The Net of Heaven

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 19, 2014

Lao Tzu would have us believe that living above the net of heaven is the best way to be safe and secure, but what if an impulse to act with abandon seizes the will to power? Indulge or resist?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 73

Following the Way is not a theory, not a practice; it’s not even a response, although giving responses can be involved. Rather, following the Way finds perpetual freedom through present moment awareness.

Following the Way finds its fulfillment through awareness of the moment, in the moment.

After offering an impartial view of bold action, this verse invites us to embrace the wisdom of following the Way (heaven’s way), assuring us that the net of heaven can catch any and all slips and falls.

Bold action
against others
leads to death.
Bold action
in harmony
with the Tao
leads to life.
Both of these
sometimes benefit,
sometimes injure.

It is heaven’s way
to conquer without striving:
it does not speak,
yet it is answered;
it does not ask,
yet it is supplied with all that it needs;
it does not hurry,
yet it completes everything on time.

The net of heaven catches all;
its mesh is coarse,
but nothing slips through.

Edited slightly by yours truly to enhance the flow of text

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

Acting boldly by way of nature is fraught with danger, even if it’s in harmony with the Tao; acting by way of heaven keeps us safe and secure, no matter the situation or the circumstances.

This latter way is in keeping with being so full of life that death cannot enter.

My Impressions of the Verse

This verse is full of metaphors and riddles; as such, it requires careful reading.

Bold action
against others
leads to death.
Bold action
in harmony
with the Tao
leads to life.
Both of these
sometimes benefit,
sometimes injure.

Acting with abandon can sometimes provide a benefit; acting boldly with cautious optimism can sometimes present a hazard, and if you’re not careful or skilled enough, bring injury.

It is heaven’s way
to conquer without striving:
it does not speak,
yet it is answered;
it does not ask,
yet it is supplied with all that it needs;
it does not hurry,
yet it completes everything on time.

Here, conquer simply means to overcome successfully (a problem or a weakness); striving is a reference to artificial striving, to the kind of striving that is divorced from being and a love of being.

The implications are clear: speak less, listen more; establish trust in the Way to supply you with all that you need; take your time, bringing your awareness into the seeing rather than the seen.

The net of heaven catches all;
its mesh is coarse,
but nothing slips through.

“Its mesh is coarse”; yes it is. Life can be a bit rough at times, but that’s okay if you can let it be okay.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

Verse 73 offers a safety net for the satisfaction of need and for the fulfillment of desire.

Holding fast and true to the three treasures – mercy, frugality, humility – buttressed by faith and patience, which we can learn to cultivate with awareness and acceptance, is our ticket to heaven, to following heaven’s way, to remaining above the safety net of heaven.

Together, they bring us closer to living with no fear of a living death, to living naturally, effortlessly, spontaneously, without reckless abandon, with awareness and acceptance first and foremost.

Next up: Everlasting Change (Living with No Fear of Death)

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

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