Waking up following a pleasant afternoon’s nap, I found myself reflecting on the best way to approach life. By “way” I mean tao, and tao (道 dào) translates to road, way, principle; speak; think. Why do we have endless debates over the way to approach life, what to do and how to do it? This question draws those of like-mind together and pushes those of unlike-mind apart. We constantly promote our own preferences and inclinations as the answer. This social-tribal instinct — another bio-hoodwink (1) — certainly keeps the social pot stirred.
I began coming to grips with this hoodwink when I studied astrology. This opened me up to the idea that people might be fundamentally different! Fundamentally? Not really, yet it can feel fundamental thanks to social-tribal instinct. Astrology plus 15 years hitchhiking around the world gradually taught me that at the deepest level, people are the same the world over. We all 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 yearn to reach is the yoking, merging and joining with a constant. This constant goes by various names: God, Spirit, Tao, Enlightenment, Peace, 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 emotional 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’ way. That tells me that these adjectives are simply projections of personal preference — what attracts me vs. what repels me. Such impartiality doesn’t come easily, but the heavenly result is worth the sacrifice! As chapter 79 hints, It is the way of heaven to show no favoritism.
(1) Bio-hoodwink (p.11): I coined this term for the deception 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 was truly beneficial in hunter-gatherer times. However, we found ways around natural limitations in order to make food as rich and plentiful as possible. 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.
Regarding chapter 65’s “enlighten the people” comment (above), what natural need is there for enlightenment? Nature only needs to drive interaction between living things, and uses bio-hoodwinking as a means to that end. Moreover, I fail to see either ‘enlightenment’ or ‘ignorance’ in nature. Aren’t these ideals merely symptomatic of our desire to escape the life stresses we feel? Ironically, the uniquely human tension we experience results largely from pigeonholing life, labeling it as “good vs. bad”, beautiful vs. ugly”, “enlightened vs. ignorant”, and then imagining ways to escape the pigeonhole.
(2) Personally, all these yoga paths 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 (p.604) identifies 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.