The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
Yes! This reminds me of the experience of repeating a word, any word, over and over. Eventually it loses its meaning and becomes jibberish. Names represent what we experience—our sensory input. Names are NOT the input! I find life more peaceful now that I’m more tentative in my understanding of these labels.
I think of the way as a path which branches left and right. The path is neither branch, but the branches are part of the path. When I speak or think, each word I use is a branch and so clearly, the way that can be spoken of is not the constant way.
I’m reminded of the early concerns about computers, and how they would take over. This is what has happened in a way with Names. Language is a useful tool as long as it doesn’t take over our minds and supersede reality.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
The urge to name things is really strong. This must come out of a fear of the unknown; we just can’t stand to let things be a mystery. The hardest emotional situations for me have always been when things were in limbo.
Pondering the complement of any named helps me deepen my sense of the nameless. For example, life is one thing and death is its complement. Contemplating the relationship between them until I see their mysterious sameness pulls my consciousness into the most peaceful place I’ve ever known.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observes its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery –
The gateway of the manifold secrets.
The ‘noise’ of desire energy surging through me blocks my consciousness from noticing the secrets. It is really very simple, just like any other commotion that hinders my ability to listen or watch. And if I’m not listening or watching, I can’t notice the manifold secrets of reality, but instead get tossed about by the surface manifestations.
When I’m driven by desires, I’m not receptive; I’m active with an agenda. I am embracing in my arms the yang [see ch. 42], which over-rides my perceptions of connection and love.
I’ve never really been able to rid myself of desire. Of course, I’ve tried, but this was only the desire to rid myself of desire. Like fighting fire with fire, this turned out to be a futile quest. Ironically, allowing myself to have desires has actually helped me rid myself of desires. I’ve had to accept myself in order to allow, and this acceptance, in turn, rids me of some of the underling motivations of desire, i.e., self empowerment. The more I accept myself, the less I NEED self empowerment.
Desire connects me with the world around me. Like, yum-yum food tastes great; I can enjoy this manifestation. A more subtle desire is that which I experience upon looking at the sunset. It’s a joy. What kills joy is when desire turns covetous and compulsive. When I cling on, the joy leaves, and the sense of mystery becomes displaced by a need to possess. Then, I wolf down my food, overeat or scurry about to take pictures of the sunset.
I’ve come to value and incorporate a certain degree of dis-comfort and insecurity in my life. In so doing, I find it easier to put to rest my desires for ever greater comfort and security. It is a practical way of acknowledging Buddha’s First Truth: Life is Suffering. In return, I’ve found a deeper secret meaning to my life. I guess the secret is, to really enjoy and love something, I have to let go of it.
These two are the same expresses the core of the Taoist view. It is extremely peaceful to view all the myriad opposing worldly issues as mysteries which have diverged in name as they issued forth. Realizing the benefits of this neutral and balanced view, I strive to ponder things that upset me until I see the complementary other side.
What would quenching be without thirst, or rest without work. Desire and non- desire, i.e., contentment, are complementary; each needs the other to have meaning. It is the same with pleasure and pain, life and death, happy and sad, liberal and conservative. I always seem to want to take sides though, which severely limits my life, unless I honor the other side.
Civilization helps me circumvent nature and pursue my pleasures with abandon. As an early stone age man, nature would serve up both sides, pleasure and pain, equally. We are able to dodge mother nature’s authority, as least for the short term. The reason why the people are difficult to govern is that they are too clever. [see ch. 65].
I’m reminded of Buddha’s Third Truth: ‘He who surrenders self will be free from desire’. When I contemplate a desire, any desire, I feel that it’s arising from my survival instinct. In one way or another, every desire is self-centric. Either I benefit directly, or vicariously through the advancement of my biases and interests. When I can loosen my self-survival a bit, I’m able to rid myself of desires in order to observes its secrets; the secret I find is a connection to the cosmic reality that lies beyond my self-interests.
Reality is like a circle. The circle of reality diverges into opposites. Desires always push me to take one side or the other. For example, I’m always pulled to answer the question and solve the problem. However, choosing one side, is in the end, also choosing the other. This is known as mysterious sameness [see ch. 56]. I can only really sense this mysterious sameness when I pause, be still and know. Standing at this gateway of the manifold secrets takes a lot of faith, which is all that you have when you let go of the names.