The Tao (Pt. 1)

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We get caught up, often, in the material part of the world, the part of the world that’s surface-level compared to what some would call “The Truth”. There are many truths for many people in the forms of religions, philosophies, anarchists, e.t.c. I’m not one who could consciously say any belief of anyone else is false, wrong, or ignorant. Everyone handles the struggles of life differently and that constancy will never change.

As for me, I don’t much affiliate with any religious preference, although I many teaching from many different religious texts, and I don’t much claim to be a philosopher with any set belief, although I’m entertained deeply by some western philosophers like Kant and Nietzsche. I’m not one to claim science over God, gods, deities, e.t.c, either.

I’m spiritually connected to the parts of my indigenous culture I’ve been able to learn about. I’m also engrossed heavily with Taoism (known as Daoism, or dào jiào, more correctly). For this article I’ll refer to it as Taoism and “The Tao”, because it’s what I’ve noticed a lot of people are more familiar with.

For those who aren’t aware, Taoism is one philosophy indigenous to China (6th century B.C, Laozi). Some call it a religion, but I’m more inclined to consider it a philosophy; there is no set creator like in Christian or Catholic religions. Although the cosmos and The Tao are the universe and the creation of, neither are worshiped.

First and foremost, let’s consider The Sage, as this understanding encompasses the majority of what the beliefs surround. Essentially, this is someone who is in completely harmony with her surroundings, in their environment as well as in the universe. What does this mean? Briefly, it means this person has gained a wisdom extending beyond intellect and instead enriched with an intuitive understanding of life.

“Rank and Reward make no appeal to her. Disgrace and shame do not deter her. She is not always looking for right and wrong. The world is ruled by letting things take their course”.

–Chang Tzui

We’re all capable of embodying these characteristics because they are all parts of our humanity.

As a way express and embody this, Toaism is birthed. The Tao is considered “the way” the-secret-book-cover-250x357or “the path”. It’s how we perceive and interact with the world around us, and how we interpret that reality influences our path of action. Do you all know that book “The Secret”? This book? They’re putting a really westernized twist on this philosophy of The Tao. 

The most important thing to understand, in my mind’s view, is that all of life, every manifestation of life, is part of this whole that is inseparable, an interconnected organic unity from The Tao itself. Life’s forces are attracted to balance because it’s their nature to do so. Sound familiar? It should; it’s pretty damn similar to the basis of The Law of Inertia, one of Newton’s three law’s of motion–an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by some unbalancing force. Essentially, it’s this “natural tendency” for things to say in the state they are in, unless they’re disturbed.

How can relate this to ourselves and the Universe? Well, we have a couple choices as humans, and one choice is to follow this “Way”, and “go with the flow” as you will, ot we can choose to do the opposite and remain disconnected from life.

As someone with indigenous American roots, this speaks volumes to me. My ancestors lived a life conducive with nature, with the cosmos, not one which ruled the land and claimed the Earth as “ours”. There was violence, there was hierarchy, yes, but with nature they were one and connected to life.

7030828-3d-yin-yangYin-Yang is also important to talk about here. This is the principal of change and harmony. They’re primal energies, not opposites as many think. They’re complimentary to each other: in other words, Yin creates Yang and Yang creates Yin. You can only know pain because there is happiness. You can only know good because there is evil.

This leads to the conclusion that one shouldn’t ever get intertwined in contradictions like right and wrong, to choose one over the other. Instead, we should only recognize their relatedness.

How can we relate this to ourselves? Well, how often do we find ourselves, especially those of you who are my mental health peers, picking at ourselves over parts of us we dislike, or disowning parts of ourselves? That’s fighting against the natural balance of things. In other words, although times are tough now, every force in life, including that which lies within us, strives for balance and we can’t achieve that balance within ourselves by fighting what must happen. If that means a shitty period in life, a horrible mental break down, or manic episode or days upon months upon years of hearing voices or anxiety or depression, than what’s what it means.

It’s not giving in. It’s recognizing that this reality is here, and to try and eradicate it would be like trying to erase a negative current from electricity just because it isn’t positive. Eradication is not balance. That’s like removing your left eye and then wondering why you can’t see out of it anymore.

There are two other areas I would like to speak of, the “Te”, which is the principal of inner nature, and the Wu-Wei principal of “non-doing”, but I’ll save that for a different post. As of now, I’d like to share two translations I found in a book at work, coupled with the Chinese writings of each.

“In the pursuit of learning, everyday something is acquired.

In the pursuit of Tao, everyday something is dropped.

Less and less is done,

until non-action is achieved.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.

It cannot be ruled by interfering.”

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“The beginning of the universe

Is the mother of all things.

Knowing the mother, one also knows the sons.

Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother,

brings freedom from the fear of death.

Keep your mouth shut,

Guard the senses,

And life is ever full.

Open your mouth,

Always be busy,

And life is beyond hope.

Seeing the small is insight,

Yielding to force is strength.

Using the outer light, return to insight

And in this way be saved from harm.

This is learning constancy.”

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