Saturday, April 13, 2019
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 58
This chapter highlights the folly of thinking that we know what’s good or bad, or that we can control things outside ourselves. It begins with an observation about government.
When government is unobtrusive
People are wholesome and pure
When government is oppressive
People are restless and contentious
The Tao Te Ching’s passages on government are consistent with the view that the “government is best that governs least,” or with the concept of a “servant leader.” This is challenging to apply to today’s world when the more traditional social structures of villages and small communities are missing in much of the developed world. So I prefer to consider these “government” passages in relation to our own individual self-government. Then the message of the text is easier to discern and apply.
When I am overly harsh with self-criticism, or overly strict with rigid rules, I lose my connection with the divine energy that moves all around me and through me. If instead, I remain fluid and in alignment with this energy, then, to borrow from Buddhist terminology, “right action” naturally and effortlessly occurs.
Our loss of alignment often results from judgment, and attachment or aversion. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Good fortune arises from the ashes of misfortune
Misery is held in the folds of joy’s robes
The characters for good fortune/joy 福 and misfortune/misery 祸 have the same radical, or root, meaning to reveal, as in a sacred revelation. This suggests that good fortune and misery are both rooted in holy origin, both part of the divine dance of life.
The chapter goes on to explain that when we impose our rigid standards of judgment (like an oppressive government) on our experience, we become confused and misguided. However, when we drop our judgments of good and bad, our attachment to pleasure and our aversion to pain, we can see everything as it is. We take our place in the divine dance.
Everything shares the same breath. But the movement of the breath comes and goes. It ends only to begin again. ~Wang P’ang