Monday, 2 January 2012

Verse 18


When the greatness of the Tao is present,
action arises from one’s own heart.
When the greatness of the Tao is absent,
action comes from the rules
of “kindness and justice”.
If you need rules to be kind and just,
this is a sure sign that virtue is absent.
When intellectualism arises,
hypocrisy is close behind.

When kinship falls into discord,
piety and rites of devotion arise.
When there is strife in the family,
people talk of “brotherly love”.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.

The laws and rules of society are designed to make people “good citizens”, to enforce “kindness and justice”. However, the need to impose such rules creates an artificiality and superficiality. Unless one can give from the heart rather than because of expectation and written or unwritten rules, it is better not to give at all.

If kindness and goodness have to be forced and manufactured, then their lack of authenticity is more corrosive than it is beneficial. If one could simply return to the Source, to live from the Tao, then there would be no need for rules, regulations and measures of expectation.

Lao Tzu simply but powerfully points out that when alignment with the Tao is absent, society will be overloaded with rules and regulations to try and make the people “good”. Intellectualisation breeds hypocrisy, lack of kinship creates a false sense of piety and empty devotional rites, as in the case of most religions. There will be an emphasis on “blood is thicker than water” and much talk of patriotism and “us versus them”.

There are two ways to view the world: though the eyes of mind and ego or through the eyes of love. Ego sees only separation and in order to build itself up, it grasps hold of notions of family and nationality to try and solidify its tenuous sense of identity. This creates more separation, division, hostility and a dangerous sense of false pride.

Looking at the world through the eyes of love we can relate to life in an altogether less separative manner. We no longer cling to false division, but are free to view all of life as it truly is: inextricably interconnected.

“Countries” are a man-made construct and so, to the Master, patriotism is seen as foolish and dangerously divisive. When we become aware of the oneness of all life, we can extend our love and affection beyond the boundaries of immediate family and can come to see everyone as our brothers and sisters. Our little worlds – and hearts – suddenly expand beyond all previous boundaries, when we realise that love is the highest truth of what we are.

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