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Selection - The Spirit of Lao Tsu

Chapter 1: The Nameless Is the Beginning of Heaven and Earth
Page: 1/3

The way of ways is not the true Way.
The name of names is not the true Name.
The Nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
That with name is the mother of all creation.
Thus, with true Nothingness one may view the mystery,
And with true Being one may perceive the barrier.
These two are of the same origin, yet their names differ.
These two are called Profound.
Beyond the Profound lies the gateway to the Universal Mystery.

Dôtokukyô (Tao-te Ching), Chapter 1

The way of ways is not the true Way.
The name of names is not the true Name.

These lines are famous throughout the East, and I suppose there are many who, upon reading them, will recall having heard them previously. Few, however, probably know their author.
The totally free and unobstructed way of life that is, indeed, the very essence of Lao Tsu is expressed in these opening words. Their meaning might be summarized as follows: originally that which is called Life was entirely free and capable of any number of things. But if a particular way or name becomes attached to this, the Life Force becomes restricted, and it is impossible to conduct activities outside of that single form. Life’s initially free nature is, thus, no longer given expression. Similarly, the Life Force can become fettered when placed within the confines of the fixed name of a person or organization. At the center of a human being lies the same Life Force that is the focus of Lao Tsu’s opening two lines, and we, too, were thus all originally made capable of accomplishing anything in perfect freedom. But if a person clings to a set way, that way will itself grasp hold of one’s spirit and, regardless of how great a way it may appear to be, the original freedom of the Life Force will be restricted. The same holds true for names: once a name is affixed to something, the Life Force ceases to function outside the limits of that particular appellation.
Human beings were not initially placed within these kinds of confines, and originally had no need to cling to things in order to exist. Even if one clings with only the slightest strength, the true way will remain hidden, as will the brilliant original nature of the true name cease to shine forth. Lao Tsu was a person who disliked clinging more than anything else, and one finds lessons on the primordially free nature of life throughout his many and varied works.
In the course of all of our lives there are, however, many things, such as the laws of society and the doctrines of religions, that can slow the otherwise free-flowing movements of the world about us. Thus, through narrow-mindedness and rigidity, human beings forfeit their freedom and cause the once animated beauty of life to stagnate.
God’s divine spirit can be revealed in the way of religion, but once a religion is identified as ‘The Way,’ the original freedom of the divine spirit is lost. In other words, the way people speak when they proclaim dogma such as ‘This is the way’ is not really worthy of mention. The true Way is free change itself, and becomes manifest in the natural and sincere actions of each and every person.

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