Monday, 22 December 2014


I touched on Tao from time to time already.
The title of the blog refers to it, the direction of travel being Rio Dao in the hills of central Portugal. Not the destination.

The first and only thing to know about it is this, from Lao Tse:

"The Tao that can be explained is not the immortal Tao."

He follows this fundamental point with another 80 verses, in the Tao Te Ching. I already mentioned the three treasures:

Simplicity, Patience, Compassion . . .

Other wisdom traditions share the basic ideas, yet somehow cannot resist trying to explain the inexplicable. Rituals begin, to try to point towards the truth. People mistake the ritual for the indescribable, fall in love with that. Label things and fall in love with the labels. Identify as Confucian, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Jain . . . sub-divide within these labels too. Then fight over whose label is right. Throughout thousands of years of human history we have killed and tortured in the name of love.

For a while, I proposed no labels but Love.
Even that was a barrier for one friend for whom the word had negative connotations.

I still avoid the "G" word, much to Reiner's disgust. Any word, label, that separates is not serving. Even Tao perhaps. If I ever identify as Taoist, you will know I'm not.

In the last century millions of people professing belief in the same God and the same rituals, more or less, went to war, with their respective archbishops, bishops and priests justifying the madness.

No wonder millions took a new label, wanting none of it, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Atheist.

Jiddu Krishnamurti said that attaching to any national or religious identity was an act of violence. Separation inevitably ensues. After that, wars. The camino is a good place to overcome all that. Many nationalities, many religions and none. The commonalities, mutualities shared daily.

Humans endeavour to understand the fundamental truth beneath all the complexity. Mystics bring insights from beyond. Scientists examine the material world, piece by piece, often losing sight of the fact that the pieces don't operate in isolation from each other. And sometimes forgetting the findings of quantum physics that there is no reality observable not affected by the observer. Which is tricky. If true.

I love the concentrated wisdom of the mystics and the brief summaries of the intellectuals that resonate. Sometimes I look behind, to see how they came to them. To be honest, I struggle with the detail. Joseph Campbell, J. Krishnamurti, David Bohm, Alan Watts . . . they dug deep, sifted the gold from the sludge, polished it and presented it. I am grateful.

I had enough of the Bible at school. Some of it stuck, especially the Golden Rule, shared with every other religion I think:

"Do unto others as you would have them do to you"

There is a sound reason in the underlying structure of the universe for following this rule; separation is an illusion, therefore what we do to others we also do to ourselves anyway.

I found Buddhism helpful in understanding the worlds. So multi-layered. Many of my role models are from that tradition. Matthieu Ricard, Thich Nat Hanh, Pema Chodron and the Dalai Lama. I was with Gary and 1800 other people in the Eden Theatre in Inverness a few years ago, when HHDL was on tour in Britain.

Russell Brand shared a platform with him on that tour (Birmingham I think), redeeming himself after his disgrace with Jonathan Ross. Russell Brand seems now a prophet for our times, the younger generation. A new Bill Hicks maybe.

The presence of the Dalai Lama was so powerful that day. Later, driving to Findhorn for a couple of days, we picked up hitch-hikers, including a Tibetan musician who had been on stage earlier and received a blessing from HHDL.
My main memory, amongst many, was of the Dalai Lama linking arms with schoolchildren, singing Auld Lang Syne, enjoying himself immensely, with no clue what was going on. The audience joined in, of course. Tears were running down my face. I was not the only one.

These role models attract us, sometimes affirming the role we are playing, other times drawing us to drop a role which no longer serves and create a new one.

Following the crowd, parental or peer  pressure, conditioning, and playing a role that doesn't suit, pretending adulation for role models that no longer inspire, insults the soul, distorts the psyche. Ancient and modern role models tempt you to try a more authentic role; not to copy them, but to be inspired by their example.

You know when it is working; life is flowing, unfolding effortlessly. Your performance is compelling, the supporting cast willing, the audience appreciative.

The key, for me, is to see that all the world really is a stage on which we play out our interconnected dramas. Each of us simultaneously the lead in our own play, supporting actor, minor player, extra, critic, audience in others' . . . with the opportunity to co-create our story.

The art of living: to use the gifts we come with to help create a beautiful act within the whole amazing, ongoing performance, to play it as if it were real, knowing that at the end we will go home, take a rest before it starts all over again . . .

What's all this got to do with Tao?

I don't know - it's a mystery . . .

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