a new english version by Stephen Mitchell
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.
Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
~ ~ ~
At the VZC we chant “Affirming Faith Mind”.
Essentially, the chant, for me, addresses this and that, and our inclination to discriminate. From the discrimination, we wish to cling to that which we “like” and push away that which we “dislike”. It suggests, “If you would clearly see the truth be neither for nor against. To set up likes and dislikes is nothing but the mind’s disease. And not to see the way’s deep truth disturbs the mind’s essential peace.”
The translation of the title tao te ching is essentially “The Book Of The Way.” The “Affirming Faith Mind” reminds us of “the way’s deep truth.” Byron Katy invites us “to love what is.” Why? Because it is what it is. This is the way. When we go against the nature of the way things are, the cycles of life, the changing of the seasons and so on, we suffer. Even though we can see experientially the impermanence of all things in this world, we deny this truth. When we experience change or death, we are shocked. We are plucked from “happily ever after” and placed smack dab in reality which is where we always are whether we want to believe it or not. Birth is a death sentence.
When we wake up and accept the inevitable, that all things are impermanent, we begin to live in harmony with the way. Accepting the way things are is not an endorsement for nihilism. Being keenly aware of what is enables us to act with appropriate skillfulness no matter the situation. Death, instead of being a foe, as a friend always reminds us that this moment is transient. This very moment, both fleeting and precious, is the many faceted jewel that is life.