The Tao for Beginners by Alan Watts and Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching

The Tao for Beginners by Alan Watts and Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching


Now this morning I was giving you a Talk on the fundamental basic attitudes expressed in Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching and The title of the book Dao de Jing Introduces now the second word in the title I’ve been dwelling this morning on the first word which is Dao and So comes up the second word Dirt and this word Again is faces up with some serious problems of translation Ordinarily translated virtue But Virtue as we understand it today. Isn’t at all appropriate the nearest kind of When we speak of the healing virtues of a plant that’s nearer to the meaning of this word death The Japanese pronounce it total the Cantonese duck and the northern mandarins approximately just and In the section of the loud sir Where this is really introduced To text there’s something like this The superior virtue not virtue that it has virtue inferior virtue can’t let go of virtue thus not virtue and we More, or less paraphrase that by translating Superior virtue is not Conscious of itself as virtue and therefore it is virtue But inferior virtue is so Hooked up with being virtuous, or hooked on being virtuous that it’s not virtue Now then therefore this word is a connection of virtue and magic it means Please support the excellence of things in the sense that a Tree excels at being a tree and Nobody really knows how it does it There is no way of imitating a tree except only thing is to be one and So in the same way when a human being shows extraordinary skill of something It seems that it comes natural to him It seems that he doesn’t achieve it by any kind of artificiality If there is some discipline in it it’s concealed So excelling in something naturally and Yet, it’s something that is so difficult to understand that it seems that it has been done by magic is the meaning of this world So what does is is? The state of affairs a way of talking about a Particularly a human being who has learned to live in harmony with a doll Now of course everything is fundamentally in harmony with a doll In the book called the jeongyeon all the unwanted It is said the dowel is that from which nothing can depart That from which things can depart is not the doll Fundamentally you see you can’t get away from it. It’s like a situation in which we are all floating in a tremendous river and The river carries you along, anyhow Now some of the people in the river are swimming against it, but they’re still being carried along Others have learned that the artifice of the thing is to swim with it And they’re carried along too But they know it you see they know they’re carried along Whereas the people who are swimming against it think they’re going in the opposite direction? But they’re not really so that was a sort of discussion we were having this morning when I find invariably whenever I Talk about these things Americans Raise moral issues Because we are a people Incredibly bamboozled by preachers And so this always comes up Bamboozle preachers yes and Have chronic guilty conscience, so those questions are always raised for this do see explains Part of the situation that you you have to flow with the river there is no other way But that you can swim against it and pretend not to be flowing with it, but you still are So but a person who is not making that pretense anymore who knows that you have to go with the river and swim with it Suddenly he acquires behind everything that he does the power of the river The person swimming against the river you see does not by his action expressed the force of the river The person swimming with it he goes along and he has that whole river behind him But he’s subtly directing it because you can change direction in the course of the river You can go to the left or to the right as the ship can use a rudder And still go along with the current or more skillful still as a sailboat can tack Because when a sailboat tacks and goes in a direction contrary to the wind It still is using the wind to blow it along now that is the most highly skillful art of all that is Taoism imperfection the art of sailing very intelligent I remember once I Was looking in the open air and one of those glorious little thistledown things came and I picked it up like that and brought it down and It looked as if it was struggling to get away Just as if you caught an insect by one legs Like a daddy longlegs or humming of that kind it seemed to be struggling to get away And I first I thought well. It’s not doing that that’s just the wind blowing Then I thought again Really only the wind blowing surely it is the structure of this thing Which in cooperation with the existence of wind enables it to move like an animal? But using the winds effort Not its own it is more intelligent being than an insect in a way because an insect uses effort Like a person who Rosa boat uses effort, but the man who puts up a sail he’s using magic He let nature do it for him With the intelligence to use a sail thing So injustice wave is the meaning of alpha duck is that kind of intelligence? which Without you’re using very much effort gets everything to cooperate with you You for example never force other people to agree with you But you give them the notion that the idea you wanted them to have was their own This is a feminine art preeminent a Woman Who really wants the lover does not refute him Because then most men feel that she’s aggressive, and if she’s aggressive She obviously is a woman who has had difficulty in finding mothers and therefore there must be some undesirably secret thing about her But if she as it were makes the void then And is slightly difficult to get then people get excited they know she’s a highly prized object and So they pursue Same way when you want to teach a baby to swim You cool thing you can do is to put the baby in the water and then Move backwards in the water and create a vacuum and this pulls the baby along it Helps it to learn the feel of the water, and how to swim it’s the same principle So are also Clever difficult to get enough is one of the very best means of acquiring immense publicity Take the case of TE Lawrence We’ll publish the Seven Pillars of wisdom in a limited edition and This was that became an extraordinary celebrated book cost Hundreds of dollars a copy to find one and on the market They waited and waited and built to stop and built this up built us up and finally the established general Edition And it was a knockout because the first the first one have been sort of secret and difficult to find And I do have patience Susie You can always do this So the whole art of the ruler to see that the daodejing is a book written For several purposes You may take it as a Guide to mystical understanding of the universe you may take it as a dissertation on the principles of nature foremost the naturalistic a Handbook of natural law we would say or you may also take it as a political book a book of wisdom for governance and The principle, which it advocates basically is the virtue of governing by not ruling Look at it in this way supposing the President of the United States Well as unknown to you by names as the local Sanitary inspector The man who looks after the drains and the sewage disposal and all that kind of thing this is not a glamorous figure to see But for that very reason he probably does his job more efficiently than the president Because the president wastes enormous amount of time in interviewing various groups from the Elks and the Girl Scouts and conferring Honors and always kind of thing the poor man’s life must be an utter torment because he’s so well known and therefore has absolutely no time to give to the government of the country I Mean think of his mail And all the people who have to be employed sifting that out and Assessing it so that if he was someone quite anonymous and that we didn’t have to think about He would be a very very good ruler In just the same way for example. You don’t have to attend unless you’re sick to the government of your own body It happens automatically, this is this expression the run of itself And it goes on day after day after day and the better it is the less you have to think about it when you see well you Do not see your eyes If there is something wrong with your eyes you start seeing spots and those spots are spots in your eyes When you hear well, you’d never hear your ears But when they start singing you know Then you’re starting to hear your ears and your ears are getting in the way of their own hearing So on the deepest level a Person as a whole can get in the way of his own existence By becoming too aware of himself, and then he lacks this quality there Now The Daoists then proposed that there be something to help people Get back to dark and to be able to be in a state of death So that they wouldn’t get in their own way and This is connected with the idea of being empty Emptiness Being somehow vacant Was the secret of the thing? The the highest kind of knowledge is not know how But know how a no – h o w to be able to do it know how? Without any method To achieve this something is practiced which is called fasting heart The heart in Chinese is a word Which doesn’t mean heart in the physiological sense you see it’s part of the der character Shin It’s usually located about here and It means heart mind. It’s the equivalently translated as mind and in all the Zen texts where the word mind is used No mind motion it is this character The psychic center Now the best kind of heart is absence of heart In English the word heartless it has a very bad connotation as does the word mindless a Heartless person is an inconsiderate unfeeling person a mindless person is an idiot, but A person who has motion or no mind or no heart in Chinese is a very high order of person It means that his psychic center Doesn’t get in its own way. It operates as if it wasn’t there Zhang xue’er says that the highest form of man Uses his shin like a mirror it grasps nothing it refuses nothing it receives that does not keep and The poem says when the geese fly over the water And there are reflected in the water that The geese do not intend to cast their reflection and the water has no mind to retain their image So The whole thing is you see to operate in the world as if you were absent Now this is built into it physiologically fundamentally. Let me ask you simply What is the color of your head from the standpoint of your eyes? Your eyes don’t see your hair do they? You look all around you see everything else, but your head you don’t see Do you feel that your head is black No Hasn’t any color at all Outside you see your field of vision is an oval two eyes and the 3/8 of two centers with an ellipse So there’s this whole field of vision now experiment. What is beyond the field of vision? What color is it where you can’t see? It isn’t black This is an important point It’s no color at all Beyond there and in this way you can get an idea of what is meant by that Character that I have discussed this morning Schwann which although it formerly has the meaning of darkness this one Although it formerly has the meaning of darkness and the deep and the obscure it actually refers to this kind of no color Which is the color of your head so far as your eyes are concerned? now So in this sense the invisibility of one’s head almost the not having of any head at all Is the secret of being alive To be headless you might say to have no head In just the sense I’m talking about is Our way of talking about the Chinese expression motion no mind Now as a matter of fact if you want to see the inside of your head all you have to do is keep your eyes open because Everything that you’re experiencing in the external visual field is a state of your brain All these colors and shapes are the way in which the brain nerves Translate the electrical impulses in the external world Being the world outside the envelope of skin So they translate all what is going on outside? Into impulses which are to ask shape and color But shape and color are states of the nerves so what you see when your eyes are open is how it feels inside your head you Think your head is a blank But actually it’s being a blank. You don’t see your brain as an external Undulating corrugated structure you see your brain as everything outside So in this way The the emptiness of one’s head is the condition of seeing? The transparency of the eye lens is the condition of seeing colors it has no color itself Eckhart said this because my eye has no color. It is able to discern color this is in Germany in the 13th century This is fundamental taoist idea of being absent as the condition of being present Being not there So for our John says when your belt is comfortable you don’t feel it When your shoes are comfortable it is as if you weren’t wearing any Likewise your clothes see the more you are aware of these things The list properly they are made or the less properly they fit But we raise an objection to this very simple objection If I don’t know I’m there I Seem to be missing everything We want to know that we know If we’re happy, and we don’t know we’re happy We might just as well not be happy to Be happy and to know that you’re happy is really the overflowing of the cup of life Across the penalty for that is to be miserable and to know that you’re miserable some people are miserable without knowing it But You know my Limerick the weather young man who says so It seems that I know that I know what I would like to see is the eye That knows me when I know that I know that I know Now this is the great human predicament the development of self-consciousness the development of the possibility of reflecting upon one’s own knowledge and this is simultaneously a blessing in the curse and Taoism does not escape this problem. I mean it doesn’t It doesn’t avoid this problem. It deals with it, but it doesn’t deal with it obviously So we get back to this fundamental verse about the nature of death What is highly virtuous is a virtue that is not conscious of itself as virtue the moment it’s conscious of itself as such you see It it fails so In this way we love to see a child Dancing all by itself Lost in the dance and not performing for an audience We say oh if only I could dance like that If only I could become like a child again innocent But then soon we know when parents know is how beautiful child dances And they all approve of it and say to this child dance for us child begins to lose this power and it puts on airs it knows it’s notices and We don’t like that so that’s affectation that’s showing off. That’s funny What we want you to do is to dance as if you had no audience not even yourself which of course puts the child in a double bind Because it says to the child We require you to do something that will be acceptable only if you do it as if it wasn’t required We do that all the time to our children and to each other You must love me After all you promised to do so too when we got married in June, and they’re gone so This is the difficulty but somehow a Very great artist in the maturity of his life somehow There is able At least to give the impression that he does what he does without playing to the gallery Without self-consciousness, it seems perfectly natural So how does he get there? There was a taoist sage later than loud sir His name was Yet, sir we romanized that as l IE h lia and He had a reputation for being able to ride on the wind So light the drunks are fez in one place. It’s easy enough to stand still the difficulty is to walk without touching the ground Because in the state of Being in accord with the dial. There is a certain feeling of weightlessness Parallel to the weightlessness that people feel when they get into outer space or when they go deep into the ocean so This is of course connected with the sensation that you’re not carrying your body around I Described this morning the sensation that an expert driver has when he really is with it and a car that the hill lifts him up and drops him down the other side that he and the road are all one process and that’s equivalent to the sense of weightlessness and So this is connected to this is the inner meaning of leeet’s riding on wind when suzuki was asked What is it like to have Satori? He said, it’s just like ordinary everyday experience except about two inches off the ground And so We say in our own thumb Walking on air never yeah something is making me sing sanna la la la la la. La like a little bird in spring What is this man weightlessness It means you cost partly that you’re not moving around in constant opposition to yourself Most people move in constant opposition to themselves Because they are afraid that if they don’t oppose themselves all the time something awful will happen See it’s so easy to bend your arm No problem at all but supposing you make a fight about it and you take these antagonistic muscles as they’re called and fight them against each other so that you Have to bend your arm like that see how ridiculous But if you somehow felt that in bending your arm you might make a mistake you know instead of bending it you might hit yourself Then these two muscles get nervous and they fight each other to be sure that everything happens all right, that’s anxiety see So When is the human being Developed the power to be aware of himself To know that he knows in other words when the cortex was formed over the original brain He fell from great Death of the fall of man Because When he felt had the sensation of being in charge of Being in control of himself and you can only have that sensation when you are aware of what you’re doing He got anxious Am I aware enough of myself? Have I taken enough factors into consideration? Have I done all that should be done and? Then he started trembling This was the fall of man of course this is what is meant he is loud sir says When the great Dowell lost there came duty to man and right conduct In other words nobody talks about how you ought to behave unless things have gone radically wrong There wouldn’t be any conception of faithful ministers of the state unless there were a lot of Lousy politicians around No one would talk about filial piety unless there were wayward sons and daughters So there is constantly in the tradition of Taoism The idea that all moral preaching is confusion There’s a marvelous case of this in the drunker book Where there’s an alleged conversation between Confucius and loud sir in? Which allowed to ask Confucius to explain to him? What is charity and duty to one’s neighbor? And Confucius gives them a little son no one being Giving up one self-interest and Working for others Lauter says what stuff Sir regard the universe he says The stars come out invariably every night the Sun rises and sets the birds flock and migrate without exception all flowers and trees grow upwards without exception You buy your talk of charity and duty to one’s neighbor you’re just introducing confusion into the Empire Your attempt to eliminate self is a positive Manifestation of selfishness you are like a person beating a drum in search of a fugitive The modern equivalent of that would be the police car About to raid a bad nightclubs and coming with its siren full on And everybody in the club gets out Help Let’s all talk about selfishness all talk about it success in becoming virtuous or Enlightened or integrated or non neurotic or self actualized, let’s use all the terms that are being used all this talk The test of the fact that it hasn’t happened And will in fact get in the way of it happening Well to go back to Lister who succeeded in riding the wind what happened Liat sir found a very great master and Went to study with him and the master lived in a small hut and Liat sir sat outside the hut and Master paper absolutely no attention to him This is sort of the way with Taoist masters because why would they want students? They have nothing to teach So after a year sitting outside leaves they went away and He just fed up with waiting so long Then he sort of got regretful about this and something. He really should make a try So he went back to the master who said why this ceaseless coming and going? So he sat there and tried to control his mind In such a way that he would not think of the differences between gain and loss in other words Tried to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer Whose horse ran away and All the neighbors came around to commiserate that evening so sorry to hear your horses run away That’s too bad, and he said maybe The next day the off came back bringing seven wild horses with it and Everybody came around in the evening instead. Oh isn’t that lucky? What a great turn of events you’ve now got eight horses and he said maybe The next day his son tried to break one of these horses and ride it and was thrown and broke his legs and They all said oh dear. That’s too bad, and he said maybe the following day the conscription officers came around to recruit to force people into the army and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg and All the people came around and said isn’t that great and he said maybe You see that is the attitude of not Thinking of things in terms of gain our last advantage or disadvantage because you don’t really know the fact that you might get a letter from a solicitor I mean from a young a law office tomorrow Saying that some distant relative of yours that left you a million dollars It might be something you would feel very very happy about but the disaster that it could lead to are unbelievable To mention only what possibility So I you never really know whether something is fortune or misfortune But we only know the momentary changes and as it alters our Sense of hope about things The Daoist is wise enough eventually you see to understand that There isn’t Any fixed good or bad? and So his point of view is what is called non choosing Well anyway the essa attempted to keep his mind in a state of non choosing and this was a very difficult thing to do to overcome one’s habit of Feeling and thinking in this respect and after he had practiced this for a year the master looked at him And you know sort of recognized he was there after another years practice He invited him to come and sit inside his Hut And then however something changed and Leah didn’t try anymore to control his mind What he did was he put it in this way I let my ears hear whatever. They wanted to share I let my eyes be whatever they wanted to see I Let my feet move wherever they wanted to go, and I let my mind think of whatever it wanted to think And then he said it was a very strange sensation because all my Bodily existence seemed to melt and become transparent and to have no weight And I didn’t know whether I was walking on the wind or the wind was walking on me Now that’s the fasting of the heart In the ordinary way you see you say Well that made quite an impression on me as if you were a slate or A blackboard upon which life makes an impression as the chalk does on the slate or the blackboard? So we say well here are these events and I’m the observer of all these events And I remember them and they make an impression on me But in the Psychology of taoism there is no difference between you as observer and Whatever it is that you observe? The only thing that you view Is the observation of life from a certain point of view I? Said a little while ago you think your heads are empty and black But the actual inside of your head is felt in terms of everything you see on the outside But we make an opposition you see between the thinker and the thought the experiencer and the experience the knower and the known Because we think about knowledge in terms of certain metaphors the metaphor of the Stylus on the writing sheet The reflection on the earth All those sort of images come into our idea of knowledge But in the taoist theory of knowledge is quite different there isn’t a Noah Facing the known It would be more like saying that if there is any Noah at all it contains the moment Your mind if you have one is not in your head your head is in your mind because your mind Understood from the standpoint of vision is space The Chinese use this word fool Which means Sky space and sometimes emptiness And there is a saying that Form or you know shape and color those systems with long word in Chinese that means really both shape and color and This and this are said to be identical Space or emptiness is precisely Shape color and shape color is precisely emptiness. This is actually a Buddhist thing from the 3d of Sutra So that All that we call space Contains The myriads of shapes and colors and bodies and weights and so on I Don’t reflect them as a mirror But it is the Absinthe which guarantees their presence and It’s their presence which guarantees is absent So there’s this mutual relationship again the mutual arising expression between voidness and form between existence and non-existence being and non-being These are never cells as alternatives or things that are in some kind of contest So then when it is said that there is not any Thinker behind thoughts not any experiencer who has experiences This is a way of saying That Experiencing knowing is not an encounter Between strangers Western short concentrates very much on knowledge as an encounter, and it is us that we talk about facing facts Facing reality As if somehow or other the knower and the known Came from two completely different worlds and met each other like that Whereas actually the phenomenon of knowledge is almost the precise opposite of that Instead of being a collision between the two wandering bodies in space Knowledge is much more like the expansion of a flower from the stem and the bud Where the opposite point of the flower are the knower and the known They are the terms of Something which as it were lies between them Let me repeat we tend in all our metaphors and common speech to think of life as an encounter Between the knowing human being the knowing mind and the world they think of it not as an encounter, but as an X impression not an impression an expression of a process that has polarized itself Coming out from the center and expressed itself in terms of opposites, but of course. This is the basis of the whole yang in principle of firm You know this jolly ol thing And Where you’ve got to interlock What are they fishes commas? Fascinating emblem They call it a monad yes, but then there it is This is the helix essentially this grip and this is the formation of spiral nebulae and it’s the position of sexual intercourse I Hear this is my eye, and you hear with your eye. I am trying to get to the middle of you You’re trying to get to the middle of me And Neither one of us exists without the other this is yang Yang the white in the dark yang the word yang originally means Or is associated with the south side of a mountain which is sunny in the north side which is dark Yang is the north bank of a river which gets the Sun. Yin is the south bank of a river which is in the shade? Now you see you don’t get a mountain with only one side the mountain if it’s the mountain the tall goes up and down It’s like the wave you don’t get a wave, which has a crest with no trough Or a truck with no crest you can’t have half a wave So Yang and Yin are Quite different from each other But just because they are different They’re identical This is the important idea of the identical difference the saying goes in both our ISM and Buddhism Difference is identity identity is different The Chinese word for is is not quite the same as our word If this word which is usually used Has rather than meaning of Um That that So they say would say difference that identity identity that difference And so this doesn’t mean quite is exactly the same as it means rather is in relation to Or goes will Necessarily involves Difference necessarily involves identity identity necessarily involves difference So Yang and Yin there is no yang without you know Yin without yang When I was first studying these things I was terribly bothered By how on earth I was going to receive this multiple differentiated world of the unity What what was going to happen what would it be like to see that all things are one the sages keep saying all things are one and They all look to me so different because he owes all the tttttt teachers going on a round one And it was doing it in different ways all these people came on in different ways and they had all their houses and all their Cars and all their this and that the whole world looked full of the most bony prickly differences And I thought well what’s supposed to happen is there supposed to be a kind of as if it your eyesight got blurred And all these things I mean yeah flow together What is it? What is this experience of Nirvana of? Liberation etcetera supposed to be Because so many of these especially Hindu sages write about it as if she was just this kind of Dissolution of everything is that it all become like slug with a snort of salt on it Well itit took me a long time And suddenly one day I realized That the difference that I saw between things was the same thing as their unity Because differences Borders lines Surfaces boundaries don’t really divide things from each other at all they join them together Because all boundaries are held in common Like let’s think of a velocity of a territory which has all been divided up into property If your property my property etcetera etcetera now the fences But we hold it if I live next to you your fence is my fence We hold the boundary in common we may make up silly arrangements as to who is responsible for the maintenance of this fence but nevertheless we hold our boundaries in common and We wouldn’t know what my plot of land was or where it was Unless we knew the definition of your plot of land in your plot of land that is adjoining so boundaries are held in common and I could see then that if That my sense of being me was exactly the same thing as my sensation of being one with the whole cosmos I Didn’t need to get some other weird a sort of different odd kind of experience to feel In total connection with everything once you get the clue you See that the sense of unity is inseparable from the sense of difference You wouldn’t know yourself or what you meant by self unless at the same time you have the feeling of something other Now it’s That the secret is that other Eventually turns out to be you I mean, that’s the element of surprise in life When suddenly you you find the thing most alien We say now. What is most alien to us go out at night and look at the Stars and realize that they are Millions and millions and billions of miles away Vast can conflagrations out in space and you could lie back and look at that Say well Surely, I hardly matter. I’m just a tiny tiny little peekaboo on This weird spot of dust called Earth and all that going on out there Billions of years before I was born Billions of years after I will die nothing seems stranger to you than that more different from you There comes a point if you watch long enough when you’ll say why that mean It’s the other That is the condition of your being yourself as the back is the condition of being the front and When you know that? You know you never die so Let’s have an intermission

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