Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 16 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective. I am not a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are only my opinions. 

Chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching deals with the cyclical nature of the universe and the importance of acceptance.
Chapter 16
Attain the ultimate emptiness
Hold on to the truest tranquility
The myriad things are all active
I therefore watch their return

Everything flourishes; each returns to its root
Returning to the root is called tranquility
Tranquility is called returning to one's nature
Returning to one's nature is called constancy
Knowing constancy is called clarity

Not knowing constancy, one recklessly causes trouble
Knowing constancy is acceptance
Acceptance is impartiality
Impartiality is sovereign
Sovereign is Heaven
Heaven is Tao
Tao is eternal
The self is no more, without danger
The truest tranquility

The first stanza of Chapter 16 encourages readers to attain emptiness and hold onto tranquility--watch the things that are active. A scriptural admonition comes to mind: to watch and pray. The link will take you to a list of every time that admonishment appears in the scriptures. Apparently watchful prayer is pretty important!

In the book How Evil Works by David Kupelian, there is a fascinating discussion of what it means to watch and pray. Kupelian makes the case that the "watching" part means to essentially observe your own thoughts as they come up. Watch them, without acting on them. Ok, I don't have the book with me and I last read it maybe three years ago, so please don't think I'm quoting him verbatim or something. He may not have said that exactly, but that is what I came away from the read with: the idea that to "watch" and pray meant to observe the things that come up in your mind, without acting on them.

Similarly, the Tao master here, Lao-tzu, writes about the activity of myriad things--and how he personally merely watches, observes them.

The Tao master observes, watches, from a place of tranquility.

Everything flourishes

This stanza deals with the cycle of the universe. Everything returns to its root--a concept very clear in nature. Even a Disney song has been written about it.

However, we can return to our roots and find tranquility outside of the food chain. As children of God, our roots are in Divinity. As we return to our holy roots as God's children, we find tranquility--we find peace as we return to our true nature.

"Returning to one's nature is called constancy/ Knowing constancy is called clarity," this chapter states. As we learn to see ourselves only as God's divine, regal children, joint-heirs with Christ, as the scriptures say in Romans 8:17, we begin to act consistently with that identity. When our behavior and identity are brought into alignment, we experience clarity.

One video at MormonChannel is called "Clarity through Conversion." I think anyone as a convert to the Gospel knows that feeling of clarity that comes from knowing who you are, why you are here, and God's Plan of Salvation. To me, this stanza of the Tao Te Ching is just putting into other words the phenomenon that people experience when they internalize the Holy Gospel.

Heaven is Tao

This stanza is beautiful.

When we don't know who we are, we are inconstant--and therefore reckless, causing trouble.

Knowing who we are as God's children, truly internalizing it, leads to acceptance. Yogi Bhajan once said, "If you don't see God in all, you don't see God at all." Indeed, isn't that what Jesus preached when He said "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40)? When we see beyond the maya, the illusion, of this life and into the reality that we are all God's children, that every person's soul is Jesus to us (our interactions with any person directly impact the Christ who suffered for those interactions)--when that understanding becomes an incontrovertible part of us, we accept.

We accept everything.

We accept the people in our lives and their choices. We accept the unpleasant events in our lives. We accept.

Chapter 16 explains that acceptance is impartiality, and impartiality is Heaven. Think of the scriptural concept that God is no respecter of persons. That kind of impartiality to crucial to the functioning of the Kingdom of God--crucial to the functioning of the universe.

Heaven is Tao, Tao is eternal--these principles are beyond time and space.

The self is no more, without danger

When we embrace the Tao completely, the ego--the part of the self that conceives of itself as separate from the rest of Creation--is subsumed in unity, oneness... one might say Zion, or a Zion Consciousness.
Moses 7:18
18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
Becoming a Zion person means experiencing a true unity with everyone else who is Zion--having one heart and one mind with them. Under that sort of condition, it seems the self would be "no more," and there would be no danger.


Understanding and fully internalizing the Plan of Salvation leads to a level of tranquility and acceptance that eventually leads to a Zion Consciousness. 

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