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On the Absolute Tao

Part 1 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things.
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.

(Tao Teh King 1)

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

Like so many of the terms of virtually prehistoric Ancient Wisdom, “Tao” is not easy to translate; it may even be impossible to translate. The best we can do is say that “Tao” means Way. In fact, until the West started talking of “Buddhism” the path outlined by Sakyamuni Buddha was called “the Buddha Way” (Buddha Tao) in the orient. Because of the inseparability of Taoism and Chinese culture (which included philosophy and religion), Taoism flowed in the veins of Chinese Buddhism, however much Buddhist purists might have wished it otherwise. The existence of many Buddhist-Taoist temples in China and abroad make this clear.

What is the Way, the Tao? This opening verse might literally be rendered: “The Way that can be ‘wayed” is not the Way.” That is, the way that can be traversed or travelled is not The Way that is the subject of this treatise. This may seem hopeless, but it is not that difficult to unravel. The Way is beyond any concept or experience of space and time. Therefore It cannot be thought of in those terms. In The Way we do not go from one point to another. Not even one step can be take on The Way because It does not exist in space. Similarly, we cannot think of “entering” the Way, because we are always “in” It. Nor can we think of time being spent experiencing or establishing ourselves in The Way, for It transcends time. The Way being utterly transcendent, nothing can be spoken that can convey Its nature or even Its existence.

Having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; having a name, it is the Mother of all things. To say the Tao is One is not really accurate, for to our earthbound minds “one” means a single object; and the Tao can never be an object. We can speak of one apple, but not of one Tao. Yet here we see that a kind of duality or difference can be attributed to the Tao. Actually the duality is only in our own mind, but since we are attempting to at least hint at the truth about the Tao we have to “suspend belief” to do so. So from now on in this section the Tao will be spoken of inaccurately so we can get a somewhat accurate idea of It.

The Tao is both transcendent and immanent. In Its transcendent aspect “having no name” beyond all attributes, forms, or conditionings, It is the Source of heaven and earth, “of all things visible and invisible” as the Nicene Creed says. But in Its immanent aspect, “having a name,” It is the nurturing Mother of all things. That is, in Its active, dynamic side which produces the cosmos and evolves it to perfection, along with all those intelligences inhabiting forms within it, It is Mother of All. The symbolic expression “Mother” is used because the child receives its body substance from the mother and is nourished by the mother through her own body in the womb and after birth through breast-feeding. The mother sustains the infant by imparting her own body and life-force to it. In the same way we are inextricably bound up with the Tao as our Eternal Mother. Beginning as an atom of hydrogen, we evolve through all the forms of life and ultimately transcend them all through the agency of the Mother Tao. Nothing is done except through, and essentially by, the Tao. We are the Tao and the Tao is us. As the agent for our union with the Tao, it is the Tao that is our Mother.

Always without desire we must be found, if its deep mystery we would sound; but if desire always within us be, its outer fringe is all that we shall see. The Tao does all things, yet our interior disposition determines our success or failure in coming to knowledge of the unknowable Tao.

In every system that seriously intends for its practitioners to attain the highest knowledge, desire is considered the Great Satan. The Bhagavad Gita gives a great deal of time to the devastations of desire (kama) and the need for absolute desirelessness. Buddha spoke vigorously of the need to eradicate desire (tanha). The Bible is glaringly silent on the subject since Churchianity’s major draw is the promise of the fulfillment of all desires: and the more you have, the more God will be pleased to honor them. (This is called “a precious promise.”) “Happy as pigs in mud” seems to be the ideal.

But in The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ the view is quite different and is in complete consonance with the wisdom of Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Jesus had this to say: “The lower self, the carnal self, the body of desires, is… distorted by the murky ethers of the flesh. The lower self is an illusion, and will pass away;…. The lower self is the embodiment of truth reversed, and so is falsehood manifest” (Aquarian Gospel 8:7-9). “Now spirit loves the pure, the good, the true; the body of desires extols the selfish self; the soul becomes the battle ground between the two” (Aquarian Gospel 9:28. This ninth chapter of the Aquarian Gospel is all about the Tao as presented in Taoist scriptures.) Jesus puts a sharper point on the matter when he says: “The sin lies in the wish, in the desire, not in the act” (Aquarian Gospel 27:16). And: “He who would follow me must give up all cravings” (Aquarian Gospel 66:19).

The Tao Teh King, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Aquarian Gospel are speaking of all desires, not just negative ones, for desire itself is bondage.

Desire is also blinding, so we must become desireless if we would perceive the Tao to any meaningful degree and come to some experience of It. If the condition of desire (that state in which desire can arise) remains within us, within our consciousness, however buried it might be, we can see only the outward manifestations of the Tao: the material and illusive world.

Charles Muller renders the verse this way: “Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery; ever desiring, you see the manifestations.” The point he brings out here is that desire and desirelessness cannot be incidental, just phases, sometimes being in one and sometimes in the other. We must be always desireless. Then we shall perceive the Tao. If we are always desiring, we shall only see Its manifestations, only see the foam of the sea but never the water. There is an implication here that it is a matter of either/or. We are either always desireless or always desiring. There is no in between. This is important, for most people, even though they know it is otherwise, look upon the conscious mind as the totality, and if they are not experiencing something on the conscious level they think it is not taking place. But the subconscious is the incubator of all desires. Even if the stage of the mind-theater is empty, that does not mean there are not plenty of desire-actors in the wings just waiting to emerge. In addition, it is implied that desire and desirelessness are conditions, not just action or inaction. So even if we have no desires formed in either the conscious or subconscious minds, if we are capable of desire, not having transcended the conditions of desire, we are in the state of desire and so “ever desiring.”

Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. The Tao is always one, whether we think of It as manifest or unmanifest. And the same is true of ourselves: whether we desire or not, we, too, are always one. “As development takes place, it receives the different names.” Before we begin the process of evolution we are in the state of unity, but only dimly, subliminally. When we enter the realm of evolution we experience duality and become lost in it. After the attainment of illumination we re-enter the Tao-Unity fully able to experience It and function within It. Then if we should descend to the world of duality we shall know it as the Unity and be untouched by its illusions. We shall function as One in the world of Two.
Together we call them the Mystery. The transcendent and the immanent, the One and the Two, the unconditioned and the conditioned known in the Upanishads as Nirguna and Saguna Brahman, God without attributes and with attributes, should be considered together, for “together we call them the Mystery,” meaning that we do not accept one and reject the other, claiming that alone to be the Tao.
Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful. Gates are natural symbols for those points at which we pass from one state of awareness to another, plateaus of our evolution. Jesus spoke more than once of the gateway to the kingdom, which he called “the gate of consciousness” (Aquarian Gospel 143:42). “If you would find the spirit life, the life of man in God, then you must walk a narrow way and enter through a narrow gate. The way is Christ, the gate is Christ, and you must come up by the way of Christ. No man comes unto God but by the Christ,” (Aquarian Gospel 129:7-8) the Consciousness that is Christ. (Always keep in mind that “Christ” really means Ishwara, the Consciousness that is inherent in all creation as its guide, as well as its source and ultimate dissolution.)

In the depths, in the heart, of the Tao, there is the “gate” from which all things have emanated and to which all things return. At that gate, however, all “thingness” has vanished and only the thinnest of veils remains between us and the Tao. And when we pass through the gate, that veil, too, dissolves and is no more. That is why Jesus said: “The nearer to the kingdom gate you come, more spacious is the room; the multitudes have gone” (Aquarian Gospel 67:8).

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: The Rise of Relative Opposites

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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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