Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 52

This chapter reflects the motion of Tao as the origin of all things, manifesting into form and then returning to the source. The image of the divine mother figures prominently, giving us the sense that Tao gives birth to, rather than creates, “all under heaven.” The bond between Tao and the universe is compared to the bond between mother and child.

All under heaven has a source
This source is the mother of all things
To know the mother is to know the child
To know the child is to abide in the love of the mother
Thus becoming one with the eternal source of all things
And therefore beyond all danger

I’ve taken a little liberty with the characters in my translation, but I think it reflects the essential message of this passage. We connect to the divine (by whatever name we use – God, nature, universal energy) through our connection to each other. Indeed, through our connection to all under heaven.

A Course in Miracles teaches that any separation we create between ourselves and whatever we identify as “other than self” effectively separates us from our holy source. In other words, we cannot be connected to God if we are separated from others in any way, for example, through anger, judgment, fear, exclusion. All of creation reflects the holy source, and is one with it, like a rainbow manifesting the color spectrum of undifferentiated light. When we separate ourselves into “us” and “them,” it’s like saying that blue is the color of light but red isn’t.

This next passage contrasts our tendency to jump in and direct things with the inherent perfection of nature’s flow, which takes care of itself when we surrender our own agendas.

Close the mouth
Shut the door
Life is untroubled
Open the mouth
Meddle in affairs
Life is lost

The Tao Te Ching has a clear preference for careful words and non-interference with the natural flow of universal energy. There is a natural, effortless, perpetual unfolding of the world. When we interfere, no matter how well intentioned, we disrupt that natural flow. Imbalance results, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Then we are caught up in an endless struggle to repair, to fix, to restore.

We see this on a global scale, and also in our individual lives. Think about a time when you tried to make something better, and only made it worse. Of course, there are times when our efforts do lead to desired results, as when we clean up environmental damage, or make amends to heal a relationship. But we can always go back to the moment when we first set ourselves on a path out of sync with nature’s inherent wisdom. We can’t go back, but life pretty much guarantees that we will have another opportunity to make a choice!

The final passage brings us back to the concept of returning to our natural state of balance moment by moment.

Seeing the small is called enlightenment
Abiding in tenderness is called strength
Using the light 
We restore our inner vision without exposure to misfortune
This is our eternal practice

This is the point, isn’t it? That every moment, every holy instant, offers us a choice – to be fully present or to be lost in distraction. We think that enlightenment is some goal to achieve in the future, and that once achieved we can sit back and bask in eternal serenity. But it isn’t like that. We practice, in every moment. Without judgment, because in the time it takes to judge ourselves, several more opportunities have passed. So we practice again.

Our practice becomes integrated into our daily lives. We don’t practice only when we are on our meditation cushion, or in church, or in martial arts class. We practice with every breath, every heartbeat. Our practice IS our life. So beautiful.

There is no such thing as enlightenment. There are only enlightened moments. ~Adyashanti

30 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching – Chapter 52”

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful discourse. It is perfect for me, as I sit here in my living room smelling the wonderful stew that will be the basis of our Thanksgiving meal. No meat, just veggies. You are a friend, through and through. I am feeling blessed. 🙂

  2. I think I will need to ponder a little more on this one. I find many parallels with my religious beliefs in much of the Tao Te Ching. That being said, I find it a bit more complex than what I know and feel. When you wrote about the divine Mother at the beginning; I do firmly believe that we have a Heavenly Mother. I know we were taught in the pre-earth life by our Heavenly Parents.
    We come here and can know good from evil through the Light of Christ which enlivens all. If we choose to follow that light we are enlightened and will be lead to more truths. Once found and accepted and baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; we then can receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion that will help, comfort, guide, inspire, teach, testify, and prepare us to receive and know more truths until we know the truth of all things.
    I do love how your writings always stimulate some of my own beliefs.
    Wishing for you a wonderful Thanksgiving Celebration with your family. Sending loving thoughts and hugs your way!

  3. "Seeing the small is called enlightenment
    Abiding in tenderness is called strength
    Using the light
    We restore our inner vision without exposure to misfortune
    This is our eternal practice."
    Galen, this is why the subtitle to my blog is called, "Meeting the Miraculous in the Mundane." God can show us miracles in every quiet or chaotic moment, in every breath we breathe with consciousness, and every breath caught by moments that take our breath by surprise.
    It is the point, the point of becoming, the point of being. Not achieved, but forever practiced, as God moves us forward on this journey we call life.
    Blessings, my friend, and thank you for the inspirations you always share!

  4. A veggie stew–that sounds delicious. I do love all the family together for Thanksgiving, but TG food is not my favorite. I could easily do with stew! Happy Thanksgiving to you, DJan. I'm feeling blessed too.

  5. Not achieved, but forever practiced. Exactly, Martha. Because really there is nothing to achieve. There is only the practice. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  6. LeAnn, I think there are different ways to describe and think about universal truth, which is beyond all words and descriptions. It's interesting to me that you find this more complex–again, there are different perceptions. To me, this is simpler than many belief systems which can complicate and contradict each other. This is more of a "releasing beliefs" system. In that way, I suppose it it one more "system," an "un-system"! Ha!

    I always appreciate the connections you make, once again showing that underneath all the words, truth shines for all of us.

    I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your very large family!!

  7. "…every moment, every holy instant, offers us a choice – to be fully present or to be lost in distraction."

    I love this statement. The whole world is lost in distraction, thinking and doing without being fully present. I see it all the time. Humanity seems to be lost in a trance, or in a fugue (a state or period of loss of awareness of one's identity) they are unconscious of the present moment most of the time. Their minds are preoccupied with past and future, and more identified with doing rather then simply being.

  8. "The Tao Te Ching has a clear preference for careful words and non-interference with the natural flow of universal energy. There is a natural, effortless, perpetual unfolding of the world."

    Yes , I have found this to be so true. There is a natural flow and a timing for everything. I rarely rush into anything, I tend to wait, get attuned to the natural flow of what's happening and then things go soooooo much better.

  9. I love every thing about this post, Galen. You said so much and there is so much truth coming from the Tao Te Ching.

    "We connect to the divine … through our connection to each other…through our connection to all under heaven."

    This is good. We have been led to believe that the divine is way out there somewhere. Maybe its this indoctrinated belief, in our conditioned thinking,that we are separate from source. In western society and certainly mainstream religion, we had heard since childhood that there is an inherited flaw in our human nature, that there is a large gulf between us and our source. But,the Tao Te Ching, and most eastern philosophy, makes it clear that this idea of separation is a false perception. It is we who create the separation, in our thinking, when we believe we are this unique individual self divided from the whole. There is no disconnected divinity source out there somewhere in a distant place that we have to appease to make things right. The only inherited flaw humans have is that we 'believe' we are separate from all that is divine. When we realize this thinking is an illusion, we can now see clearly that the divine is all around us,in us, in others,and all life throughout the whole universe. All life is one divine being and we are in it like fish in the sea.

  10. And I love everything about your comments, Brian! Your observation about eastern/western approaches contrasts the unified/divided perspectives. One of the things I like about A Course in Miracles is that it merges the unified perspective with a more western (Christian) vocabulary. I've heard the expression "like a fish in the ocean asking where the water is." That is how many of us live, isn't it?

  11. One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 62:5. "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence." When we wait with an open heart, the way becomes clear in its own time. And yes, then things go so much better!

  12. This comment reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation, in which a character is stuck in an illusory closed universe loop. Her mind tells her that it is real. In order for her to escape, she has to leap through a narrowing opening into the unknown, which in fact throws her back into reality. She can then see how she was trapped by the belief that the illusion was real. Don't know if you are a Star Trek fan, but I think you would like that episode.

  13. Its interesting that the character had to leap into the unknown to find truth and reality. In my experience I had to drop my certainties in order to move into a different understand of what is a greater reality.

    I wrote about this in my blog post recently under ..what is truth?

    We will never search for greater truth as long as we hold absolute certainty in our current perceptions and beliefs. If we do search for truth beyond what we already believe to be true, it will cause a discomfort to such a degree that we may be forced to abandon our former beliefs and assumptions. This is a very painful process and most of us would rather continue to rest in the safety of our certainty (belief system) then search for the mystery of truth which by its very nature is uncertain. However, it is a paradox that its only when we embrace uncertainty that we can then experience truth and freedom.The truth will set us free to explore the mystery of life. As long as we are trapped in our certainties, we are enslaved in our mental concepts of what reality is.

  14. The episode is "Remember Me" and Google tells me it's season 4 episode 5, in case you want to watch it.

    The passage from your blog aligns with a study showing that people are more afraid of uncertainty than they are of physical pain.

  15. I have listen to Adya often on youtube and I read his book -Resurrecting Jesus . Its a great book that looks at Jesus as an enlightened being who embodied the Christ spirit. (This Christ Spirit was there before humans ever walked this earth, it may be what you described as Te, the creative agency of Te, in an earlier post on ch 51 ) He was perhaps the first non-duality teacher in the west. Here is one quote from the book prologue 'Jesus the spiritual revolutionary has the capacity to wake us up from our own individual dream of separation and isolation'

  16. Ok, Galen that's a good pun. Allow me to wonder about Adya's statement, notice I am avoiding the word think, bear with me hahahaha…He is obviously implying that we can't trust our thoughts. We know that the thinking mind is like a biological computer, it relies on input from memory banks,taken from data streams coming at us from the environment, which we were exposed to from past experience. These memory banks get distorted over time, every time the information (thought) is recalled. So, if thinking is a recall of data input from distorted memory, we have to inquire is this recall accurate and reliable. Probably not! Perhaps,truth can only come from our deeper intuitive heart based center. This heart based center is somehow connected to infinite divine consciousness. This is, no doubt, where truth is found.

  17. Hard to talk about thought without thinking and talking! Thinking is tied to language which is why we can't think or express truth.

    I was very struck by Adya's statement about truth. We sometimes hear people say "this is my truth" or that there are many truths, but truth is truth. There isn't one or many, because it is simply what is. There is only truth. Thought by its nature disengages us from direct experience of what is.

    And yet since truth is "what is," then thought is encompassed by truth since thought does happen, but it is not truth. Clear as mud….

    One more thought (!). Thought gets a bad rap in the spiritual realm, but it is what our brains do, and it is useful in many ways. But asking it to express truth or lead us to truth is asking it to do what it cannot do.

  18. Philosophers have been debating these matters for thousands of years. I agree it should be cut and dry… Truth is truth. That is what I always thought. But if consciousness is evolving can it change what the very idea of truth is.. I am not sure. The more I understand about this stuff the less I know. I will stick to 'not knowing' as my default path to truth.

  19. I can relate to this by thinking of personal flow – I've cultivated an awareness of this and try to be open to any momment as it unfolds…with openness and peace, but it is so easy to be jerked out of it into what we may term 'real world' activities, judgments, assessments, unpleasant feelings going on around us, within us or directed towards us. The other day I was jerked out of my flow at a workshop where three ladies with upper class accents were greeting each other at the beginning – so very 'well to do'. I judged myself as inferior (don't know where this comes from) and became clumsy as I poured myself a coffee. I was angry with myself but settled down after that. Another aspect comes from being judged eg a man frowning and shaking his head at me from a car after I'd made a mistake in my driving, a brief distraction…but my! how I became upset internally, as old in-grained patterns of reactions were sparked off in me. But I keep on getting back into my flow, which feels the right place to be and yes, where there can be a harmony for all. Lovely post!

  20. Thank you, Lynne, for those real life examples that all of us can relate to. I had my in person No Way Cafe group this morning and we were talking about this very thing. One thing we observed is that the present moment isn't always peaceful! Perhaps in any particular moment I am feeling anxious or agitated. Then my practice is to be at peace with that instead of struggling with it. It will pass in its own time, and faster if I don't judge or resist. Peace comes from ceasing to struggle, not always from feeling peaceful, if that makes any sense. Thanks for sharing your illustrative examples.

Comments are closed.