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Unobtrusive Government

Part 58 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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When a government is unobtrusive, the people are simple and honest. When a government is suspicious and strict, the people are discontented and sneaky.

Blessings are rooted in misery. Misery lurks behind blessing.

Where does it ever end? There is no such thing as “normal.” What seems normal is only an illusion, and what seems good is finally revealed to be monstrous. The people’s confusion has lasted a very long time.

Therefore the Sage is honest, but not judgmental. Strong, but not injurious to others. Straightforward, but not reckless. Bright, but not blinding.

(Tao Teh King 58 Mabry’s translation)

When a government is unobtrusive, the people are simple and honest. When a government is suspicious and strict, the people are discontented and sneaky.

Feng and English: “When the country is ruled with a light hand the people are simple. When the country is ruled with severity, the people are cunning.”

This really does not need much of a commentary, except to point out that it can be applied to various aspects of life, not just government, but to the way parents order their family life, the way organizations order their administration, and the way religious institutions carry on their activities. For example, the more obsessed with sin and hell a church is, the more secretly corrupt are the members. Even in my early teen years I saw that the more noise churches made, the more “hallelujah, glory, glory” they were and the more they fumed and fulminated against “sin” the more secretly corrupt they were.

An acquaintance of mine told me that he knew a very immoral man who was constantly traveling on corporate business. The man was really what is now called a sex addict. He told my friend that when he would come to a town he would get the local newspaper(s) and check where the fundamentalist revival meetings were being held, especially the “holy roller” kind. He said that he had a one hundred percent success rate in picking up a woman for sex at a “Holy Ghost revival.” “I never spent the night alone,” he boasted.

Emotional religion is based squarely on ego and sensuality. This is not just in Christianity; in every religious tradition where there is intense emotionality, there is intense undercover sexuality. Despite the reputation of “tantrics,” in the context of Hinduism the singing, dancing and shouting Vaishnavas are the foulest of all the religious sects. In Raja Yoga Vivekananda wrote: “All over the world there have been dancing and jumping and howling sects, who spread like infection when they begin to sing and dance and preach; they also are a sort of hypnotists. They exercise a singular control for the time being over sensitive persons, alas! often, in the long run, to degenerate whole races. Ay, it is healthier for the individual or the race to remain wicked than be made apparently good by such morbid extraneous control. One’s heart sinks to think of the amount of injury done to humanity by such irresponsible yet well-meaning religious fanatics. They little know that the minds which attain to sudden spiritual upheaval under their suggestions, with music and prayers, are simply making themselves passive, morbid, and powerless, and opening themselves to any other suggestion, be it ever so evil. Little do these ignorant, deluded persons dream that whilst they are congratulating themselves upon their miraculous power to transform human hearts, which power they think was poured upon them by some Being above the clouds, they are sowing the seeds of future decay, of crime, of lunacy, and of death. Therefore, beware of everything that takes away your freedom. Know that it is dangerous, and avoid it by all the means in your power.”

Blessings are rooted in misery. Misery lurks behind blessing. Where does it ever end? Feng and English: “Happiness is rooted in misery. Misery lurks beneath happiness. Who knows what the future holds?” There is no denying that conflict often produces the most advancement, even in the individual. Persecuted people have told me that they were benefitted by the persecution for it made them strong and defined. Once I saw several people on television telling of the horrors of Japanese imprisonment during the Second World War. They unanimously said they were glad for the experience, which deepened their spiritual life. In The Third Man Harry Lime says: “In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace–and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” This is the contradictory nature of human life which at best is uncertain. (Actually, the Swiss never made cuckoo clocks. They originated in the Black Forest area of Germany. Still, it is a good quotation.)

There is no such thing as “normal.” What seems normal is only an illusion, and what seems good is finally revealed to be monstrous. The people’s confusion has lasted a very long time. This is certainly drastic, especially the statement that what seems good is always found to be terrible. Nevertheless, Yogananda often said that “normal” and “sane” did not mean much, because crazy people with the same craziness get together and declare those who differ from them as officially abnormal and insane. And it cannot be denied that people throughout history have been in the grip of confusion.

Therefore the Sage is honest, but not judgmental. Strong, but not injurious to others. Straightforward, but not reckless. Bright, but not blinding. The wise person never injures another, so though he may speak honestly he will not do so in a condemnatory or censorious way. Yogananda had a very interesting way of showing a person his faults. He would say: “I knew a man [woman] who…” and then would describe their foibles. And that was all. He would not comment and say they were at fault. But the person he was describing got the idea and reformed, but were never embarrassed or hurt. For example, Brother Bimalananda told the members of our monastery that he loved ice cream and discovered that there was always ice cream in the refrigerator at the Encinitas ashram. So he ate some every day. Then one evening when the monks were gathered in the Master’s room he said: “I knew a boy so greedy he would eat ice cream every day just because it was there. And it was not his, either.” That was the end of that! And young Joe Carbona (Brother Bimalananda) appreciated the Master’s tact. I have read that the founder of the Thai Forest Tradition, Acharya Mun, did the same thing very often.

In the twelfth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda wrote about his guru, Sri Yukteswar: “Amazing it was to find that a master with such a fiery will could be so calm within. He fitted the Vedic definition of a man of God: ‘Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.’” I was continually amazed at the tremendous care Anandamayi Ma took to spare the feelings of others, sometimes saying or doing things that would alleviate their anxieties years in the future. She did this in many ways, and always effectually. During my first trip to India, in my last interview with her she very casually mentioned that I should not feel bad or worry if in America I had to relax a certain minor discipline. Confident it would never come about, I actually forgot she said it. But when I had to compromise and began to feel ashamed, Ma’s words came to mind and removed my discomfort. When a week or so after this interview I bade farewell to Ma, she told me two things I should do. Somehow I only remembered one and successfully managed to do it. Then I began to feel sad that she had not said anything about my returning to India. One day in conversation with one of my yoga students I said to him with a grieving heart, “Unfortunately, Ma never…” and like a lightning strike suddenly I could see the scene of my farewell and remembered her very last words to me: “And come back in the winter.” That was the second thing I should do! And by November I was back in India.

The great saints never hurt our inner eyes with their light, but instead heal us with that light. As Swami Brahmananda, the great disciple of Sri Ramakrishna often said: “We have nothing to give but blessings.”

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Be Sparing

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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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