Thoughts on the Tao

By Laura Campbell

When I come here to the Temple I feel that I have been given sanctuary from the cares of the world. I feel embraced by a huge wing of love, peace and harmony. I am given a feeling of balance that prepares me for the rest of the week.

What have I learned of the Tao Te Ching? I have learned that I do not know the Tao. I only have a limited knowledge of some of the aspects of the Tao. The Tao Te Ching seems so simple, yet when I try to express what I have learned I find that the words are not adequate. I have learned that The Tao is universal. The Tao progresses naturally and spontaneously. It is not intrusive. It is a connecting thread between the past, present and future. It is like a river that flows through life. It is not personified like the Judeo-Christian god. By putting the Tao in terms that humans can understand is to put boundaries on the Tao. The Tao has no boundary. The Tao is abstract and impersonal. It is not possessed of emotions. The Tao does not take sides. It is the balance between yin and yang. The Tao teaches harmony.

I am in awe of the way that everyone has a part in taking care of the temple from the oldest member to the children. A couple of weeks ago I parked my car in the back and came through the kitchen. The ladies in the kitchen were singing as they serenely went about the task of preparing the meal. It made my heart sing and I was filled with joy.

During the last couple of months I have learned that the lessons that are to be learned from the Tao Te Ching are as relevant today as when they were first taught by Lao Tsu. I have learned that to be in harmony with the Tao one must not be overly impressed with ones own importance. True power comes from humility. In the lessons on leadership I learned that the leader that does not listen to his advisors, and the people, is soon without followers. This leader will have a narrow prospective and consequently may make a decision that could be very harmful for those who depend on him. A good leader knows when to hold fast and when to bend like a strong tree in the wind. It is important to listen to the advice of our elders. Sometimes our elders are younger in years, yet older in knowledge. I have learned a lot from Derek and the teenagers in his class. We are there to help each other learn. We have learned that there is an underlying unity in everything. We are willing to do more for others than we are willing to do for ourselves. By working together as a team we can accomplish more than we can as individuals. Derek reminds the class about TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More). Each person has something to give to the whole. Also because we are working together as a team we push ourselves to do better for the team.

We can obtain insight to human nature by studying the Tao. The military leader is cautioned to not go into a war without using other options first. Furthermore, he is told that if it is unavoidable to only do what is necessary. The Tao tells us that the general who has just won a war should not be proud of his victory over his enemy. He should not gloat and grind his heel into his enemy. To do so is to lose a future ally. This is equally true for a personal adversary. It is better to make a friend than an enemy. By being consumed with the desire for revenge is to give up a part of oneself that is good, and replacing it with negativity.

I have learned that by studying the great Tao we can gain an intuitive understanding of the Tao. We can gain sustenance, energy, understanding and ultimately the real meaning of the Tao. Everything that I have learned is so natural that is sounds too simple; the words are pretty; the advice is logical. Is the Tao easy to follow? I don't think so. I think that it is easy to lose one's way to the Tao; that this is why LaoTzu warns of placing too much importance in virtue, benevolence, righteousness and propriety. There is a place of balance in virtue, benevolence, righteousness and propriety that brings a person to the Tao in a natural way. If we exceed that balance then Tao is lost and the importance is placed on the act rather than the harmony of the Tao. If too much emphasis is placed on virtue then we lose sight of the fact that at times there is no virtue and that the benevolent and the righteous do not always win. Life is not fair; it teaches us hard lessons at times. How can we know and appreciate virtue, benevolence, righteousness, and propriety if we do not see its opposite? How can we have empathy, compassion and understanding if we are filled with self-righteousness? I have learned that when a person is truly in harmony with the Tao they are unaware of virtue, benevolence, righteousness, and propriety for there is no longer a need to force anyone into seeing that they possess these virtues.

I am still at a loss for words to explain what the Tao, this temple and everyone here means to me. What do I know of the Tao? I know that the Tao contains great truths that are powerful, universal, profound, and simple. I know that I have come to feel more balanced in my life with the help of the Tao. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about the Tao. You are an inspiration to me.