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The Senses

Part 12 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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Color’s five hues from th’ eyes their sight will take;
Music’s five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste;
The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
Sought for, men’s conduct will to evil change.
Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former.

(Tao Teh King 12)

Lin Yutang has it somewhat easier to comprehend:

“The five colors blind the eyes of man;
“The five musical notes deafen the ears of man;
“The five flavors dull the taste of man;
“Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
“Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
“Therefore the Sage:
“Provides for the belly and not the eye.
“Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.”

In the last verse we saw that Emptiness is the only real Substance, even though we see it differently through mental and sensory illusion. Now Lao Tzu assures us that the objects of the senses actually paralyze the senses and prevent us from really seeing, hearing, tasting, etc. In the same way the objects of the mind keep us from knowing the mind and submerge it beneath experiences that in essence are dangerous lies. In other words, they make us crazy.

What is the solution? It is not to just say: “It is all illusion!” and go mentally comatose. Rather, Lao Tzu tells us to pick out the strands of the web that are connected at least obliquely to some level of reality and through them begin to work our way out of the web of delusion. He chooses hunger as something to pay attention to because if we do not eat we will die. People can live without one or more of the senses, but not without the body on which the senses depend. This is the basis of authentic asceticism which is not denial or rejection, but a cultivation of what is real by turning from the unreal.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Praise and Blame.

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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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