Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don’t realize the Source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kind-hearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 16, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
No More Riddles
Two chapters ago he used a riddle to tell of it. In yesterday’s chapter he described the appearance of the ancient Masters to tell of it. Today, he tells of it quite plainly. It is where we come from, our common Source.
You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from, the essence of wisdom.
If you don’t realize the Source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. Observe the turmoil of beings. They are all around you, stumbling about, in confusion and sorrow. Watch them; but contemplate their return. Each separate being in the universe returns to our common Source.
How do we return? All of nature shows us, in great splendor. We observe the changing seasons. Spring, and then summer; followed by fall, and then winter. I have flowers growing in my back yard. Some last for only a day before they return to our common Source. The trees bud in the spring, and then bloom. Leaves appear on once vacant branches. Soon, the trees are full of leaves, only to shed them all, to return to being barren, empty, again. Ultimately, returning to the Source is when death comes. But, death isn’t the end we think it is. Oh, it is barren and empty for a time, for a season, only to be renewed again, a rebirth. And, the whole process begins again. We like spring. We like the rebirth. The flurry of activity. I like seeing how my garden grows. But it is returning to the Source, to the barrenness, to the emptiness, which is serenity. There is just nothing quite like standing outside in the winter; snow on the ground, ice in the barren, empty branches. The sound of the falling snow. Silence. Silence. The silence is all that remains. So peaceful. This is serenity.
It is on those cold, winter nights, when the starkness of returning to the Source is most evident to me. I breathe in. I breathe out. It is then I find it the easiest to empty my mind of all thoughts. But, winter isn’t the only time for contemplation. I know, as I go throughout each year, winter is coming. And, I contemplate our return.
So it is, as I sit out in my back yard garden, every day of the year, I watch as beings go, to and fro. So much turmoil, so much confusion, so much sorrow. Do they not realize where they come from? I let these thoughts come, and I let them go. Slowly, ever so slowly, my mind empties. No matter what turmoil is happening in my own life, I let go of it, out here, in my garden. My heart ceases to be troubled. It becomes at peace.
That is the best explanation I can give of how I come to realize where I come from. Not how I came, but how I come. I keep returning to our common Source. It is a kind of death. It is a death to seeing my self as self. Instead, I see the world as self. We all have a common Source.
And, I am transformed. Each, and every day. I am renewed. Reborn. I become tolerant. Disinterested. Amused. Kind-hearted as a grandmother. Dignified as a king. Please don’t think I am boasting of any special talent, here. I have no reasons to pat myself on the back. I don’t try to be any of these things. It all happens naturally, once I stop resisting. I simply immerse myself in the wonder of the Tao. And, I can deal with whatever life brings me. I understand, a little more each day, what death means. I experience it, a little, each day. So, I am ready.