18.When the great Tao is forgotten,goodness and piety appear.When the body’s intelligence declines,cleverness and knowledge step forth.When there is no peace in the family,filial piety begins.When the country falls into chaos,patriotism is born.
In the state of Rajastan, in ancient India, lived a cobbler named Ravidas. Many people used to go to him and in his company, experienced great peace. One day the prime minister went, and returning to the palace, told the king, “There is a great saint living in the city. He will be able to give you some peace.”
The king was very unhappy. He had a great deal of wealth, power, and all the other things that make a person agitated. He had nothing that gave him peace. But when the prime minister suggested he go to Ravidas, he said, “He is a cobbler. How can a king ask for instructions from a cobbler?” But the prime minister persisted and the king finally agreed to go. Disguising himself he walked into Ravidas’s shop and said, “I am very unhappy and I lack peace. Please give me something that will bring peace to my heart.”
Ravidas kept a stone pot full of water into which he dipped pieces of leather before he worked on them. He poured some of this water into a glass and gave it to the king, saying,. “Drink this.”
The king was revolted by this water which was dark red and smelled like leather. Pretending to drink, he poured it down his shirt, bowed to the saint, and left. Returning to the palace, he saw his shirt was badly stained so called the royal washerman to clean it. Surprised to see the royal shirt in such condition, the washerman made some inquiries and learned what had happened. Giving the shirt to his daughter, he explained what the king had done, and told her to wash it very well. The daughter, who was very intelligent and pure, knew Ravidas’s power. So she took the shirt and sucked out all the stains. Then she washed it and gave it back to her father to return to the king.
From that day on, the girl had very deep meditations. After a few years, she had attained such a state that people began to feel the same joy in her presence they felt in the company of Ravidas. Many went to receive her blessings, among the, the prime minister. After he had seen her, he went to the king and said, “O Your Majesty, you are still so unhappy and agitated. Why don’t you go to that ecstatic girl and see if she can give you some peace?” The king was reluctant – after all, she was the daughter of a washerman – but in desperation, went to her room. Standing before her he said, “I am very unhappy. Please give me your blessing so that I can attain peace.”
The girl looked at him with great wonderment. “O Your Majesty,” she said. “Everything I have, I received from what you threw away. Everything I have, I obtained by sucking Ravidas’s water out of the shirt you gave my father to wash!”
Contemplating duality, I was moved to give Mary Oliver the final word. I took a book of her poems down from the shelf and let it open randomly. Having been out in the garden that morning cutting vase-fulls of peonies, that this was the poem that came… it was one of those perfect wonder moments. A lovely reminder of the oneness beneath duality, always there, holding us in its luminous, if not always visible, embrace…
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open –
pools of lace,
white and pink—
and all day the black ants climb over them.
boring their deep and mysterious holes
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities—
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise, their stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again –
beauty the brave, the exemplary.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are