Daily Tao / 88 – Interpretation: part 2

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The sage whose words are ambiguous you call great.
Those who advocate discipline you shun.
With one, you treat words the way you want.
With the other, you resent having no quarter.

It is unfortunate that we need the words of the wise. Though they are essential to our beginnings on a spiritual path, they can cause problems because they must be interpreted to be understood. Because words are imperfect, every generation rewrites itself.
People love ambiguity, especially when it comes to religion. They can interpret things any way they want. If they are unhappy with the cast given to a particular teaching, they invent ways to circumvent it, which is why we have so many authorities, schools, and sects.

It is no accident that the most revered sages are dead. They aren’t around to correct our misguided notions, to change their teachings, or even to make mistakes that might mitigate our reverence. Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu — how many of us are actually devoted to the wisdom that they embodied? Or have we made them mere screens upon which we project our own ideas?

It is important to spend time with a living teacher, one who can correct mistakes and discipline you. But the object of such study should not be the creation of a new orthodoxy. Rather, your goal should be to bring yourself to a state of independence. All teachings are mere references. The true experience is living your own life. Then, even the holiest of words are only words.

 

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