Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thoughts on the Tao Te Ching 37

Poem 37

The Tao never does anything,

yet through it all things are done.

If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.


Nicastro, Italia, luglio, 2007: abiding peace
In common with most Eastern religions and spiritualities, our Taoist poet speaks about being free from all attachments to things of this world.  Only when we are free from all desires, our poet tells us, are we really and truly at peace in our own hearts.  Paradoxically, attachment, the Buddha has argued, is caused because we cannot actually see that we are essentially and truly one with everything in the first place.  When we desire to be attached to this or that, or to "have" or "possess" this or that we are guilty of clinging; in fact Buddhists argue that we are actually being delusional, and our delusions are the deepest causes of our unhappiness.  Again, paradoxically, in non-attachment or detachment there is no actual real separation as one experiences the unity of everything.  In desiring or clinging or in attachment there is actual separation between "me" and the "it" that I desire or cling to. This understanding of attachment and non-attachment is worth meditating upon.

Again and again, our poet returns to amassing examples of polar opposites which is a central
Nicastro, Italia, luglio, 2007: abiding peace
dynamic of Taoist spirituality, if not all siritualities. Another common factor in most spiritual traditions is called the practice of "centering," that of being centered or focussed upon the essence of the Tao.  Such a centering naturally brings us all balance, peace of mind and wholesome equanimity.  Unfortunately, most of the people in the world are not centered in the Tao and hence stability, justice and peace do not reign.  It is the ideal of our poet that all people might be so centered, but alas such is not so. Unfortunately, also, it is their delusional desires, their clinging to people and things, their over-dependence on objects and others that causes all the enmity, disharmony and destruction unleashed upon the world.

Let me finish by inviting the reader to meditate uon the last two l,ines of the above poem:

When there is no desire,

all things are at peace.

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