The Tao: Living in harmony with the way things are

There is book called A Thousand Names For Joy written by Byron Katie. Each section of the book starts with a sentence from the Tao Te Ching followed by her reflections. Here each of these sentences is followed by my reflection. You can do yours as well and share it.

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

You can’t express reality in words. You limit it that way. You squeeze it into nouns and verbs and adjectives and the instant-by-instant flow is cut off. The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao, because trying to tell it brings it into time. It’s stopped in time by the very attempt to name it. Once anything is named, it’s no longer eternal. “Eternal” means free, without limit, without a place in time or space, lived without obstacle.

When people see some things as good, other things become bad.

When they believe their thoughts, people divide reality into opposites. They think that only certain things are beautiful. But to a clear mind, everything in the world is beautiful in its own way.

Practice non-doing, and everything will fall into  place.

The mind is always looking for value. When it projects quality away from itself, it robs itself of its own value. It starts travelling out of itself to find what it thinks it lacks, and its travels are endless, and it can never find its home. “Being” is doing one thing at a time, without a past or a future. The attitude is one of don’t-know, can’t-know, no-need-to-know, not-possible-to-know, nothing-to know. There is weightlessness and lightness of heart in such a life. We notice where we are and who we are without stressful thoughts. The reality of life unfolds without desire. There is anger, frustration or sadness because we are in war with the reality of life. Even when we get what we want, we want it to last, and it doesn’t, it can’t. And because life is projected, and the mind is full of confusion, there is no peace. But when you allow life to flow like water, you become that water. And you watch life lived to the ultimate, always giving you more than you need.

It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.

We can call the Tao “reality”. We can also call it “mind”.  Mind is a natural resource that never comes to an end. When it no longer believes its thoughts, it has entered the dimension of the unlimited. It’s like a bottomless well: you can always draw from it and it will give you the water of life. Because it is completely open and sees that nothing is true, it is filled with more possibilities that we can ever imagine.

The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.

The darkness, the void, the space that the mind is terrified to enter, is the beginning of all life. It’s the womb of being. Fall in love with it, and when you do, it will immediately be taken from you, as you witness the birth of light. The Tao doesn’t take sides. It embraces both the darkness and the light. They are equal. Question your thinking and your beliefs and you will find that all suffering is mental. Then yu will fall in love with reality, and reality includes everything – both sides of everything.

Empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.

The Mind gives rise to infinite worlds- of this and that, loss and gain, happiness and sorrow, good and bad. It is complete from the beginning, yet gives to infinite phenomena that come and go. If you can stay in the emptiness, you can watch the phenomena like a movie. If you don’t you think the movies are real, then you get caught up in all the drama.

It was never born; thus it can never die.

In Truth, we always are. We always have existed, exist now and will exist in the future. The forms may differ, be born and die, but the essence will never die. It is something like Time. Time always exists. Minutes, hours, days, years, decades, centuries, eons may come and go but Time will always exist. When you understand that, you become detached and attentive to each moment. You live each moment as it comes, accept it  when something comes and leave it when something goes. You are always peaceful.

The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain.

The quality of water is that it flows wherever there is no resistance. It will seep through the mud, flow down the slope and if put in a basin will fill it up. It does not try to go against the resistance. In a similar way, the clear mind accepts life as it comes-joy or sorrow, gain or loss, birth or death. And in doing so, it understands Life, Itself and the Divine. It becomes Life and the Divine.

Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.

We all have to work even if we do not want to. But the problem is that we work and want a certain result. That results in joy and sorrow, gain and loss. But if we work without being attached to the result, then we shall always remain serene, no matter what happens. Because we know that up and down is natural. And our happiness and peace does not depend on making money or people praising us. Because nothing outside us can give us what we are really looking for.

Can you coax your mind from its wandering, and keep to the original oneness?

Swami Vivekananda once defined the individual soul as a circle with the centre at one point and circumference nowhere and God as a circle with centre at every point and circumference no where. Obviously we are not even fully aware of the centre of ourselves at all times. That is the first step. That itself is the work of many lifetimes for most of us. Once that happens we are self-realised but is that enough? I do not know but sages suggest that we have to go further and expand the centre till it becomes everywhere. Then we become God. Or are we God all the time but have not realised it. No matter what the Truth is, we will know it when the time comes. For the moment, let us not sway from the center and be at the center and not wander with our thoughts and feelings. Then we shall realise some truth of what Oneness really means. Words are empty in this regard.

We work with being, but non-being is what we use.

Sri Aurobindo said that All Life is Yoga. Everything is grist for the mill. The consciousness, the aspiration we work with is that of the Divine. Whatever comes our way we work with that attitude, in the present moment, without any expectation of a particular result leaving everything to the Divine. We do not have any favourites nor do we oppose. We synthesise, we remove what is unnecessary and the result is pure gold.

The Master observes the world, but trusts his inner vision.

Two birds that are always together, cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats fruits of various tastes,and the other looks on without eating. Thus it is said in the Mundaka Upanishad. Similarly the Master just watches rather than getting caught up in all the drama. He sees the movie and realises at every moment that it is a movie. He knows that pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, victory and defeat all come and go. He watched them come and watches them go. He does not get involved as he knows the nature of things is to come and go and nothing is for ever. He enjoys the beautiful flower when it is there and he also enjoys the withering of the same flower as that is the real reality and he never fights reality.

Love the world as your self; then you can care for all things.

Often, we want to change ourselves, change the other person, change the world. But can we really do that? Can we change who we really are in essence? Who we are is who we are? But it is possible that we think of ourselves as something different from who we really are and that is the cause of all the problems. To do that, a way is to do The Work. So if you have a thought that stresses you or makes you feel unhappy or disturbed, try doing The Work. It may just be the answer to see the world as your self and when you do that you can really care.

Seamless, unnameable, it returns to the world of nothing.

Who are we? The body. What happens when the body dies, as it has always done until now. The mind. What happens to the mind when we pass away. Does it pass away or does it exist. The emotions. What happens to them when the body dies. The soul. What is the soul? Where is it? We know where our body is, but where is your mind, your emotions, your soul. We can repeat what some ancient sacred text says about these things and that is okay as that is part of the process of learning and evolving. But the Master, what is his understanding? Is it that everything is Nothing or everything is the Divine, the unnameable, the seamless. Some journeys have to be taken alone and cannot be talked of to others.

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

Reality is what is. We often fight reality. That leads to a lot of mud being stirred and our whole being is muddled and clear. If we accept what is, and realise that whatever happens is the best thing that can happen and do what needs to be done, then you will do the right action. But pray to the Divine to spare you from the desire for love, appreciation or approval because that leads to the water getting muddy in the first place.

Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.

We often are not immersed in the wonder of the Tao. The reason is we do not question our thoughts like The Work does. We do not need to empty our thoughts, because that is not needed.  The original thought is that of I, and when you have that thought that I needs to be preserved, then you take on the role of the Divine and try to control things, which you really can’t. But if you look at it, I is just a concept, it may be or may not be true. But we see so many I’s coming and going and that is the nature of the world. If we can let everything come and go and not hold on to them, then we can live in the wonder of the Tao. Then you can deal with whatever life brings you. When death comes, you just go with it. That is all.

The Master doesnt talk, she acts. When her work is done, people say: “Amazing: we did it all, all by ourselves!”

The Master cannot set you free. You have to set yourself free. The Master can guide you through The Work, but you have to do it. And as you do it, unreality crumbles and what is true shines through. And what is true is that we are brilliant, infinite and free. The Master does it in such a way that you realise that you set yourself free.

When the great Tao is forgotten, goodness and piety appear.

Imagine yourself in a place with no directions, no time, no people, just you and the world. As you walk, beautiful things come and go, ugly things come and go. But because you have no preconceptions you view them all the same. You just live in the experience in that moment. But if you are in a place with directions, with time, with people and things which are labelled good or bad, your experience is different. It is a bit more structured but you lose the beautiful chaos. But then you have forgotten the great Tao. You now remember what is religious and good and what is irreligious and bad.

Throw away holiness and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times happier.

Holiness, wisdom, sin are all concepts. Throw them away. The only thing that matters is confusion or ignorance. Remember this:

Everyone is doing his job. Nobody is more valuable than another. The things in the world that we think are terrible are actually great teachers. There is no mistake, and there is nothing lacking. We are always going to get what we need, not what we think we need. then we come to see that what we need is not only what we have, it is what we want. Then we come to want what only is. That way, we always succeed, whatever happens.

I alone possess nothing

It is not possible to have a problem without believing a prior thought. This simple truth is the beginning of peace. In a similar vein, even in daily life, nothing is yours. It comes to you when you need it and it goes away from you when you do not need it.. If you can accept that, then our lives would be very peaceful. If you fight these truths, then there is war.

The Master keeps his mind always at one with the Tao.

The Master accepts what happens. He does not think that a particular thing should happen. Whatever happens is what is best. When we think that a particular thing should happen or shouldn’t happen, then we are paving the way for unhappiness. But when we surrender to what is, everything becomes simple and peaceful.

If you want to become full, let yourself be empty.

The map is not the territory. When we have a certain opinion about someone or something, it is just a map. It is not the real thing, the territory. We can never know another thing or person in its reality, what we can know is only our story about it or them. So if we really want to know the true nature of things, we have to to empty ourselves of all opinions and judgments. Then we have a chance to peep at the Truth.

Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses, and everything will fall into place.

Open yourself to what is, then do what your best intentions ask you to do, then you will be alright. And when you do anything, so not do it with the expectation of a particular result. Just give, like the sun and the earth. Then you will be peaceful and alright.

He who defines himself can’t know who he really is.

Who you are is undefinable because you are Everything and Nothing. When we define ourself as a man, a child, a father, a doctor we limit ourselves and therefore cannot know ourselves in full. So don’t define yourself as you are That.

There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born.

Is this what is called the Divine? Like we do not really know how is it like to be a fish in the depths of the Pacific ocean, such things cannot be explained in words to the mind. The being has to know it by experience

The Master travels all day without leaving home. However splendid the views, she stays serenely in herself.

The master does not get identified with the cinema on the screen. However splendid the scenes are, he stays within his being as he watches the play run on…

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job? If you don’t understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are. It is the great secret.

This means that we are all interdependent. The writer and the reader, the father and the child, the husband and wife, the master and teacher…each cannot exist without another…so all our roles in life are interdependent. We do not exist in isolation…which means we exist with others… and since the world always exists, we always exist in some form or the other.

Know the male, yet keep to the female: receive the world in your arms.

The male gives the sperm, but it is the female who uses that sperm to grow a beautiful baby. So who really creates: the male or the female. You need both. Similarly you need to be able to give the power to create as well as create, give the power to receive as well as receive… and so on…

The world is sacred. It can’t be improved. If you tamper with it, you will ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you will lose it.

The world is what it is. It changes but you cannot control the changes to improve it. When you try to change it to the way you want it to be rather than become one with its soul, you ruin the world and you lose the world.

She understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.

The thing to remember is that nothing is under your control, except your ability to question your thinking, whatever it may be you are thinking. Then you can see if the way you are thinking leads to you being more peaceful or not.

Weapons are the tools of fear.

No one can hurt you. You are 100% responsible for your happiness. The weapons of defense and criticism in our lives are because of fear. Drop them and love will arise.

If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao, all things would be in harmony.

To be centered in the Tao is to remain centered in what is, and accept it fully. Then harmony is guaranteed, no matter what happens.

If you stay in the center and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever.

The way to do that is to be conscious of each moment. Then death will be another moment. And we may end up realizing that the larva has changed into a butterfly.

The great Tao flows everywhere.

Sarvam khalvidam brahma. All Life is Yoga.

She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart.

When one has surrendered to the Divine, he stays in this moment, and accepts this moment fully, no matter what this is. He then finds peace in his heart no matter what storms rage on the surface of the sea.

If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish.

Do not judge yourself, observe. When you observe, you welcome it in your consciousness and see it for what it is. Then, it is easier to get rid of  it, if you do not want it.

The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.

This means that the “I” consciousness is lost. And you feel that you are just an instrument in the hands of the Divine.

The Master doesn’t try to be powerful, then he is truly powerful.

The Master does not use power to get something done. Rather he is like the stream which just flows where it needs to flow and in the process erodes the hardest of rocks. It surrenders to what is, and the Master does the same. Then he is truly powerful.

The Master views the parts with compassion, because she understands the whole. Her constant practice is humility.

When you truly understand that everything is as it should be and you do your part and leave the rest to the Divine, then you become very humble. This is because you understand that the whole(the Divine) knows what to do with the part(you). Then you are humble at every moment and live with gratitude.

Return is the movement of the Tao. Yielding is the way of the Tao.

The Master returns to what is, he yields to what is. He surrenders to the Divine and the present moment. Then he is free now.

The direct path seems long.

Many a time we think that this whole process of becoming peaceful is difficult and is long. But that is because we want to keep our story and become free. If we can let our story go, no matter what it is, then freedom is very close and near.

Ordinary people hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing her aloneness, realizing she is one with the whole universe.

We want to be doing something always and be with someone always. We do not like to be alone. This is because we identify ourselves with somebody or something. If you can live in the moment and accept the moment, then you will realise everything is One and there is no way one can be lonely.

The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.

Water erodes the rock. Water just flows where it needs to flow. It does not try to be what is not. It is gentle and persistent. And using these, it erodes the hardest rock. Having an open mind, being in the present moment and surrendering to what is can overcome the hardest things in our world in a similar manner.

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

We think we do not have something and we need to get something. We strive hard to get that something and worry ourselves in the process. Then we call it success and we are not at peace. But if we just live in the moment and surrender to what is, then there is nothing lacking. All that we do comes from that and we feel happy. We may achieve something or may not, so what? Does the sun thin of achievement as it lights up the world?

True perfection seems imperfect, yet it is perfectly itself.

The living room strewn with toys all over the place and my kids running everywhere is perfect. So is the immaculately tended garden. When you surrender to what is, every moment is what should be, and it is perfect.

There is no greater illusion than fear.

Fear is believing what you think. What you think is projecting a future based on the past. But if let go of the past and the future, then you just live in the now, which is perfect and you can’t have fear in the now. Whatever happened had to happen, whatever happens is happening and whatever will happen will happen and that is all right and for the best. Then fear cannot enter.

The Master arrives without leaving, sees the light without looking, and achieves without doing a thing.

All possible, because he lives in the present moment, surrenders to what is, and accepts whatever is.

True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way.

Just surrender to what is…

The Master has no mind of her own. She works with the mind of the people.

She just takes what comes, accepts it and works with it humbly and gratefully.

She holds nothing back from life; therefore she is ready for death.

She lives each moment in that moment; therefore when death comes she lives it as another moment.

The Tao gives birth to all beings…creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.

The Tao is the Divine. Everything comes out of it. But the Divine lets these things free. It wants to express itself as the many. Once it becomes the many it does not possess the many; it allows them to evolve…it acts on the process of evolution but does not expect it to happen at once…it guides the process but does not interfere with the independence of the many.

In the beginning was the Tao. All things issue from it; all things return to it.

The Tao is the Source. The things we see come from it. Seeing them as separate is Maya. Seeing the One enjoy itself as separate things is Lila. Finally it is all One. When was it ever many?

The great Way is easy. Yet people prefer the side paths.

If we surrender to the Divine, then life is easy. But this is real surrender, not for name-sake. Because when we really surrender, we accept everything…we accept the good, the bad, the failure, the success, all as one and worry goes away. Everything is for the good, even disease and death. The Divine works in us and through us. It is easy. But we want to known as good, successful and want to control others and the future, we want power. Then we have gone on the side paths. That is difficult, but we still do it. Why?

Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up.

Living in the Divine is safe and secure. As Kabir said once: For the person who takes the refuge of the Divine, even if the whole world is against him, they cannot pluck a single hair from his body.

She lets all things come and go effortlessly, without desire.

Just like the breath, it flows in and flows out. If you try to hold it, there is discomfort. Like how you hold sand on the palm of your hand; if you close your fist, the sand is all gone.

Be like the Tao. It can’t be approached or withdrawn from, benefited or harmed, honoured or brought into disgrace.

Because it is everything and everyone.

Let go of fixed plans and concepts, the world will govern itself.

We think we know what is good and what is bad and how to plan to get the good and avoid the bad, but in reality…who knows?

Try to make people moral, and you lay the groundwork for vice.

If you think in terms of good, then bad automatically rises. Avoid labels as much as you can.

She has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring her way.

When we have surrendered to the Divine, you say-Thy will be done. Then you do not have any goals or destinations to reach.. you leave it all to the Divine…when you live like this then no matter what comes to you in life, you use it.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.

If you pit good against evil, then both are going to be there. We have to go beyond these. We have to go beyond the mind.

Humility means trusting the Tao.

You trust that whatever happens is for the best.

Why did the ancient masters esteem the Tao? Because, being one with Tao, when you seek, you find; and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.

You just live in the moment. You seek, you find. You make a mistake, you are forgiven. There is no judgment or post-mortem.

Act without doing.

Allow the Divine to act through you and don’t let your will interfere.

Prevent trouble before it arises. Put things in order before they exist.

This just means that you do not try to change things. Everything is perfect as it is.

When then think they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don’t know, they can find their way.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.

Accept everything that comes from everywhere like the sea. Then everything will flow towards you.

Compassionate towards yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.

Love yourself first. Then you will love your neighbour as yourself.

The best leader follows the will of the people.

So should you follow the will of the Divine.

When two great forces oppose each other, victory will go to the one who knows how to yield.

Yield to what happens, surrender to it and accept it.

If you want to know me, look inside your heart.

Know yourself and you know the whole world.

Not-knowing is true knowledge.

True knowledge is beyond the mind. It cannot be expressed. It is just known.

When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion

We try to form a system when we have lost all spontaneity.

The Tao is always at ease.

Because it just is and does not seek to be something else.

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.

Why would you?

Act for the people’s benefit. Trust them. Leave them alone.

Like the sun that gives sunshine-one finds it hot, one finds it warm.

The soft and supple will prevail.

Because they can yield to the present moment.

The Master can keep giving because there is not end to her wealth.

Her wealth is the Divine and the Divine is everything.

Therefore the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. Evil cannot enter her heart. Because she has given up helping, she is people’s greatest help.

The Master is like a clear lake that reflects the Divine. He just is. That’s why.

Failure is an opportunity.

An opportunity to live in the moment and realise that failure is nothing and success is nothing.

If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content.

Content with what is. Not hankering. Not seeking. Are our countries governed wisely?

The more she does for others, the happier she is. The more she gives to others, the wealthier she is.

Because she realizes that she is the Divine and the Divine is everything. Then how can she not?