Friday, 30 December 2011

Verse 12


Too many colours blind the eye.
Too many tones deafen the ear.
Too many flavours dull the taste.
Too many thoughts weaken the mind.
Too many desires wither the heart.

The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is as open as the sky.

One of the central messages of the Tao Te Ching can be summed up in the adage “less is more”, which is especially pertinent in a society that instead lives by the assumption that “more is better”.

Lao Tzu’s words are simple, but his message is timeless and relevant to us all. Isn’t it usually true that the less you have, the more you appreciate? Unless, of course, you’re locked into the acquisition mindset that grips our world, in which case you are likely to feel misery because you’ve bought into the mass illusion that the more things you have, the happier you will be.

Perhaps it would benefit us to find ways to simplify our lives, to reduce our possessions, emptying our cupboards of the nonessentials that we tend to hoard but never use or appreciate. Maybe it would be better to give such items to charity.

In putting Lao Tzu’s words into practise, we might also seek to reduce the amount of extraneous – and often destructive – thoughts that compulsively dart through our minds unchecked. It’s been estimated that we think approximately 60,000 thoughts each day and around 90% of those thoughts are the same ones we had yesterday. In other words, the vast majority of our thoughts are unproductive, useless and repetitive. Sitting even for just ten minutes in meditation can help us to still and steady the mind, as well as reach a deeper state of peace and balance in the rest of our lives.

The final lines of this verse provide more insight into someone that has mastered the Tao: the primary focus of their attention is not outward, but inward. The Master doesn’t lose himself in the world, as most of us tend to.

Instead, he stays rooted within, trusting his inner vision. Inner vision relates to what some call the ‘zen mind’; that still, transcendent place within that lies beyond thought and conceptualisation. It’s the part of us that’s at one with the pure, unconditioned state of consciousness prior to its manifestation in thought, word or action.

This is the point of the Master’s power. And because he knows this to be his true nature, he is not unduly attached to things, but can let them come and go, while retaining a heart that is “as open as the sky.”

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