My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice, yet no
one in the world can understand them or put them into practice.
I find the words are very easy to understand when I’m receptive to the message. The reason no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice is because they don’t want to. The message is not one which most people really want to hear. Why? Maybe because the message runs counter to so many of our biological instincts. Generally, we are most receptive to words which bolster our biases and instincts.
I no longer resist the message, intellectually. My experience has proven it true despite my desires to the contrary. So, it is much easier to understand. Put(ting) it into practice is another matter. This reminds me of ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. My instincts still govern my life, or at least my initial reactions to circumstances. When I am more Tentative, as if fording a river in winter [see ch. 15], I have time to reconsider such instinctual responses and reflect.
Words have an ancestor and affairs have a sovereign.
The ancestor of a word is the thing it symbolizes. Things were here long before we came along and stuck words to them. Our word for a thing is a human innovation to assist us in manipulating the things of nature. Without words our circumstances would be much simpler. When I set words aside, I can sense my primordial consciousness—the mind of my sage self—which lies in the lowest depths of my being.
What ancestor? The correlations are a way of seeing the ancestry of words. Words all boil down to fundamental experience. And experience is reducible to simple opposites, such as: good=yes=pleasure=happy -vrs- bad=no=pain=sad. Is this not the result of on/off neural biology? And isn’t this on/off (Yang and Yin) biology not reflective of the universal material reality? i.e., These two are the same, But diverge in name as they issue forth [see ch. 1], and Thus Something and Nothing produce each other[see ch. 2].
My affairs are governed by circumstances. I react to stimuli and so each stimulus which I respond to is the sovereign of my affairs—actions and reactions, as it were.
Death (or its companions; loss, failure, lower position) is the sovereign. This governs my actions. Desire is the emotional push to resist death. Needs drive me to get away from loss and gain what enhances life.
It is because people are ignorant that they fail to understand me.
Those who understand me are few;
Those who imitate me are honoured.
Therefore the sage, while clad in homespun, conceals on his person a priceless
piece of jade.
We are born with our primal instincts and these guide us through life. Alas, we are too clever, which combined with our instincts, often gets us in over our heads. The only way to counteract this ignorant condition is through understanding. But, understanding of what? Buddha placed Right Understanding at the beginning of his eight fold path which speaks to the crucial importance of understanding.
It’s not that instincts are by themselves ignorance. We just use our brain power to rationalize our instincts. The push to rationalize our desires is a great barrier to Right Understanding.
While I may be able to gain some degree of understanding, I am always bound to my mortal condition. The universe is neutral, but I must take sides when I’m compelled to, even though I understand the Tao to be neutral. The best I can do, really, is imitate what I understand to be the way, when my biology / circumstance allows me to. I am, in the end, powerless and my only relief lies in bowing to the way.
The sage is that deepest part of me, at the root of my consciousness, which watches. The homespun is my human animal instinctual biology. Nothing special—it was born and will die. Just a common ordinary homespun life form; a skin bag of homespun material worth $1.98. Of course that sage within me is the same within all. When I’m very still, I can hear/see what the sage hears and sees.