Lenten Observance: Day 6

Tao 11 & 12:  Tao 11 is probably the chapter that comes most to mind when someone mentions the Tao — what I like to think of as the empty chapter — it is the hole at the center of a wheel that makes the wheel operational;  it is the inside of a cup that makes it useful;  it is the inside of the house that makes it liveable — that the use and purpose of a thing comes from its emptiness, or its capacity, rather than its form or shape, while we may admire a particularly beautiful cup or house, it is its interior space, the empty space that serves the function, so that a plain wooden cup or clay cup serves just as useful function as a golden chalice — in fact the plainness allows us to get past a fixation on appearance and value, and use it for its intended purpose.  This makes me think of the Westerner who had come to some Zen guru and asked the guru to explain Zen to him, but first the Zen master called for tea.  When the Westerner’s cup was full, the Zen master continued to pour tea that ran over the sides and over the table.  The Westerner protested that the cup was full and that any additional tea was wasted — the cup could hold no more.  And the Zen master pointed out that the Westerner had come to him with his mind full of ideas about religion and truth, and lacked the openness to hear anything the Zen master might say about Zen — in other words, he was like that full cup.  There was no chance for a real meeting of the minds or hearts here. 

Tao12 has the statement about colors blinding the eye, and tastes dulling the tongue.  This has something of the “My brain is full, can I go now,” but the master does not let the surface appearance of things befuddle him but trusts his inner vision.  This, I think, is something not quite so easy to get around.  Of course, Plato with his theory of Ideas, felt that the “true” world was the world behind the surface world of appearances and that an abstract science such as mathematics was a way to train the mind to think in terms of ideas rather than the objects of the “real  world.”  But even our inner eye and inner senses is bounded in some ways by the tools we have used to grow, by language and by ways we have been taught.  I don’t see that those are ever totally absent.  I think we can be aware of that, can attempt to come to some sort of receptive beginner’s mind, and then approach the world with “fresher” eyes, but I also think our egos can be such that a conviction that we do that very thing may be something of an illusion.  It’s probably always going to be a fixation of mine that I distrust absolutes (even the always in this sentence) just I’m drawn to such certainty (I picked Thomas as a confirmation name so that God would look out and help me past my doubts) — part of my sixness.

2 Responses to “Lenten Observance: Day 6”

  1. 1 Sharon Blevins
    February 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Bernie, thank you for this lent series!

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