Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 56
The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 12
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other.
High and low rest upon each other.
Voice and sound harmonize each other.
Front and back follow one another.
Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease.
Creating, yet not possessing.
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.
Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling.
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.
The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
If men lack knowledge and desire, then clever people will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 2-3
I heard an old man speak once, someone who had been sober for fifty years, a very prominent doctor. He said that he’d finally figured out a few years ago that his profound sense of control, in the world and over his life, is another addiction and a total illusion. He said that when he sees little kids sitting in the back seat of cars, in those car seats that have steering wheels, with grim expressions of concentration on their faces, clearly convinced that their efforts are causing the car to do whatever it is doing, he thinks of himself and his relationship with God: God who drives along silently, gently amused, in the real driver’s seat.
Anne Lamott, from Operating Instructions
Sooner or later, if you are on any classic “spiritual schedule”, some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources… you will and you must “lose” at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further, larger journey. I wish I could say this was not true, but it is darn near absolute in the spiritual literature of the world.
There is no practical or compelling reason to leave one’s present comfort zone in life. Why should you or would you? Frankly, none of us do unless and until we have to. The invitation probably has to be unexpected and unsought. If we seek spiritual heroism ourselves, the old ego is just back in control under a new name. There would not really be any change at all, but only disguise. Just bogus “self-improvement” on our own terms.
Any attempt to engineer or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. You will see only what you have already decided to look for, and you cannot see what you are not ready or told to look for. So failure and humiliation force you to look where you never would otherwise. What an enigma! Self-help courses of any type, including this one if it is one, will help you only if they teach you to pay attention to life itself. “God comes to you disguised as your life”, as my friend Paula D’Arcy so wisely says.
So we must stumble and fall, I am sorry to say. And that does not mean reading about falling, as you are doing here. We must actually be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide.
Richard Rohr, from Falling Upward
Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 11
Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the Earth.
This is primal union.
He who has achieved this state
Is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
With good and harm, with honor and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 56
Who knows why life unfolds
the way it does: why we choose
one path or another, share the
way for a while or a day, then
say goodbye. There is no
predictability here, and less
control than we might wish.
But there is a quiet urging
of the heart, the knowing in
the soul, the wisdom that’s
beneath the mind, accessible
if we breathe and turn inside.
When the tide of change rolls
in, we can resist or be at peace,
struggle or release. The stuff
of life may not be ours to
understand. It’s enough to
offer love, to receive the best
and worst, to embrace and
say farewell. What matters
most is to celebrate each
moment of the journey.
– Danna Faulds, Celebrate the Journey
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
The mindful strive diligently;
they don’t delight in dwellings.
Like swans that forsake the muddy pool,
they abandon house after house.
– Dhammapada Verse 91
It’s an interesting quote; I mean it’s… on the face, it’s a sign of the importance of not clinging to… to… our place, our possessions; not clinging… To be mindful. But deeper down, and if you know the backstory [offered synoptically in the following video], it has more to do with the idea that you don’t need to be too concerned about going off into the forest, or how can I apply the Buddhist teaching living in the home life. Yeah, it’s more difficult; yeah, you’re gonna be tested and tried, but it can be done. And we should be clear about two things; one, that it can be done, and two, that unless we are really really mindful, it’s much easier to get attached, so… you have to be more on your guard, more vigilant when you’re living in lay society, when you’re living in a house, you know… But it’s easier to be mindful, it’s actually kind of cheating; it’s easier… It’s… an easier way to go off in the forest, where we think “Oh, going off in the forest; that’s difficult.” It’s not really difficult; living in the forest is nothing. It’s just simple, and easy, and it’s… it’s wonderful. Anyway. So that’s the Dhammapada for tonight. Thank you all for tuning in. Wishing you all good practice, and that you all become free from suffering.
Transcribed by Leon Hieros, the last minute of this wonderful video by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu on Dhammapada Verse 91: