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On Punishment (3)

Part 74 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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When the people are no longer afraid of death, why scare them with the specter of death?

If you could make the people always afraid of death, and they still persisted in breaking the law, then you might with reason arrest and execute them, and who would dare to break the law?

Is not the Great Executor always there to kill? To do the killing for the Great Executor is to chop wood for a master carpenter, and you would be lucky indeed if you did not hurt your own hand!

(Tao Teh King 74–Wu’s translation)

Just what Lao Tzu had in mind when he wrote this section I do not know, but I can certainly say that exoteric religion East and West traffics in fear created by threats they make to those who do not follow their dictates or dogmas. Every word written here can be applied to them.

When the people are no longer afraid of death, why scare them with the specter of death? Mabry: “If people do not fear death how can you threaten them with it?” The purpose of authentic religion is to remove fear. Therefore a religion that makes its adherents fear that disobedience or disbelief will result in their death, or that death will result in great suffering in this world or in some form of hell, is a domain of demons and not divine truth. Because their religion is false and feeble they have no other way to bolster their authority than fear of punishment and pain (often the same thing), as well as promises of rewards and pleasure on earth and in heaven for those who “trust and obey.”

If you could make the people always afraid of death, and they still persisted in breaking the law, then you might with reason arrest and execute them, and who would dare to break the law? Feng and English: “If men live in constant fear of dying, and if breaking the law means that a man will be killed, who will dare to break the law?” This is the specious reasoning of exoteric religion, but humans being what they are look for an out and usually find or fabricate one. Nevertheless many are terrified into compliance with the demands of their religion. When growing up I continually heard members of the church saying that if there was no immortality of the soul or no hell there would be no reason to follow the ways of our religion. When I would suggest that God is worthy of our love and that should be our motivation, I was always dismissed with contempt. After some years I dismissed the false religion and them.

Is not the Great Executor always there to kill? To do the killing for the Great Executor is to chop wood for a master carpenter, and you would be lucky indeed If you did not hurt your own hand! Chan: “There is always the master executioner (Heaven) who kills. To undertake executions for the master executioner is like hewing wood for the master carpenter. Whoever undertakes hewing wood for the master carpenter rarely escapes injuring his own hands.” Those who take the role of judge and jailer, claiming to speak for God, meting out condemnation, punishment and even death to the recalcitrant, will themselves feel the ax in time. That is not a threat: just a statement of law, the law of Karma. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: On Punishment (4)

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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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