Commentary on the Tao Te Ching, verse 48

Today I am going to try my hand at commenting on the Tao Te Ching, specifically verse 48. To be totally frank right away–I do not consider myself a Tao scholar. I am way behind on the traditional Taoist Canon. I wouldn’t begin to comment on I Ching. I don’t pretend to be able to comment on the entirety of the Tao Te Ching.

I don’t study it for purposes of inspiration or revelation—as such. I just browse it periodically and realize the chapters are talking about the stuff I find comes up in practice. So my thoughts are from a sit-and-meditate point of view, not philosophical or ideological. Thus, to my perspective, verse 48 is a kind of codified set of instructions and observations.

–Learning consist of daily accumulating–

Every day we go through life sensing, seeing, hearing, smelling and learning trivia. We read books and articles. We gain experiences. We socialize and learn new things and think about them.

These thoughts on these transient things adds to the volume of ‘stuff’ and ‘noise’ in your mind that is essentially pure thought and contemplation. It is the firing of your frontal lobe neurons as you cogitate the meaning of life and what you absorb. In this way, you are always, always accumulating unless you do something very very deliberate about it.

–The practice of the Tao consist of daily diminishing–

If we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the dialogue and data-stream in our minds–if we do not allow the mind to jump incessantly from one chain of associations to another–we can begin to simply stop (or at least slow down) the additive process of constant ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing’ about more and more things.

In terms of practice, it can simply mean doing some meditation instead of watching the news. Going for a Zen walk instead of blogging or reading Fark or zoning out on your Wii.

–Decreasing and decreasing, until doing nothing–

This simply is the next logical step. You literally put the brakes on your life, suspend ‘trying to have a life’ and replacing it with simply ‘being’. It specifically means doing prolonged sitting meditation and reaching the event horizon in your mind where, you’ve stopped adding to what you ‘know’ and are simply seeing what ‘is’ floating around inside you.

–When nothing is done, nothing is left undone–

This simply means that when the mind is still, it has no desire to jump around. It simply is. It also can refer to being on vacation, literally from life. Being a bum. Having no responsibilities, no commitments, no politics, no socializing, just being content being by yourself in the woods communing with the energy of the sky and trees and the earth.

In means sidestepping the rat race of consumerism and seeing that it IS a rat race that keeps people from self-actualization.

–True mastery can be gained–

True mastery is what obviously? Self-mastery. It’s repeated again and again in TTC. Know thyself and know the ways of the world. It means  mastery of our inner world. A respite from unrelenting mental dialogue, personal demons, and emotional, moral, or existential conflicts

–By letting things go their own way–

It means stop being a control freak, relax, let go, and be. It is a direct reference to doing some sitting time in the woods or on a mountaintop and letting the Emperors and Masters of the Universe do their thing, while you remain unattached. In the tradition that I practice that also means dissolving through the first four Bodies of Being.

–It cannot be gained by interfering–

Stop trying to make sense of life. Stop relying on selective thinking. Stop trying to control life. Stop trying to find meaning in life. Stop endlessly analyzing everything that happens around you. Relax, surrender, allow–and it will unfold on its own. Whether it is inner peace or spiritual realizations or the events of life itself.

Interference means also, that if you are projecting thoughts and cogitating, you are getting in your own way and you are not meditating or on the path to stillness, because stillness is what happens when you stop making and start allowing. It blossoms. It grows like a bacterial culture and reaches a flash point and starts transforming your inner landscape.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I had about certain elements of verse 48 of the Tao Te Ching and the reader is  certainly free to absorb or discard the comments as they see fit. There was no attempt on my part to come across as definite or authoritative, these were just my opinions–take them in the spirit that they are written.


About Jane

Ms. Alexander. author, activist, artist
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4 Responses to Commentary on the Tao Te Ching, verse 48

  1. beoman says:

    Nice post! It came at an opportune time for me. My mind was a bit jumbled today. I read your post as I was about to meditate. I was going to try hard-core noting meditation, which takes lots of effort, but after reading this I decided to do zazen and just sit there. It was quite relaxing! I got into noting later on anyway but it was a good start I think, really calmed me down.

    • Jane says:

      Good to see you again. I hear you on the relaxing before doing nothing.

      Glad you liked the post! Best of luck with your practice Beoman,

  2. Jimmy says:

    Thank you for your thoughts, I’ve made up my mind long ago, even before I started reading literature on meditation that progress was made much faster when I let go and let myself be instead of always trying so hard to do “something” in meditation. It even applies to the guided meditations I’ve read, and that they have the effects the books mention when I stop trying to do the techniques and just let them happen. If that at all makes sense.

    Thank you again.

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