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Knowing the Eternal Law

Part 16 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state). When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.

The report of that fulfillment is the regular, unchanging rule. To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent; not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance, and that capacity and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things). From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Tao. Possessed of the Tao, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.

(Tao Teh King 16)

The translation of Lin Yutang is much clearer, I think; here it is: “Attain the utmost in Passivity, hold firm to the basis of Quietude. The myriad things take shape and rise to activity, but I watch them fall back to their repose. Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows but returns to the root (soil) from which it springs. To return to the root is Repose; it is called going back to one’s Destiny.

“Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law. To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment. And not to know the Eternal Law is to court disaster. He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant; being tolerant, he is impartial; being impartial, he is kingly; being kingly, he is in accord with Nature; being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao; being in accord with Tao, he is eternal, and his whole life is preserved from harm.”

Attain the utmost in Passivity, hold firm to the basis of Quietude.

The ideal of the Tao Teh King, the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of Buddha are the same: we must transfer our awareness into the Stillpoint, the Silence that is the unmoving Consciousness which is our true Being. At the same time we must move through the world skillfully, so living as to end the compulsion to further rebirth. Meditation enables us to “attain the utmost in Passivity.” That is, it enables us to live centered in the unmoving Silence while being fully and effectively active. Through long practice of meditation we become able to “hold firm to the basis of Quietude” at all times.

The myriad things take shape and rise to activity, but I watch them fall back to their repose. Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows but returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.

Here we have another unanimity. All things arise into manifestation from the “primal soup” that consists of numberless elements that themselves are composites. Since coming implies going, and getting implies losing (for there is an inexorable impulse to ever return to the original state), it is inevitable that all things will return to non-manifestation, which Lao Tzu sees not as death or destruction, but a return to repose, to peace and freedom from the tension or stress inherent in all forms. There is a Root to all things: the Tao which is both Origin and Completion.

To return to the root is Repose; it is called going back to one’s Destiny.

Total union/identity with the Tao is the only real destiny anything or anyone has. There is no real distinction between sentient and insentient being: all is Tao. And about That nothing can be said.

Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law.

This is a perfect definition of Dharma: the return to the One. Anything that aids in this return is dharmic, and that which hinders the return is adharmic. This is the only basis upon which we should determine what is right or wrong, good or evil. Return is “the Eternal Law.”

To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.

“Of the born, death is certain; of the dead, birth is certain” (Bhagavad Gita 2:27).

Those who are born are without exception destined to die, so in a sense they are “dead” the moment they are born. In the same way, those that tread the way of the Eternal Law which ends in enlightenment are already enlightened by the fact of their pilgrimage. For this reason, those who walk the Way deserve our utmost respect, and those who persevere unto the end deserve our reverence and imitation.

And not to know the Eternal Law is to court disaster. That is so obvious it needs no comment.

He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant; being tolerant, he is impartial; being impartial, he is kingly; being kingly, he is in accord with Nature; being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao; being in accord with Tao, he is eternal, and his whole life is preserved from harm.

Those who walk the Way advance in unfoldment of character step by step as outlined here until they are the Tao alone.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Rulers

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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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