ON THE WISE HEART Newsletter May 2017
Recently, in one of our regular lessons, we had an unexpected chance to experience an hour and a half of studying a verse of the Tao Te Ching. The short reading with which we started turned into a long and interesting discussion about the philosophy of Taoism, life in general, and our own lives in particular.
The experience made me realise that it might be time to start a regular ‘meeting’ with Taoism on a deeper level. So, I am thinking of offering a Tao Te Ching study group once a month. In this group we will try to get in touch with different Taoist ideas as they are presented through this book, and connect them to our own life experiences. I feel that any philosophy is meaningful only when it helps us grow and evolve to be better, kinder and happier people, as a result of which we then spread goodness, kindness and happiness around us.
Therefore, this study group will be directed towards shedding more light on ideas, which, hopefully, can serve each person in their own journey towards a calmer and happier life.
To give you an idea of the sort of thing that we can expect to happen in such meetings, I chose one of my favourite verses of the Tao Te Ching, and I will attempt to interpret it here in a little more detail than we have a chance to do in our regular Tai Chi classes.
Verse 49 says:
A wise heart is big enough to embrace everyone.
I am good to the good and I am good to the bad
Because it is good to be good. (This is true goodness.)
I trust the trustworthy and I trust the untrustworthy
Because I trust in trust’ (This is true trust.)
The wise are not full of themselves. They are careful not to push others away.
They teach how to live well, by their example.
They treat everyone as family.
Some translations put it this way:
The wise is good to people who are good
He is also good to people who are not good
That is the virtue of good.
He is faithful to people who are faithful.
He is also faithful to people who are not faithful.
That is the virtue of faithfulness.
The master is kind to the kind.
She is also kind to the unkind
Because kindness is the nature of her being.
Now, this is a concept that many of us struggle to accept. We say to ourselves: ‘what does it mean ‘I am good to the bad? Am I supposed to just stand there and let people be nasty to me? And what about trusting the untrustworthy? How can anyone expect me to be that stupid?”
So, let us look at the words of another wise being from the past:
‘I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who persecute you. So that you will be acting as the children of your father in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ Matthew 5, 44-45
And more recently I came across a different saying, from a completely different source, which might make this idea a little clearer:
“Love Me When I Least Deserve It, Because That’s When I Need It Most”.
Don’t they all talk about the same thing? It is fairly easy to be good to the good, kind to the kind, fair to the fair etc’. But, if I really believe that being good, kind and fair is the right way to go through life, can I change my attitude with every challenge that comes my way? If we really want to make a difference in the world, and if we are looking for integrity in our life, we stick to those values regardless.
And, isn’t it true that even the most evil people in the world were not born as evil babies? Those who need to be exposed more than anyone else to a good, kind behaviour are the unkind, untrusting and untrustworthy people.
This verse talks about being accepting and non-judgemental. We usually think that ‘our way’ is the right way, and therefore anything else is wrong. When we stop dividing the world to good and bad we can embrace it all. Taoism doesn’t encourage evil in the world, but rather tells us that, very much like the Tai Chi idea of yielding in the face of great power, if we embrace the bad with the good, we will make the bad powerless.
Wayne Dyer says about this verse:’This is the basic solution to wars and conflicts. When you stop judging and instead begin to see yourself in others, you can’t help but love the uniqueness of everyone. Then, instead of exclusions and allegiances, the Oneness of the Tao graces all. As your worldview changes you’ll extend goodness to everyone you encounter. You’ll find that you can feel non-judgmental compassion for the mistreated, even when their way of seeing things caused you and yours pain. You can send out kindness not only in response to kindness, but especially when you’re the recipient of cruelty.’
Why are we encouraged to strive for this?
Lao Tzu says that this is our true nature. Our true nature is kindness and goodness. We will be the first to benefit from this new state of mind; we won’t experience anger, frustration, hate, all these emotions that make our lives so difficult to cope with at times, and that can be the cause of so many physical and mental illnesses.
Then there’s the other point that Wayne Dyer pointed at- this is, in the long run, the way to end all wars; wars within the family, within our community as well as between countries, nations or religions.
And on the internet I found this lovely interpretation:
This verse challenges us to change the way we relate to the world and other people. It’s easy to repay kindness to people that are kind to us. But the Master, who lives in complete alignment with the Tao, does not discriminate or differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The Master treats all with love, kindness and compassion regardless of who they are and how they conduct themselves. In fact, the people that are most dysfunctional in their behaviour are usually the people that are most in need of our love and kindness.
Shifting to this mindset can pose a real challenge, for it might seem only ‘normal’ to reward kindness with kindness and repay hostility with hostility. The Master, however, shines upon everyone in much the same way as the sun does. The sun shares its light with everyone and never discriminates or judges who it deems to be worthy of receiving sunlight and who it ought to withhold light from. It just shines and shines, never holding back, for that is its nature.
Can we be like that? Some people will gratefully receive our light and will be appreciative and kind, whereas others might react in a less than gracious manner. Is it possible for us simply to love, accept and be good to everyone regardless of how ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’ they might appear?
And, to end with, a quote by the Persian poet Hafez, that I sent out before, and again I find very suitable:
“Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the Earth: “You owe me”.
Look what happens with a love like that:
It lights up the whole sky.”
May we all be blessed with wise hearts that are big enough to embrace everyone.
And with someone to be kind to us when we least deserve it and most need it.
Because then we can, all together, light up the whole Earth.