Be Like The Tao

Those who know don’t talk.
Those who talk don’t know.

Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.

Be like the Tao.
It can’t be approached
or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 56, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu provided us with the example of the newborn to represent the vital power inherent in being in perfect harmony with the Tao. None of us can, nor likely want to, return to being a newborn baby. And this sounds strangely like the story in the Bible of Nicodemus coming to visit Jesus, and asking him what he must do to be saved. Jesus, as you will likely recall, replied that he must be born again. Nicodemus didn’t get it. “How can a man return to his mother’s womb?”

This would seem to be our dilemma. Lao Tzu is wanting us to return to our primal identity. But, the path before us seems impossible. Those who know the answer don’t speak of it. Those that speak of it, don’t know. Oh, come on, now. You have to give us more than that.

Oh, but, he has already said so very much. Stop talking! Let your silence reveal to you what you already know. We gain nothing from blathering on and on. That only serves to further our ignorance. But in our silence, we know as we are known.

No, you aren’t going to physically be born again. That is impossible. Still, you can return to your primal identity. And, return you will. It all begins as you close your mouth. Did Lao Tzu just tell me to sit down and shut up? Yes, I think he did.

But, don’t stop with just your mouth. Block off all your senses. Now that, perhaps, sounds counter-intuitive at first. How am I supposed to learn anything if I am not able to observe with my senses? But this isn’t about acquiring more information. We already know. That is why we are silent. The point of blocking off all our senses is to prevent our inner spirit from being bombarded by all the stimuli around us. Stop the distractions.

You need to blunt your sharpness. What does Lao Tzu mean by that? Have I really been too sharp? Too keen? I was just blathering on, just a little bit ago. Perhaps, this returning to the primal identity will require a certain dullness.

Untie your knots. Okay, yes, knots I understand. We tie knots as markers, placeholders. Just like the proverbial question of what do you do when you are at the end of your rope? You tie a knot, and hold on. But Lao Tzu is turning that advice on its head. He isn’t wanting us to hold on. He is wanting us to let go. Untie those knots. And let go.

Soften your glare. This, I believe, is referring to your countenance. Is it rigid? Hard? You haven’t really let go, until you have let go of all the rigidity and hardness in your body. Soften it. Let it go.

And….plop…. You are grounded, but you aren’t quite there yet. Now, wait for the dust to settle. Wait for it. Wait for it.

This is your primal identity.

What was the point of this little exercise? What are we trying to achieve? What we want is to be like the Tao. And you accomplish that, not by becoming, but by simply being.

It can’t be approached or withdrawn from. It can’t be benefited or harmed. It can’t be honored or brought into disgrace. Look inside yourself, you’ll see it for yourself.

But, it isn’t about becoming anything. It is about being everything. And, nothing. Giving itself up continually. And, always enduring.

A Spirit That Never Grows Old

He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft,
its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about
the union of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.

The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 55, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I have been going through the Tao Te Ching, a chapter at a time, for long enough now, that I am starting to anticipate when particular chapters are coming up. And so it is that we have arrived at the chapter about the erect penis, my affectionate title for today’s chapter. Just think, if you had just kept scrolling down your dashboard, you wouldn’t have even seen it. I wonder whether I should tag this nsfw?

For someone who is 51 years old, I sure do find the most juvenile of things humorous. But, of course, Lao Tzu does have something serious to say in today’s chapter. And, that erect penis merely serves to illustrate the vital power inherent in being in harmony with the Tao.

I mean, come on, you understand that a newborn’s erect penis is not about anything sexual. Newborns don’t know anything about the union of male and female. So, it isn’t anything sexual. But, it does point to what brings about harmony in all things. And, that is the union of male and female, yin and yang.

Can I just say that I understand why it is that Lao Tzu is so enamored with little babies? I understand that there are plenty of libertarians out there that confess themselves to be very anti-baby. I see posts from time to time on my dashboard quoting Murray Rothbard saying all sorts of horrible, if not humorous, things about babies. And I always give them a good chuckle. But Lao Tzu had a much greater appreciation for newborns. And I get that.

I mean, sure, they are pretty much useless things. Totally dependent on someone to take care of them. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t clean up after themselves. And they are constantly soiling themselves, which means they need constant maintenance. Babies suck. I get that too. But, there is so much more to them than just that. Sure, their bones are soft and their muscles are weak. But, just feel how powerful their grip is. And, no, we don’t like it when they scream their head off all day. But consider this, not only can they do it, they can do it and never get hoarse. There is so much to marvel at when considering newborn babies, the fact that their penis can stand erect really only deserved a passing nod.

The reason Lao Tzu finds them so fascinating is because, for him, they perfectly illustrate harmony. Harmony? Yes, harmony. And, I get that too. It is all about being in harmony with the Tao. Which a newborn is. It is all about the primal state. It is our beginning. And, it is our end.

The Master understands this. It is the Source of his power. The power to let things come and go effortlessly, and without desire. Just take a few moments to think about that. It is what the art of living is all about. The power to let things come and go. It requires no effort. In fact, all your efforts only muck up the process. Don’t interfere. Just let them come. Then let them go. And, of course desires need to be let go, as well. It is our desires that keep us blinded to the eternal reality.

I just keep thinking about those newborns. Do newborns have the capacity to have expectations? I think not. All their wailing and crying? Do you think they are expecting someone to come take care of them? I really don’t think so. I witnessed my own newborns crying when they had every possible need and desire met. And yet, they still cried. What do they want? They can’t tell you. They don’t expect any particular result when they cry. They just cry because that is what babies do. Of course, the upside to all of this is that they are also never disappointed.

That is the primal state. A spirit that is never disappointed is a spirit that never grows old.

When The Universe Sings

Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will be genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the Universe
and the Universe will sing.

How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 54, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, we were talking about why people prefer the difficult side paths to the great Way. Lao Tzu was concerned that we be aware when things are out of balance and to stay centered in the Tao. Today, Lao Tzu is talking about staying on the easy path, centered in the great Way. It isn’t nearly as difficult as what we make it out to be. It all begins with taking a really good look inside your own self. What are you going to find there? If you peer into the darkness long enough, I will tell you exactly what you will find. I know, because I have found it too. So, what is it?

That this is true.

Lao Tzu tells us that if we don’t want to be rooted up, we need to be planted in the Tao. That if we don’t want to slip away, we need to embrace the Tao. We need to be find our center inside ourselves. And stay there. Rooted right there. Holding onto the truth that we will find, if only we will peer through the darkness.

And this isn’t something that we can put off until tomorrow. Or beat ourselves up over not doing yesterday. It is a present thing. The Tao is only concerned with this present moment. And that is what you need to make a reality in your own life. Let the Tao be present in your life. You have to do just that much. You have to let it. That is what will make you real.

And you need to let it be present in your family. I know plenty of you have relationship problems in your family. I have seen you post about them. Your focus has been misplaced. No worries. Today is a new day. Let the Tao be present in your family. Once again, that is what you have to do. You have to let it. And, then you will be amazed to find your family flourishing.

This next one is of great concern to us libertarians/anarchists. And I have been just as guilty as everyone else with this one. I can find lots to gripe about when it comes to my own country. But what should I be doing? The cure for what ails us doesn’t change, whether we are talking about individuals, family, or country. It is always the same. Let the Tao be present in your country. Your country can be an example to all countries in the world. That sure beats what I think my country currently is to every other country in the world.

Finally, we can make the whole Universe sing. We do it by letting the Tao be present in the Universe. Now, I know exactly what you are thinking about now. “Look, I think I understand how to let the Tao be present in my own life, but how exactly do I go about letting the Tao be present in my family, my country, the whole Universe?”

I am so glad you asked. We are so insistent that something has to be done. “Surely, there is something that I must do. My family life is crap. My country sucks. And the Universe? Well, if it ever did sing, I doubt I’d ever hear it.”

And so, I am going to remind you what that verb “let” means. It means you aren’t going to interfere. What should you do? Let the Tao be present. Let it. Don’t interfere with it. Don’t try to help it out. Just let it do its thing. In your life first, then your family, then your country, then the whole Universe. And I promise you, when the Universe sings, you’ll hear it. You’ll be singing along.

Are You So Afraid of Imagined Chaos, You Can’t See the Real Chaos Right Before Your Eyes?

The great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.

When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class
is extravagant and irresponsible,
while the poor have nowhere to turn –
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 53, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I read a great article today that was posted by moralanarchism which he posted from lewrockwell.com. It was a piece written by Murray Rothbard about none other than Lao Tzu, who I have said before was the original libertarian. He also referred to another “father” of philosophical Taoism, Chuang Tzu, who Rothbard referred to as the first anarchist. I did reblog the article in its entirety and recommend it highly to all of you.

I do agree with Rothbard’s assessment of the two legendary men. And I need to add to my posting list parables that Chuang Tzu wrote. He took what Lao Tzu wrote about laissez faire to its logical conclusion. I have a handful of philosophers that have shaped my thinking into what it is today. These two are the ancient ones.

Now, to today’s chapter, which of course, ties into that article by Rothbard. Most of my friends really don’t seem to get me. I think my peculiar way of thinking about things they find amusing. And, I, for my part, prefer amusing them to disgusting them. So, it’s all good. Still, I admit that I do find it somewhat of a nuisance that they don’t understand and appreciate anarchism quite in the way that I do.

When I talk to one of my friends in real life, for even the least amount of time about anarchism, I will inevitably get dismissed as promoting chaos. That is, as any of my regular readers already know, about as far from the truth as anyone could ever imagine. Lao Tzu identifies what real chaos actually is in today’s chapter. And I am not ashamed to share with you that chaos is always sanctioned by the State. It isn’t something that is a result of anarchism.

But enough preliminaries, Lao Tzu makes it good and clear: “When rich speculators prosper while farmers lose their land; when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures; when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible, while the poor have nowhere to turn – all this is robbery and chaos.”

And every one of these is State-sanctioned. That so many of my friends and acquaintances in real life ignore or deny that this is exactly the world we are living in today, while at the same time insisting on fearing an imaginary evil if we abolished the State, makes me shake my own head in disbelief and bewilderment. If little ol’ me can see the truth right before our eyes, anyone should be able to. Sometimes, I chalk it up to willful ignorance. Those are in my less charitable moments. Can anyone have so little imagination that they are incapable of seeing what a better world we could have? It is small wonder to me that Lao Tzu chose to retreat from society, getting out while he could, riding out of town on an ass.

Lao Tzu understood my own frustration. He said, “The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths.” Why is that? Why do we insist on making our living so very difficult, when it can and should be so very easy? This is the question with which I am obsessed. Still, I don’t own an ass. So, I don’t expect to be riding out of town in the foreseeable future.

You guys are stuck with me. With me, and all my crazy notions. And, I only have two more things to say to you today about today’s chapter. This is what Lao Tzu wanted to impress on us today. We need to be aware when things are out of balance. All you really should have to do is look around at how the powerful are operating in the world today, to see that things are way out of balance. But I can’t make you see it. I can’t make you aware of it. Oh, I can point at it and say, “Look there, can’t you see?” But you have to have eyes to see with, and ears to hear with. If the illusion has you so blind and so deaf that you can’t discover it for yourself, then my words are not going to matter.

But I wish they did matter. I wish you were aware. Because, then you would center yourself, and stay centered, within the Tao. Why is this so important? Because, I agree with Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. We can’t count on the powerful to straighten up and fly right. But we can take care of our own selves. And, as each one of us does, our whole world will be transformed.

Using My Own Light

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 in 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 in 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.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 52, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

What a journey we have been on together! Talking about the illusion of time and the practice of eternity.
Something that I am just beginning to realize is this idea that I am not becoming One with the Universe. I am One with the Universe. Right now. In this present moment. I don’t need to wait until I become. I am what I am, and what I have always been, and what I will always be.

I told my son today, when after a series of unfortunate events, we have landed on our feet in a much better place, that I am One with the Universe, and that is why. He laughed. His laughter does not bother me. I remember that Lao Tzu expected laughter as a response to his teaching.

Please don’t think me conceited when I say that I am One with the Universe. What was conceited was when I believed I was becoming One with the Universe. Becoming speaks to me of reaching and grasping. Attempting to be something you are not. Being is a much more humble thing. I am merely letting go of all the illusions I have been holding onto. I am simply being what I have always been.

And, of course, I am talking about today’s chapter, where Lao Tzu is talking about tracing back the manifestations of the Tao to find the Tao. What I have come to realize is that we are all children of the Tao. And, once you recognize the children, you find the Mother. This is freedom from sorrow.

I know that my mind has been closed in judgments. I have trafficked in desires. And my heart? It was always troubled. But when I think of all I have learned along this journey, that I can keep my mind from judging. I can be the master of my own mind. That I don’t have to be led by the senses. I can be the master of my own body. My heart has found peace.

There is darkness all around me. That is what my senses reveal to me. I can see it all very clearly. But more importantly, because I am not being led by my senses, I can see through the darkness. I have found my strength because I know how to yield.

What am I saying? I am merely using my own light. And, I have returned to the Source of light.

The practice of eternity. This is what I want for my own dear children. This is what I want for all of you, my friends.

Being Is More Fundamental Than Becoming

Every being in the Universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them,
comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 51, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, we talked about giving ourselves up to whatever the moment brings. And we were saying that being aware and accepting of the reality that our death is imminent was key to freedom. Of course, I understand that the first objection someone may have to this notion is that their own death is not really imminent. Yesterday, I really should have addressed that objection. So, today, I am starting with that.

What I am wanting you to do is to imagine that you have just been informed that your death is imminent. Plenty of people get that “opportunity” in their life. To know that your death is imminent, once you get over the shock, is liberating. You are free to do all those things you never let yourself do; because you now know that your time is limited. That is what Lao Tzu is wanting us to experience. That liberation. “But!” You quickly chime in, “My death really isn’t imminent. What then?”

What then? Well, the point is to live your life as if that was the reality. We live our lives like we have all the time in the world. But that, my friends is living in an illusion. You don’t have all the time in the world. Time, itself, is an illusion we create as we live out our lives. Live out your life, giving yourself up to whatever the moment brings. That is the only way to truly live in reality. In reality, you only have the present moment.

Okay, those three paragraphs really should have been included in yesterday’s commentary; and, I am glad to have that cleared up. The good news, for me, is that it really does tie into today’s chapter; where Lao Tzu says that every being in the Universe is an expression of the Tao.

What does he mean when he says that? How are you and I expressions of the Tao? This is how Lao Tzu explains it for us. Each of us springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, and free. While none of us ever asked to be born. Here we are. We arrive on the scene totally unconscious of what our purpose for being is. We are, nonetheless, perfectly at one with the Tao at that moment. And, we are born free; like some of us will never experience real freedom again, sadly. Whether we will ever return to that primal state of perfect freedom depends on each one of us.

Lao Tzu says that every being in the Universe takes on a physical body and lets circumstances complete them. This is the reality. A lot of the time, we humans, think otherwise. We, maybe, are the one set of beings in the Universe that choose to contend with the notion that we should let circumstances complete us. But they do, whether we are conscious of it, or even willing to acknowledge it.

That letting circumstances complete us is still important to us. Why? Because we will never be complete without them. This is where I am thinking back to yesterday’s chapter, and giving yourself up to whatever the moment brings. That is letting circumstances complete you. Being aware and accepting. When you do that, you are spontaneously honoring the Tao. And that is when we join the chorus of every other being in the Universe.

For, you see, the Tao gives birth to all beings, including us human beings. It is the Tao that gives birth to us. It is the Tao that nourishes and maintains us, as well as, all things. It is the Tao that cares for and comforts us. It is the Tao that protects us and takes us back to itself. But, we largely don’t see “the man behind the curtain..” We sprang into our world unconscious; and, most of us stay in that state until the day we die.

My journey is about enlightenment. I want to know as I am known. And this great Tao is a mystery to me. It creates without possessing. It acts without expecting. It guides without interfering. You and I, we, are expressions of the Tao. We spontaneously honor the Tao by letting circumstances complete us. And, love of the Tao is in our very nature.

I watched a very good video yesterday that a friend of mine on tumblr, Bodhi_O’Shea, suggested I watch, after he posted it. It was all about the illusion of time. And the speaker, Julian Barbour, made a lot of very good points. But, this one really jumped out at me. “Being is, perhaps, more fundamental than becoming.” I want so very much to become. But, that has been a focus that puts off, for another day, what living in the present moment is really all about. Instead of becoming enlightened, I need to practice being enlightened.

Whatever The Moment Brings

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to;
no illusions in his mind,
no resistance in his body.

He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 50, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

In today’s chapter, as seems to always be the case, we are continuing where we left off in the preceding chapter. Yesterday’s starting point was the idea that the Master has no mind of her own. This is what makes it possible for her to be good to, and trusting of, those who, Lao Tzu admitted, were neither good, nor trustworthy. This is the context for today’s chapter, where Lao Tzu begins with, “The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings.”

I said yesterday, that the Master is an extraordinary individual. See the Master so radically free to live in the present moment. Death doesn’t worry him. Not because he is ignorant of the reality of it, but because he is wholly aware of the reality of it. He knows his death is imminent.

It is that knowledge that is his springboard. It enables him to let go of everything he has been holding on to. All the illusions in his mind. All the resistance in his body. Mind and body, this is a transforming moment in the life of the Master. Being fully aware (that is mind) and fully accepting (that is body) of your own death. That, Lao Tzu is telling us, is key to giving yourself up to whatever the present moment brings.

Living in the present moment means not thinking about your actions. Not thinking about your actions? That sounds crazy! Well, hold on there. Let’s make sure we understand exactly what Lao Tzu is meaning by that. When he says, “He doesn’t think about his actions;” he goes on to explain what he means, when he says that his actions flow from the core of his being. He acts intuitively. He doesn’t have to think about them. And, he doesn’t think about them. He doesn’t do. He just is.

When you know you are going to die (really know it, not just give mental assent to it), then, you are free to hold nothing back from life. Now you can really live life, like you have never been free to do it before. Nothing is holding you back. You are free. And, when you die (you knew you were going to), you are ready. Just like you are ready for a good night’s sleep at the end of a good day’s work.

A Mind That Is Truly Free

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.

She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust.

The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 49, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today’s chapter is about being free. “Having no mind of your own” doesn’t mean you don’t have your own thoughts and ideas; it means you are not enslaved by them. You are free to think for yourself; but you are also free to work with other people’s thoughts and ideas, as well. No matter who or what you may encounter along your journey, there are no limits on what you can achieve.

That is what Lao Tzu means when he says that the Master is good to, and trusting of, both people who are good and trustworthy, and those who aren’t. If you limit your own goodness and trust to only those “deserving” of it, that isn’t true goodness and trust.

Perhaps this sounds like crazy talk. We have been conditioned over many years, to see being good and trusting as a reward we give only to those who are worthy. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind.

I have said before that the Master is an extraordinary person. Extraordinary, in the sense that she understands how to be in harmony with the Tao. She is never fooled. Not once. Not twice. Not over and over again. The Master isn’t gullible at all. When she is truly good and trusting, she isn’t being taken advantage of. She is being one with the Tao, in harmony with the way things are.

And that isn’t an easy thing for the majority of us to really understand. Oh, I know how to be gullible. I have been fooled over and over again. Some people simply are not good. Some people simply are not trustworthy. But that doesn’t change the natural, eternal order of the Universe, at all.

When I consider that the Master’s mind is like space, I immediately begin to envision infinitude. No limits. Not restrained by the goodness and trustworthiness, or the lack thereof, of any other being in the Universe.

That, my friends, is hard for me to understand. So I understand why people don’t understand her. Nevertheless, they do look to her and wait. You see, even though we don’t understand, we know there is greatness here.

Notice what Lao Tzu says, and what he does not say, in the sentence, “She treats them like her own children.” He doesn’t say that she treats them LIKE children. I wouldn’t care for that at all. We are adults, after all. No, she treats them LIKE HER OWN children. And, that is a big difference.

For me, my own anarchism has never been anything other than the Golden Rule. I simply treat everyone as I want to be treated. And, whether or not, they treat me well before, or after, doesn‘t matter. I will continue to maintain that that is what the art of living is really all about.

What goes around, does, in fact, come around. Maybe, you won’t always get immediate satisfaction for always being good and trusting as a practice. But I don’t think waiting for others to do the right thing is how the Tao works. The Tao works in you doing the right thing, whether or not anyone else ever does. And, if and when you ever are set free of the mindset that says, “I am just going to wait and see what everyone else does” I think you will find that other people will be waiting to see what you are going to achieve next.

Treat all people as you would your own children. I am not talking about how your parents treated you. I get that some parents were really crappy to their children. But you aren’t like that. You are better than that. Treat all people as you would your own children. Is that really so hard?

This Is More Or Less What It Is All About

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 48, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu warned us about trying too hard in our pursuit of knowledge. We can increase our knowledge at the expense of our understanding. In today’s chapter, he explains better what he is getting at.

What does the pursuit of knowledge require of you? Every day you must add something to your acquired knowledge. You must continually add more and more and more. There isn’t something inherently wrong with pursuing knowledge. We just need to understand that our knowledge will always be in part. There is always more to learn.

The practice of the Tao is a wholly different thing. Instead of adding, we are subtracting. The focus isn’t on more and more. It is on less and less. The journey’s end is to arrive at non-action. I understand that this talk of non-action seems like passivity. But things are not what they seem to be. Lao Tzu is talking about forcing things. It is that, that we are undoing, each and every day, until nothing more is forced. We let go of the need to force things, one day at a time. The end is when nothing is done and nothing is left undone. We can’t just look at the first half of the last sentence and say, “Well, Lao Tzu doesn’t want us to do anything.” We have to look at the last part, too. “Nothing is left undone.”

It isn’t passivity he is talking about. It is not forcing things. It is not interfering with the Tao. If you want to gain true mastery, it isn’t about adding more and more each day to your knowledge. It is about letting things go their own way. It is about not interfering with the natural, eternal order – the way things are.  When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The More You Know, The Less You Understand.

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 47, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Going to keep things brief today. My son was involved in his first car accident, in which he totaled his car. He is okay. And that is really all that matters. But it did throw me for a loop today, and I have just had to go with the flow, even when I found the current of the stream doing all sorts of crazy things today.

So, as I read through today’s chapter, my mind is wandering. It has been hard to focus on what Lao Tzu is saying today. Thankfully, this isn’t the first time that I am reading today’s chapter. That helps. I know that Lao Tzu has been stressing that we need to be content with what we already have. And one of the things that we never seem to have enough of, is knowledge.

Lao Tzu has a completely different take on this. Instead of saying, yes, go out and get more knowledge. He warns us that the more we know, the less we understand. Now, I am going to stop right there and backpedal just a little bit. Let’s make sure we are understanding what Lao Tzu is saying right here. See, understanding is the key. Just having a head full of knowledge is no guarantee that you will understand.

And we take great pains to increase our knowledge, without ever gaining any true understanding. Could it be, we really already know everything we need to know? And maybe, just maybe, we “know” far more than is evidenced by our limited understanding?

I don’t know, this chapter always comes across to me as anti-knowledge. But I think I am misunderstanding what Lao Tzu is getting at.

You don’t have to open your door to open your heart to the world. You don’t have to look out the window to see the essence of the Tao. The Master arrives without leaving. Sees the light without looking. Achieves without doing a thing.

Are we just trying too hard?