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)
Back at the Beginning
I am not going to try bluffing my way through today’s chapter. Practicing eternity is delving right into the mystery of the Tao. Are we ready, yet? Are we free from desire? We have been talking for so long about the manifestations of the Tao, and how they can lead us back to the Source, darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding. But, now that we get to that darkness, are we ready to “see” into it.
Yesterday, we talked about the Tao as our mother, and all of us, beings, as her children. Today, Lao Tzu takes that a step further, and declares to us that “knowing” we have a common mother, and each one of us is her child, is the key to being free from sorrow.
What keeps us from this knowledge? Two things: Closing our minds in judgments, and trafficking in desires. Let’s take these two, one at a time.
Closing our minds in judgments, in other words, having a made-up mind, is what we talked about a few chapters back. The Master’s mind isn’t closed. It is as open as space. Therefore, the master can be good to both those who are good, and those who aren’t. The master can trust people who are worthy of trust, and those who are not. The Master, then, treats all those around her as her own children, just like the Tao does. If our hearts are troubled, if we aren’t free from sorrow, we must practice opening our minds, and keeping them from judging.
But, there is another obstacle to the knowledge of our relationship as children of the Tao. It is what Lao Tzu refers to as “trafficking in desires.” In reality, it is exactly what it sounds like it is: Being led by the senses. “I want, I want, I want…” When we are being led by our senses, there will always be something more we want. We will never know when enough is enough. There never is enough. Our heart will know no peace. It will always be troubled. This is what it is to be a slave to sorrow.
Do you want to experience freedom, true freedom, from sorrow? Would you like to find peace? Of course, you would. And the answer, my friends, is to “see” into the darkness until you find clarity, understanding. This isn’t something that happens in an instant. Sorry to burst that bubble. It takes time. And, practice.
Lao Tzu calls this practicing eternity for a reason. It isn’t going to happen in an instant. You are going to have to be willing to wait for it. If you know how to yield to it, that will make you strong. Understand, though you are surrounded by darkness, you have within you all the light you will ever need. You got that light in the beginning from the source of light, the Tao. Practicing eternity is returning to the Source using your own light.