The More You Know

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)

The More You Know…

Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. That is how Lao Tzu ended yesterday’s chapter. And, yesterday, we talked about how fear is used to manipulate us. Lao Tzu called it the greatest of illusions, to fear. Yet, we seem to succumb to it easily.

It would just seem natural to think that knowledge is the answer to the illusion of fear. If we were only to realize it is an illusion, we wouldn’t be so easily manipulated. So, Lao Tzu begins, in today’s chapter, with a couple different types of knowledge.

There is the knowledge which you acquire by looking for it outside of yourself. That is the one with which we are all very familiar. You want to know what is going on outside? You best open your door, or look out your window. But, then Lao Tzu warns, “The more you know, the less you understand.”

That seems a bit anti-knowledge, but I don’t think that is Lao Tzu’s intention. Lao Tzu isn’t anti-knowing. He is anti-presuming we know. Knowing without knowing is another of those fundamental practices of philosophical Taoism. We need to heal ourselves of all wing, is another way he has put it before.

There is a knowledge we can gain without opening our door, or looking out our window. It is an intuitive and spontaneous understanding we gain when we open our hearts to the world, and see the essence of the Tao.

Ah, the essence of the Tao. The way things truly are. Not the way they seem to be, when we go out our doors, or look out our windows; but, the way things truly are.

How does someone who is wise and virtuous achieve this understanding? Well, it isn’t a matter of pursuing it. You can arrive without ever having to leave. You can see the light without any need of looking for it. You can achieve it, without doing a thing.

And, that is where he ends things today. Sometimes I just don’t like where these chapters end. You know there just has to be more; but it ends, abruptly. Well, good news! There is more; and we will go into much more depth about it in tomorrow’s chapter.

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