The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her radiance.
The Tao is ungraspable
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.
The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.
Since before time and space were, the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 21, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Okay, yesterday was a dark and brooding chapter for Lao Tzu. Incredibly personal. In it, he did a lot of muttering to himself about how different he was from everyone else. But he concluded with accepting and celebrating that he was different.
Today, we take off from there; with Lao Tzu leaving off talking about himself, and talking about the Master, instead.
The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao. Now wait just a minute there, Lao Tzu. How can her mind be at one with the Tao. You have already told us before that the Tao is ungraspable. Won’t I have to grasp it to keep my mind at one with it? If I can’t grasp it, this would seem impossible.
But, as usually occurs whenever we are talking about the Tao, I have encountered a paradox. No, I can’t grasp it. But I can let go of, or not cling to, ideas. I know that I do a lot of repeating myself, but we tend to make this a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be. We think we need to do something. When not-doing is the very thing that needs to happen.
The Tao is already inside you. You don’t have to search far and wide for it. You can look inside and find it right there. It is already at work in you. It is the eternal reality behind all the Universe. Giving birth to it and sustaining it. We don’t need to grasp the ungraspable. We simply need to be the masters of our own hearts and minds and not cling to ideas and desires. It isn’t about doing anything. It is about being ourselves. Being at one with the Tao is being at one with yourself. Being in harmony with the Tao is being in harmony with yourself.
Lao Tzu found radiance yesterday in that dark and lonely place he was dwelling. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How did he find radiance there? Well, it had nothing to do with the dark and lonely place. And everything to do with the dark and unfathomable Tao. That radiance came from inside of him. It shone from that dark and unfathomable Tao. It happens because we let it happen.
But, I know that I am making this ungraspable, dark, and unfathomable Tao way too complicated. That is only because I continue to suffer from a need to grasp it. To behold all its intricate details. To plumb its depths. And I am trying way too hard. That I am trying is already too much effort. When Lao Tzu tells us that “since before time and space were, the Tao is”, he is telling us that the Tao isn’t something that can be bound within time and space. All my efforts to make it so are exercises in futility. And, I know it is no good trying to define what” is beyond is and is not.” I know this is true. In spite of ideas to the contrary to which I still find myself clinging. I know it is true because I have seen it inside myself. That is what you have to do. That is as simple as it needs to be. Look inside yourself, and you’ll see it too.