My teachings are very easy to understand and very easy to practice, but no one can understand them and no one can practice them.
In my words there is a principle.
In the affairs of men there is a system.
Because they know not these, they also know me not.
Since there are few that know me, therefore I am distinguished.
Therefore the Sage wears a coarse cloth on top and carries jade within his bosom.
(Tao Teh King 70)
My teachings are very easy to understand and very easy to practice, but no one can understand them and no one can practice them. Wu: “My words are very easy to understand, and very easy to practice: But the world cannot understand them, nor practice them.”
Why is this? Because minds warped and ravaged by the world and its currents are neither able to understand the truths of the Tao nor able to practice them. First there must be a complete overhauling and renewal of the consciousness. And how will that be done? Only by yoga practice. Until a person is a yogi, all he can hope for are momentary flashes of understanding and inspiration. But for realization of the Tao, not just knowledge about It, steadiness of mind and will are necessary, and these can only be gained through yoga.
In my words there is a principle. Wu: “My words have an Ancestor.” Legge: “There is an originating and all-comprehending (principle) in my words.” Chan: “My doctrines have a source (Nature).” Jesus said: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Lao Tzu tells us that his very words both come from and embody the Tao. Knowing the Tao himself, the words of Lao Tzu had the power to impart consciousness itself and comprehension of the Tao. The words of a sage can enlighten the disciple that is purified and prepared. This was seen again and again in the daily life of Swami Sivananda.
In the affairs of men there is a system. Wu: “My deeds have a Lord.” Mabry: “My deeds are but service.” Legge: “And an authoritative law for the things (which I enforce).” Chan: “My deeds have a master (Tao).” Everything goes according to cosmic law (ritam). Those who contravene that law court chaos and disaster. Those who conform to that law attain order and success. So the first step in practical spiritual life is to learn the fundamental and unchangeable laws of physical, mental and spiritual life. Where are they to be found? The Bhagavad Gita is the most perfect exposition of the Science of Life. The eleven major Upanishads of which the Gita is a practical digest, are also a source of the laws of spirit-consciousness. The laws of interior life and conscious evolution are found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Because they know not these, they also know me not. Wu: “The people have no knowledge of this. Therefore, they have no knowledge of me.” It is impossible to know the Infinite without knowing our way through the labyrinth of the finite. There is no hope of knowing the Tao if we do not know the way things work in the outer and inner worlds. Aspiration means nothing if there is no knowledge of how to realize it.
Since there are few that know me, therefore I am distinguished. Wu: “The fewer persons know me, the nobler are they that follow me.” Mabry: “And since so few understand me, then such understanding is rare and valuable indeed.” “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Large numbers are to be found outside true knowledge, few only are those who are true knowers (gnostics). Those who look for a large group to join will find many, but none of them will find the truth. Those who are willing to be only one of a few or even to be totally alone in their seeking have a chance at seeking and finding.
There is a story of a famous guru a century or so back in Western India who was kidnapped by a gang. They treated him very respectfully but demanded that each of his disciples pay them one rupee each as ransom. Since the guru was said to have hundreds of disciples, this would net them a lot of money. But the guru pointed out that the disciples might not trust them to let him go so easily, so they should release him and let him collect the ransom himself. To this they readily agreed, saying they would come for the ransom in one month. At the end of a month they came to him and received three and one-half rupees. “Because,” he explained to them, “I only have three true disciples, and one other is half a disciple. The rest are not my disciples at all.” Groupies abound; disciples are rare.
“Rare and valuable indeed” are those who know the Way (Tao) and walk it. Many are involved in religion and philosophy, but few are those who are moving toward enlightenment. Rare in truth are those who truly teach the way, rarer still are those that begin walking on the way, and rarest are those that persevere unto the end and become themselves the Tao.
Therefore the Sage wears a coarse cloth on top and carries jade within his bosom. Wu: “Therefore, the Sage wears coarse clothes while keeping the jade in his bosom.” Mabry: “Therefore the Sage wears common clothes and hides his treasures only in is heart.” Legge: “It is thus that the sage wears (a poor garb of) hair cloth, while he carries his (signet of) jade in his bosom.” Feng and English: “Therefore the sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart.” This is absolutely true. The flashy, charismatic glitter gurus are only surface show. What you see is all you will ever get. The genuine sages live, look, act and teach simply, often deliberately veiling themselves so only those who have inner sight will recognize them. The ignorant either cannot see them or sneer at them in contempt. But those that possess at least some wisdom see their glory. How many times have spiritually blind people asked me: “What do you see in N.?” “What do you get from going to N.?” and suchlike. God told Samuel: “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). When Goliath saw David “he disdained him” (I Samuel 17:42). So are the ignorant and the doomed to wander.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Sick-Mindedness