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.
Ariel Avalos says
Embrace all the paths, embrace others path, duality, non duality, TAO. ☯️
Hi Friar Tuck, I am generally in agreement. One part stood out however…
While “no one is born a racist”, per se, being a tribal species, we are all born with the group instinct: our group versus the 'other' group. Many social species have this kind of innate push apart::pull together dynamic that helps them as a social species not all amass together as one humongous 'happy family'. There needs to be a push away 'the other' drive to keep groups spread apart enough so as to utilize resources effectively. Just imagine how unworkable it would be if a social species had only the pull together instinct. All individuals would crowd together in one spot.
So in fact, we are all really born 'racists'. Only the particulars are learned, i.e., the particular object of 'racist' instinct. Of course, this instinct need not play out in racial ways. There is politics, religion, gender, age, occupation, education, clothes, etc., with which to judge and push away others.
Hi Friar Tuck, I am generally in agreement. One part stood out however…
While “no one is born a racist”, per se, being a tribal species, we are all born with the group instinct: our group versus the ‘other’ group. Many social species have this kind of innate push apart::pull together dynamic that helps them as a social species not all amass together as one humongous ‘happy family’. There needs to be a push away ‘the other’ drive to keep groups spread apart enough so as to utilize resources effectively. Just imagine how unworkable it would be if a social species had only the pull together instinct. All individuals would crowd together in one spot.
So in fact, we are all really born ‘racists’. Only the particulars are learned, i.e., the particular object of ‘racist’ instinct. Of course, this instinct need not play out in racial ways. There is politics, religion, gender, age, occupation, education, clothes, etc., with which to judge and push away others.
Friar Tuck says
The search for, and the belief in, the “one best way” is as timeless as it is false. Over the millennia there have been innumerable voices that would require their faithful to believe that while all roads lead to Rome, only “their” road is the correct path to follow. Perhaps this stems from the primordial notion, and fear, of “the other.” The other is exactly what its name implies – that which is not like me. Therefore, it is a lot easier for me to continue my belief in the epistemology of my clan if the clan members can all agree that any outside knowledge or influence is heretical, primitive, and most importantly, dangerous.
It is extremely important to understand that these concepts and beliefs are not innate. They are learned responses taught to anyone who has the misfortune of being in a group or tribe that foists these ideologies on the unsuspecting, the young, the weak, and the vulnerable.
I had a math teacher in college who wore shirts with sayings silk screened onto the back. This was his clever way of making sure that we all got the message when he turned his back to us at the blackboard. My favorite shirt had a very simple, and profoundly true, statement written for all to see: “No one is born a racist!”. Like racism, the fear of the other and the prosecution and persecution of those who follow a different “way” is learned and can therefore, be unlearned.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote that the path to correct action lies on the golden mean between the excessive and the deficient (I paraphrase here) – in what could be seen as an ancient Greek manifestation of yin and yang. Perhaps if we spent more time contemplating the correctness of our own path and less time discrediting the paths of others, we would not only find our way an easier journey, but would be ready to embrace “the other” and their journey when we all finally get to Rome.