The Acclaimed Wisdom of the Tao te Ching Made Simple.
It is one of the most acclaimed books of philosophy, and spiritual inquiry ever written.
This Entry #59 explores how we can guard the most sacred of places — Tao
This Commentary is extracted from the “Course on Essential Taoism A-Z and Beyond” — A program based on the merging of 20 different English Translations of the Tao te Ching (from Mandarin to English) which I developed between 1972–2012.
This entry, Guarding Tao, addresses the subtle distinction between resignation and surrender in the game of life.
Many treat these words as being synonymous but they are not. To be resigned is often to “give up,” in a state of incompletion, and with a sense of failure. Often, one resigns from a point of view or some position as a result of pressure or to avoid unwanted consequences.
For the transparent Essential Taoist, surrender implies that an Awakened person completely gives up their own will while existing in a natural flow and rhythm that comes through the subjecting of their thoughts, ideas, and deeds to the teachings of Tao. To surrender here is to willfully accept and yield to Tao. This way of being is exactly what you are observing when you watch a bird fly on thermals, wings spread out, rising higher and higher but without any flapping movement. This takes place because the bird has surrendered with intention and has immersed itself in hot air as it rises up from lower to higher altitudes.
For the Essential Taoist, the first, and main principle of surrender is Dying to Self, or the emptying of self so the veil of ego may fall away and the authentic self may become present. This is an essential principle I teach in my seminars such as the one below.
Another principle central to the Taoist concept of surrender is the role of natural law through which Tao is expressed. Surrendering to Tao entails the surrender of our will to Tao and Te. Here the way of Tao, which is a reflection of our actual needs prevails over our wants. This is done through the emptying, falling away, or dying of self — the putting self aside in favor of the influence of Tao, which we can directly experience through meditation, contemplation, and introspection. These are specific techniques I was taught by my own Taoist teachers.
Through these practices, we are able to surrender to the inner call of Tao.
One way that surrender may be expressed is through service to others. This is not service to build one’s ego but a restrained service where one, through conservation and balance, fills the needs of others while maintaining a Taoist nature. Surrender, in this way, enables us to create a meaningful life, while eliminating unnecessary suffering and struggle.
Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao te Ching says:
In serving others and serving Spirit,
there is nothing better than restraint.
How does restraint begin?
By surrendering one’s ideas of what is right.
This leads to moderation, conservation, and balance,
and through these three one can address things early on.
There is much connection between the concept of surrender and the Zen concept of “Chop wood, carry water”.
It begins with a conversation between a student and a Zen Sage. The student asked the Sage “What does one do before enlightenment?” The Sage answered, “Chop wood, carry water.” The student then asked, “What does one do after enlightenment.” The Sage answered, “Chop wood, carry water.”
In Essential Taoism, we replace the word “Enlightenment” with the word “Awakened”. This is a state we exist from moment to moment. A state that results with constant intention My own teacher often said “Before Awakening, chop wood, carry water; after Awakening, chop wood, carry water.” This is what the great Zen Sages have said. It is a reminder that there is nothing you must do in life other than what must be done. When living in this way, tasks in your life will cease to be tasks. Work is no longer a burden; it is simply what needs to be done. Doing what needs to be done is an embracing of need over want, and is a form of surrender. It is a voluntary form of checkmate.
As the distinction between want and need becomes clearer, and you increasing surrender, you will become more consistent, more aware, and more effective, efficient, and productive. It is all part of Chop Wood, Carry Water. conserve and balance, defining wants and needs, and a commitment to Tao through consistent meditation practice. This leads to practical mindfulness, and surrender in your daily activities. It does little good to attain clarity of mind, and a sense of surrender on your meditation cushion if you lose it as soon as you arise. It all begins with activities like brushing your teeth or ironing clothes while fully alert.
Are you focused on the task at hand are is your mind wandering? In your life learn to move with fluid motions. Waste no energy. Allow yourself the grace of, economy of motion. Be grateful for the countertop, the sponge, water, and soap. Be grateful for the hand and the arm that can move a sponge. Be thankful for the floor you stand on and the roof that protects you.
Without letting your mind wander be grateful in the moment with that sponge and that water and that countertop. Soon you will experience wonder in the mundane world of daily life. The weed that grows in the crack of a sidewalk is just as miraculous as the redwood tree towering in the sky. Raindrops streaking a window are an occasion for awe as is the spray that dampens your face at the waterfall. When you open awareness of the tasks in your life they become lighter. When you are able to be in the moment, you will no longer feel compelled to watch the clock. Whatever your work, bring all of yourself to it. When you are fully present, you may find that your labor is no longer a burden. This is Taoist wisdom in action.
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Author: My name is Lewis Harrison. I am a practical philosopher and independent scholar in the area of Essential Taoism, practical philosophy, Eastern thought, personal improvement, and problem-solving
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