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Stealing the Absolute

Part 52 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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There was a beginning of the universe which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe. From the Mother, we may know her sons. After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother. Thus one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

Stop its apertures, close its doors, and one’s whole life is without toil.

Open its apertures, be busy about its affairs, and one’s whole life is beyond redemption.

He who can see the small is clear-sighted; he who stays by gentility is strong.

Use the light, and return to clear-sightedness. Thus cause not yourself later distress. This is to rest in the Absolute.

(Tao Teh King 52)

There was a beginning of the universe which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.

The Tao embraces everything, but its center is in the transcendental realm beyond all relativity. In this field of transcendent consciousness that is the Tao, there arises a single point (bindu) from which the entire range of relative existence streams forth and into which everything returns. This point is called the Brahmayoni, the Womb of God, in Indian philosophy. It is itself the Mother, the Birth-giver and Life-giver of all.

In nineteenth-century France the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl. When the girl asked who she was, the Virgin answered: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This seemed utter nonsense to the adherents of exoteric Christianity, but to those who understood esoteric Christianity it made complete sense. The Virgin Mary is the perfect imaging of the Mother aspect of Divinity. Being one with that aspect, she both speaks and acts as the Mother of All. At the time of her appearance there was a lot of agitation about the newly-introduced dogma of the Immaculate Conception which stated that the Virgin Mary had been absolutely free of Original Sin from her conception. (It has nothing to do with the Virgin Birth, as non-Catholics usually assume.) Because of the complete lack of esoteric understanding no one in the Roman Catholic Church realized that the Virgin herself had corrected the prevailing ideas about the Immaculate Conception. She indicated that it had nothing to do with Original Sin, which is a myth, or her personal conception, but it was exactly what Lao Tzu spoke about in this verse thousands of years before. Symbolically speaking, in and through the Brahmayoni all things are conceived and given birth.

From the Mother, we may know her sons. After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother. Thus one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

“Out here” in the vastness of Relativity, we have little or no understanding of anything around us. But if we cultivate our interior consciousness we can perceive our own inner makeup which is a microcosmic reflection of Creation, the Macrocosm. When this is done we will come to understand the Mother and her nature which is shared by all her “children”–everything that exists. Knowing the Mother, we will know her children. But we must keep close to the Mother, the Origin, and not get lost in the virtually infinite labyrinth of relative existence. For otherwise we will forget who we and they really are, where we all came from and to whom we must eventually return. Close to the mother, we will be preserved from the Great Fear.

Stop its apertures, close its doors, and one’s whole life is without toil.

Wu: “Block all the passages! Shut all the doors! And to the end of your days you will not be worn out.” This seems pretty ferocious, but what it means is very mild when we understand both what it means and how to manage it. As with just about any philosophical matter, the Bhagavad Gita illuminates the situation and shows us to do the needful. The entire fifth chapter of the Gita is devoted to this subject and I recommend you read it through.

Basically the question is how to touch the world and not be touched by it in return. Speaking of the person skilled enough to accomplish this, the Gita says: “He acts untainted by evil as a lotus leaf is not wetted by water” (5:10). How simple!

Sri Ramakrishna put it this way: “I ask people to live in the world in a spirit of detachment, If you break the jack-fruit after rubbing oil on your hands, its sticky juice will not smear them. If the ‘unripe’ mind dwells in the world, the mind gets soiled. One should first attain knowledge and then live in the world. If you put milk in water the milk is spoiled. But this will not happen if butter, churned from the milk, is put in water.” In India spiritual practice is often referred to as being like churning butter from milk. If you pour milk into water it will be diluted and lost. But butter will float as a single lump and be preserved.

Sri Ramakrishna also spoke of living life as diving into water: “Gather all the information and then plunge in. Suppose a pot has dropped in a certain part of a lake. Locate the spot and dive there.… [Spiritual] discipline is said to be rightly followed only when one plunges in. You may say, even though you dive deep you are still in danger of sharks and crocodiles, of lust and anger. But dive after rubbing your body with turmeric powder; then sharks and crocodiles will not come near you. The turmeric is discrimination and renunciation.”

Detachment is necessary; not zombie-like indifference, but self-disciplined and self-contained non-responsiveness arising from understanding the true nature of all things and the true nature of ourselves. That which is around us is not to be hated or despised, but seen as a passing show while we keep our awareness focussed on the inner reality of our true, divine Self. John Blofeld has written about his life in pre-Communist China where he knew many Taoists. Some lived far away from cities in quiet hermitages, but others lived right in Beijing and lived ordinary lives, yet were always centered within, always solitary inside, and at the same time often with others. This is the ideal of Lao Tzu. And here is how the Gita describes one who lives according to his ideals:

“Karma yogis perform action only with the body, mind, intellect, or the senses, forsaking attachment, performing action for self-purification. He who is steadfast, having abandoned action’s fruit, attains lasting peace. He who is not steadfast, attached to action based on desire, is bound. Renouncing all actions with the mind, the embodied one sits happily as the ruler of the city of nine gates, not acting at all, nor causing action.… Those whose minds are absorbed in That, whose Selves are fixed on That, whose foundation is That, who hold That as the highest object, whose evils have been shaken off by knowledge, attain the ending of rebirth.… Even here on earth rebirth is conquered by those whose mind is established in evenness. Brahman is without fault and the same to all; therefore they are established in Brahman. One should not exult when encountering what is liked, and one should not be repulsed when encountering the disliked. With firm intellect, undeluded, the knower of Brahman is established in Brahman. He whose Self is unattached to external contacts, who finds happiness in the Self, whose Self is united to Brahman by yoga, reaches imperishable happiness.… He who is able to endure here on earth, before liberation from the body, the agitation that arises from desire and anger is steadfast, a happy man. He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within: that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana.… Released from desire and anger, with thoughts controlled, those ascetics who know the Self find very near to them the bliss of Brahmanirvana” (Bhagavad Gita 5:11-13; 17; 19-21; 23-24, 26).

We can see from this that the Bhagavad Gita is truly a universal scripture, embracing and illumining the teachings of all the masters of wisdom.

Open its apertures, be busy about its affairs, and one’s whole life is beyond redemption.

Wu: “Open the passages! Multiply your activities! And to the end of your days you will remain helpless.” Mabry: “If you spend your life filling your senses and rushing around ‘doing’ things you will be beyond hope.” If allow ourselves to become confused and lost in this vast world, literally forgetting ourselves, how will we ever find our way out and back close to the Mother? It is almost hopeless, and involves lifetimes of wasted effort, overwhelmed with the Great Fear.

He who can see the small is clear-sighted; he who stays by gentility is strong.

Wu: “To see the small is to have insight. To hold on to weakness is to be strong.” Legge: “The perception of what is small is (the secret of) clear-sightedness; the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength.” The material universe is immense, immeasurable, and our spirit is like the tiniest point of light. How easy to lose track of it! It seems small and weak in a huge, powerful world, but if we keep our awareness centered in it we will find true sight, true wisdom and true internal strength.

Use the light, and return to clear-sightedness. Thus cause not yourself later distress. This is to rest in the Absolute.

There it all is in the proverbial nutshell. Thank you, Master Lao Tzu.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Brigandage

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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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