As long as the sun rises
And your heart beats,
Tao is at hand.
People think that Tao can only be known through fairy-tale stories of old men in the mountains or obscure poetry about gods riding dragons. Others declare that elaborate ritual, frightening talismans, and mumblings from the depths of spirit possession are necessary for understanding. This is simply not true. Why put another’s experience before your own? Tao is in each of us. Admittedly, an individual’s common ignorance usually obscures awareness of Tao, but this does not mean that there is no Tao or that it is not important. Tao is there for us to experience any time that we can open ourselves to it.
Is the sun shining? Does night follow day? Is the sky blue? Do you have feeling? Then it is possible to know Tao directly and immediately. Don’t delay, don’t think yourself too insignificant. Feel for it. Right now. As long as you are alive, Tao is right at hand.
The voices of ghosts are so familiar,
They whisper to me every day.
You, so young and rich,
Make assumptions with absolute assurance.
I vacillate between superstition and tradition.
You don’t need to question.
Tradition is the oral delivery of rites and customs from generation to generation. Superstition is belief inconsistent with what society generally considers true and rational. When tradition and superstition become bound together, it is a sign of trouble. For example, a woman was once taught not to wash her hair on anybody’s birthday. Whenever she protested this, the answer was “Don’t question!” Years later, she learned that in the old country, letting one’s hair down was a sign of mourning and thus inauspicious on a birthday. What was etiquette in one generation became superstition in another.
Those raised with traditions and superstitions are often torn between the extremes of biculturalism. Their inbred beliefs conflict with current knowledge and quickly changing culture, creating doubt and uncertainty.
There has to be informed revision to all tradition if it is not to degenerate into superstition. The true substance of any tradition will take new form without compromising its inherent character. If not, it will just become the outmoded beliefs of old people, and it will fade into ghostly whispers.
She withdrew into herself,
First writing just for one,
Then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt, and joy
Into paper-and-ink stories of wonder.
One author said, “I can get rid of anything by writing about it,” meaning that the process of externalization could liberate him from the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy : to free himself, or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.
Writer write because they must : They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.
People feel Tao in the same way that writers feel something unique. In the process of listening for mysterious voices and expressing the wonder that comes is a magic akin to the perfection of Tao.
Leaden blankets weigh her down,
White hanks drape her leathery face.
Caught in the numbness of narrowing time,
Eyes blinded by gauze,
Robotic sights echo into her coma.
Metallic hiss of breathing machine is the
Strange violence of modern compassion.
What do we do when those we care deeply about are dying, while we go on living and working? We might be tempted to indulge in our own feeling of injustice, sadness, or fear, but we should think first of those who are dying. We have a responsibility to be with them.Don’t let others die lonely. No matter how ironic your living may compare with their dying, act for them as they can no longer act. If they reach out for some way to cope with their impending end, you need not have flowery words. Merely being with them, perhaps reaching out to hold hands, is eloquence enough. Death may be near, but any amount of time before it comes is precious.
Life’s moments are not cheapened by death. Just to observe and affirm is good. After all, death waits for all of us. Only the value we place on each minute determines the quality of life. If we can embrace that, then no one’s life is ruined by death.
If you are best in the morning,
Cultivate Tao in the morning.
If you are best in the evening,
Cultivate Tao in the evening.
Whatever the optimal time of day is for you, you should devote it to the cultivation of Tao. For example, dawn, when it is quiet, the world is fresh, and the mind is untainted by the day’s events, is an ideal time to devote yourself to study. Morning, the time of birth, should not be wasted on a quick breakfast, a hastily read newspaper, and a manic rush to work. If is far better to awake from peaceful sleep, wash yourself, drink clear water, and immerse yourself in the rising energy of the day.
If your optimal time is evening, there are two propitious intervals : twilight, when day and night come into balance, and midnight, when the first breath of the coming day arises. In the night, worldly cares are put aside, rest and relaxation are paramount, and the entire world withdraws into nocturne. Night is the time of regeneration, and it should not be wasted on wanton entertainment, indulgent sexuality, and too much sleep. It is far better to retire from the cares of the day, bathe, and immerse yourself in the gestating power of the dark.
Sleek sky of cobalt blue;
Water like nectar satisfies deeply.
Air sweeter than the best perfume;
Sunlight warms a grateful cat.
It is hard to believe life is all for naught. Can’t we take happiness when it comes?
There is admittedly a great deal of suffering and horror in this world. But if we are to accept life’s sad parts, we must also embrace its good parts. As long as we are in this world, we must accept it all. If what comes our way is occasionally wonderful, no one should deny our enjoyment. We all know that every rise is followed by a fall. Why dwell only on dread of the future? As long as we have behaved responsibly, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the best of what life has to offer.
Look at a cat as she stretches out contentedly in the sun. There is no thought of the next moment, only the sheer enjoyment of the present. Rest assured that she will still be able to clean herself, still be able to catch mice, and still be able to do all the things that a cat must do. But she is without anxieties, and so she is purely and totally who she should be. She acts as if she were nature’s favorite. And who is to say otherwise?
Outside is form,
Inside is thought.
Deepest is the soul.
Traditional sages describe a human being as having three sheaths. The outer one is the physical body and incorporates primitive drives and instincts. The inner one is the mind and includes discrimination, reasoning, and sense of individuality.
Both the body and the mind are enslaved to the outer world because they gain their knowledge from sensory input. They cannot know anything “intangible,” anything without a form or a name.
At the core of every person is the soul. This is a pure, virgin self. It does not think in the ordinary sense of the word, has no egotism, and is not concerned with maintaining itself in the world. Although the body has a shape and the mind is multi-faceted, the soul is completely without form or features. No markings, profiles, names, formulas, numbers, ideas, or conceptions can be projected upon it. It is pure, shapeless, and empty.
Any person with training can reach this soul. Only then can you be convinced of its presence. When you reach it, your body and mind will become irrelevant, for you are now in a state beyond the senses and beyond thought. The soul is called absolute because it is beyond all relativity.