they softened their light and forgot about themselves
LI HSI-CHAI says, “The ancient masters of the Way had no ambition. Hence, they dulled their edges and did not insist on anything. They had no fear. Hence, they untied every tangle and avoided nothing. They did not care about beauty. Hence, they softened their light and forgot about themselves. They did not hate ugliness. Hence, they merged with the dust and did not abandon others.”
LI HSI-CHAI (FL. 1167). Taoist master, practitioner of Taoist yoga, and noted Yiching scholar. His commentary extends Lao-tzu’s teachings to the state as well as the individual. Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh.
In this verse of the Taoteching Lao Tzu asks us to consider an inner posture that allows us to be receptive to the Earthy Yin Qi. Li Hsi-Chai in this commentary mentions several benchmarks for this posture that we can contemplate more closely:
no ambition: this is the water-course way as water always seeks the lowest ground and does not strive beyond where it is;
dulled edges: can I let go of the sharpness of my mind that would love to split hairs and then split them again and again creating more and more separation;
no insistence on anything: give up my adamance and my rigidity and open up to the greater wisdom that wants to emerge in each situation;
no fear: looking at what I fear I can surrender to what is and find acceptance which dissolves the tension created by fear;
untie tangles: when fear subsides then I can reflect without any agenda and find the common ground;
avoid nothing: acceptance of what is and trusting that in union we will find all solutions;
not caring about beauty: the Taoist understanding is that each value creates its partner/opposite (ugliness) so having no preference opens me up to seeing both (all) sides of the situation and not being stuck in an agenda from the thinking mind (from the past);
soften our light: to me this feels like releasing the mind’s power of discrimination to allow all things to be seen in their inter-beingness and not with the analytical faculty that often prevents that sense of melding with the other;
forget about ourselves: compare Dogen’s Genjokoan: “To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.” When I let go of my self-image as a center of perception and action then perception of Reality is possible.
not hate ugliness: any hate or rejection of anything is the root of the perception of something outside of me that I will either accept or reject. Thus I create dichotomy.
merge with dust: here, too, I release my image of myself as something ‘better than’ and ‘separate from’ what it is that I feel is undesirable.
not abandon others: this is to see myself as part of this great Being that includes all other beings whose forms appear in my field of awareness.
This article is in response to Barbara Franken’s challenge: link
I am asked to relate my awakening experience. This article is about the time that I first became aware of all that we take to be ‘the world’ is not what we think it is. It was in 1966 and I was a 16-year-old who had hitch-hiked to Istanbul from Trieste, Italy where I lived at that time. Continue reading
“But the eyes can’t help seeing, and the ears can’t help hearing, and the mouth can’t help tasting, and the mind can’t help thinking, and the body can’t help acting. They can’t stay still.
But if we let them move without leaving stillness behind,
nothing can harm us.”
Taoteching – Lao Tzu
I posted this verse 10 of the Tao Te Ching in June of 2017 and now I am posting it again. I continually come back to the phrase:
“He cleans the dark mirror of his mind,
so that it reflects without intent.”
and the wording: “…it reflects without intent” for me captures the real quintessence of all the practices that interest me. Also the words “He cleans the dark mirror…” express so appropriately in simple words that all practices at some point are simply identifying what it is in my life that is an obstruction to the pure “energy of pure seeing” and then to remove it. Continue reading
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Verse 10
CLEANING THE DARK MIRROR
Maintaining unity is virtuous,
for the inner world of thought is one
with the external world
of action and of things.
These two (the Secret and its manifestations)
Are (in their nature) the same;
They are given different names
When they become manifest.
They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:
Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery
Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.
excerpt from Tao Te Ching Ch 1, Lao Tzu
Please enjoy a few excerpts from William Martin’s beautiful book “The Sage’s Tao Te Ching – Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life”. There is more about Bill at the bottom of the post.
Here is what Amazon.com says about this delightful booklet:”
“The tenth anniversary edition of William Martin’s free-verse interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, written expressly for those coming into the fullness of their wisdom
Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, one of the world’s most widely read books of wisdom, reminds its readers that the sage has been venerated in China for thousands of years. In this free-verse interpretation of the Tao, William Martin subtly and powerfully captures the complex emotions connected with growing older. He encourages today’s sages to recognize their inestimable worth in a youth-centric world that often goes astray: ‘Will I be able to harvest my life in compassion and love for the world? Will I find in my own heart the wisdom for which I long? This question trumps all others for me. I suspect it is the same for you.’ “