Starting tonight, I’ll be recording Dharma Talks and uploading them to this blog. This week’s talk is on the long side. If you’re new to this blog and/or not familiar with yogic thinking, it may be a bit heady for you. By all means give it a listen. But if it strikes you as a whole lot of something about nothing — or a whole lot of nothing about something — I suggest you simply read the post and leave off listening for another time.
Here’s this week’s reading from Tao Te Ching.
The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.
This week’s reading is so dense, I thought the best pairing would be a couple of teaching stories. These two are told in Jack Kornfield’s Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart. The first, from the Christian tradition, struck me as a humorous example of the critique of fundamentalist religion (and in a broader sense, the fundamentalist mind) the Tao Te Ching is making in the fourth verse:
When the Son of God was nailed to the cross and died, he went straight down to hell and set free all the sinners who were in torment.
And the devil wept and mourned, for he thought he would get no more sinners for hell.
And God said to him, “Do not weep, for I shall send you all those who are self-righteous in their condemnation of sinners and hell shall be filled up once more…”
The second story is a lovely example of the mastery described in the first stanza of this week’s verse:
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
“Why aren’t you out fishing?” said the industrialist.
“Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch some more?”
“What would I do with it?”
“You could earn more money” was the reply. “With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat to go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and mnore money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.”
“What would I do then?”
“Then you could really enjoy life.”
“What do you think I am doing right now?”
How can one do nothing and leave nothing undone?
Thanks so much, Suzin, for recording your dharma talk and posting it here with the readings. Since I couldn’t be in class last week, I’m so glad that I could still hear your explication of the three gunas and how they illuminate the aphorisms of this passage in the Tao Te Ching. It was a very good match indeed, and opened up the idea of various levels of doing talked about in the poem, all contrasted with the freely inhabited nondoing of the Tao. Although the matchup isn’t as clear, I was also reminded of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development (here’s a good discussion of them http://bit.ly/evlI9g)–conventional vs. post-conventional levels. Kohlberg realized there was something more he wasn’t capturing, and speculated about a 7th level, grandly called Transcendental Morality, or Morality of Cosmic Orientation–which only goes to show how hard it is to capture the ease and freedom of the Master as well as the Tao Te Ching does!
I missed chanting the Tryambakam mantra with everyone, but appreciated hearing you comment on its significance. I’ll be happy to back in class this week.