Following the Light

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 3, 2013

I feel good when I care; I also feel good when I say or do clever things.

In light of these basic admissions, I freely confess: if I were faced with a choice to be either wholly caring or wholly clever from this point forward for the rest of my days, I would balk.

Where my deep Self would whisper, be caring, my ego would coax thus: be clever!

This creature known as Care is willing to get tangled by trouble, at least temporarily; that creature known as Clever, however, is not so willing.

Truth be told, the real battle in this world is being waged between Clever and Care.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 27

If I be caring, and only caring, I stand a good chance of becoming hopelessly mired in difficulty, but if I be clever, and only clever, I assume the risk of alienating the entire world, including myself, no longer able or willing to genuinely care …

Knowers of truth
travel without leaving traces,
speak without causing harm,
give without keeping track.

The doors they close,
though having no locks,
cannot be opened.
The knots they tie,
though using no cords,
cannot be undone.

Be wise and help all beings
impartially, abandoning none.
Waste no opportunities:
this is called following the light.

What is a good person
but a bad person’s teacher?
What is a bad person
but a good person’s student?

If the teacher is not respected
and the student not cared for,
chaos and confusion arise,
however clever one might be;
this is the great vital secret.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Going forward, I interpret good and bad as being linked to Care and Clever, respectively.

Not synonymous … just linked.

My Impressions of the Verse

This verse is full of interesting riddles.

I like these riddles because they challenge me to think in new ways; they invite me to have a different perception of the world.

The riddles that follow are meant to be applied – not merely solved.

Knowers of truth
travel without leaving traces,
speak without causing harm,
give without keeping track.

The doors they close,
though having no locks,
cannot be opened.
The knots they tie,
though using no cords,
cannot be undone.

Truth is personal and impersonal with respect to the Way.

Knowers of truth follow a light from within, a guiding light of wisdom in harmony with the Way. As and when they do this, they leave no traces, cause no harm; they give freely of themselves.

Spontaneously, trust comes naturally; integrity is assured.

Or should I say: integrity seems assured.

Be wise and help all beings
impartially, abandoning none.
Waste no opportunities:
this is called following the light.

Being wise is being clever with care, being caring with a clever eye.

Being helpful is done naturally, as far as this feels good and right.

Wasting no opportunities to care is following the light within.

Giving with caring is always an opportunity for receiving.

What is a good person
but a bad person’s teacher?
What is a bad person
but a good person’s student?

If the teacher is not respected
and the student not cared for,
chaos and confusion arise,
however clever one might be;
this is the great vital secret.

What is a caring person but a clever person’s teacher?

What is a clever person but a caring person’s student?

Truth be told, in practice, this distinction is rarely ever as black and white as that.

If Care is not respected and Clever not cared for, how can anything but chaos and confusion arise? Clever need not ever be an excuse to alienate Care, but an opportunity to inform and inspire Care, in which case Clever becomes the teacher and Care the student.

When we can view the world through the harmonizing eyes of Clever and Care, as full of opportunities to help, to assist, to support, to give, care, and share, one thought and one action at a time, we’ll all be living by and with and through the guiding light of wisdom.

This great vital secret will then be disclosed and exposed for all to see …

There is no need for temples,
no need for complicated philosophies.
My brain and my heart are my temples;
my philosophy is kindness.

~ Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Implication for Personal Fulfillment

Quite simply, my fulfillment as a person arises from a virtuous relationship with Clever in respect of Care.

Next up: Living Virtuously

/

This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

Previous post:

Next post: