---“Sesshu and the Rat”
Here's the message behind this seemingly paradoxical verse of the Tao Te Ching: Your nature is to be good because you came from the Tao, which is goodness. But when you're trying to be good, your essential nature becomes inoperative. In your effort to be good, moral, or obedient, you lose touch with your Tao nature.
There's one sentence in this verse that I pondered for days before writing this short essay: "When the Tao is lost, there is goodness." I felt perplexed because it seemed so contradictory to what the Tao Te Ching was teaching. Finally, in a moment of contemplation while I meditated on a drawing of Lao-tzu, it became clear to me:Nature is good without knowing it were the exact words I heard in my meditation. I then understood what Lao-tzu seemed to want me to convey about this somewhat confusing (to me) 38th verse.
Live by your essential nature, the Tao, which is oneness; it has no polarity. Yet the moment that you know you're good, you introduce the polarity of "good" versus "bad," which causes you to lose your connection to the Tao. Then you introduce something newyou figure that if you can't be good, you'll try to be moral. And what is morality but standards of right and wrong that you try to uphold? As Lao-tzu seems to be saying to me, The Tao is oneness; it has no standards for you to follow. In other words, the Tao just is; it isn't doing anything, yet it leaves nothing undone. There's no morality; there is only the unattached Tao. It isn't right and it isn't fair, but it is essential nature, and you're encouraged to be true to your own.
As morality is lost, the idea of ritual surfaces, so you try to live in accordance with rules and customs that have defined "your people" for centuries. But I could almost hear Lao-tzu saying: The Tao is infinite and excludes no one. Rituals keep you disconnected from the Tao, and you lose them by trying. So you rely upon laws, further dividing yourself and creating chaos for yourself. Again, the Tao just is its own true, essential nature - it has no laws, rituals, morality, or goodness. Observe it and live within its nature. In other words, act without being concerned for your own ego. Give as the Tao does, without condition or trying to be good, moral, or just. Just give to all without preference, as Lao-tzu advises.
I admit that living by this 38th verse may be the total opposite of what you've learned in this lifetime. It certainly represents both an intellectual and a behavioral challenge for me at times. You may appreciate knowing that many of the scholars whom I researched regarding this verse said that Lao-tzu wrote it (and the next one) in response to his opposition to Confucius, his contemporary who laid out specific edicts and codes of conduct for the people. What Lao-tzu seemed to be saying to me through meditation was: Trust your own essential nature. Let go of all polarities and live in the indivisible oneness that is the Tao. The dichotomies of good/bad, right/wrong, proper/improper, legal/illegal, and the like can be difficult-just remember that when they surface, the Tao is lost.
Here's some more advice for you, through me, from Lao-tzu:
Live in your essential nature by rejecting artificial principles.These principles in descending order are goodness, fairness, rites, and laws. Artificial goodness is an attempt to live by not being "bad," so you allow others to decide where you fit in on a goodness scale. Affirm: I am of the Tao, a piece of God, and I need no human-made device to confirm it. Goodness and God-ness are one, and I trust who I am and will act from this perspective. I am staying with this truth and not what is false. Furthermore, see that the Tao isn't concerned with fairness-give of yourself knowing that this is an artificial contrivance that cannot exist from a perspective of oneness. You are from, and will return to, that oneness, regardless of your opinions about it. So open up generously without desiring to be treated fairly.
Abandon outmoded familial and cultural customs.Relinquish rites that you feel compelled to follow simply because they've been that way in your lifetime, and particularly in your family. Peacefully affirm: I am free to live, trusting in the eternal Tao. I do not have to be as my ancestors were. I relinquish ancient rituals that no longer work or that perpetuate separation or enmity. Remind yourself that goodness isn't accessed by obeying laws; rather, it is what resonates with your essential nature. You don't need any sort of code to decide what is proper, good, moral, ethical, or legal. Trust yourself to be an instrument of love by surrendering to your highest nature rather than being seduced by mortal laws.
This poem from the 16th-century mystic Saint John of the Cross, titled "A Rabbit Noticed My Condition," beautifully describes this attitude:
I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.
It often does not take more than that to help at times -
to just be close to creatures who are so full of knowing, so full of love that they don't -- chat,
they just gaze with their marvelous understanding.
Do the Tao Now
Spend a day consciously choosing to notice one of God's creatures, such as a dog, a butterfly, a moth, a spider, an ant, a fish, a cat, a deer, or whatever attracts you. You can learn a lot from them about trusting your inner nature. They are, as the poet says, "so full of knowing."
from: Living the Wisdom of the Tao © 2007, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
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