When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after, follow each other.
The above verse is an excerpt from the book – ‘Tao Te Ching‘, authored by Lao-tzu. The title of the book simply translated means – ‘The book of the way.’
I heard about Tao Te Ching from one of Eckhart Tolle’s talks. And felt drawn to listen to him more. So got his audible and paper book to internalize. It is a chest of small priceless nuggets of wisdom that renders questions unnecessary. The verse itself is simple, but the meaning is profound and layered. It is up to us to experience how deep it takes us into the rabbit hole.
We live in a world where we think that bad and good exists outside of us. As if good and bad are like the sun and moon – they existed before humanity, before earth. Truth cannot be any further – Good and bad like other opposites are man-made constructs, given birth by thought or by mind or by ego. That is one of the ways in which ego sustains itself in the world and each one of us. These polarities create a separation between us and others. That is the definition of the word opposite – a person or thing that is different from or reverse someone or something else.
Ponder upon the verse – the minute we label something as good, and we have by definition created something which is not-good and hence bad. The moment we see somebody as lazy, we have produced non-lazy. The moment we as better than somebody, we have conceived a situation where we are not-better than others. And we not only label them, but we also identify with these – creating a sense of self from these words.
I am so and so, from such and such place, and three words that describe me are… and I believe in …., And others who do not believe in these labels are separate from me. And we operate from those thought positions, not from beyond thought where real life happens. What do you mean by this?
For example, you can feel guilty that you ate a bagful of cookies, or you can feel satisfied that you ate a bagful of cookies – but there exists a place where you ate a bagful of cookies. The difference between the three sentences is that the last one takes you beyond guilt and satisfaction. The advantage of being in that place is that you are not driven by guilt or satisfaction but reality as it is – or closer to reality.
Let’s extend it further – if you feel guilty, then you decide to starve yourself – not have dinner – but then you are angry, so you have a fight with your husband – who goes to bed feeling upset and so on. If you are feeling satisfied, then you cook a nice dinner – have a pleasant time with your husband who goes to bed feeling happy. Of course, one can argue that being satisfied is better than feeling guilty, but by creating one, you have made the possibility of others – and life has a way of balancing these out. All of us who have lived will vouch that you never experience the so-called ‘good’ things only.
Now, if we went beyond guilty or satisfied and just saw that you ate a bagful of cookies, your stomach is extended. You have unpleasant feelings in your body and experience the discomfort without labelling it – chances are next time you won’t eat the bagful of cookies, and this is a more sustainable way of living. This kind of living takes away the drama which our mind and ego love. It may feel bland to live without opposites or labels. But after a while, you will get the real taste. Just like how after a diet, an apple or a carrot feels so sweet.
So, how are you creating dualities in your life?