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Beyond Our Own Light & Darkness

Hand reaching into the light

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.

Tao Te Ching by Laozi (Author)

I've decided to take a different approach to reading the Tao this time around and blog about my thoughts and ideas, I had every intention of keeping this to myself. But one of my favorite quotes is “If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.” ~Buddha. So here I am with my lamp and the thoughts in my head. In this blog post titled Beyond Our Own Light & Darkness we will try and brighten the darkness.

The Tao Te Ching, commonly attributed to the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, was written some time around the sixth century BCE. It has been translated into many different languages and is widely regarded as one of the most important texts in Chinese philosophy.

Possibly because our minds are hardwired to have answers and data, stepping into the experience of mystery can be unsettling. No matter where your own personal faith may land, embracing the unknown and accepting that there are things beyond our understanding can lead to a greater sense of peace and wonder in life.

We live in a mysterious universe and no one truly knows what is beyond our own light. This realization can inspire us to be more curious, open-minded, and compassionate towards others who may have different beliefs or experiences than our own. Truth is we should ALL be building a heaven on earth for EVERY HUMAN! This realization can also encourage us to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world around us, even if we don't fully comprehend it.

There have been many great philosophers and translators of the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese scripture. Stephen Mitchell is my favorite scholar who has what he calls, "his version" the Tao Te Ching. He states that he didn't translate the Tao, this is just his version. So my blog is written based on his version and his notes that I am reading.

While reading the Tao this time, I'm also going to try and find a verse or two of the Bible to accompany my reading, I studied New and Old Testaments during my few years at my hometown's Southern Baptist University, we utilized NLV translation then. I've never read or studied the new conservative ESV, so that is the one I'm going to be reading along with my Tao. At the end of each summary, I'll list the verses I read for the day.

Stephen Mitchell originally wanted to write his version of the Tao and have notes by Yoda, George Lucas, through an assistant, shut him down. Per Stephen because Lucas didn't want "Yoda to be associated with any particular spiritual tradition". I personally would have loved that version!

First stanza:

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

The first verse of the Tao was both puzzling and very contradictory to me. According to Taoism, the Tao is the ultimate reality, but how can the intangible be the first step toward everything? The first verse sets the stage for the entire book and introduces some of the key concepts that are explored throughout the text. At its core, the Tao Te Ching is a meditation on the nature of existence, and this verse begins by asserting that the ultimate reality, or "Tao," cannot be fully described or understood using words or language.

The Tao cannot be reduced to a mental construct. Instead, it's a state of being and it cannot be adequately described by words or even ideas. The "eternal Tao" of the first sentence is not something that can be labeled or defined in any particular way. It is, rather, the fundamental law that controls everything in the universe.

The Tao is neither an object or an idea; it is the ground of all creation. Because words are only labels that humans make up, there is no way to give it a proper designation. The Tao transcends classification and description, yet it provides the basis for them all.

Stanza 2

The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.

The idea of name is presented in the second half of the stanza. Names and categorizations are considered artificial and restrictive in Taoist thought. We stifle something's potential and hide its genuine nature when we give it a name.

To paraphrase Mitchell: "Everything we see around us is the result of being named and labeled", as the proverb "the named is the mother of ten thousand things" puts it. By reducing the world to its component parts, we cut ourselves off from the Tao, the ultimate reality.

As a whole, Tao Te Ching Verse 1 serves as a sobering reminder of the constraints that come with using words and concepts. The Tao is beyond intellectual comprehension, yet it gives rise to everything. Giving up our preoccupation with labels and designations allows us to see what lies under the surface.

Words and notions are not enough if we want to grasp the Tao. We have to be like nothing at all, which is where heaven and earth first began. Then we would have cracked the code on the meaning of life.

To sum this up, the wisdom of reality and the limitations of language and intellect are shown in Stephen Mitchell's interpretation of the first verse of the Tao Te Ching. Giving up our preoccupation with labels and designations allows us to see what lies under the surface and there in lies, in my opinion, understanding and wisdom.

These are the verses that strike me to read with Verse 1

John 3:8 ESV The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

John 3:16 ESV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 14:5-6 ESV Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the light…” He claims to be the path to experiencing the divine. He is our Divine Way.

Matthew 5:43-48 ESV Evil is in this world, but the spiritual person has no room for it in their life. Christ is our example of virtue

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A'ho Namaste creates peace movement content and this information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any type of mental or physical issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.


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