M, C, J, G, L
The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, by Witter Bynner
G: I love and revere this book. The distinguishing theme I see in the book is yielding. The book describes the power of yielding, and often uses the image of water.
J: Yes, water is alluded to in 8 – “Like water, he seeks his own level” and 15 – “How can a man’s life keep its course if he will not let it flow?”
M: The theme I see emphasized is that power lies within yourself.
J: He points out, again and again, that all answers can be found within. There is no need for an external structure or person to take us there.
G: The outer world is a reflection of us all. We contain multitudes.
J: He mentions in several poems that it is the identification with the self that creates problems. It isn’t the self, but identification with it.
M: The sensible man prefers the inner to the outer. This is an allusion to meditation.
J: Going within brings us to our truth. Lao Tzu references a lot to the benefit of being vs. doing. He describes meditation with beautiful metaphors, without actually using the word ‘meditation’. 1 – “Existence is beyond the power of words”, 14 – “…one who is anciently aware of existence is master of every moment”. I like those words – anciently aware of existence. It touches on the feeling of meditation.
G: Looking at life through the senses, looking outside, could drive a man mad. Go within. Find what you are looking for there - within.
J: The truth is available to all of us. We each have our yes, our no.
G: Rama taught us to do what is right, that there is a personal dharma. You know your yes/ your no.
J: Another topic I saw reflected throughout the text is the idea of Leadership. How does the leader behave?
M: In #4, it says that the leader’s aim is to serve.
L: He touches on all aspects of life – society, leader/ peasant, people interacting, deep profound mystical truths, from the surface to the depth. Words cause separation. Same truth Rama talked about – no difference between the core and the surface – words make them seem different. If name be needed – wonder is that word. He looks at the surface and the core.
His words are simple, inclusive.
G: Truth is simple. Rama became very terse over the years. There is depth, but captured by very few words.
J: In #32, Bynner uses the words ‘Existence’ and ‘Eternity’. These are words that Rama used. They encompass something very big, but tangible.
M: Reality – it is what it is, it is what it is not. What you can see, what you cannot.
J: And there is a humbleness reflected in existence which mankind doesn’t always reflect. In #34 it speaks of life being a great host. Everyone is welcome. Life doesn’t provide because it is trying to show how much it owns.
Then it goes further to almost forgive us for being humans. Life is noble because it lacks the twist of mind or body in what it does… the guile of head and hands. As humans, we’re experiencing this polarized world of birth and death, mind and body, self and separateness. (The Blue Book, which we recently read, alluded to even putting something into words as blasphemy, in that Existence is immediately diminished when we try to limit it with a word or description.)
The terminology that Lao Tzu uses is very accessible. He doesn’t talk about meditation or enlightened beings – words which may be lofty or unobtainable. Instead, he describes the person who chooses an uncommon life of spiritual pursuit as the sane man, the sensible man, or a sound man.
10 – Can you hold the door of your tent
Wide to the firmament?
Can you with the simple stature of a child, breathing nature,
Can you continue befriending
With no prejudice, no ban?
Can you, mating with heaven,
Serve as the female part?...
If you can guide without claim or strife,
If you can stay in the lead of men without them knowing,
You are at the core of life.
46 - Owning is the entanglement, wanting is bewilderment,
Taking is the presentiment;
Only he who contains content, remains content.
1 - If name be needed, then wonder names them both.
From wonder into wonder,
L: This is such as such a wonderful way to describe life. It implies that underneath there is a continual opening.
G: Lao Tzu has such a reverence for life! So lovely that he could see the wonder of life.
I fall back on this book regularly. It has been a very good friend.
Wonder into wonder is a particular favorite.
67 is a reminder of personal conduct
These possessions of a simpleton being the three I choose and cherish:
To be fair,
To be humble.
J: Caring keeps us alive. If we are being too rigid in the self/ego, Rama suggested engaging in selfless giving. Caring takes us out of the ego, out of focusing on ourselves.
G: 35 – Sign of life – we get a connection with that presence
57 – A whole other level. Instead of imposing will, serve. A sensible man serves others. You don’t impose, you serve.
J: Tao is available to everyone.
62 – ‘motionless gift of integrity’
M: 2 – Describes the connection with voice and music.
Life is something to animate, not to appropriate…
To nurture, to guide… not to impose.
The purpose to all life is to serve.
M: I want to mention that my teacher, who is a Rama student, said I needed to read the books we’ve been going over in the book club, so that we can share the vocabulary. There were concepts that I couldn’t fully grasp until I had read some of these books. The more we read together, the more we create the language of common understanding.
G – This book, The Way of Life, is one of the most profound books. We talked in our last call that Rama said that the I Ching and Tibetan Book of the Dead are some of the purest books – I wanted to confirm that he mentions that in the talk on Storing Power.
L – I like the image of water as being core. Flowing of life – Learning not to lose energy – allow it to flow.
Our next book: Surfing the Himalayas