To find the Tao / there is nowhere you need to search. / If it is not inside you, / it is not the Tao.
The Book of Songs says, / 'When you make the handle of an ax / /by cutting wood with an axe, / the model is near at hand.'
Thus, in dealing with people, / you already have the perfect / model of behavior inside you. / Just act with integrity, / according to your true nature. / Don't do to others / what you wouldn't want done to you.
(Chung Yung 13; Mitchell's adaptation)
There is Dao, and there is Dao. There is Dao which nothing is not, and there is Dao of understanding and harmonizing with this reality. There is Dao that we are, and Dao that we might be. We may become it because we already are.
Dao in both expressions is found within, where our most intimate experience of reality takes place. The Dao that we might become is relational; it starts with how we treat ourselves, and extends to how we treat others. How we treat ourselves, Daoism might add, is a function of the extent to which we have realized that Dao is us. If there is a "true nature", this is it.
"Just act with integrity." Just treat others as you treat yourself. In the 'real' world, this proves to be poor advice. Many (most?) people torture themselves and consequentially torture others. Many people dislike themselves and thus dislike others. Our relationship with others is necessarily a reflection of our relationship with ourselves, and this is a reflection of our relationship with reality. Accepting of what "is", we are accepting of ourselves; accepting of ourselves, we are accepting of others. Thus, to be good advice this imperative requires a lot of work in the cultivation of self.
Part of this work can be facilitated by turning this abstracted sequence on its head; how do I treat others? By this I know the rest.
We love ourselves even when we don't. We may imagine all manner of negatives regarding ourselves, but somehow we are always able to affirm ourselves. We are almost always able to cut ourselves all the slack necessary to carry on. If we simply extend this to others, we need not be perfected sages to be kind to others.
Mitchell approaches this passage from a different angle. The other is myself. Thus, "In dealing with people, you're always dealing with yourself... Unkindness to the other is literally unkindness to you." "Selfishness," he concludes, "is an act of pure love."
Both approaches are 'true'. Neither has any hope of being realized in deed if taken for rules to be followed, and by extension, imposed on others. The cultivation and the expression are organic; they grow; they happen; they are neither made to grow, nor to happen. Like our garden vegetables, they are precious from seed to harvest, and we lovingly nurture them whatever their present attainment, allowing their own inherent “true nature” to naturally unfold.
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