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Darkness within DarknessThe Call to Non-ActionThe Good Life

Tao Te Ching/The Good Life

Meditation and Reading taken from Tao Te Ching: A New Translation, by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English

All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1: Historical background -
Today's Themes

The Tao lays out a vision of what the good life is: harmony, balance, recognition of the ebb and flow of life and fortune. Riches? Pointless. Knowledge? Likely to get you in trouble. Morality? That’s what happens when people forget how to act in keeping with the Tao. The Tao does not call us to act in lockstep with a set of rules, but to recognize and adhere to right action, even when it goes against social mores and conventions.

Modern Western society places a high value on striving and achievement; we hold up the ideal of having a goal and working toward it. The Tao moves against this, offering a vision in which striving is recognized as another form of discontentment and achievement is flimsy as straw. The Tao does not romanticize a world in which nothing ever changes, but rather presents a different methodology of change: rather than enforcing new standards or values, the Tao envisions change arising from harmonious personal action (and non-action) that leads others to act harmoniously as well. Call it influence or inspiration, what it is not is imposition. As we change ourselves, we are told, so we change our world.

Call To Worship

Bring your joy into this place;
   Let your heart find harmony.
Bring your sorrow past these doors;
   Let your heart find acceptance.
Bring your worries within our midst;
   Let your heart find contentment.
Joy, sorrow, worries; harmony, acceptance, contentment.
Bring all that is yourself into this place;
   Let our hearts grow together.

Meditation

Cultivate Virtue in your self,
And Virtue will be real.
Cultivate it in the family,
And Virtue will abound.
Cultivate it in the village,
And Virtue will grow.
Cultivate it in the nation,
And Virtue will be abundant.
Cultivate it in the universe,
And virtue will be everywhere.

How do I now the universe is like this?
By looking!

            Tao, Chapter 54
            (Feng and English translation)

Reading

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good,
And is therefore not good.

A truly good man does nothing,
Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
Yet much remains to be done.

When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,
He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order.

Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.

Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of the Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.

            Tao, Chapter 38
            (Feng and English translation)

Benediction

Virtue in our lives and respect in our interactions; contentment in our hearts and peace in our cities. It is we who bring these into the world, we who choose in every moment whether to stake out our demands or flow into harmony, whether to flutter after pleasure or turn our hands to peace. May our thoughts be wise, our actions pure and our hearts content as we make our choices each day.