Waking up following a pleasant afternoon siesta, I found myself reflecting on the best ‘way’ to approach life. By ‘way’ I mean ‘tao’, and tao (道 dào) translates to road, way, path; channel, course; way, path; doctrine, principle; talk, speak; think, suppose.
Why do we have a seemingly endless debate over the best way to approach life — what to do and how to do it? This issue draws those of like-mind together and pushes those of unlike-mind apart. We seem driven to push own preferences and inclinations as the answer. This social-tribal instinct — another bio-hoodwink (1) — certainly keeps the social pot stirred, so to speak
I began coming to grips with this hoodwink when I studied astrology. That opened me to the idea that people might be fundamentally different! Fundamentally? Not really, yet it can feel fundamental thanks to this tribal-instinct. In truth, at the deepest level people are the same the world over. They just take different paths to reach ‘Rome’.
This egalitarian view corresponds to five major branches of yoga: Raja (meditation), Karma (work), Jnana (science in the broadest sense from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”), Bhakti (devotion), and Hatha (force). Yoga literally means yoking, merging, joining. The ‘Rome’ we are attempting to reach is the yoking, merging and joining with a ‘constant’. This ‘constant’ goes by various names: God, Spirit, Tao, Enlightenment, etc. It doesn’t matter what name you give ‘Rome’. ‘Rome’ by any other name is still ‘Rome’. While we all want to reach ‘Rome’, the path we follow must be the one that suits our nature and cultural conditioning (2). One size doesn’t fit all!
When I view nature on its terms, I fail to see any ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. That tells me that these adjectives are simply projections of personal preference — what attracts me vs. what repels me. Being a tribal species, seeing with such impartiality doesn’t come easily, but it is heavenly when it does! Indeed, as chapter 79 hints, It is the way of heaven to show no favoritism.
(1) Bio-hoodwink: I coined this term for the trick that biology plays on perception. Chapter 65 says: Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them. The oldest ‘of old’, when it comes to living things is the biological process of life that ‘hoodwinks’ all living things.
For example, a bio-hoodwink tells the brain that the richer the food, and the more you eat, the better. This is the case in the wild. However, we found ways around natural limitations in order to make food as rich and plentiful as we could. In short, human innovation fell out-of-sync with nature’s bio-hoodwink… Woe to him who willfully innovates, While ignorant of the constant, as chapter 16 cautions.
As far as “enlighten the people” goes, what natural need is there for such a thing? Nature simply ‘needs’ to drive interaction between living things, and uses bio-hoodwinking as a means to that end. When I view nature on its terms, I fail to see any ‘enlightenment’ or ‘ignorance’ there. Aren’t these more projections of personal preference? Aren’t these ideals simply symptomatic or our desire to escape the tension we feel? Ironically, the uniquely human tension we experience results largely from pigeonholing life, labeling its as good, bad, beauty, ugly, enlightenment, ignorance, and then imagining ways to escape to the ‘other side’.
(2) Personally, all the yoga paths above draw me except devotional yoga. I simply inherited fewer genes for the social traits which that path requires. Of the other paths, Jnana (scientia, “knowledge”) pulls me the most, which explains my respect for Buddha. Buddha’ Second Noble Truth lays out the dynamics of the bio-hoodwink… “The cause of suffering is lust. The surrounding world affects sensation and begets a craving thirst that clamors for immediate satisfaction. The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. The desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrows. Pleasures are the bait and the result is pain”. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.