Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10 Commentary

This series examines the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective.

Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching asks us to examine our steadfastness, our trust, our honor, our yin energy, and our wisdom. Here it is: 
Heavenly gate. Image here.
In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view
Can one be without imperfections?
In loving the people and ruling the nation
Can one be without manipulation?
In the heavenly gate's opening and closing
Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding clearly all directions
Can one be without intellectuality? 
Bearing it, rearing it
Bearing without possession
Achieving without arrogance
Raising without domination
This is called the Mystic Virtue

Six Virtues 

Here we find a list of virtues that Lao-Tzu (the writer) asks us to examine in ourselves. We are to be:
1. Steadfast in holding our soul and achieving "oneness," or, one might say, "union," the meaning of the word "yoke" in Matthew 11:29.
2. Childlike in our concentration and trust in the Lord (Luke 18:17).
3. Perfect in achieving an eternal perspective (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
4. Guileless in love and governance (Revelation 14:5, John 1:47).
5. Submissive (feminine) with regards to God's will for us in His opening and closing of "the heavenly gate" (Mosiah 3:19).
6. Clear in our spiritual understanding without being nitpickingly intellectual (John 1:48-51).
Each of those virtues could have had like fifty scriptures linked to it, but I just picked one or two each. I had to use the story of Nathaniel twice because I love Christ's tribute to his purity and lack of guile, and I love how the story of him and fig tree portray trust. In the story, Christ comes up to Nathaniel, and praises him for having no guile. Nathaniel asks Him, basically, "Um, how do we know each other?" And Christ responds by referring to a secret, possibly sacred time when Nathaniel was alone under the fig tree. Rather than responding with suspicion ("How could you possibly know that???"), Nathaniel responds with trust: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel.

In its way, this first part of Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching reminds me of a condensed version of Alma 5, kind of a series of guided questions for improving one's relationship with God.

Raising without domination

As a woman, I read the second part of this chapter in the context of children, bearing and raising children without domination, without arrogance, without possession. Our children are not ours; they are our stewardship. We do not possess them; we have only a brief time to teach them and raise them.

But this goes not just for children but all sorts of things. We don't truly own anything on the Earth; everything is God's, because He made it. He just loans us stuff. This was one of the points of the famous "Render Unto Caesar" speech in the Bible (Luke 20:25).

In this story, priests come up to Jesus to try and trick Him. They ask in Luke 20:22 if it is lawful for them to essentially pay taxes.

The tribute penny. Image here.
In verse 24, Christ asks the priests whose inscription is on the penny. They explain that it is Caesar's name and inscription. What the Bible leaves out is what the inscription actually says: on the penny, the denarius, it says, "Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs” (“Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus," claiming that Caesar is actually a god.

The question was: is paying tribute to Caesar an acknowledgment of another god? Is using this coin breaking the commandment to put no other gods before the God of Israel?

Christ's response is to "render unto Caesar's what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." There have been many interpretations of this over the years, but my inclination is to accept the teaching that everything is God's--see Colossians 1:16, or even just the story of Genesis. God made the world and it and everything in it are His. We are just stewards.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn the importance of good stewardship over the things God is lending us. D&C 121:39-42 in particular cautions against unrighteous dominion, specifically in the context of priesthood leadership, but the same caution can apply to anyone.

The Tao Te Ching cautions against unrighteous dominion, against taking pride in or credit for our alleged accomplishments. All things are God's, anyway.


Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching echoes many sentiments from the Christian scriptures.

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