The conceptual flexibility of the term makes it possible to apply it to every aspect of life. Many authors and commentators have done exactly that in attempts to clarify how specific principles or practices relate to their lives. The following are 3 authors sharing insights on Benevolence & Duty, Physics, and Power derived from their meditations on Tao.
Tao of Benevolence & Duty
“Benevolence is the soft path, based on compassion and love. Duty is the hard path, based on judgment and administration. If one is only benevolent, without duty, then love will lack distinction of right and wrong. If one is dutiful without benevolence, then judgment will become oppressive. Both of these states miss the center.
When benevolence and duty are used together, then there is decisiveness within benevolence, so that right and wrong do not get mixed up; there is flexibility within duty, so that there is no dogmatic rigidity. Thus the path of balance and harmony is not lost.” (from Awakening to the Tao, by Liu I-Ming, translated by Thomas Cleary)
The Tao of Physics
“The Tao is the cosmic process in which all things are involved; the world is seen as a continuous flow and change… The principal characteristic of the Tao is the cyclic nature of its ceaseless motion and change. ‘Returning is the motion of the Tao,’ says Lao Tzu, and ‘Going far means returning.’ The idea is that all developments in nature, those in the physical world as well as those of human situations, show cyclic patterns of coming and goings, of expansion and contraction…” (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics)
The Tao of Power
“We already know that it is rarely worth the effort to swim upstream, but do we know which way the stream is flowing? We realize that it is difficult and unsatisfying to cut across the grain, but can we see which way the grain runs? Lao Tzu believed that a constant awareness of the patterns in nature will bring us insights into the parallel patterns in human behavior: Just as spring follows winter in nature, growth follows repression in society; just as too much gravity will collapse a star, too much possessiveness will collapse an idea.” (R.L. Wing The Tao of Power)
If the three passages above have anything in common––other than the intent to express an interpretation of Taoist principles––it is 2 ideas which are fairly common but also elusive: balance and harmony. Most people have some sense of what these words mean to them personal but what they lack is a way to mindfully apply those meanings to their lives. For the spiritually inclined, religion or philosophy may fill the void. For those not so inclined, just recognition of the need to establish such balance and harmony is an important first step. That alone, at least, reduces the certainty of falling prey to unmanaged chaos.
© 22 October 2014