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Bending the Bow

Part 77 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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The Tao (way) of Heaven, is it not like the bending of a bow? The top comes down and the bottom-end goes up, the extra (length) is shortened, the insufficient (width) is expanded. It is the way of Heaven to take away from those that have too much and give to those that have not enough.

Not so with man’s way: he takes from those that have not and gives it as tribute to those that have too much.

Who can have enough and to spare to give to the entire world? Only the man of Tao.

Therefore the Sage acts, but does not possess, accomplishes but lays claim to no credit, because he has no wish to seem superior.

(Tao Teh King 77)

The Tao (way) of Heaven, is it not like the bending of a bow? The top comes down and the bottom-end goes up, the extra (length) is shortened, the insufficient (width) is expanded. It is the way of Heaven to take away from those that have too much and give to those that have not enough. The Virgin Mary said in prophetic inspiration: “[God] hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:51-53). According to the Aquarian Gospel she studied the teachings of Lao Tzu in Egypt at the Essene community in Zoan. And this passage from Saint Luke’s gospel confirms that.

Just before going to India for the first time in 1962, I had the great good fortune to meet and hear Sri A. B. Purani, the administrator of the renowned Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry, India. From his lips I heard the most brilliant expositions of Vedic philosophy, and nothing in my subsequent experience has equaled them. In one talk he told the following story that fits right in with this section of the Tao Teh King:

In ancient India there lived a most virtuous Brahmin who was considered by all to be the best authority on philosophy. One day the local king ordered him to appear before him. When he did so, the king said: “I have three questions that puzzle and even torment me: Where is God? Why don’t I see him? And what does he do all day? If you can’t answer these three questions I will have your head cut off.” The Brahmin was appalled and terrified, because the answers to these questions were not just complex, they were impossible to formulate. In other words, he did not know the answers. So his execution date was set.

On the morning of the execution day the Brahmin’s young son appeared and asked the king if he would release his father if he, the son, would answer the questions. The king agreed, and the son asked that a container of milk be brought to him. It was done. Then the boy asked that the milk be churned into butter. That, too, was done.

“The first two of your questions are now answered,” he told the king. The king objected that he had been given no answers, so the son asked: “Where was the butter before it was churned?” “In the milk,” replied the king. “In what part of the milk?” asked the boy. “It was everywhere in the milk,” answered the king. “Just so, agreed the boy, “and in the same way God is within all things and pervades all things.” “Why don’t I see him, then?” pressed the king. “Because you do not ‘churn’ your mind and refine your perceptions through meditation. If you do that, you will see God. But not otherwise. Now let my father go.” “Not at all,” insisted the king. “You have not told me what God does all day.”

“To answer that,” said the boy, “we will have to change places. You come stand here and let me sit on the throne.” The request was so audacious the king complied, and in a moment he was standing before the enthroned Brahmin boy who told him: “This is the answer. One moment you were here and I was there. Now things are reversed. God perpetually lifts up and casts down every one of us. In one life we are exalted and in another we are brought low–oftentimes in a single life this occurs, and even more than once. Our lives are completely in his hand, and he does with us as he wills.”

Everything in this world is both a raising up and a wearing down. Equilibrium is always being sought, so the opposite is also being produced at all times. And so it goes in a never-ending cycle. However things were at the end of a creation cycle, the same situation is manifested at the beginning of the next cycle. Not only is not a single atom ever lost from the universe, no movement goes unfinished or goes without a counter-movement. As Anandamayi Ma often said: “Getting implies losing.”

Not so with man’s way: he takes from those that have not and gives it as tribute to those that have too much. Mabry: “This is not the way of men, however, for they take from those who have little to increase the wealth of the rich.” Legge: “It is not so with the way of man. He takes away from those who have not enough to add to his own superabundance.” I think we all know this is simple truth about every era of recorded history. What I told earlier about the governor of Madras State is a horrible example. His wife who told me about this was the embodiment of sorrow and discontent. She smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol through most of her waking hours. What she had told me explained everything. The guilt she felt at not having revealed all this at the time was tormenting her every moment of her life. I doubt if she ever found any peace.

Who can have enough and to spare to give to the entire world? Only the man of Tao. Wu: “Who except a man of the Tao can put his superabundant riches to the service of the world?” Mabry: “So who is it that has too much and offers it to a needy World? Only someone who knows the Tao.” This is true both materially and spiritually, though we usually only think of those whose abundant wisdom can be given to thousands and millions. Nevertheless, in India I have met several multimillionaires of a genuine spiritual character who perpetually gave monetary assistance to a vast number of people. One Bengali family had created the largest charitable trust in India. They lived only a few degrees from the poverty level, giving everything else for the welfare of others. Those who dedicate their lives to the spiritual uplift and enlightenment of others by their example can continue to do so for centuries and even millennia after they leave this world.

Therefore the Sage acts, but does not possess, accomplishes but lays claim to no credit, because he has no wish to seem superior. Wu: “Therefore, the Sage does his work without setting any store by it, accomplishes his task without dwelling upon it. He does not want his merits to be seen.” Mabry: “Therefore, the Sage works anonymously. He achieves great things but does not wait around for praise. He does not want his talents to attract attention to him.” Legge: “Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: he does not wish to display his superiority.” As I have said, I have known many who acted thus both in the material and spiritual spheres. My beloved Swami Sivananda was a never-failing source of material and spiritual good. Yet humility was a dominant trait in him. It can be done. Lao Tzu is not just theorizing.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Nothing Weaker than Water

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Introduction to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Chapters of The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Preface to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

  1. On the Absolute Tao
  2. The Rise of Relative Opposites
  3. Action Without Deeds
  4. The Character of Tao
  5. Nature
  6. The Spirit of the Valley
  7. Living for Others
  8. Water
  9. The Danger of Overweening Success
  10. Embracing the One
  11. The Utility of Not-Being
  12. The Senses
  13. Praise and Blame
  14. Prehistoric Origins
  15. The Wise Ones of Old
  16. Knowing the Eternal Law
  17. Rulers
  18. The Decline of Tao
  19. Realize the Simple Self
  20. The World and I
  21. Manifestations of Tao
  22. Futility of Contention
  23. Identification with Tao
  24. The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue
  25. The Four Eternal Models
  26. Heaviness and Lightness
  27. On Stealing the Light
  28. Keeping to the Female
  29. Warning Against Interference
  30. Warning Against the Use of Force
  31. Weapons of Evil
  32. Tao is Like the Sea
  33. Knowing Oneself
  34. The Great Tao Flows Everywhere
  35. The Peace of Tao
  36. The Rhythm of Life
  37. World Peace
  38. Degeneration
  39. Unity Through Complements
  40. The Principle of Reversion
  41. Qualities of the Taoist
  42. The Violent Man
  43. The Softest Substance
  44. Be Content
  45. Calm Quietude
  46. Racing Horses
  47. Pursuit of Knowledge
  48. Conquering the World by Inaction
  49. The People’s Hearts
  50. The Preserving of Life
  51. The Mystic Virtue
  52. Stealing the Absolute
  53. Brigandage
  54. The Individual and the State
  55. The Character of the Child
  56. Beyond Honor and Disgrace
  57. The Art of Government
  58. Unobtrusive Government
  59. Be Sparing
  60. Governing a Big Country
  61. Big and Small Countries
  62. The Good Man’s Treasure
  63. Difficult and Easy
  64. Beginning and End
  65. The Grand Harmony
  66. The Lords of the Ravines
  67. The Three Treasures
  68. The Virtue of Not-Contending
  69. Camouflage
  70. They Know Me Not
  71. Sick-Mindedness
  72. On Punishment (1)
  73. On Punishment (2)
  74. On Punishment (3)
  75. On Punishment (4)
  76. Hard and Soft
  77. Bending the Bow
  78. Nothing Weaker than Water
  79. Peace Settlements
  80. The Small Utopia
  81. The Way of Heaven

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