Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Chapter 29, Do you want to rule the world and control it

Do you think you could take over the universe
and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel
and cannot be controlled.
Trying to control leads to ruin.
Trying to grasp, we lose.
Allow your life to unfold naturally.
Know that it too is a vessel of perfection.
Just as you breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way
and resides at the centre of the circle.

This is a wise and profound verse. We’re often quite clear about what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and how things ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be. But if you were given omnipotent power to change the world and make things better, do you think you would succeed? Or would you simply make things a whole lot worse?

Cause and effect is complex. Every effect has an innumerable chain of causes stretching all the way back to the beginning of the universe. The mind likes to chunk reality into separate events, components and constituent parts, but everything is a link in a chain that has been forged since the beginning of time.

Often when we try to control and improve things, we make things worse, because we fail to see the bigger picture. Try not to control and try not to grasp. Be detached yet compassionate. Instead of moving against life, let life move through you and observe what happens and what actions you are compelled to take.

We often try to force our lives into whatever configuration the mind dictates. We think that if can mould and direct our circumstances, we can always be on top, always be ahead, always be in motion and always be happy. This is an unreasonable expectation because life simply doesn’t work like that. The pendulum swings both ways because that is its nature.

We might breathe in and decide we want to retain that breath indefinitely because we consider oxygen to be positive and life-giving. But to do so would be to lose the rhythm and balance of life and our refusal to let go and breathe out would actually kill us.

It’s important to honour the rhythms of life and to let things be as they are, without the excessive need to control. We often think we know better than life itself, that the workings of our mind are somehow superior to the workings of the universe.

This, however, is the ultimate delusion and when you think about it – and consider the unthinkable vastness of the universe compared to the microscopic pinpricks that are you and I – it’s really quite laughable.

Go with life by aligning with the Tao. It knows better than you or I.

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