The Way of the Dao

This is an essay from the back of my Dao De Jing and not my original work. The essay is called “The Way of the Dao” by Dennis Waller.

I’m putting it here to make it easier to share with friends and family.


This chapter will shed some light on some of the principles of the Dao. All that is required is just a slight shift in your way of thinking of who you are and how you choose to see the world. With an open mind, you can begin on the way of the Dao. All it takes is a simple decision to follow it.

What is the Way of the Dao? It is the way things are in their own natural progression of life and death. The way of intelligent design as shown in nature, this is the way of the Dao. It is the way without a way with no dogmas, no formalities or no religion.  It is nothing, yet it is everything. This is the way of the Dao. In the words of Winston Churchill, the Dao can be described as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. This is true for people who are attached to their identity and their ego. However, the way is clear to those who have mastered and tempered their ego.

“Those who speak do not know. Those who know do not speak.”- Laozi

This is a very paradoxical statement. If this is the case, then how was Laozi able to recite the Dao? Laozi wasn’t trying to define the Dao. Rather he used the Dao to speak through it. This is critical in order to understand the Dao and what Laozi was saying. Knowledge is the act of “knowing.” Wisdom is the act of “being.”  When you are in a state of “being,” you cannot articulate the meaning of that state. The wisdom of the Dao is beyond knowing; it resides in the “being” not in the “doing.”

Verse Twenty One from the Dao- “The greatest virtue is to be one with the Dao. Not by doing but by being, not by striving but by thriving. The Dao is ever elusive and obscure. While vague and elusive it is seeable in its actions…”

An example of “being” is right above your head. Look at the sky to see this principle at work. Does the sky try to control the clouds or stop the rain? Does it try to capture them and hold them back? Does it force its will upon the clouds? No, the sky allows the clouds to pass by. Whatever comes, even a thunderstorm, the sky allows it to happen for this is the nature of the sky and the nature of the thunderstorm.

The sky is in harmony by allowing things to be what they are. No control, no agenda, just existing in harmony and balance. Even the wind is free to come and go as she likes. The sky provides the emptiness, the space for these things to be. The sky is like the divine consciousness that cannot be seen. It is only through the action of the wind, the clouds, the thunderstorms that the sky can be known. It is known through action. The Dao is the same, made visible by action.

This quote from Cheng-dao Ke shows the concept of verse twenty one by illustrating the sky within the framework of the Dao quite clearly, "Like the empty sky it has no boundaries, yet it is right in this place, ever profound and clear. When you seek to know it, you cannot see it. You cannot take hold of it, but you cannot lost it. In not being able to get it, you get it. When you are silent, it speaks; when you speak it is silent. The great gate is wide open to bestow alms, and no crowd is blocking the way."

Another example of “being” is to imagine a mirror that reflects reality; it reflects the images without judgment or prejudice. The mirror doesn't create attachments to the imagines nor does it create an identity of itself based on the imagines. The mirror simply reflects what is cast across its surface. The mirror doesn't ask for the images nor does it rejects any of the images. It is simply there being a mirror. It doesn’t try to hold on to whatever comes its way or try to identify with the images. It just reflects the world as it sees it.  When you are living in the way of the Dao, you merely observe events happening to you without taking the effects of the events personally. You have a knowing that you are not the events. You are like the mirror and just reflecting them.

This is one of the issues of the Dao that is difficult for people to understand. Within the Dao, you are not identified with any of these events. Most people need to identify themselves through their events and their experiences; this is their Ego at work. You must learn to balance your ego with your authentic self before progressing on the path of the Dao.

When your mind is free from the constraints of the ego as well as free from attachments, it functions in the world but isn't influenced by the actions of the world nor is your mind affected by these actions. This is the way of the Dao.

Verse Four of the Dao- “The Dao is like a vase that is empty yet used. It is the emptiness that gives birth to the vase. This emptiness, deep and unfathomable, is the source of the ten thousand things.”

Another concept of the Dao is living in emptiness. It is within the emptiness where creation is born. Take a look at a vase. If it weren’t for the emptiness inside the vase, there would be no vase. It is the emptiness that makes the vase. It is the same with a room, without a door, how would one gain entrance? Without a window, how could there be light? It is through the empty space that makes the room useful. Or a boat, without the emptiness within the boat, the boat would not be of any use, or worse, sink. This is true throughout the universe, everywhere you look. This is what was meant by, “The usefulness of what is depends on what is not.” There is an unlimited supply of emptiness; learn to take advantage of it.

The Dao is also about the art of letting go and letting be. This is known as the practice of non-interference. The practice of non-interference within the Dao is reminiscence of the old nursery rhyme that we were all taught as children, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily; merrily; merrily; merrily; life is but a dream.” It doesn’t say to row frantically against the current or to stress out because you wanted to go in a different direction. No, it says go gently down the stream and be merry about it. At the essence of life, at its deepest core, this is a fundamental truth. This is the lesson that we need to master, learning to let go, let be and go with the flow of life.

In order to let go, we must first learn to trust. Trust is a key element, learning to trust nature, to trust our fellow man and most importantly, to trust in ourselves. When you have trust in yourself and have a knowing of the true nature of nature, it is easier to let go. Epictetus said that the first rule of life is letting things go and let them run their course. This is the precept of the Dao. Follow nature in her example on how to live life with balance and in harmony.

All we need to do is look at nature to see this application in use. I have never seen an Oak tree trying or wishing to be an Elm tree, or a shrub wanting to move to another part of the yard because that’s where the shrubs with all the money live. I have never seen a Mockingbird in a store buying blue dye in order to become a Blue Jay. I have yet to see a chipmunk in therapy because of its lack of success or believed his problems were due to an absent or abusive mother. No, in nature there is harmony, balance and understanding of the purpose of all living things.  In nature we see the harmonic balance of life as it is meant to be. In nature all living things know their purpose and live accordingly.

Knowledge comes from tuition while Wisdom comes from intuition. In order to enter into the realm of wisdom, you must check your ego and intellectual pride. You must become like a newly born child.  A newly born child has no preconceived notions of what society expects or has had time to form opinions based on a belief system that has been forced upon him. It is a virtue to know the difference between knowledge and wisdom and to live free of the good opinion of others. A Sage of the Dao acts in this accordance.

The characteristics observed in a Sage of the Dao are simplicity, humility, self-surrender, self-giving beyond measure, generosity, compassion, equanimity, forgiving, sense of calmness and inner peace, kind, wise, loving, virtuous, ethical, noble, gentle, to serve and enrich humanity, and to live a Christ-like life.

The Sage knows to do the right thing at the right time in the right manner. The Sage is consistent in his attitude, always staying centered and balanced. He is always able to maintain his peace with his inner-self residing within that peace. The external Dao expressed is a reflection of the Sage’s internal state.  True wisdom comes from that same internal place. It is shown by the intuitive nature of the Sage. This intuitive nature comes from trusting in oneself. This is an underlying principle of the Dao, trust.

Another concept of the Dao is living in truth. There might not be anything more important than to be true to yourself and live in truth. To live in a state of truth, to be true to your soul is to allow the voice of the divine consciousness to speak to you. The voice you hear is called intuition, it comes through your consciousness. Robert Browning wrote about truth in his work called Paracelsus. Here are his thoughts on truth-

“Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness.”

A basic truth is to know the divine consciousness; this is to know the Dao. Within the divine there is no separation, only unity, this is the Dao. Another basic truth is in order to find the truth you must stop searching for it. Let go of your opinions and judgments. To realize the truth don’t be for or against anything. Free yourself of your attachments to your opinions and judgments.

The Dao talks about the strength of yielding in life. An example of this principle is to look at a Palm tree. Having been through two hurricanes, I can speak firsthand of their ability to yield. When the devastating winds of a hurricane makes landfall, the Oak and Elm trees snap like twigs. As strong as an Oak is, it is no match for winds in excess of 140 miles an hour. However, the palm tree in the face of a hurricane can bend all the way to the ground. I have seen the tops of these tall trees bend over to the ground and stay there during the onslaught of the devastating winds of a hurricane.

Once the storm was over and the sun returned; the Palm trees return back to their normal stance as if nothing had ever happened. This is the power of yielding. This is the point that the Dao is making. Be like the Palm tree in the face of adversity, deflect the onslaught rather than meet it head on, be yielding. During the trials and tribulations of life, remember that it is only temporary. This too will pass.

To live in the Dao is to live in peace and harmony. The Dao gives you the knowledge of becoming one with the higher realm of divine consciousness and to experience the interconnectedness to all living things. It is to have the awareness of being in this world while knowing that you are not part of it because you are more than all of this. You are one and 10,000 things at the same moment. You are the song that the bird sings, the breeze blowing through the trees, the fish swimming in a brook, the warmth of the sun shining from above, the coolness of the earth below your feet, you are life and death, all at once and not at all. There is no separation in Oneness. In the words of Alan Watts, "When you look out of your eyes at nature happening out there, you're looking at you, the real you. The you that goes on of itself." All you see is nothing more than the different facets of the jewel that we call the universe with us being a part of that jewel.

Verse Thirteen of the Dao- “Meet failure or success with grace, honor and kindness. Accept misfortune or fortune with grace, honor and kindness. Why? Do not be concerned with either.  Accept all that comes your way. Know that good and evil are part of being human. This is the cost of being alive. Good or evil cannot affect the true essence of the soul for man is eternal…” 

Living in the Dao, you will respond with the same unconditional loving kindness and compassion to whatever comes your way. Now here is the tricky part. With the Dao, you still feel pain and joy. Experiencing emotions is necessary for humans. The difference is with the Dao; you do not react to the negative experiences with revenge or anger. You do not repay a derogatory compliment with an equally negative one. With the Dao you learn equanimity.

When you practice equanimity you’ll study the negative experience, play with it, ask why, look at it inside out, learn from it and then let it go. All the while you respond with love and compassion. That is the bottom line to the Dao, learning to let go without the need to react. It is creating a state of evenness that is unbiased to the events or people involved. It is an understanding that the experiences and events are nothing more than “just being.”

In mastering the way of the Dao, you’ll realize that there is no good or evil, only “just being.” That everything is in a transience state of change. More importantly, in mastering this principle, you’ll know that you are not these events no more than a mirror is the sky just because it reflects the sky. You’ll discover by studying these events, you’ll develop a deeper meaning and understanding of what these events mean. You’ll also see how your reactions to these events affect others. And in the end, you’ll learn to let them go.

With the Dao, you’ll learn while living in this Dualist World that authentic pain is necessary in order to appreciate authentic joy. You cannot have one without the other. That is a law of our universe; you must have both in order to know one from the other.

To whatever level of authentic pain you’ll experience, you’ll be able to experience authentic joy to the same level. You cannot know ecstatic states of joy without knowing the abysmal depths of pain. This is the grace of dealing with the darkness of painful events, knowing that you must master these painful emotions in order to master and recognize true authentic joy.

When you can embrace and rejoice in the moments of pain and suffering with a sympathetic joy, respond with an unconditional love and compassion while staying centered in peace, you have learned the way of the Dao.

With the Dao you’ll realize that you are from the same divine source as everyone else and we are all part of the same divine creation. We all have a divine perfection within each and every one of us. Even when the other people don’t see the divine perfection, you will. You’ll see the many faces of God in everyone you meet.

This is one of the lessons of the Dao. It’s teaching us that in love or war, in losing or winning, in success or failure, or in life or death, you will not be overcome by ego and allow yourself to fall prey to self-destructive emotions that the ego enjoys so much. Instead you’ll keep a tranquil state of mind, a steady evenness and stay centered in peace at all times. You will know that this too will pass. You’ll radiate an abundance of loving compassion at all times. When you master this principle, you will have become a Daoist Sage living in the great way of the Dao

 
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