Home - Dharma for Awakening - Tao Teh King for Awakening–Preface - Pursuit of Knowledge

Pursuit of Knowledge

Part 47 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

Tao Teh King for Awakening cover
Also available a free PDF download from our E-Library and as an ebook and paperback from Amazon International.

Without stepping outside one’s doors, one can know what is happening in the world.

Without looking out of one’s windows, one can see the Tao of heaven.

The farther one pursues knowledge, the less one knows.

Therefore the Sage knows without running about, understands without seeing, accomplishes without doing.

(Tao Teh King 47)

Though we know him mostly through his novels and short stories, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was also a philosopher who wrote very interestingly on the everyday aspects of human life that we almost never think about. I was really impressed by one essay in which he said that those who knew and understood themselves could know and understand every human being. His reasoning was that we all consist of the same elements, the differences between us being determined by the quality and degree of those elements as well as how much or little we express them. The colors of a painting are basically the same as those in other paintings, but the arrangement, amount and shade can vary infinitely. So it is with us. Knowing ourselves we can know others. This may be part of the reasoning of Lao Tzu.

Without stepping outside one’s doors, one can know what is happening in the world.

This is certainly true for a very astute person, assuming that the outside world comes to him by contact with other people in his home and observation of the material objects that also enter there. However, if we enlarge “one’s doors” to include the town in which he lives and maybe a bit of the countryside, then any intelligent and perceptive person can see and understand through the various elements of his environment what is happening in the world, or at the least the world of his nation.

We must remember that the world of Lao Tzu had no newspapers, radio, television or all the means of information and communication without which we now cannot imagine living for a day. So he is speaking of someone who would be a kind of social and philosophical Sherlock Homes who could know the whole by studying the part.

Without looking out of one’s windows, one can see the Tao of heaven.

Frankly, I cannot image anyone being able to know the Tao of heaven without spending a great deal of time in the confines of one’s house, for only there can meditation and study be engaged in intensely.

The farther one pursues knowledge, the less one knows.

I believe this is especially true at this point in time. While I was in my teens I realized that a worthwhile school or university should be little more than a gigantic library with a staff of qualified advisors to guide the student in a personal pursuit of knowledge according to his inclination or need. In 1963 after I returned from my first trip to India I met one of the country’s leading computer experts. At that time computers were immense things with whirling tape reels that cost a fortune to install and maintain. But he told me that the day of home computers was coming, and when it did schools would be obsolete. So it has proven, though nearly everyone is lagging behind and students still are imprisoned in the educational gulags. I knew a child who learned to read at the age of two through an computer program called Reader Rabbit. Bank Street Writer was a word processor intended for use by kindergarten students. There is no need to travel hundreds and thousands of miles for a good education. It is right at hand in the home.

After beginning to write on this verse I went online to investigate what was available for home study through the internet. There were many programs available. One had a video of an American teenager who grew up in China but through the internet had a thoroughly American education. Now he attends the university that sponsored the internet education he received all the way from the early grades through high school. (Many universities now offer online degree programs.) So Lao Tzu’s ideals about learning can be better realized now than in his day.

The philosophical meaning of this verse is that the further we go from ourselves for knowledge (in the highest sense) the less we will know, for infinity, the Tao, is within.

Therefore the Sage knows without running about, understands without seeing, accomplishes without doing.

The yogi especially travels far, understands and accomplishes within what the “outsiders” can never imagine. All of his activity is in a realm undreamed of by others. Swami Sivananda in one of his letters wrote: “I always travel throughout the world, and those who are quick catch me.” The lives of great yogis prove this to be true. Sitting in caves the yoga adepts know what is going on throughout the world. A man once told me he traveled thousands of miles to meet a great mystic only to find that the saint knew all about him and told him he had been looking in on him for a long time, and mentioned the various things that had been going on with him: inner things that only one who knew his heart and mind could have known. Those who lived with him had no idea of the things the mystic knew.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Conquering the World by Inaction

(Visited 233 time, 1 visit today)

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

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

(Visited 233 time, 1 visit today)