When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.
Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest art seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.
The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.
|Scene on the Garovogue River, summer 2006|
|Scene from the Garavogue River, Sligo, Summer 2006|
To achieve the status of the "superior man" is no mean feat and requires a lot of practice and discipline. So few of us are able to so "embody the Tao." To embody the Tao equates with what the Buddhists term "enlightenment." It would be nothing short of hubris to insist that such a state is achievable with ease and facility. This is the import of stanza one. Stanza two is the one that abounds in well balanced polar images: light vs dark; forward vs back; strong vs weak; pure vs tarnished; permanence vs change; clarity vs obscurity; sophistication vs simplicity; wisdom vs stupidity; love vs indifference and being lost vs being found.
In conclusion, I invite the reader to read the above poem reflectively and to let whatever word or phrase suggests itself become a mantra for a short meditation.