When Eastern scholars explore a philosophical classic, they look for a subjective experience that might stimulate their intuitive understanding of the work. Perhaps they will open the book at random in order to select the next passage to contemplate. Using chance and synchronicity in their approach they can then contemplate, too, why that particular passage appeared in their lives in that particular moment.
In nature, a snowflake is a snowflake – until we take a closer look and see no two snowflakes are formed in the same way. So too, in human nature, no two individuals are informed in the same way. Those who would like nature to determine their intellectual path through the Tao Te Ching may find that a random approach will help trigger the spirit of the moment and open their mind to self-discovery.
I started reading the Tao Te Ching a couple of days ago, and I decided to follow the above advice from the introductory chapters about using a random approach to choose which passages to read. The passage I came up with was the following:
10 – INNER HARMONY
In managing your instincts and embracing Oneness,
Can you be undivided?
In focusing your Influence,
Can you yield as a newborn child?
In clearing your insight,
Can you become free of error?
In loving people and leading the organization,
Can you take no action?
In opening and closing the gateway to nature,
Can you not weaken?
Produce things, cultivate things;
Produce but do not possess.
Act without expectation.
Advance without dominating.
These are called the subtle Powers.
I was particularly struck by the phrase ‘Act without expectation’. It was a concept I was struggling with personally due to some recent events. Is this a principle that I myself should stick by, regardless of my feelings, or is doing so just being naïve? I was undecided about what to do, and I was leaning more toward the cynical view. After reading this passage however, I’d like to believe that it did not turn up without reason, and that it actually serves as a reminder of what I personally believe in. Who knows, perhaps this will turn out to be nothing more than some spiritual nonsense, but for now I have made my decision.