Chapter of the Week: #41 [Archive]

Knowing when to stop, for me, relates to the chapter about hammering things to a point. With moderation and paying attention, I?m more likely to stop at a ?natural? place. When I?m totally caught up in satisfying a desire, I?m much more likely to go overboard, and then suffer the consequences. (Like eating an extra-large hot fudge sundae, and then feeling miserable.)

Gain or loss, which is a greater bane? I find that being drawn to gain leads to a never-ending pursuit of desire fulfillment. The ante keeps going up in terms of what I want, and what I think I need. Loss, however, can turn me back to myself (unless I run from the pain, into trying for more desire fulfillment).

When I?m not content, it?s easy to meet with danger or disgrace, because I may pursue desire so much that I lose my head. Such as when I get upset with my wife, because she doesn?t wash my work water bottle when she washes the rest of the dishes, and I?ve already asked her 3 times. If I just get upset with her, I end up disgracing myself, making a sad situation, because I blindly pursued what I wanted. Instead, I can find contentment by just washing the bottle myself, and recognizing that we?re all imperfect.


  • edited May 2006
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 41 was originally featured on the 4th week in October.

    Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 41
    When the best student hears about the way
    He practices it assiduously;
    When the average student hears about the way
    It seems to him one moment there and gone the next;
    When the worst student hears about the way
    He laughs out loud.
    If he did not laugh
    It would be unworthy of being the way.

    Hence the Chien yen has it:
    The way that is bright seems dull;
    The way that leads forward seems to lead backward;
    The way that is even seems rough.
    The highest virtue is like the valley;
    The sheerest whiteness seems sullied;
    Ample virtue seems defective;
    Vigorous virtue seems indolent;
    Plain virtue seems soiled;
    The great square has no corners.
    The great vessel takes long to complete;
    The great note is rarefied in sound;
    The great image has no shape.

    The way conceals itself in being nameless.
    It is the way alone that excels in bestowing and in accomplishing.
  • edited December 1969
    I suppose we all find Taoist views to be a strange, nonsense kind of funny, initially (from birth on...). This is not surprising considering that we biologically believe what we feel (see, hear, think...) to be real. For instance, the Taoist view that [chref=2]the whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly, [/chref] certainly sounds nonsensical enough to drive one to laugh out loud :lol:

    I suppose I differ a bit on this chapter. I feel that anyone who considers the Taoist view deeply enough to cause them to actually laugh out loud may be on the verge of student-hood. I find that most people discount the Taoist view right of the bat, and thus never create enough inner tension to either laugh (or cry) at or about the way; biology rules :!:

    I recall decades ago reading this chapter and wondering what manner of student was I. Looking back I know I was the average student. As the years pass, I increasingly (though gradually) practice it assiduously. How? The deeper I know, in my gut / soul, that the way that leads forward seems to lead backward, I find that I have not choice but to practice in assiduously. It is truly effortless; [chref=53]the great way is easy[/chref] as I come to know that all other paths are by-paths and dead ends. For heaven sakes, what else can I do but practice in assiduously :?:
  • JoeJoe
    edited December 1969
    For me, this ties in with ?turning back is how the way moves?, in that our desires, the things we?re tempted to pursue, give the illusion of being bright, or virtuous, or forward moving. However, the more I ?practice it assiduously?, I see that what?s real is that turning back away from these, is what truly moves towards the way that is bright, etc.

    I guess these days I too can see myself as the student practicing assiduously. From the standpoint of everything thing in life revolves around the pursuit of desires, and the promise of happiness and the escape from suffering. This fits with the sheerest whiteness seems sullied. TO the worst student, the idea that pursuing one?s desires doesn?t bring contentment, must seem stupid, sullied. But, I also see that most people I encounter seem to have something in them that doesn?t totally believe they?ll achieve happiness if they just find the right lover, or buy a new car, or find a better job.

    ?It is the way alone that excels in bestowing and in accomplishing.? To me that?s it in a nutshell. The more I can truly embrace this in my very being, the more contentment I will have.
  • edited December 1969
    This brings to mind a couple quotes
    -one, a line from Rilke: Every angel is terrifying.
    the other, a saying, I forget from whom: 'Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not truth.'
    Everything is an illusion, colored by our experience and our disabling humanity. A picture can be beautiful, but whats behinds the objects in the picture? if I quit looking, quit asking, i'll find out...
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