Monday, 2 January 2012

Verse 20


Stop thinking and your problems will end.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
and fear what others fear?
How ridiculous!

In spring, some go to the park and climb the terrace,
but I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless,
like a newborn baby before it has learned to smile.
Other people have more than they need,
I alone possess nothing.
Mine is indeed the mind of an ignoramus
in its unadulterated simplicity.
I am but a guest in this world.
While others rush about to get things done,
I accept what is offered.
I alone seem foolish,
earning little, spending less.

Others strive for fame,
I avoid the limelight.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
Indeed, I seem like an idiot;
no mind, no worries.

I drift like a wave on the ocean.
I blow as aimless as the wind.

All men settle down into their grooves;
I alone am stubborn and remain outside.
But wherein I am most different from others is
in knowing to take sustenance from the great Mother.

For some people, this is not only the longest verse of the Tao Te Ching so far, but perhaps also the most challenging. Lao Tzu paints a portrait of life as a self-realised being and much of what he says runs counter to the ethos of our culture.

Instead of being filled with thoughts, the mind of the Master is empty and because of this, he has no worries. He is but a visitor in this world. Instead of rushing about trying to direct and control the events of his life, always with an eye to achieving and acquiring, he instead blows like the breeze, aimless, free and unencumbered.

Instead of constantly striving, he accepts whatever comes his way. Instead of deriving his sustenance from the things of this world, he takes his nourishment from the great Mother. This is the way of the Tao. Many people would likely be horrified at such a way of life and indeed, as Lao Tzu states, to most he would seem like an idiot. But one of the great secrets of life is that liberation and lasting peace can never come from anything external – they can only come from within.

Our continued attempts to control life and re-shape it into what we think it should be is what ultimately what keeps us locked into the illusion, running around like a hamster in a wheel.

The Master realises that we need do very little because, ultimately we’re being done by life itself. Surrendering to this realisation, we can allow ourselves to live in accord with the Tao and thus know true freedom.

I was once struck by the title of a Buddhist book which succinctly sums up what I believe is the message of this verse. It was called “Being no one, going nowhere”.

Perhaps the being alone is sufficient.

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