(This is longer than I’d hoped. If only I could distill it down to a pithy few lines. Oh, that’s right. The Tao Te Ching does that already.)
A few words came up during the meeting that lingered for me to mull over: supplicant and surrender. Supplicant reminds me of disciple which brings up discipline. These all bring up the value of ‘duty’ mentioned in Buddha’s 4th truth. Seeing how these words share a similar root deepens the meaning.
This brings me to the ‘conformity’ referred to in chapter 65 and ends with, To the outside world, contrary indeed. Then, and only then, reaching great conformity. Conformity refers me back to supplicate, surrender and discipline. Simply put, these all point to conformity to the way. Alas, that tells us next to nothing practical about how to deal with the day to day. How does one ‘reach great conformity’?
All animals in the wild hunter-gatherer existence (except for people and domesticated animals) have their sole duty established by nature — circumstances and survival drives. Again, as Buddha put it, There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty. Circumstances compel animals to ‘have their will bent on what they ought to do’. Their ‘sole desire is the performance of their survival duty’.
We have lifted that burden of keeping our noses to the survival grindstone. Circumstances no long compel us to have our will bent on what we ought to do. Often we don’t know what we ought to do. In the end, the circumstances we find ourselves in can make it very difficult to feel natural, whole, and balance. The cultural voices in the outside world clamor for our attention… for our conformity, supplication, and discipline. They promise us happy solutions.
All the cultural voices of the outside world are not of Mother Nature, but rather simply outside world projections of folks touting the benefits of their particular ‘brew’. Those who believe one of these voices can find a niche in which to conform to an extent. The tipoff that it is a weak substitute for nature’s call lies in the conviction and fervency displayed by proponents of their ‘brew’. (Re: Symptoms Point Of View).
The only answer I’ve found that works is to begin by taking a step, no matter how small, in a direction you suspect may become an action where your will can be bent on what you ought to do. This means your ‘duty’ will be what ever you make it, and you make it one step at a time.
The direction toward the duty that fits this purpose lies against your personal grain, contrary to your worldly desires, as chapter 65 hints….
Always investigate the patterns.
That is called profound moral character.
Moral character, profound indeed, distant indeed!
To the outside world, contrary indeed.
Then, and only then, reaching great conformity
Examples: If you tend to be late… being a little more on time can be your ‘duty’.
If you are sedentary… a little more exercise can be your ‘duty’.
If you shop a lot… a little less shopping can be your ‘duty’.
If you eat to much… eating a little less can be your ‘duty’
… Ad nauseam
Of course, all these are obvious, yet we easily fail at the precise route that could bring us more into balance with our selves. A balance which we came by more readily before we found a way to escape nature’s rules (escape… at least on the surface!). We fail because it is much easier to plan a way to live than it is to actually live the way. (See Free Will: Fact or Wishful Thinking?)
It seems doing what we ought to do only comes about when we deeply realize there is no escape, and that we don’t know. Thinking that there is a way out of whatever difficulty we face only accentuates the difficulty. Re: Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease.
I left out a critical aspect in the observation above — the necessity of constancy. Constancy is what helps gradually pulls us into sanity and balance. I assume people often don’t give their ‘duty thing’ enough time to notice the benefit, and so quit. One must invest enough time to reap the reward.
Here are some quotes about constancy, or as the good book puts it, “the constant”.
The way possible to think, runs counter to the constant way.
The name possible to express runs counter to the constant name. … Ch. 1
Answering to one’s destiny is called the constant; knowing the constant is called honest. … Ch. 16
Being a small stream for all under heaven, constant virtue will never leave you,
Being a pattern for all under heaven, constant virtue will never be in error,
Being a valley for all under heaven, constant virtue will be only then sufficient, … Ch. 28
The way constant is without name. … Ch. 32
Of the way respected and virtue valued; no one decrees, yet constant and natural. … Ch. 51
Use the light, and again return to clarity, not offer oneself misfortune.
This serves as practicing of the constant. … Ch. 52
Knowing harmony is called the constant. Knowing the constant is called clear and honest. … Ch. 55
Nature’s way is without match, Constantly helping the charitable person. … Ch. 79