Drought burns basins to dust,
Light rain is a dew of mockery.
Receive without complaint,
Work with fate.
When the countryside is gripped in drought, it is useless to complain. Even when light rains fail to moisten the parched landscape, we should accept what happens. This is the way of Tao, and one who follows Tao accepts what comes.
We may have ambitions to move in one direction, but Tao will decide otherwise. We may have plans for the future, but Tao will bend time differently. T here are those who will cry out in anger and frustration, but the follower of Tao remains silent and goes about the business of preparation.
Acceptance does not mean fatalism. It does not mean capitulation to some slaughtering predestination. Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless. They believe in acting within the framework of circumstance. For example, in a drought, they will prepare by storing what water is available. That is sensible action. They will not plant a garden of flowers that requires a great deal of water. That is ignorance and egotism.
Acceptance is a dynamic act. It should not signal inertness, stagnation, or inactivity. One should simply ascertain what the situation requires and then implement what one thinks is best. As long as one’s deeds are in accord with the time and one leaves no sloppy traces, then the action is correct.
Put forth your effort
With no thought of gain.
One should not pray or meditate with any thought of gain. Hold no expectations. Then the rewards will come. If one strives for power and gifts, no true results will come, and one will become lost in lust. Praying for results brings no results — the true spirit appears only when there are no expectations to hamper it.
Books and teachings talk of the results of meditation because they prepare the aspirant for the experiences that will occur. It is important not to look on these writings as advertisements. They are merely descriptions of what you will encounter.
Sit down with no thought of results and you will go naturally and spontaneously with Tao. It is admittedly a paradox. We are to know what to expect, and yet we should allow them to appear as they will. It seems irrational and inefficient. Yet if you would know Tao, there is no faster way to enter the midstream.
Tradition was once function.
But today there is no tradition.
Where is there a true path?
In the past, people didn’t question the teachings of Tao. There was a living tradition, and if one followed it, one could reasonably expect to walk a good path. But today the traditional teachings of Tao have been dimmed by civil wars, political persecution, and the death of masters. Wealth and technology hold the attention of most people, and few have time for Tao. Adopting arcane methods will not lead to success.
We must discover Tao for ourselves. Seeking it in the here and now means fulfilling the spirit of tradition instead of merely copying it. How can we ape the past? The old ways are gone.
Tao means different things to different people in different times. Indeed, we might say that the Tao of today leads in unprecedented directions. We have to adapt, but being contemporary should not be an excuse for adulteration and shortcuts. Once we find the true path of today, we must walk it with the same determination as the ancients.
Invocation becomes declaration;
Worship becomes recognition.
When blessings mature,
One glimpses the source.
When one is young in Tao, all practices begin as external procedures. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand their significance — we don’t know what to expect. This is proper : Not daring to interfere with growth and discovery, those who follow Tao hesitate to go beyond technical instruction.
Take worship, for example. At first, an invocation is something external. You repeat it, but really, it means very little. You kneel down at the altar because you need something on which to focus. Once you realize that the true Tao is to be found within yourself, you shift your attention. Then worship becomes recognition. Your own spirit arises, and you learn to tap into it on your own. If someone had told you what to look for, you might never be sure of your experiences. What comes from outer suggestion is not the true Tao.
Glimpsing the source leaves no doubts.
Come new beginnings.
To gain strength,
Renew the root.
In music, the fundamental tone is the lowest, or root, tone of a chord. Without its presence, no true character is established. Our actions in life are as similarly varied and complex as music. Without a thorough grounding, there is no harmony.
Followers of Tao emphasize cycles. This must include a sound understanding of what to do whenever a cycle comes to an end. New ones will begin : Some of them will be engendered by the old one, others may simply be in the background and will now come forward. If we are to properly shape these new movements and if we are to prevent unwanted cycles from beginning, we must take stock and renew our basis in the fundamentals.
Everyone wants to be daring, creative, and original. Everyone wants to do things in new ways. But unless we return over and over again to the basics, we will have no chance to truly soar. Do not forget the root. Without it, we can never issue forth true power.
One gives birth to two, two gives birth to three,
Three gives birth to the ten thousand.
One hundred and eight counts make one cycle,
Constant turning creates all things.
Today is the one hundred and eighth day. Why are numbers so important to those who follow Tao? Even today, when numbers are more commonly yoked to the service of finance and engineering, there are those who revere numbers with the cheap version of mysticism — superstition. Numbers form a closed world with mysteries to explore and exploit if our understanding is deep enough.
Followers of Tao emphasize certain numbers : One is the unity of Tao. Two is duality. Three is the unevenness that will generate movement. Four is the seasons. Five elements generate the world. Six parts of the body are the arms, legs, head, and trunk. Seven is the day of the waxing moon by the lunar calendar. Eight is the number of divination. Nine is the number of life. Ten is heaven’s cycles.
There are twenty-four periods in a year, each with its own characteristics. Thirty-six is six squared. One hundred and eight is three cycles of thirty-six and represents a greater cycle, although there are even more esoteric connotations attached to it.
Numbers are only symbols, a way for human beings to project order upon the universe. They are a language more precise than words. But does Tao talk? Numbers are important to master, but take care to look beyond language and numbers to the true reality that they foreshadow.
Activity is essential, but exhausting,
And its importance is only on the surface.
Withdraw into Tao at the end of the day.
Returning is renewal.
Each day is filled with activity. We rush around from meeting to meeting; we make all sorts of arrangements for the future. Such doings are important, but they are not all that there is in life. Even as we engage in them, we must remember that all human endeavors are temporary and provisional.
We cannot allow our accomplishments to divorce us from what is actually happening in the world. It is imperative that we withdraw to reflect upon the day’s events and collect ourselves for the continuation of our path. There is no need to go to a temple, a sacred spot, or a special room. We do not need elaborate ritual. All we need is a simple and natural turning within.
This is why followers of Tao always use the word ‘returning.’ They recognize the necessity of activity in life, but they also recognize the need to return to Tao. In Tao is the source of all things, and in the source one finds the renewal that one needs to go on with life. This back-and-forth movement between the source and the activity of life is the movement of all things.