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Hope is as hollow as fear

Tao Te Ching http://www.deeshan.com/lao_tzu.htm


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

The unnamable is the eternally real.


Naming is the origin of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.


Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.


This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.

The Tao is like a well: used but never used up. It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite
possibilities.

It is hidden but always present. I don't know who gave birth to it. It is older than God.

The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil. The Master doesn't take
sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it
produces; the more you talk of it, the less you understand. Hold on to the center.

The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal? It was never born; thus it can never die. Why
is it infinite? It has no desires for itself; thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind; that is why she is ahead. She is detached from all things; that is
why she is one with them. Because she has let go of herself, she is perfectly fulfilled.

Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or
down it, your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear? Hope and fear are both phantoms that
arise from thinking of the self. When we don't see the self as self, what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self. Have faith in the way things are. Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

Empty your mind of all thoughts.


Let your heart be at peace. Watch the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source
is serenity.

If you don't realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize
where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as
a grandmother, dignified as a king. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with
whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready. The great Tao flows
everywhere

All things are born from it, yet it doesn't create them. It pours itself into its work, yet it
makes no claim. It nourishes infinite worlds, yet it doesn't hold on to them. Since it is
merged with all things and hidden in their hearts, it can be called humble. Since all things
vanish into it and it alone endures, it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness; thus it is truly great.

The Tao gives birth to One.


One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.

All things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. When male and female
combine, all things achieve harmony.

Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness,
realizing he is one with the whole universe.

Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up. Whoever embraces the Tao will not
slip away. Her name will be held in honor from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family and your family will flourish. Let it be present in your
country and your country will be an example to all countries in the world. Let it be present
in the universe and the universe will sing.

How do I know this is true?


By looking inside myself.

If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.

The more prohibitions you have,


the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.
Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law, and people become honest.
I let go of economics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion and people
become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.

If a country is governed with tolerance, the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty.

When the will to power is in charge, the higher the ideals, the lower the results. Try to make
people happy, and you lay the groundwork for misery. Try to make people moral, and you
lay the groundwork for vice.

Thus the Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will. She is
pointed, but doesn't pierce. Straightforward, but supple. Radiant, but easy on the eyes.

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you aren't
afraid of dying, there is nothing you can't achieve.

Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter's place. When you
handle the master carpenter's tools, chances are that you'll cut your hand.

http://www.deeshan.com/lao_tzu.htm

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Thirty spokes meet at a hub;


Because the hub is empty, it is useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
Because the vessel is empty, it is useful.
Cut out doors and windows to make a house;
Without these holes, the house couldn't be lived in.

A thing gets profit from what is there;


it gets usefulness from what is not.

Commentary:
Most people think that to add usefulness, you have to add to what is there. This
passage emphasizes how the usefulness of things depends also on what is not
there. Imagine a life without any free time; although you would be accomplishing
a lot, you wouldn't be happy. You need the "empty" time to reflect on and plan
for the activity, and to rest from it. The meaning of this passage doesn't just
concern the necessity of emptiness, though, but also the proper balance between
what is there and what's not. During the school year students often wish they
could be free of school forever. During their two-week winter break, they revel in
their free time and wish they could have more of it. But during the summer, after
a month or two, they become bored and miss the activities they would do during
the year. Just like one puts together clay and emptiness in the right proportion to
make a useful pot, one needs to put together activity and rest in the right
proportion to make a satisfying life.
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What is Non-action?

One of the phrases most-identified with the Tao Te Ching is "non-action." In


Chinese, the phrase is [wu wei]: the character for "not" followed by the character
for acting, making, or doing (many languages use the same word for all these
things). But what exactly is "non-action?" Most translators and commentators
subscribe to one of four interpretations:

1. EFFORTLESS ACTION: In this reading, non-action is the kind of action, without


effort or thought, produced by thorough training. Advocates of this interpretation
compare non-action to actions performed by skilled athletes; a skilled
quarterback's throw has a perfect spiral, excellent accuracy, and amazing
distance, but the quarterback doesn't even think about it; he's thinking about
whether or not he's going to get blitzed, and which of his teammates are open.
The idea behind this interpretation is that many everyday actions can become
effortless, not just by training, but by a certain state of mind that is not
preoccupied with thinking, and just does what comes naturally, the way we say a
skill is "second nature."

2. ABSENCE OF UNNECESSARY OR HARMFUL ACTION: In this reading, non-action


is a focus on not doing superfluous action. In this busy world, an advocate of this
interpretation would say, we are always thinking about how to solve problems by
doing things. For example, our solution to insomnia is to learn self-hypnosis, take
up meditation, or take melatonin. To practice non-action, according to this
definition, would be to solve the problem by not doing something. For example,
not watching TV right before bed, not taking on as many stressful assignments at
work, or not going out with friends when homework needs to be done.

3. LACK OF RESISTANCE: In this reading, non-action is a lack of resistance to the


actions of the world. The authors of the Tao Te Ching often compare the Way to
water, since water doesn't resist and flows naturally, according to the laws of the
universe. This also extends to not competing with others; one of the most
common phrases in the Tao Te Ching is often translated as "If you don't compete,
no one can compete with you."

4. A SPECIAL MEDITATIVE PRACTICE: According to some interpreters, the Tao Te


Ching contains a lot of phrases that can only be interpreted as jargon; names of
specific meditation or contemplative techniques. Verse 10 is the most frequently
cited where this is concerned; many interpreters believe that "opening and
closing Heaven's door," "becoming like an infant," and "cleansing inner vision" are
the names of specific meditative exercises that would have been familiar to the
students of the people who wrote the Tao Te Ching. In this interpretation, "Non-
action" is also a name for a kind of meditation. Exactly what kind, we'll probably
never know, but we can guess it probably has something to do with calming and
clearing the mind.

So which do I think is the meaning most probably intended by the authors? I


would say #2 is the most likely, followed by #3. The TTC is filled with
recommendations to do less, to relax, to not exert effort, and even to give up
knowledge. One of the later verses even admires people who don't leave their
native country! Interpretation #3 is also referenced many times, such as in the
comparisons of the Way to water and the exhortations not to compete with other
people.

As for interpretation #1, it is true that skillful effort was something admired by
the authors. There are several references to skilled people doing things
exceptionally well, such as skilled runners leaving no tracks. Another Laoist text,
the Chuang Tzu, has an example of a butcher using his knife so skillfully that he
hardly has to exert any effort to carve up a bull, and he never has to sharpen his
knife. However, the Tao Te Ching speaks of non-action as something that should
be practiced in everyday life, and that makes it most likely that it's not referring
to the kind of exceptional skill possessed by elite athletes and tradesmen. This
also applies to interpretation #4. In the TTC, non-action is something you practice
with everything in your life, and that rules out a separate activity like meditation.

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