This week we move in the reading and discussion of chapter 5 of the Tao Te Ching. Let’s roll…
Welcome to Tao Te Ching Today where we look at the reality of the Tao Te Ching from Lao Tzu’s eyes. I am your host, Sean Webb.
Ok, so today we’re moving in to chapter 5 which is one of the first chapters that suggest where we can find the truth of Tao. I’m gonna be reading out of John C. H. Wu’s translation. Chapter 5 starts:
Heaven-and-Earth is not sentimental
it treats all things as straw-dogs
The Sage is not sentimental
He treats all his people as his straw-dogs
Between Heaven and Earth there seems to be bellows
It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible
The more it works, the more comes out of it
No amount of words can fathom it
Better look for it within you.
And so again, we continue into this chapter 5 with some analogies that suggest that the reality of Tao, the reality of the universe, the reality of everything. You can’t put a finger on it, you can’t discuss it. And in this chapter, we also hint on being clear of mind in the first few sentences… in being able to realize the reality of the universe. It starts out, “the heaven and earth are not sentimental; it treats all things as straw dogs.”
Now… straw dogs… straw dogs are used in ancient China as a ceremonial sacrifies at times, or ornamentation at times. And so, you put care in to these straw dogs in making them… yet when the ceremony was over, you in ceremoniously threw them in the trash or threw them in the street or burned them… or whatever your will was… to the straw dogs… and so they were of an importance, but at the same time they were unimportant. And so you had no emotional attachment to the straw dogs in the ceremony, they simply were a part of existence, a part of the ceremony, a part of what you were doing. And so the Sage is not sentimental, he treats all his people as straw dogs. He doesn’t mistreat them but at the same time he doesn’t become emotionally attached or go over and above regarding his importance of their existence.
Next: “Between heaven and Earth there seems to be bellows: It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible. The more it works, the more comes out of it”. And again this is to the paradox that from chapter 4, “the bowl is empty, yet when it’s empty you never have to refill it” because it is perpetually full and the same are being said about the bellows. The bellows are empty, yet inexhaustible and this is an allure… an analogy… that is stating, “well, you can’t really put a finger on it, you can’t really define it. Once you say it is one thing, it is not that, it is the other.” And so, no amount of words can fathom it. And so again, we can talk about it but we can’t talk about it until we’re blown in the face and you’re not gonna understand it. And here’s the real exclamation point to this chapter; “better look for it within you”.
Now the reality of the Tao is that you’ll never fully understand it until you attain what is called “enlightenment”. Enlightenment is the phenomenon of spiritual awakening within you that exist only when you are able to see within yourself beyond the thing that you think is yourself. And in my other podcast, I call this the false self versus the true self. And it is at the point that you realize the truth of your existence that you’d finally see the truth of the universe, you finally see the truth of existence which Lao Tzu (Laozi) calls the “Tao”. You finally SEE how everything works, how you are associated with everything, how you fit in with everything (we’re talking everything in the universe). And you then realize the meaning of life, the meaning of your existence, the reality of Tao as Lao Tzu would say and you become enlightened. And the way through that door isn’t to look out somewhere else. The way through that door is to look within you and so this is the first allure to that truth, “better look for it within you”.
So, through all the first few chapters we talked about, you can’t put a finger on it, you can’t talk about it; you can’t put any boundaries around it. It is beyond conception of the mind and the place you need to look for it is within you and this is the simple truth because you discover the truth of Tao, you discover the truth of enlightenment by looking within. And it is at the point that your conscious thought ceases that the mind then opens up and allows you to see what you have not seen before. And that what’s Lao Tzu talking about in chapter 5.
Heaven and Earth are not sentimental, meaning it creates and destroys as it does without emotional connection, without any thought. And treats all things as straw dogs, the Sage therefore is not sentimental, he treats all his people as straw dogs. People come and go. You don’t mistreat the people but you know their existence is temporary and they will die and whatever trials and strife and tribulations and happiness, sadness and all those things are gonna fall away when they do. And so, their individual existences aren’t as important as Tao, aren’t as important as existence as it is.
Between Heaven and Earth there seems to be bellows: It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible. The more it works, the more comes out of it—so the more the reality of the universe works, the more creation is perpetually created. No amount of words can fathom it, better to look for it within you. So if you want to understand this ultimate truth, you want to understand this perpetual creativeness, you want to understand the reality of the universe, you got to look within. And that’s the only way to find it.
We will stop there and move in to how this can affect our everyday lives next week. Do not forget that you can get a free audio book from audible.com by going to taotechingtoday.com/audible and that will take you to their 30-day risk free trial where you get a free book just for trying them out. They’re awesome. I’ve been a member for four years. I wouldn’t push something on you or suggest something to you unless I was a customer myself and I am a customer of audible.com. It is an awesome service there’s no other place where you can get the author of the book to read it to you for about $10 bucks a book is what it turns out to be which is cheaper than you can buy it at any bookstore even in amazon, they’re all $10 bucks so, if you like to pick up a physical copy of Tao Te Ching, we do have the amazon links on our site, taotechingtoday.com. Please feel free to click on those when you do, we get a few pennies from your purchase and you don’t pay any more for clicking through us. Thank you very much for your time, hope things are well for you and until next week. Be well.