Bob Schwartz

Tag: Lao Tzu

The Tao of No Place Like Home

These words from Verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching could come from the Wizard of Oz:

let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
but live out their lives
without making a visit

In other words, there is no place like home.

The force of exploration, discovery and progress is strong with us. This post, for example, is drafted on an amazing digital device, edited on another amazing digital device, and published on an amazing global network. Moving house and traveling are easier and more convenient than ever. So many modern tools. So big a world.

Verse 80 proposes a different view. Labor-saving tools not used. Boats and carts not ridden. Knots used to communicate (a pre-writing system). Pleased and content with clothing and goods. You may think that this is regress, the opposite of progress. But is it? In your heart, is that what you believe?

Imagine a small state with a small population
let there be labor-saving tools
that aren’t used
let people consider death
and not move far
let there be boats and carts
but no reason to ride them
let there be armor and weapons
but no reason to employ them
let people return to the use of knots
and be satisfied with their food
and pleased with their clothing
and content with their homes
and happy with their customs
let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
but live out their lives
without making a visit

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching, translated by Red Pine

 

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching

Taoteching

“The world is a spiritual thing.”

Taoteching, Chapter 29

Trying to govern the world with force
I see this not succeeding
the world is a spiritual thing
it can’t be forced
to force it is to harm it
to control it is to lose it
sometimes things lead
sometimes they follow
sometimes they blow hot
sometimes they blow cold
sometimes they expand
sometimes they collapse
sages therefore avoid extremes
avoid extravagance
avoid excess

Reading and studying the little (81 tiny chapters) and infinite pool of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching is as valuable as knowing any text from any tradition. Of the dozens of translations into English, all different and many worthy, the one by Red Pine—the translator and scholar Bill Porter—is the place to visit and rest awake. Along with his translation, he includes excerpts from 2,000 years of commentaries.

Dim Dusty Mirror

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (New Revised Standard Version)

Can you keep your crescent soul from wandering
can you make your breath as soft as a baby’s
can you wipe your dark mirror free of dust
can you serve and govern without effort
can you be the female at Heaven’s Gate
can you light the world without knowledge
can you give birth and nurture
but give birth without possessing
raise without controlling
this is Dark Virtue
Verse 10, Lao-tzu’s Taoteching
Translated by Red Pine

“Our spirit dwells in our eyes. When the eyes see something, the spirit chases it. When we close our eyes and look within, everything is dark. But within the dark, we still see something. There is still dust. Only by putting an end to delusions can we get rid of the dust.”
Commentary on Verse 10 by Wu Ch’eng (1249–1333)