Friday, January 11, 2019
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 54
This chapter beautifully expresses the nature of Te (the Te from the title Tao Te Ching) in every aspect of the universe.
Good rooting cannot be uprooted
Good holding cannot be taken away
Te is loosely translated as Virtue, but it does not mean virtue in the sense of morality or righteous behavior. We might think of it as the natural expression of Tao in the manifested universe. It is the form of the formless, the creation arising from the origin of creation.
The character for Te 德 offers insight. The left part of the character is the radical (or root) indicating forward movement. On the right side of the character, the cross on the top is the number 10, and it is placed above a horizontal rectangle meaning eyes. The lower part of the right side is the character for heart. So one way to think of the character is “moving forward with the powerful vision (10 eyes) of the heart” or “following the guidance of our inner sight.”
Te is naturally rooted and held in the limitless potential of its source, Tao, and therefore cannot be uprooted or taken away. When we are in alignment with Te, from the individual to all of creation, everything moves together in harmony.
The next section outlines the effect of alignment on these different levels.
When we practice or cultivate this alignment...
In the self, Te becomes genuine
In the family, Te becomes overflowing
In the community, Te becomes everlasting
In the nation, Te becomes abundant
In the universe, Te becomes omnipresent
The Tao Te Ching describes an approach to life that is contrary to the way many of us operate. We often move from the outside and the larger to the inside and the smaller. Rules are made by representatives theoretically for the good of society and we are obligated to follow them, subject to external enforcement. As a lawyer, I’m well aware of the massive, complicated, seemingly unending volumes of laws and regulations that govern so many aspects of our lives.
However, when we begin with the individual, internally aligned with the unhindered flow of Tao, Te naturally manifests through us. As we move outward in expanding circles, the family, the community, and so on, all become aligned in harmony.
In the absence of such alignment, we fall back on the next best thing, from morality to law to empty ritual, as described in Chapter 38.
It seems overwhelming when we seek to change world, but we can begin not by changing ourselves, but by allowing our true nature to reveal itself. In other words, we don’t need to change who we are; we need to be who we are. We do this first by seeing everything as it is. The end of the chapter counsels us to see with our inner sight all levels of the manifested universe.
I thus know everything under heaven as it truly is