“There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it Tao. It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the origin of all things.” Thus begins verse 25 of the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell.
It is impossible to name the “nameless” but what we call it influences how we see it.
“Tao” works for me. I do not picture a form. It actually means:”the Way.” All religions know that there is something unknowable at the core of it all.
However, the word “God” is limiting. It brings to mind an old man in the sky, or if you are a contemporary thinker, a woman. Although I have used this word most of life, the danger here is that we see God as a person with all the limitations that we know people to have. He may be a great person, but even than fact that it is “he” not “she” limits the concept. “God” is unlimited. Can we find other words to express the infinite vastness?
Words cannot describe God
The Tao Te Ching refers to Absolute One. I’ve used All-that-is, Source, Universal Mind – they are all human words and they limit our perception of the Infinite Unknown. To use a word to describe it is to separate us from knowing it. “Be aware of your own divine nature through direct connection with it,” says Master Ni, Hua-Ching in the Hua Hu Ching,
Where is God?
My comparative religion class my senior year in college was an eye-opener for me. I only knew Christianity. Suddenly I learned about other prevent religions in the world:, Buddhism, Confucianism Hinduism, Mohamadism, Judiasm and the many others like the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few. And let’s not forget the religion of Native Americans. Chinese folk religions and Australian aboriginal religions No wonder I wondered why I thought my version of religion was “right.”
I always believed that God was within me and once I asked a former priest, “If you believe God is within and you get in trouble, what do you do? He said, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Thus began a lifetime of self-responsibility. I’m not alone, I am a vessel of Source, but I am responsible for my thoughts, my words, and my actions.
I found many ways to understand my connection with this Infinite Source. I learned Transcendental Meditation, I mastered energy techniques like Reiki, I used Bach Flower Remedies. I found the work of Thomas Troward through the Center for Spiritual Living. He had identified the common concepts among the world’s great religions. What I read made sense to me. I became a spiritual practitioner, I taught, I embraced the self-responsibility for what my words and thoughts attracted.
And then I found Tao
Because “Tao” has no English meaning for me, it is a good word for me to use when contemplating the energy that is All-There-Is. You can see Tao in nature, the natural, inevitable cycles of birth and death, growth and harvest. It is the inner voice I find within and the smile on the face of a passing stranger.
In Deng Ming-Dao’s 365 Tao Meditation he says, “Tao has no definition, no limit, no personal or individual consciousness. Tao is great. Tao is eternal. Anything limited and small – even worship – disappears in it. One can only enter Tao to become a part of its limitlessness.”
We are Tao. We just have to understand that we are Tao.
See Tao in everyday life
Deng Ming-Dao tells the story of the flag outside of the general’s tent. If the general chooses to look, he would see the movement of the Tao in the movement of the flag. I began to look for Tao in the movement of the birch tree outside my window and the birds at my feeder. I see evidence of Tao as my cat follows his own rhythm of life. I become more aware of my actions. I practice mindfulness. I read and study.
Rumi’s description of Tao brought tears:
Only the holder the flag fits into,
and wind. No flag.
Reside in your higher self
Your higher self is ever-present. You may seek silence in order to experience it. You may find your higher self in your love of another or the excitement of creativity. It may be in a sunset. Deng Ming-Dao says, “Only that master, who is your own higher self, can adequately answer all questions. Stephen Mitchell m in his translation of the Tao Te Ching (67) says, “Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.”
Where are you looking for God?
Begin by recognizing everything you experience is the work of this unnamable energy. Don’t try to name it. Words limit. Words can go no further than the boundaries of the human mind. This life force, this All-That-Is, this Tao is not human, it is infinite. Even the word “infinite” puts a human boundary on our perception. The Tao is everywhere, in everything – every rock, every drop of water, every plant, every animal, every person. It is in everything. The Tao is. Just as you are.
Deng Ming-Dao explains, “That which is absolute is formless. The Tao is nameless and faceless. We use the word Tao to refer to a deep mystery. We must leave the diversity of existence and find the formless absolute to reach the Tao.”
You must find your own path
Don’t follow what others have decided is right. Don’t do a ritual unless you have created it from your own heart. In his essay on Self-Reliance Emerson says, “Be it knows unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I must be myself. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints.”
Dare to be different. Dare to embrace what speaks to you. When you read something take only what resonates with you. When you discover something, adapt it to your inner longing. Create your own spiritual practice. Experiment. Explore. Be self-aware. Be mindful and compassionate. The Tao is always present within you. Release all concepts of self. Embrace the profound emptiness and silence within. Stay at the center of the circle and let all things take their course
Deng Ming-Dao in 365 Tao Daily Meditations says, “Those who follow the Tao seek to know themselves well. They believe that the outside world is only known in relation to an inner point of view. They would therefore establish self-knowledge before they tried to know others. Self cultivation is the basis for knowing the Tao.”
Words and labels separate us from oneness
Move your concept of God into a mystical perception. God is. God is everywhere. What can you call it that will bring it closer to your heart? Can you find another word for God?
In my search I am reading:
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics) Steven Mitchell translation
The Complete Works of Lao Tzu: Tao Teh Ching & Hua Hu Ching translated by Taoist Master, Ni, Hua-Ching.
The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell
365 Tao: Daily Meditations Deng Ming-Dao
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony, Deng Ming-Dao
The Living I Ching: Using Ancient Chinese Wisdom to Shape Your Life Deng Ming-Dao