Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 37
The chapter opens with the recurring theme of wu wei, or non-action.
Tao is ever without acting
Yet without not acting
Generally translated as “Tao does nothing yet nothing is left undone,” this concept causes much confusion when we interpret wu wei as static passivity. Rather, it is a dynamic energy of harmony with the basic order and nature of the universe.
Heroic actions are often manifestations of this energy. Ordinary people who do extraordinary things in a crisis sometimes describe what they did as happening without their thinking about it.
It can also manifest as creative inspiration, and yes, sometimes as stillness when action would be interfering with the natural order.
If princes and kings would abide by it
The ten thousand things will naturally develop or transform
The Tao Te Ching makes many references to ruling. These passages could apply to actual government, but can also be a self-referent, advising us on how to rule or govern ourselves. If we abide by the natural order of Tao, we are awakened as our true selves.
If there is still desire to act
One can return to the nameless simplicity of an uncarved block
Tao is without name. (“The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”) The uncarved block of wood is a perfect metaphor. In its natural simplicity there is unlimited potential, infinite possibilities. Once it is carved, it has a name, a purpose. It becomes this and not that.
Without desire there is tranquility
Everything below heaven is naturally at peace
The link between desire and suffering is part of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. I can see this in my own life. When I struggle by wanting the present moment to be something other than it is, I suffer. I am not tranquil.
Think of the words we use to describe this – out of sync, off my game, not comfortable in my skin, not in tune, out of sorts, churned up. We instinctively know, whether we consciously recognize it, when we are not in harmony with Tao’s natural rhythm.
And when we return to harmony, there is a sigh of relief. Even if there is a lot happening around us, we are at peace inside.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14:27