The highest good is not to seek to do good,
but to allow yourself to become it.
The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind person acts from the heart
and accomplishes a multitude of things.
The righteous person acts out of piety,
yet leaves many things undone.
The moral person will act out of duty,
and when no one responds
will roll up his sleeves and use force.
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self.
The highest kindness is to give without condition.
The highest justice is to see without preference.
When the Tao is forgotten, there is righteousness.
When righteousness is forgotten, there is morality.
When morality is forgotten, there is law and ritual.
Law and ritual are the husk of true faith,
and the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master follows his own nature
and not the trappings of life.
The Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.
A long and powerful verse, containing some of those wonderful paradoxes of the Tao. The opening lines remind me of a quote from Eckhart Tolle: “You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.”
Similarly, we do not become powerful by trying to chase after power, but by realising the power that is already within us. Those who spend all their energy continually seeking and acquiring rarely – if ever – have enough of what it is they are seeking. Perhaps it’s not until we end the quest that we truly find what it is we’ve been looking for.
Maybe when we finally relax and stop our compulsive ‘doing’, we’ll come realise that we don’t actually do anything - and we never have. Life does all the doing, including us. We don’t have to do a thing. Life does us, and not the other way around. That’s a very humbling realisation.
It’s possible that you’ve been brought up to think of righteousness, morality, law and ritual as being positive things. They’re imposed on us to try and make us “good”, the assumption being that at our core we’re nothing more than rotten sinners who, given half the chance, would go on a rampage, destroying, raping and thieving our way through life. So we’re foisted with notions of ‘righteousness’ and ‘morality’ and, just in case we aren’t successfully indoctrinated into being suitably ‘righteous’ and ‘moral’, laws and rituals are laid down just to make certain that we fully comply.
I’m not suggesting that a lawless society would be advisable at humanity’s current stage of development, because sadly the vast majority of the population live disconnected from their source and are therefore readily capable of harmful and destructive behaviour.
But if more people lived in alignment with the Tao, which is our essential nature, then laws would be unnecessary and ‘morals’ and ‘righteousness’ would be utterly useless and unneeded. Where there is love (and I mean real love and not grasping, ego-derived ‘love’), there is no need of morals or codes of conduct, for love always does the right thing.
It’s time to challenge the harmful fallacy that our true nature is somehow deficient (that we’re all “born sinners” as certain religions claim) and that we should be afraid of what we truly are and seek to circumvent it at all costs. It’s not our true nature that causes us to act in destructive ways; it’s actually our ignorance of our true nature which is responsible for that.
The Sage follows his true nature and is never led astray. There is no need of hollow rituals and limiting notions of how to be ‘good’ or ‘moral’. The Master shuns all such constructs and sees reality as it is, free of the filter of mind, concepts and beliefs. He dwells in reality and lets all the gross illusions shared by the masses vanish like the darkness in the presence of light. Perhaps in this way, he does nothing, yet nothing is left undone.