The Tao is nameless and unchanging.
Although it appears insignificant,
nothing in the world can contain it.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.
If powerful men and women
could remain centred in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
not by official decree,
but by their own goodness.
Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.
There are already enough names;
know when to stop.
When you have names and forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.
All things end in the Tao
just as the small streams and the largest rivers
flow through valleys to the sea.
This verse again points us to the Tao, the elusive yet all-pervasive, unnameable source of all that is. When we lose touch with our source, conflict, violence, confusion and despair arise. Sadly, most people live their lives completely unaware of their source and so are like fish washed upon the shore, struggling and distressed, desperately gasping for breath. They look for their ‘fix’ in all the wrong places; empty consumerism, deadening media and hollow social interactions.
If people could remain centred in the Tao, they would be in harmony with everything and we could quite conceivably transform our world into a paradise. If enough people began living in alignment with the Tao, then it is possible we could reach a critical mass, enabling this mode of being to spread outward like a wave, inspiring and influencing people all across the world and in every walk of life.
Embodying that which is highest and best within us enables others to do likewise. We will all eventually return to the Tao. This is an inevitability. But why wait until we’ve shed the physical body? Why not return to the Tao now, while we are still alive, and witness how doing so can transform everything; ourselves, our lives, and the world itself.
Lao Tzu also suggests that we learn to stop naming things. The world is whole; there are no divisions. The mind by its very nature seeks to divide things and creates separation where none truly exists. We plaster names on things and then believe that we know the thing. In truth, we’ve just reduced reality to an assortment of words and labels and are experiencing life through a screen of conceptualisation.
Practise living in a non-verbal world. Go for a walk and instead of mentally labelling everything (“sky”, “tree”, “flower”, “dog”) just witness things as they are. Perceive sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells. Be open, alive and as attentive as if this were your first day upon the earth. This is a hugely effective and enjoyable exercise that enables us to break free of deadening conceptualisation, bringing us back in touch with life.