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As a recovering addict, I can understand Lao Tse's instructions regarding desire. He suggests, "Hence, always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets." When I was actively engaged with my addiction

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Introduction

Encounter with Mystery The way that can be spoken of Is not the constant way; The name that can be named Is not the constant name. The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth; The named was the mother of the myriad creatures. Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets; But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations. These two are the same But diverge in name as they issue forth. Being the same they are called mysteries, Mystery upon mystery- The gateway of the manifold secrets... (Fisher, Bailey) Part I This passage is the first chapter of the first book of the Tao-te Ching of Lao Tse (604 - 531 BCE). The word Lao means "teacher" and Tse means "old man." Some say that Lao Tse was a man named Li Erh, born in the state of Ch'u, employed as a curator in the court of the Chou dynasty, and well known for his philosophical ideas. Lao Tse grew disillusioned with the misanthropic ways of the dynastic Chinese society and so decided to retire a hermit in the mountains. However, the unenlightened gatekeeper of the kingdom refused to let Lao Tse pass until he had written down his philosophical realizations, as he would never be seen again. ...read more.

Middle

Yet, we must "have desires in order to observe its manifestations" (Fisher, Bailey). Lao Tse says that the manifest and unmanifest Tao "are the same / But diverge in name as they issue forth." The divergence that occurs when we abase the Tao with words marks the "gateway of the manifold secrets." Beyond, or before, the gateway is the "mystery of life" (Fisher, Bailey), understanding without words of the source of existence itself, the Tao. Part II The concept of Tao and the need to perceive it is central to the religious/philosophical ideology of Taoism. The dualistic nature of Tao is illustrated in the figure of Yin and Yang. It is the combination and relationship of the two opposing forces that produces and operates the universe. Instead of embracing a single aspect of the universe (the good rather than the evil, the light rather than the dark) Taoists embrace the whole. It is in balancing the two forces that virtue lies. As Lao Tse says in Chapter 1, "being the same they are called mysteries" (Fisher, Bailey). The mystery of the universe is the mystery of the potential in balancing the forces that create and propel it. The teaching of Taoism works to produce certain behaviors in its followers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Simply ignoring the desire would not have granted me reprieve from it. Lao Tse instructs, "But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations" (Fisher, Bailey). In contrasting Taoism with Christianity, the concept of desire seems a salient point. Whereas Lao Tse teaches the individual to identify, embrace and allow desires, Jesus teaches his followers to abandon theirs. He instructs us to leave everything we love, to abandon our lives and follow Him. Jesus taught His followers to pray to God for a release from desire with the words, "Thy will be done." Lao Tse's uses the image of a gate, the "gateway of the manifold secrets" (Fisher, Bailey) to illustrate the boundary between human and divine realization. Jesus also used the image of a gate as a boundary through which we can pass from earth to heaven. Saint Peter is often depicted as guarding the pearly gates to heaven. In Chapter 143, Verse 42 of the Aquarian Gospel, Jesus is quoted as having said, "The paths of carnal life do not run up the mountain side towards the top; they run around the mount of life, and if you go straight to the upper gate of consciousness you cross the paths of carnal life" (Internet Sacred Text Archive). This language is reminiscent of Lao Tse's writing, and its sentiment seems remarkably similar. ...read more.

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