The Tao is the center of the Universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Tao.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 62, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Once You Realize This, You’ll Love It, Too
In yesterday’s chapter, I laid out what we should demand of our would-be leaders. We should demand that they be humble. We should demand that they surround themselves with advisers who will point out their faults; who will help them to realize when they have made a mistake, help them to admit it, and help them to correct it. We should demand that they center our country in the Tao. But, given the crop of would-be leaders we have before us, that would seem to be a pretty tall order.
Still, I am not giving up, just yet.
It is, of course, election season, here in the US. And, Lao Tzu has some sage advice, not just for would-be leaders, but for all of us, when we have the opportunity to choose a new leader: Don’t offer to help them with your wealth or expertise. Instead, offer to teach them about the Tao. Consider today’s chapter commentary, my reaching out to those who would lead us, with teaching about the Tao.
The Tao is the center of the Universe. I like how Robert Brookes puts it in his own interpretation: “The Tao is the source of the way things flow.” For those who are good, this Source is a treasure. And, for those who are bad, it is a refuge. Honors can be bought, and respect can be won, but the Tao? It is beyond all value. Here, I imagine some one trying to negotiate with a mafia figure, and being told, “Forget about it.” Your wealth, your expertise, will never cut it.
If that sounds just a bit discouraging, good. I think that is exactly the point. Lao Tzu doesn’t want us trusting what we think we know, or what we can do. He wants us to find our center in the Tao. It isn’t something we can achieve. But, and here is the really good news, it isn’t something we have to achieve. Remember what he said earlier. For those who are good, it is a treasure. And, for those who aren’t, it is a refuge. You don’t have to earn it. You couldn’t possibly earn it, if you had to.
And, this is why those who were wise and virtuous, in ancient times, esteemed it so. When you are one with the Tao, when you seek you find; and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
I used to read that and say to myself, “But how do I become one with the Tao?” And, once again, that is a misunderstanding of the way things flow in our universe. It isn’t about what we know, or what we do. It is about who, or what, we are. Every being in the Universe is already one with the Tao. It is our source for everything. If you can realize this, you will readily see why everybody loves it. And, you will love it, too.