. Don’t try to control outcomes. Don’t use force to get your own way. Just take a step back, and observe the flow of the universe, how things come and go, naturally. Let events take their own course; but this doesn’t mean you can’t shape them as they come. You shape them as you become better acquainted with how things work in our universe. You realize your connection with all beings in the universe; then, you can effortlessly work with them.
We will learn much more about this practice of Wei Wu Wei. It is how spontaneous order arises in our universe. In other words, it is the practice of the Tao. Order emerges out of chaos. Understanding will come spontaneously, and intuitively. And, your actions will come to flow naturally, intuitively and spontaneously. Don’t try to empty your mind. Thoughts will come, let them; thoughts will go, let them, don’t hold on to them. And, don’t try to weaken your ambition or toughen your resolve. Let the Tao do its work in you, as it flows through you. Everything will fall into place.