We see ourselves through our intentions and judge others by their actions.
Why do we do this? Is it human nature or a learned response? Through what eyes do we see the actions of others. We presume to think their intentions are the same, or should be as ours. If we try to guide our actions through and by our inner virtue… then why doesn’t everyone else do the same. And can this thing called virtue be universally applied, as if one size fits all. When we can see disarray all around us. As many see the answer to what they perceive as life’s challenges as something outside themselves. When I look back on my own life and ask “if I only knew then what the consequences of my actions might have caused, I might or would have done things differently”. Don’t we all.
Through thousands of years of observing people’s actions and how they create the world around them, the Chinese and in particular what was the guiding factor for the shaman and what was to become Taoism… is the concept of cause and effect. The I Ching saying that what goes in in the beginning tells us what must come out. While events along the way show us the ultimate meaning of one’s fortunes that are yet to come. Knowing this Confucius taught if we are led by our inner virtue and benevolence, then chances are we’re going to be okay.
Why do some people seem to stumble through life and others appear to go as if scott free not experiencing the consequences of their actions? Or even benefiting or failing through no fault of their own. If the riches of a lifetime are but a flash of lightning in eternity, then why do we spend all our time chasing them? Perhaps it is all tied to our soul’s growth and understanding the purpose of why we are here.
Maybe we each keep coming back to lose the attachments and frailties we cling to that over time we accumulate (kind of like karma), that keep us from becoming who we really are. It’s the letting go that is difficult. Or perhaps we come back knowing the above, for the purpose of helping others overcome their strengths and weaknesses as well. We often hear the phrase to “let go and let God”, but is that not just us being guided by our own innate highest virtue that we ourselves project on others. Or as the Dali Lama tells us… we are to simply be guided by our prayers, not only for our own well-being, but for that of others as well. The ultimate test of becoming universal. Keeping to this as our mantra that defines us, our intentions and “who are we to judge others” becomes apparent. We are then guided by the virtue we already possess, as our own intentions, vis-a-vis our actions become clear.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. His Tao Te Ching written in 600 BC is considered to be the second most read and studied text in the world, after the Bible.
For well over a thousand years, understanding the Tao Te Ching was a prerequisite for passing the Imperial Examination in China. Almost all city governments in China today have a Department of Religious Affairs that monitor the activities of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhists, Moslem, and Christian religious activities in their community. Lao Tzu (Taoism), along with Confucius and Buddhism, have for centuries served as the moderators between religion and popular culture in China. The Vice Director of the Religious Affairs office in Qufu was a joint venture partner with me with a shopping center where I had an office in Qufu for many years. It was connections through him that allowed my foundation to publish the Daily Word in Shandong Province.
This respect for other philosophies and religions is best depicted by a painting in 1000 BC of Lao Tzu, Confucius, and the Buddha tasting from a vat of vinegar that represented all three religions in China. Today what is called the “Family Church”, serves the Christian faith in almost every community as well. Every which way is respected… with the Tao Te Ching remaining and being the core to understanding China. It was (is) no accident that city buses have logos on their side that say “Qufu – The religious center of China for a thousand years”. Truth be told it would say three times that number.
There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 19, 20 and 21 of my book follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 19 – Truly Reflecting the Tao
As I look around to see reflections of the Tao, I am drawn to rediscover what is simple and pure and discard what is considered alien to my original nature.
That if wisdom and reason are only used for self-interest then they should be abandoned. Instead collective wisdom and reason should be used to take all to previously unknown heights.
That if kindness and justice are only shells to pursue selfish motives, then putting an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice will enable people to unite on their own.
That if our behavior with others is governed by cleverness and profits our innermost nature would be fulfilled more assuredly if we remain focused on that which remains undyed and uncarved as if driftwood washed up from the sea. Understanding the Tao leads us to understand what is real and unreal, what is artificial and inappropriate and remaining wholly within ourselves. ##
Wang Chen says,”Put an end to wisdom that leaves tracks and reason that deceives, and people will benefit greatly. Put an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice, and relatives will unite on their own and will once more love and obey. Put an end to excessive cleverness and personal profit, and armies will not longer appear. And when armies no longer appear, thieves will not exist.
Wang Pi says, “Wisdom and reason are the pinnacles of reason. Kindness and justice are the pinnacles of behavior. Cleverness and profit are the pinnacles of practice.
To tell us simply to get rid of them would be inappropriate. Without giving us something else, it wouldn’t make sense. Hense we are given the undyed and the uncarved to focus our attention on.
Chiao Hung says, “The ways of the world become daily more artificial. Hence we have names like wisdom and reason, kindness and justice, cleverness and profit. Those who understand the Tao see how artificial they are and how inappropriate they are to rule the world. They aren’t as good as getting people to focus their attention on the undyed and uncarved. By wearing the undyed and holding the uncarved, our self-interest and desires wane. The undyed and uncarved refer to our original nature.”
Verse 20 – On Becoming a Sage
When yes and no becomes the same answer, perhaps you are ready to discontinue this seemingly natural inclination to retreat into a shell like a turtle…
With virtue intact and your destiny assured perhaps it’s time to live out your true destiny as the sage you have become. Living up to the virtue you know. If inequities are but reflections of your desires – cleanse away those things no longer relevant and spring forth with dynamic hope and optimism. Assured that your next step is pre-ordained by dragons who have been waiting patiently for you to join them.
Fulfill your destiny and live the life of virtue that is so obvious to all you encounter. What others love the sage loves, what others fear the sage fears, but while others may not see anything beyond or outside their own minds – the mind of the sage wanders the Tao.
If you want to inspire others you must remain above what living brings each day. While they choose things, you alone must remain unmoved. Acknowledging all as the same, that there is nothing to be lost or gained. Coming forth you simply live within the Tao and accept becoming the sage. ##
Li Hsi – Chai says, “What others love, the sage also loves. What others fear, the sage also fears. But where the sage differs is where others don’t see anything outside their own minds. The mind of the sage, meanwhile, wanders the Tao.
Wang P’ang says, “Everything changes into its opposite. Beginning follows end without cease.But people think everything is either lovely or ugly. How absurd. Only the sage knows that the ten thousand ages are the same, nothing is gained or lost.
Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, ” People all seek external things, while the sage alone nourishes himself on internal breath. Breath is the mother, and spirit is the child. The harmony of mother and child is the key to nourishing life.
Verse 21 – Forever Replenishing our Virtue
What is this thing called virtue and value placed on emptiness and how can they be so inter-related?
That virtue cannot be found unless we are willing to remain empty, that the Tao remains hidden from view except as virtue found through emptiness. Following the Tao, we are continually subject to change and are redefined as our virtue waxes and wanes.
As if guided by the phases of the moon I find structure through tending my garden just as Shen-ming, the divine husbandman, who discovered agriculture along with the healing properties of plants and a calendar to be followed by the sages of long ago. Could it be that virtue is the manifestation of the Tao, or Way, that should guide us? That the Way is what virtue contains and without it could have no meaning or power. That without virtue, the Way would have no appearance or ability to come forward.
Taking no form, the Tao takes expression only when it changes into virtue. It is when the sage truly mirrors the Tao that virtue can be given an opportunity to manifest and grow and the natural course, or scheme of things, becomes apparent for all to see.
The Tao by itself neither existing or not existing. As if coming and going as the essence of one’s heart and soul – simply by maintaining its presence as… virtue. Everything in the universe held accountable to the Tao. Continually changing – with our identity the first to go. What was once true becomes false and what was once false slips into becoming true. It is only our essence expressed as virtue that is kept and continually replenished by the Tao. ##
Wang Pi says, “Only when we take emptiness as our virtue can our actions accord with the Tao. Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Sages have it. So does everyone else. But because others are selfish and constrained, their virtue is empty.”
Yen Ling-Feng says, “Virtue is the manifestation of the Way. The Way is what virtue contains. Without the Way, virtue would have no power. Without Virtue, the Way would have no appearance.
Chang Tao-Ling says, “Essence is like water: the body is an embankment, and virtue is its source. If the heart is not virtuous, or here is no embankment, water disappears.The immortals of the past treasured their essence and lived, while people today lose their essense and die.