Dao De Jing 8 – Dao is like water
The highest virtue is like that of water.
Water benefits everything and does not fight, it positions itself at place everyone dislike, and therefore is close to the Dao.
-> As we already discussed, the Dao is everywhere, impartial, and limitless. It represents the source and context of all, and therefore allows for and benefits all thing. Look at water, it consists of 70% of our physical body and exists in different forms in every parts of the planet. There is no fighting in water (it does not struggle), it merely is what it is.
It is excellent at: positioning itself, rooting its mind, giving out benevolence, maintaining its integrity, governing things, manifesting its abilities, and moving at the appropriate time.
-> Here Laozi describes what water is like, and what happens when one align with the Dao: One finds the right place to abode, knows ones root (of the mind), gives out right benevolence, accomplishes what one said, manages affairs properly, manifests one’s ability perfectly, and moves at the right time.
It does not fight with/for anything, and therefore draw no grudge.
-> As one flows with the natural rhythm of the universe, of the Dao, there is peace within; no matter what the external conditions are, even in mist of wars and conficts, there is peace. Such is the teaching of the Sutra of Everlasting Peace – Qingjingjing.
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Chapter 8 Discussion:
Virtue is the common value advocated by all religions and spiritual disciplines. What is the purest Virtue that we can seek and become? Instead of religious and moralistic right and wrong, Laozi describes the highest Virtue is like that of water. Seek the virtue that embraces and allows for all, even to the lowest, darkness, and beyond all men-defined preferences. When we align ourselves with this natural rhythm of the universe, we flow perfectly in the world, and is at peace no matter what happens in the phenomenal world.
DDJ Chapter 8 bilingual text: https://www.lisiming.net/philosophy/chinese-philosophy/daoist/daoist-philosophy/dao-de-jing-core-33-chapters/ddj1-8/
How does one purify oneself in order to completely know what it is to be water? Is the purification of mind and spirit even necessary to completely know water? And if it is, does one need the physical presence of a teacher as a guide?
Laozi recommends surrender, surrender our attachment and aversion to our “self” (see pathway to Dao in summary of DDJ). As one surrenders, one becomes clearer and clearer about what life is and how the universe flows, and lack of selfish involvement marks the progress.
Be careful of the preposition of “nothing matters, just follow the flow”, while it might seems logically an extension to Daoist teachings, it is one of the most often used excuse to deceive oneself and to evade responsibility to one’s own life. Imagine a criminal commit a crime and said, i just follow the flow. The key here is, what kind of flow are you following. Is it a selfish flow? Is it a noble flow? or really as Laozi’s described, is it the flow of the universe? Education, understanding, and clarification would help. And discernment comes with spiritual maturation. Honest friends, fellow practitioners, and advanced teachers will also help.
Everyone radiates a energy field of what they are. Being physically presence with an advanced teacher, means one get more intense exposure to the energy field of the teacher, and therefore could facilitate the experiencing/realizing of his/her spiritual state (you get affected by his/her personal patterns and short-comings as well). When one goes along the journey, eventually the whole universe, including all people all books all things all situations become one’s teacher, this is one’s inner teacher.
With regard to being effected by the short-comings and personal patterns of a teacher… Is it not the art of being… when in the presence of others, including learned teachers … to recognizing that which is useful and discard/ to remain unattached to that which is not…. to…. as you have taught us… distinguish between the moon and the finger pointing at the moon… to distinguish between the teacher and the teaching? Although a true teacher is such a rare gift, in reality in the presence of great teachers, perhaps distinguishing is hard to do.
Another question relevant to being in the physical presence of a teacher: What is the proper way to greet a Daoist master, both in writing and when one meets one in person? Is there a respectful way to behave when in the presence of a senior master?
Well state. Listen, Discern, and Filter before accepting information. Receive the useful, leave the rest.
For the case of teacher beyond duality, there won’t be a need for a specific writing/address/gestures. A respectful attitude from the student is all that is needed. On the worldly level, you may refer to specific guidelines from each traditions, teachers will show you when they receive you. In Daoist tradition, one address teachers as Shifu/Master/Laoshi/Daozhang, and greets with hands/palms together when meet in person.