Monday, April 24, 2017
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 22
Surrender becomes perfection
If the first line of this chapter is the only one you read, it is enough. If it’s the only line you read in the entire Tao Te Ching, it is enough.
Three words...so simple. But within them is the path to awakening, the key to liberation, the secret of the vast power of the universe that manifests through all of us when we release our resistance. As Adyashanti says, “Surrender is the name of the spiritual game.”
What does it mean to surrender? In one sense, it means to not meet force with force. In Star Trek Next Generation, there was a weapon that vaporized all who sought to defeat the person holding it. Captain Picard figured out that the weapon was powered by the aggressive thoughts of the attackers. As the attackers became more aggressive, the power of the weapon increased proportionately. When faced with the person holding the weapon, he instructed his people to erase all thoughts of anger and aggression from their minds. When they did so, the weapon was useless, and the holder easily defeated.
It also means to cease struggling. Buddhism teaches us that our suffering comes from our struggle against reality, from wanting things to be other than what they are. Think of all the bad guys in the Tarzan movies (yes, I’m that old!) who flailed in the quicksand, hastening their demise. Yes, reality is sometimes painful, but our struggle against reality increases our suffering (described as the “suffering of suffering”), and depletes the energy we need to respond effectively and appropriately to whatever is happening.
This does not mean being a doormat and not responding to our world with courage and integrity. On the contrary, when we follow this principle, we find that we are stronger and better able to “do the right thing.”
Jesus understood this, as reflected in the Sermon on the Mount. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit and the meek inherit the earth. These are not teachings of weakness and defeat; they are teachings of triumph and power. Not our personal, individual ego power, but the infinite power of the divine.
The chapter continues in this pattern of one quality “becoming” another, and describes the sage as embodying this principle of not using force, thus avoiding conflict. If there is no conflict, there is no failure.
Remember the story of the warrior brandishing his sword and threatening a monk seated serenely before him. “Why aren’t you afraid?” he roars. “Don’t you know I can run you through without blinking an eye?” “Don’t you know,” the monk quietly replies, “that I can be run through without blinking an eye?” Recognizing true power, the warrior dropped his sword and became the monk’s disciple.
At the end, the chapter circles back to the first line.
Surrender becomes perfection
Are these empty words?
Truly, perfection restores our true nature
When we are not pitting force against force, we allow the energy of creation to move through us. Like a river, it washes around and over everything in its path to return to its source. Indeed, these are not empty words, but a map leading us to our heart’s treasure. Home.
Related post: An earlier post focused on a slightly different translation of the first line. Click here to read Yield and Overcome.