This blog is an interpretation of the Tao te Ching "Tao Virtue Book" which is attributed to Laozi "Lao Tze" a Chinese philosopher who lived circa 600 b.c.

Please remember always that this is the description of the Tao and not the experience of the living Tao. Hopefully, this blog will not serve as analysis or commentary but as a window into the Tao. You are encouraged to disagree with this interpretation, involve yourself in self-study, and ultimately leave all concepts behind and so experience the living Tao.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chapter 42: Leaving Concepts Behind

The superior scholar when he considers Dao earnestly practices it;

An average scholar listening to Dao sometimes follows it and sometimes loses it;

An inferior scholar listening to Dao ridicules it. Were it not thus ridiculed it could not be regarded as Dao.

Therefore the writer says:

Those who are most illumined by Dao are the most obscure. Those advanced in Dao are most retiring. Those best guided by Dao are the least prepossessing.

The high in virtue (de [teh]) resemble a lowly valley; the whitest are most likely to be put to shame; the broadest in virtue resemble the inefficient.

The most firmly established in virtue resemble the remiss. The simplest chastity resembles the fickle, the greatest square has no corner,

the largest vessel is never filled. The greatest sound is void of speech, the greatest form has no shape.

Tao is obscure and without name, and yet it is precisely this Dao that alone can give and complete.

Tao te Ching Chapter 42


In this notoriously obscure chapter, the author may be seen to be challenging us to "be" rather than to "do"  to "experience" rather than to "believe."  

The first three stanzas make what seem like logical assertions.  A disciplined person will practice the Dao religiously.  A mediocre person with practice the Dao when they remember it.  And a fool laughs when told about the Dao.  Then comes a most startling sentence.   It appears to say that the fools laughter is the only true proof of Dao.  Why would the author say this?  Surely the scholar has the most access, the most correct understanding of the Dao.

Understanding of the author's meaning and a gateway to deeper contact with the Tao may be found in the realization the Tao te Ching is about life at its most natural, its simplest state free of beliefs.  All of nature, trees, cows, dogs, planets have their own nature and are able to experience existing purely and without hesitation. Only humans, in our experience of the universe thus far, cling to concepts and ideas.  Try explaining to your dog why it is important to vote democrat or republican in the next election and you'll begin to see what I mean.  He will not explain to you that chasing squirrels is more important.  He will however follow his nature and miss the election, gleefully chasing squirrels all afternoon.  He does not believe this is right.  It is simply his nature.

This head full of concepts is useful.  Humans have incredible control over their environment but they suffer for their concepts.  There is no separation from nature.  The walls of our houses are made from timber and gypsum.  The floors from gravel and lime.  Even the plastic cases of our computers are made of natural materials welded together using the natural forces of heat and pressure.   Yet a human will sit in the middle of the Dao, the middle of this house made of the universe around him and say, "I need to get back to nature."

If you can see that this person is constantly surrounded by nature and is actually asking to get away from his endless sea of concepts and back to the inherent flow of the Universe, then you can begin to understand the laughter of the fool.  Even objects that seem very real to us are still bound by our concepts.  To us a road is clearly a means of travel, but this solid identity is still bound to our concepts.  To the turtle, whose feet are its means of travel, the road becomes a good place to warm yourself in the morning.

So the wise man makes a concept of the Doa, studies it vigorously and never gains any joy from it.  The fool, on the other hand, is free of concepts, is living the direct experience of life.  When he is told of the Tao, he laughs, because he is being offered a concept.  He doesn't need concepts because he is already joyously following his nature.

So, how do we abandon our pursuit of the concept Dao and begin to experience it directly?  The author makes some  suggestions.

In stanza four the author observes that true followers of Tao are obscure.  They have no title or rank, no conceptual identity.  The are simply living their lives.  

In stanza five he adds that success and high accomplishment are not needed to be at one with the Dao.

Stanza six reminds us that things like chastity and virtue are also concepts.  The phrase the "the greatest square has no corner." clues us to remember that all concepts fall short of their goal.

Stanza seven extends the virtue of conceptlessness out to the boundaries of the physical universe, back to the unmanifested, pure Dao.   Here, they say in stanza seven, is the completeness we all feel deep inside us.

How do we move away from ideas and questions?  How do we stop reading and writing, making concepts of the Dao, and start living it?   What would we say and do, if we had no concepts?

Thanks For Making This Possible! Kindly Bookmark and Share it.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble Facebook Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment