Lao Tzu calls it thievery when the few capture the bulk of a country’s worth. This is no basis for a decent life. Even those in power would be better off if they didn’t have to defend their position and their possessions. This kind of power does not last. It has always led to rebellion and to the overthrow of those who hold the power. True power lies in seeing your true nature as unlimited potential to originate and sustain the world. This is real wealth and abundance, and it’s yours by nature. Claim it by seeing it! Wu wei, doing nothing, is spontaneous action. Everything occurs on its own – in emptiness. When Lao Tzu says to do nothing, he wants us to see our emptiness, to see that there is no one here to do anything.
Even thoughts occur on their own, one following another. These thoughts can lead to a special kind of thought called a decision. Decisions too occur on their own, spontaneously. So what should you do? Do nothing. You are not any kind of thing that could do anything. You are no-thing. See that you are simply nothing, the nothing that beholds all activity. And see that all activity takes place in you.
54. Hold fast to this awareness Seeing that it is your root It will not ever slip away This ever present absolute It cannot be uprooted It’s always held in veneration Discovered very close at hand In every generation Allow its presence in your life Awareness real and profound Allow it in the family Its blessings will abound And if you care to share it With neighbor and with friend Its potency will multiply With benefits that never end You ask me how I know it’s true It isn’t something I mistook Well nothing is more obvious The only thing I do is look Bare awareness is your root. It is the source and nourishment and support of your world, the absolute at the center of existence. It has never been otherwise. This awareness is not new. It is eternal. It is what you have always been, unchanged since the day you were born and before. It is also unchanged since olden days. Some people have seen it in all the ages of humanity. This view has been recorded since the invention of writing. The joy in sharing it is overwhelming. And the power of sharing this vision is boundless. Though it is thoroughly plain, it is the source of all delight. Sharing it with others can only spread the blessings. And sharing makes it easier to keep up the seeing yourself. Why is Lao Tzu so sure of this? He can see it! He sees the Tao, the gone-head, the naked awareness. Nothing else is so plainly obvious. He looks where his face is absent and sees only openness to take in all delights. It is also unchanged since olden days. Some people have seen it in all the ages of humanity. This view has been recorded since the invention of writing. The joy in sharing it is overwhelming. And the power of sharing this vision is boundless. Though it is thoroughly plain, it is the source of all delight. Sharing it with others can only spread the blessings. And sharing makes it easier to keep up the seeing yourself. Why is Lao Tzu so sure of this? He can see it! He sees the Tao, the gone-head, the naked awareness. Nothing else is so plainly obvious. He looks where his face is absent and sees only openness to take in all delights.
- One who sees full emptiness Is like a child just born With muscles weak and bones so soft Yet with a grip that’s strong The newborn hasn’t been fulfilled Its nature is pure vacancy Nullity and nothingness And potent spontaneity It can scream and cry all day And yet it never does get hoarse It only does what naturally Emerges from the inner source To see this inner nature Is seeing in a way that’s bold Into the only place there is That cannot possibly grow old Children and seers are similar in not imagining themselves to be an object, a human object with a head and a face. Infants and very young children have no concepts about their identity. They simply see what is. They have no thoughts on the subject. But they soon learn what others say they are. They see a face in the mirror. That’s who they are now. Over the years they watch that face growing older. They know they will someday die. They have the knowledge that kills. The seer returns to the pure, simple and total vision of the child, seeing the unchanging and undying vacancy at center, the nullity that is full of the world. Yet there is a difference. Unlike the child, the seer is awake to the Tao, aware of the all-creative nullity that exists in place of the face, instead of the head. What is Te? Te is most often translated as Power, and what a power! It’s the infinite potential of Tao, of This, of the awareness at your center. Te is the unlimited possibility of the Tao to become the ten thousand things. Tao is infinite emptiness with unlimited potential. And you can see it! You can see this infinite and creative emptiness, the Tao that holds the kaleidoscopic world. 56. Those who know don’t like to say Those who say don’t know Be still and guard the senses And see what doesn’t show Untie tangles, dim the glare Dull the sharp and join the dust Abide in primal unity And then do what you must You cannot hold it or let go It can’t be blamed or praised In all-embracing oneness Be astonished and amazed Those who know don’t like to say. They know that it can’t be captured in words. They know that others are likely to take the words themselves for the truth. The truth is not in words. The truth is in seeing, in seeing the oneness at your center, the oneness you have in common with all beings. Don’t become entangled and identified with the ten thousand things. You are not a thing like your reflection in the mirror. You are not an image. You are the original! How can you fail to be amazed? How can you continue to ask for more? You’ll see more than what’s on show! You’ll see the void or absence at your center. It’s a void that is plain to all the senses. You’ll hear it as the silence that contains all sound. Using any of your senses, it is total plainness and purity. This void is pure and unadorned awareness, simple and absolute presence.
- To truly lead with fairness You must put aside control Abandon imposition Make spontaneity your goal The more you try to run their lives With rules and prohibition The poorer people’s lives become The more they live in opposition The more you deal with others With cunning and with guile The more that other people say Our lives are not worthwhile The more you hoard your treasures The more you’re giving hope to thieves The more you sharpen weapons The more the country grieves Do nothing and see all is done And everyone is true Drop the rules and people owe Prosperity to you Just let go of all desire And people will return To natural and simple ways To life without concern Do nothing and see all is done. Allow spontaneity. Lao Tzu is showing us two ways of doing. The first way is the more familiar. It’s the way of opposition and imposition, of trying to impose our will on the world. It’s the way of calculated action. Of course we must all plan and be assertive to some extent. We must do what is needed for living. But if we imagine this assertiveness to be the only mode of action, then we don’t know when to stop. We do not know its limits. We push too far, and the world pushes back. Lao Tzu prefers a second way of doing. He calls it wu wei, doing nothing. The Tao does nothing, and all is done. Everything happens on its own, with no help from you or me. Hold still a minute and look. Has anything stopped just because you are doing nothing? Does action continue? Of course it does. Trust that all is as it should be, and do what you will. Doing nothing is identical to seeing everything. See that your inner being cannot act. See the setup. Here, where the head is gone, is Tao, which is empty and void. Emptiness cannot act, but it can contain action. All action is out there in the world, happening on its own. And the world out there is happening in you! 58. Let your lead be gentle And people will be satisfied Let it be severe and harsh And be rejected and defied Happiness may reign today But who knows what tomorrow holds? Sadness too will have its time As all ten thousand things unfold The seer’s sight is sharp and pointed But it does not cut or pierce The seer sees and shows the truth This gentle way is never fierce Who knows what tomorrow holds? No one is certain. Allow events to unfold as they will. Don’t interfere in the affairs of others. Lead gently. Knowing that calculated action may backfire, are you prepared to take the blame? The seer leads by doing nothing. Do nothing. See everything! Do nothing that is calculated. See totality. See the absence that is the source and substance of all that exists. Watch actions arise spontaneously. Even what seem like conscious decisions arise on their own. Be at your ease, and all will be at ease in your presence.
- To serve and care for others With restraint and moderation Stay centered in the here and now And free of limitation If you keep returning To this your central root You will possess forever Awareness undilute How can you best serve others? By being sure of yourself, of your own root. Stay centered in the here and now, in your own presence, your own awareness. When you are sure of your own unlimited identity, share it with others. It’s our common identity after all. Awareness is not a thing that has qualities or parts that could be divided. It is identical for all of us. It is your nature to share it! 60. It’s best to lead a large domain As you would cook a little fish Don’t poke and prod or you are bound To spoil the country and the dish Just stay open and aware And evil cannot get a hold Cannot find a home in you Even evil’s not that bold At center you harm no one And no one’s able to harm you This kind of reciprocity Creates the world anew How do you cook a small fish? By leaving it alone. Put it on the fire, and let it cook itself. We are back again to Lao Tzu’s perennial theme, don’t interfere. Lead a country the same way. Provide for the basic needs, then let it run itself. Don’t exploit others for your own benefit. All will go smoothly on its own, with no harm to others and no harm to you. Lao Tzu is also speaking about your true essence as awareness. No one is able to harm you, because, as awareness, you are an absence. The Tao, the absent head, is invulnerable. It is pure bliss. Many of the chapters in the Book of Te are addressed to the leader of a country. We can learn from these because we all must assume the role of a leader at times. Lao Tzu tells us not to lead by opposing and prohibiting. If it harms no one then give the people what they want. The Taoist story of Three in the Morning tells of a keeper of monkeys who had to reduce their ration of nuts because of a shortage that year. He told the monkeys they would have three nuts in the morning and four nuts in the evening. The monkeys raised such a fuss about the situation that the keeper had to reconsider. He came back to the monkeys with a new plan.