Tao Te Ching – Chapter 64 (Part 1 and 2) by Galen Pearl


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This uncharacteristically long chapter comprises several parts that may at one time have been separate. It reminds me of the book of Proverbs in the Bible, which contains many pearls of wisdom that can be considered as stand alone verses. Because of its length, I’m going to break discussion of this chapter into two posts.

Some key lines from the first part:

Peace is easily sustained

This is an interesting pronouncement in a world where peace has been elusive, from families to nations, across millennia. To me, this speaks to our natural state of alignment and harmony, easy to maintain if we refrain from interfering. The history of conflict at all levels and at all times in this world, has almost always been caused when we have shifted out of alignment because of fear. A Course in Miracles teaches that this fear results from our mistaken belief in separation, from each other and from God. Fear makes us want to control outside circumstances that are beyond our control. Inner conflict is then manifested externally.

What has not yet happened is easy to prepare for
Manage things before trouble arises

These lines remind me of the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine.” It also reminds me of how our practice prepares us for the unexpected. If my balance is improved by practicing tai chi, for example, I am less likely to fall if I miss a step or trip over something. If my inner alignment is rooted through practicing meditation, I’m less likely to be buffeted by an unanticipated challenge.

A long journey begins under the foot

This wisdom is often phrased as “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The character in this line, however, is actually the character for “foot” and the following character means “under.” This gives me a slightly different sense of this proverb. No matter where I’m headed, my present location is always exactly under my feet. No matter how many steps I take, I am always in the same “place,” that is, over my feet.

It’s like breathing. I will breathe my way all through my life’s journey, but the breath that matters is the one I’m taking right now.

No matter how you interpret this line, I think the point is that, to use another saying, “no matter where you go, there you are.” The present moment, standing on this ground, breathing this breath, is where I exist.

As I said, this chapter is more like pearls on a string rather than one big pearl. I hope these lines offer something helpful for your contemplation. I will continue the chapter in the next post.

(Part 2)

As I explained in Part 1, this unusually long chapter resembles a string of proverbs. Picking up from the earlier post, here are some key passages from the rest of the chapter.

Action leads to failure
Grasping leads to loss
Thus the sage refrains from action and does not fail
Refrains from grasping and does not lose


Once again we encounter this perplexing concept of non-action. Refraining from action to avoid failure reminds me of the athlete who said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. We are encouraged to try and try again, to learn from our failures.

But remember that non-action in this context does not mean sitting around doing nothing in resignation or fear. It means not engaging in ego-driven action. It means allowing one’s actions to be guided by inner wisdom and alignment such that action is effortless and unforced.

And as we know from the Buddha’s teaching, grasping is at the root of suffering. Impermanence is the nature of the manifested universe. Our attempts to hold onto something that is changing create a struggle that we will inevitably lose.

Thus the sage desires no desire
Does not value material treasure
Allowing all things to return to their true nature
By not presuming to act

The Chinese characters for true nature are hard to translate. Literally, they mean “self so.” They sort of mean “what is so of itself” or “what is, as it is.” This pair of characters appear throughout the Tao Te Ching and, like non-action, represent a foundational concept in this ancient wisdom teaching.

When we refrain from ego-driven action or interference, and follow our inner guidance, then what is, as it is, naturally unfolds. We no longer create suffering with futile struggles with reality. We are aligned with the universal energy that manifests through us with effortless harmony.

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. It is who we are. It isn’t a matter of becoming. It’s a matter of remembering.

The Tao is not about grasping, but allowing, like water. ~Wayne Dyer

SOURCE: No Way Cafe
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