The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao.
That is what gives her 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)
Yesterday, we were talking about a casual observer, looking at the way things seem to be. To that casual observer, Lao Tzu appears like he is all alone, and very foolish indeed. Being different makes you stand out. That is the appeal of conforming to what you perceive everybody else is doing. That is why we value what other people value and avoid what others avoid. But Lao Tzu embraced what made him different. He was content to simply be himself and drink from the great Mother’s breasts. Yesterday’s, was a very personal chapter for Lao Tzu; one where he opened himself up to be observed by all. That made it unique. It wasn’t an easy chapter to digest. It isn’t easy to be put under the microscope and judged by others’ standards. Especially, if your observer is only seeing the way things seem to be, and not able to realize the way things actually are.
Today, Lao Tzu points our eyes back at the way things are. It is the ungraspable, dark, and unfathomable Tao that the Master always keeps her mind at one with. That is what makes her radiant. Of course, that leads us to the obvious question of how can this be?
You can’t grasp something that is ungraspable. That goes without saying. So, how can you be one with it? Good question. And here is the answer: Stop trying to grasp it. Give up your grasp on whatever preconceived notions you have. Stop clinging to your own ideas. As you let go of all those things, the Tao remains. It alone remains with you.
There again, how can something so deep and dark make someone radiant? We get messed up here trying to make ourselves radiant. And all we have to work with is something that is deep and dark. It is seemingly impossible to get radiance from this. And, it is. Because we aren’t supposed to be making any of this happen. But there is something we can do. Stop trying. Take that step back. And let the Tao do what it does. Actually, it doesn’t do anything at all. Yet, through it, all things get done. And, the Master is made radiant.
The Tao, so mysterious. Before time and space, these constructs which we use to try and explain the wonders of the Universe, there is the Tao. Always. It is beyond is and is not. That is what makes it so mysterious. Because we can’t seem to get beyond the realm of is and is not, before time and space. This is something we can’t know. We must be content not to know; and instead, to simply be.
Today, he returned to talking about the Master. That took the spotlight off of him. But Lao Tzu wasn’t completely out of the picture. At the conclusion of the chapter, he answers the obvious question that the casual observer still must ask: How do I (Lao Tzu) know this is true? Well, Lao Tzu answers, I look inside myself and see. If you want to see the way things are, instead of the way things seem to be, that is the place you, too, need to be looking. We keep telling ourselves the truth is out there, somewhere. But it isn’t out there, it is inside you.