The Way of the Wielder
By Nathan Logan
Why I Wrote This Book
This book is about our quest for meaning. It is an invitation to discover our meaning in virtue, and planting the seeds of our hope deeply there, where they can take root and flourish.
We are all given but a brief moment of time on this earth to render our lives meaningful.
This meaning is being sought out in countless ways; as many ways as there are people pursuing it.
Some people chase meaning in material and sensual pleasures. Some in the raising and guiding of children. Others cling to religion or to nationalism, preferring to have their meaning handed down to them; or like me, they set out on a journey to discover life's meaning for themselves and then to share their version of it with others.
I best find meaning for myself by searching for what it is that makes a life well-lived.
I prefer to examine the process of living, rather than its goal or its value.
To me, our goals don't survive our deaths. Trophies lose their value long before they are ever auctioned off or doled out to an heir.
Value is useless as well. How can it mean something to someone who has ceased evaluating forever?
It is the very process of living that gives our life meaning.
The calming feel of a slow, deep breath or the flushed heat of a tender kiss. These are my mysteries.
What forms the exuberant thought that brings us joy?
What brings on that maddening confusion that feeds our rage?
These questions are the building blocks of a life well-lived to me.
The best materials for building a good life are those that are solid as iron when used, and then when unused, turn to dust.
Some people say that the unobserved life is not worth living, and I believe this to be true, but until we learn to truly observe, even the observed life is superficial at best; a mere work of fiction.
This book is NOT a work of fiction.
Part One: A Taraman Rendering of the Tao Ching
The gate that can be entered is not the Eternal Gate (Tara). The name that can be uttered is not the eternal name. Nameless it is the source of all things. Named it is the creator of all things. Freed of desire it is possible to observe all manner of subtleties; and by desiring we draw them into manifestation. Unnamed we know them, named we experience them. The unnamed is the gateway to all the mysterious wonders.
Through the beautiful, we conceive of ugliness, and the holy reveals to us the depraved. Being and non-being dance the infinite dance through the Tara. Along this path the difficult and the easy complete one another. Long draws its measure from the short, and short measures against the long. High and low define each other’s states. Music and dance perpetuate one another. Front and back take their turns leading the way. For these very reasons, the Taraman wielder meditates upon the virtue of non-action and wordlessly teaches its doctrines. He acts without presumption and when he completes his task, he relinquishes every trace of it. By turning his back on them he compels his achievements to follow after him.
Freed of caste and status, competition fades from the hearts of men. Freed of precious goods thievery loses all meaning. A house filled with treasures brings danger upon the entire household. For these reasons the Taraman wielder stills the passions of men by filling their bellies, nourishing their hopes, stilling their anxieties, and winning the hearts of the noble.
The Tara has no source and no destination. Without beginning, it is the source of all beginnings. Through it the sharp becomes dull, the tangle unravels, the light darkens, and the dust settles. I cannot describe its beginning, nor can I see through to its end. The very gods were born into it and in it they too shall perish.
Heaven and earth are indifferent. To them all things are equal. Likewise, the Taraman wielder is indifferent to all things and thus all things stand equal before his eyes. The Taraman wielder is like a bellows, the more he gives the more he receives. By following his receiving with giving he stays fully centered upon the Tara.
In the spirit of the Eternal Gate, the Taraman wielder naturally receives from all, and by receiving, he is a source for all, by empowering all he remains empowered himself.
Heaven and earth are eternal, and because they do not exist for themselves, they live on perpetually. For this reason the Taraman wielder leads from behind and enlightens from the shadows.
The highest good is like water. Water benefits all creatures and yet it occupies the lowest level. Therefore, it is the very image of the Tara. For this reason the Taraman wielder does not compete and therefore meets no resistance. Dwell firmly upon the earth, nurture your heart and mind, develop kindness, guard your word, and lead with equanimity. Serve with diligence, act blamelessly, and live without contention.
The overfilled cup finally overflows. The over sharpened blade quickly dulls. Filled with treasure the household is endangered. Wealth and pride nourish corruption. When your task has been completed, stop doing it. This is the way of the Tara.
By nurturing soul and body, can you keep them from becoming separated? By breathing like an infant, can you return to your infancy? By polishing the mirror, can you refine your appearance? Can you lead a crafty nation without cunning? Can you seize power by being passive? Upon discovering the truth, can you refrain from acting on it? Guide your people. Nourish your people. Cultivate them without suppressing them. Do your work and then detach yourself from the outcome. This is what separates the leader from the despot.
The center of the wheel is empty. However, in its emptiness lies its usefulness. The pottery that we form from formless clay is made useful by the emptiness within in. Without a door, the room cannot be entered, and without windows, it receives no light. Thus while the apparent thing has its value it is the unapparent thing that makes all things useful.
Too much color blinds the eyes, too much sound deafens the ears, and too much flavor deadens the palate. Competition clouds the mind. Rare treasures incite wrongdoing. Therefore, the Taraman wielder prefers the common to the luxurious, and the invisible to the visible.
Be indifferent in facing both honor and disgrace. Why concern yourself with either of these? The Taraman wielder does not recognize these things, so he lives his life quite simply. honor is founded upon disgrace and disgrace is rooted in honor. Both should be despised because they bind a man to this world.
The ordinary man seeks to be the center of his world, while the world of the Taraman wielder is at his center. He loves the world, and yet remains detached from things with which others are concerned. He acts with humility, is neither moved nor moving, and can, therefore, be trusted in caring for all things.
The Tara is abstract, and therefore has no form. Looking we do not see it. Listening we do not hear it. Reaching we do not obtain it. Form without form; image without image; never to be grasped through mind or strength. Standing before it, it has no beginning even when followed, it has no end. In the now, it exists; to the present apply it, follow it well, and reach its beginning.
The Taraman wielders of old were profound and wise. Like men approaching a great river, they took great care; alert and perceptive as though surrounded by danger. They were reverent as though meeting an honored guest; selfless, they were like melting ice, pristine like unworked timber and receptive like an open valley.
Those who travel the Tara need nothing else. Appearing empty, they are full; appearing old, they are immune to birth and death. Receptive and mysterious, their knowledge is unfathomable causing others to view them as uncertain.
Pure in heart like uncut jade, they clear the muddy water by not disturbing it; by remaining calm and active, the need for renewing is lessened. Empty yourself and still your mind. Only then will you witness everything that proceeds from the void, and watch all things flourish and dance in untold variation. Then once again merge back into pure emptiness, its true resting place, and its true nature. Emerging, flourishing, and dissolving, this is the eternal process.
Be still. By stillness, the secrets of eternity are revealed. By remaining still, the Taraman wielder remains composed. He instructs society in the way of nature and peace. The value of his wisdom is found in the serenity he restores. Being one with the Tara is to be at peace and to rail against it leads us headlong into chaos.
When the value of the Tara is recognized, the mind is receptive to its states of change. It is by being at one with the Tara, that the Taraman wielder holds no prejudice against his fellow man. If accepted as a leader of men, he is held in high esteem. Throughout his life, the Tara protects him and blesses him with equipoise.
The finest leaders are hardly known by their people. Next are those who are loved and praised. After this, those who are feared, finally we have those who are despised. Where confidence is lacking rhetoric abounds. Works are accomplished and tasks are completed when the people are convinced that the glory is their own.
When the way of the Tara is forgotten, we are left with integrity. In the absence of integrity we find morality. In the absence of morality, we find etiquette. In the absence of etiquette, the rule of law.
Eliminate rhetoric and the people will be enlightened. Eliminate ethics and the people will revert to fidelity. Eliminate capital and theft will fade away. These three things bind men to this world and dazzle them into corruption. Return to the source. Embrace the unspoiled. Diminish the self and extinguish all desire. In this way, you will find true freedom.
He who seeks wisdom would do well to dispense with learning and to abandon speculation. Then he will understand that yes and no are distinguished only by distinction. It is not wise to fear what others fear; but it is prudent to feast where others feast, or go walking where it is common to walk. The Taraman wielder shifts like a shadow, having no discernible point of origin, as mysterious as the mind of a newborn child before it has learned to smile. He does not seek to commune with the wealthy, he clings to nothing and is seen to be a fool; prizing only that which aligns with the Tara. The Taraman wielder may seem confused, appearing neither lively nor alert. Sometimes he seems dull and weak, confused and shy. Like the ocean at night, he is serene and quiet, but as penetrating as the winter wind.
The nature of integrity is to follow the Tara; to scrutinize the Tara is to obscure it. The essence of the Tara is dark and mysterious, having no form of its own. Yet, due to its non-being those who do not desire to see it see it. Yield, and maintain integrity. To bend is to be upright; to be empty is to be full. Those who have little have much to gain, but those who have much are blinded by their own possessions and gain little from them. The Taraman wielder embraces the Tara. He is unaware of himself, and is therefore fully aware. Not defending himself, he is invincible; not seeking fame, he receives recognition; not strutting, he does not stumble; not quarrelsome, he is in conflict with no one. This is why it was said by the Taraman masters of ancient times: “Yield and you shall taste victory. Empty yourself and you shall be filled.”
It is best to speak sparingly. The whirlwind lasts but a moment, the downpour but a minute. Therefore, when talking, silence. always remember to quickly return to. He who flows with nature is one with the Tara. He who is poised may experience equipoise, while he who loses the natural way is easily lost himself. He who is at one with the Tara is at one with nature, and poise always exists for one who has equipoise. To accept the inevitable is to release yourself from desire. He who does not have faith in others is himself, unfaithful.
He who reaches too far stands precariously upon the ground. He who runs at a sprint can by no means maintain his pace. He who boasts is not enlightened, for the enlightened have no use for boasting. He who is self-righteous has no self-respect or the respect of others. He gains nothing from those who are noble, thus he falls into corruption. Seeing the truth that ambition, arrogance, and self-righteousness lead him nowhere, the Taraman wielder dismisses them entirely.
The Tara unifies the inner and outer worlds. It depends neither on time nor on space. It is always still and always moving, in this way it creates and enlivens all things and is therefore known as ‘The Source’. In every direction it extends onward into infinity. We know the Tara to be great. We know the universe to be great. Nature, we know to be great; and man himself is seen as great. Human law should mirror natural law; just as natural law gives rise to physical law, which flows from universal law; which itself flows along the Tara.
The Taraman wielder flows along the Tara. He is at home in it. It is the very core of his being, at home and abroad. No matter where he goes, he is never far from his center; he is never a stranger to his truth. While maintaining his awareness of natural beauty, he does not lose touch with his purpose. Although he may dwell in grandeur, simplicity remains his guide, for he knows that by losing simplicity his very roots would disappear. Therefore, he is not restless, lest he loses the natural way. Similarly, the leader of men is not fickle in his role, nor restless in his ways, for these can result in the loss of the very roots of leadership.
The Taraman wielder follows the Tara, with all that this requires. Like an experienced tracker, he leaves no tracks. Like a good speaker, his speech is fluent. He makes no error, so he needs no tally. Like a sturdy door, he is valued when he is open and when he is firmly locked. Knowing that poise is best demonstrated by example, the Taraman wielder teaches by example, turning away no one who might stop to listen. In this way, all men can learn and gain wisdom from his example. Mutual respect flows freely between teacher and student, for without respect, all that remains is confusion.
While developing creativity, cultivate receptivity. Retain a childlike mind that flows like running water. When considering a thing, do not lose sight of its opposite. When thinking of the finite, consider also the infinite. Act with honor but retain your humility. When journeying along the Tara set others an example. It is by retaining the integrity of the inner and outer worlds that the world within us is maintained while the world around us is enriched.
The external world is fragile, and he who meddles with it brings harm upon himself. He who clings to tightly grips only air. It is the nature of things to change, sometimes advancing and sometimes retreating. There are times when even breathing may be difficult, whereas its natural state is easy. Sometimes one is strong, followed soon by weakness, and restored once again to strength. Sometimes healthy, sometimes ill, sometimes first, other times last. The Taraman wielder does not try to change the world by force, for he knows that force results in counter force. Therefore, he avoids extremes and excesses and never lets himself become complacent. When leading others along the Tara, refrain from the use of force, for it breeds resistance and saps strength. Achieve results, but without violence, for it is unnatural and brings harm upon self and others. The harvest is consumed by war, and weeds grow tall in battlefields. The Taraman wielder achieves results but never glories in them, he wins victories but refrains from boasting, for he knows that boasting is not the natural way, and he who goes against the natural way finds defeat in all his undertakings.
Weapons of war are instruments of terror and are despised by those who travel the Tara. The leader who leads with equanimity and poise does not tolerate their use or their presence. The warrior king leans right toward his ministers of might, while the peaceful king looks left toward his princes of peace. When he looks left there is peace in the land, when he looks right, there comes sorrow and terror and war. Weapons of war are reviled by the wise, who use them only when there is no other choice, for peace and tranquility are close to their hearts, and even victory brings them no cause for rejoicing. To rejoice in conquest is to delight in killing, to delight in killing is to have no heart. Be careful to conduct your war as though it were a funeral. When people are killed, it is a time of mourning. This is why conquest should be observed without rejoicing.
The Tara is eternal, yet is without fame. Like unfinished timber its worth is inapparent, though its value to man is beyond all measure. If the Tara were definable, it could then be used to avert conflict, thereby removing the need to teach the Tara at all. All men would rest in the peaceful flow of the Tara. Sweet dew would descend to nourish the earth. When the Tara is divided, there is a need for names; just like the carved timber wherein its parts are now visible. By stopping short of torment and conflict, strife is defeated and danger is averted. People then seek the wisdom of the Tara, just as all rivers flow toward the great sea.
By knowledge, we understand others; but the man who is awakened understands himself, having seen himself as he is. Others can be ruled by force, but to rule ourselves requires the Tara. He who has many possessions can be seen as rich. But the truly rich has contentment with what he has whether it is much or little. Contentment is the treasure house of equanimity, because anything in any measure is always enough for the content. Willpower may bring perseverance but serenity is the truest form of endurance, providing us protection for all our days. He whose ideas remain in the world is present for all time.
All things, without exception, are influenced by the Tara, which fulfills its purpose silently, without fanfare. It is an aspect of the natural order and not the ruler of anything; nevertheless, it remains the source of their nourishment. It cannot be seen, it has no intention; but all of nature relies upon its presence. When all things return to it, it does not enslave them. Un-manifested, its greatness prevails. Fashioning himself according to the Tara, the Taraman wielder does not devise, but rather contents himself with what is in his hand to do.
The Taraman wielder flows through the Tara, for he knows that it is here where peace is found. It is for this reason that men seek him out. While guests enjoy music and fine delicacies, provided by a benevolent host, a description of the Tara seems vague and useless, for it cannot be seen nor heard, neither tasted or inhaled. Nevertheless, when the music and food end, the taste of the Tara remains.
It is the way of the Tara that to gather you must scatter. To weaken you must strengthen. To abandon you must foster. To take you must give. This is the dark side of enlightenment. By this you may understand that he who is raised will then be cast down; and that all men need both to give and to receive. The biggest fish swim deepest in the pond, and a nation’s most powerful weapons are known about by the fewest. That which is soft and supple overcomes the hard and the strong.
Part Two: A Taraman Rendering of the Te Ching
The Tara leads to nothing, yet there is nothing to which it does not lead. Observing nature, the Taraman wielder knows this, and replaces desire with detachment. Desire drives change but it is better to replace it with a pristine and nameless simplicity, thereby in this way it wastes nothing and wants for nothing. This simplicity is the perfect absence of desire, and the absence of desire brings rest to all things under heaven. A great man is unaware that his deeds are great, while a foolish man continually chases after greatness. The Taraman wielder appears to do little or nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. A fool struggles fiercely and yet leaves a great deal to complete. The Taraman wielder with wisdom and great simplicity leaves nothing to be done, but the man who merely obeys the law leaves much undone. A pugnacious man enforces his wishes with violence. Kindness flows in the wake of compassion, and goodness follows when kindness is forgotten. Justice emerges when people are no longer kind, and when kindness is lost, only civility and ritual remain .
However, When ritual becomes an act of blind obedience, men fall quickly into confusion. For even divination and the like are merely the flowery trappings of the Tara. He who has equipoise does not dwell upon the apparent, but on what lies beneath, substance rather than appearance determine what it is that he seeks.
From the Tara, the eternal source, the sky, the earth, and the eternal principle emerge as one. The sky is wide, the earth is stodgy, and the Tara is ever expanding! When the seat of power is strong, the nation is strong, vibrant and healthy, and the people divide among themselves the strength of the land. But when the days are dark with shadow and corruption the people suffer greatly. The integrity of the earth is the source of its life; the energy at its very core is the source and perpetrator of its strength. Its fullness prevents it from running dry. Remind yourself often that anything which does not grow decays. The task of government is to guarantee the prosperity of the people. Therefore it is said: `Humility is the foundation of nobility; the meek form a foundation for the great, and noble princes diminish their standing for great gain.' The emphasis here is upon simplicity, therefore, having success as our goal is to our disadvantage. Why call attention to yourself like a braggart or chatter mindlessly like a fool.
The motion of the Tara is cyclic and returning. Its way is to yield, for to yield is to become. All things are born of being, and being springs forth from non-being.
On hearing of the Tara, the wise student follows it with diligence; the typical student follows it whenever it pleases him to do so and the foolish student laughs mindlessly and meanders on. Nevertheless, we would do well to remember that without spontaneity and laughter there would be no path at all. Often it is said that there will be those times when brightness is veiled; when progress travels backwards; when simple seems quite complex; and when balance seems stilted, biased, and disproportionate. At times, purity seems corrupt and reality appears fantastic. Squares appear to have no corners, and great talent accomplishes nothing. The loudest noise goes unheard and the formed appears formless. All of nature appears most unnatural!" Even in such times as these, the way of the Tara still flourishes so that all things might be fulfilled.
The Tara existed before its name. From its naming the opposites evolved. These brought forth the three divisions, and then to names innumerable. These things, embraced through receptivity, achieve equanimity. And through this equipoise was born the inner world of man. No man desires to be seen as worthless to others, but the wise leader portrays himself in this way, for he understands that one can receive by losing and lose by receiving, and that by taking, the violent man takes his own life.
Only in surrender are the unyielding overcome. By yielding we crush the unyielding. That which needs no space enters where there is no space. By these things we understand the value of the Tara. We are wise to see that silence teaches most while action teaches best. Therefore, silent action is our master teacher.
The contented man knows that he is more precious than his own fame, and therefore, chooses to remain obscure. He whose fondness for wealth exceeds his fondness for himself suffers the greater loss. He who knows the right moment to retreat may experience defeat, but never destruction. It is the arrogant fool who sees no difference between them and races swiftly into torment.
In retrospect, even those accomplishments that seemed perfect at the time may now appear marred and ill formed. However, there may yet be a usefulness for such accomplishments. That which once seemed full may later seem empty, yet still be un-exhausted. That which once seemed straight may now seem twisted to us and not be! Intelligence can seem stupid, and gracefulness may appear awkward. Movement overcomes the cold, and stillness the heat. Nevertheless stillness in motion is the way of the Tara.
When the way of the Tara is taken, all things serve their purpose; we see horses drawing carts and pulling ploughs. But pervert the way and we discover horses being bred for battle and shod for war. Desire and depravity breed discontent, while the one who understands contentment finds his needs easily satisfied.
The Tara may be known and followed without the need for travel; the way of heaven may be seen without the benefit of a window, the further one travels in the quest for learning the less one learns. Therefore, without looking, the Taraman master sees all and by impartiality, he discovers the fullness of the Tara.
Each new day adds to our knowledge. Conversely, when pursuing the way of the Tara, something is subtracted, soon the striving lessens, until there is no striving. When effort is effortless, nothing is left undone. The way of the Tara governs by allowing things to take their course, rather than by force or subterfuge. The Taraman master is not mindful of himself, but is receptive to the needs of others. Knowing that equity requires great faithfulness, he is faithful and good to all men, regardless of their merits. He treats them in accordance with their needs. He is humble and meek and thus a mystery to his fellow men. They view him as a child and rarely listen to his words.
When considering humanity, we might say that in the space between birth and death, one third of men pursue life, and one third pursue death and those that remain move passively from birth to death like so many sheep. He who lives by way of the Tara travels freely, without fear violence, nor will he be wounded in battle, for he offers no resistance. The center of his being is the centeredness of his being, and along this path, there is no place where death might enter in.
All the myriad things arise from the the Tara. All living things are formed by what they are and shaped by what they do. If they cultivate equipoise, they grow and are nourished. All of nature honors the Tara and imitates it. It is honored and respected although it requires neither honor nor respect. The beauty of the Tara is that it is the source and nourisher of all things. It shelters and cares for them, shielding them from harm. The Tara creates but demands no adoration, it leads without pushing. The beauty of the Tara is in the infiniteness of its path. Therefore, he who merges into it is at one with everything that lives and free from the fear of death. Boasting and haste, running here and there, obliterates the peaceful life. The desire-less life is far more fulfilled than the life of desire;. because he who does not have desire has no need for boasting. Learn to see the insignificant and the small, grow in wisdom and develop insight. Do not try to fight the inevitable; this will spare you a great deal of misery and strife.
When you find yourself tempted to leave the Tara, banish the temptation and stay on the path. When the courts have excessive adornments, you will find that the fields are overgrown with weeds and the silos are empty. It is not the way of the Tara to carry a sword, nor to adorn oneself excessively, nor to have more than the essentials of food and drink, he who has more than he can use is denying their use to another.
That which is firmly planted is not easily uprooted from the earth. Just as the firmness of the grasp increases the certainty of the grip. The virtue of the Tara is of great value when cultivated in oneself, it increases when loved in a family. Through village, city and nation it expands exceedingly like a wildfire. When it is truly universal, it will have taken root throughout, and the world will be a just and sacred place. All things are images of the Tara. The world is a small universe. A nation is a small world. A village is a small nation. The family is simply a small village; and the body is simply a small family. From cells to galaxies all things are infinitely intermingled an infinitely expanded oneness.
Those who know the Tara have no need of boasting, while those who know the least may be heard most frequently. Thus, the Taraman master says little, if anything at all. Not requiring action, he tempers his sharpness well, reducing complexity to simplicity. Hiding his brilliance, he appears dull and in this way, the dust is settled around him. He who has attained enlightenment without subtlety is not concerned with allegiances or warfare, companionship or competition; with good or harm, with praise or blame. Such detachment is the highest state of man.
The people must be governed with equity and justice, as when war is waged strategy and tactics are employed. Master yourself by acting without subterfuge. The more abundant the laws and statutes employed by a nation the poorer the citizens that reside there. The deadlier the weapons possessed by a nation, the greater the troubles that vex the land. The greater the cleverness with which the people are ruled the greater the deceptions that occur in the land. The more stringent the regulations become the greater the incidence of thievery. Therefore, the Taraman wielder does not manipulate in order to reform, but rather encourages simplicity with contentment in order that they might learn to enjoy their lives. Having no agenda, everything he does flows naturally. Since he teaches the art of equipoise, those who follow him return to a good and uncomplicated life.
When a ruler rules with a gentle hand the people do not plot mischief; but when the nation is ruled with an iron fist the people grow in sly and clever. The actions of the Taraman wielder are sharp, but they are never cutting. They are pointed but never piercing, they are straightforward rather than contrived. They are employed with restraint, brilliant but never blinding. This is the way of the Taraman wielder because he is aware that where happiness is found misery and strife are close at hand. He knows that where honesty is found dishonesty lurks in its shadow, and that men may be just as deceived by fact as they are by fiction. He knows that no one can foretell what the future holds in store.
By acting without motive, and with self-restraint, it is possible to lead, foster goodwill for others. This happens by living harmoniously, and leaving nothing to be done. A proper and unshakable foundation, deeply embedded in receptivity is the foundation of good leadership, and of a long and fulfilling life. He, whose equanimity knows no limit, is most fitting to rule. His roots go deep, and his life sheltered peacefulness just as the bark protects the tree.
To lead a nation, one take great care as though one was frying the smallest of fish. If life is approached in harmony with the Tara, the power of darkness wanes, and in this way the leader and the people are equally protected. They will no longer seek to harm each other, because the power of the one empowers the other.
A great leader cultivates receptivity and stillness, as he does a rich and fertile land. The gentle overcomes the strong through quietude and clarity. By giving way other, one country may conquer another; a small country may submit to a large, and conquer it, though having no arms. Those who conquer must willing to yield; to yield may be to overcome. A fertile nation may require a greater population, to use its resources to the full, while country without such natural wealth may require them to meet its peoples needs. By acting in unity, each may achieve that which it requires.
The source of all things is in the Tara. It is a treasure for the good, and a refuge for all in need. While praise can buy titles, good respect. No man should be abandoned because he has not found the Tara. On auspicious occasions, when gifts are sent, rather than sending jade, send the teachings of Tara. When we first discover the Tara, we are happy to know that our misdeeds are in the past, where they belong, and are happy to realize that we have found a treasure.
Act spontaneously, work naturally, and taste the tasteless; magnify the small; increase the few, and reward bitterness with care. Seek the simple in the complex, and achieve greatness in small things. It is the way of nature difficult things are done with ease, and great acts are made up of small deeds. The Taraman wielder achieves greatness by small deeds multiplied. Contracts easily made are most easily broken, and acting with insufficient care causes subsequent trouble. The Taraman wielder confronts problems as they arise, that they do not trouble him.
If problems are accepted, and dealt with before they arise, they might even be prevented before confusion begins, in this way peace may be maintained. The brittle is easily shattered, and the small is easily scattered. Great trees grow from the smallest terraced garden, from a pile of earth, and a journey of a thousand miles begins by taking the initial step. He who schemes, defeats his purpose; he who is grasping, loses. The Taraman wielder does not scheme to win, and therefore is not defeated; he is not grasping, so does not lose his grip. It is easiest to fail when nearest the completion, therefore, take care right to the end, not only in the beginning. The Taraman wielder seeks freedom from desire, not grasping at ideas. He brings men back when they are lost, and helps them find the Tara.
A Taraman Rendering of the Tao Te Ching
Knowing it is contrary to the Tara to try to enforce learning, the early Taraman wielders did not use cunning to teach the way of the Tara. There are two ways of government. One is to be cunning, to act with guile, and to plot to cheat the people. When this way is used to rule, the people grow in cunning, and plot to cheat the ruler. The second way to govern the land is to do so without subtlety. People so governed are truly fortunate, for they are governed with equity, and virtuous government is fair to all, this path leads to unity.
The sea is the ruler of river and stream, because it rules from well beneath. The teacher guides his students best, by allowing them to lead. When the ruler is a Taraman wielder, the people do not feel oppressed; they support the one who rules them well, and never tire of him. He who is non-competitive invites no competition.
Those who follow the Tara are different from others in three respects. They have great mercy and economy, and the courage not to compete. courage; from from humility, from mercy there comes economy, generosity; and willingness to lead from behind. It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful, and to acclaim only heroic deeds, to abandon economy, and to be selfish. They are sick, which are not humble, but try always to be first. Only he who is compassionate can show true bravery, and in defending, show great strength. Compassion is the means by which humanity is guarded and saved, for heaven arms with compassion, those whom it would not see destroyed.
A true warrior acts not from blind fury, nor from desire to kill. He who wins should not be vengeful. An employer should have humility. If we wish for peace and unity, our dealings with our fellow man must be without desire for personal advantage, and carried out without contention.
Arguments may be won by waiting, rather than making an aggressive move; by withdrawing rather than advancing. By moving without appearing to move, by not making a show of strength, but by conserving it well; by capturing without attacking, by being armed, but with no weapons, great battles may be won. Do not underestimate those you enjoin in battle, for this can result in losing what is of greatest value. When a battle is joined, by remembering this, the weaker may still win.
Though the words of the Taraman wielder are simple, and his actions easily performed, they are few among many, who can speak or act as a Taraman wielder. For the ordinary man it is difficult to know the way of a Taraman wielder, perhaps because his words are from the distant past, and his actions naturally disposed. Those who know the way of the Taraman wielder are rare; but those who treat him with honesty will be honored by him and by the Tara. He knows he makes no fine display, and wears simple clothes, not elegant. It is not his expectation that others should understand his ways, for he carries his treasure within his heart.
To acknowledge one’s ignorance shows strength of personality, but to ignore wisdom is a sign of weakness. To be sick of sickness is a sign of good health, therefore the wise man grows sick of sickness, and sick of being sick of sickness, until he is no longer sick.
The Taraman wielder retains a sense of awe, and of propriety. He does not intrude into others’ homes; does not harass them, nor interfere without request, unless they damage others. Though the Taraman master knows himself, he makes no show of it; he has self-respect, but is not arrogant, for he develops the ability to let go of that which he no longer needs.
A brave man who is passionate will kill or be killed. The brave man who is impassive will preserve his own life and the life of others. No one can say with certainty why it is better to preserve a life, but it is.
The way of equity is to act without subtlety. Yet, without subtlety it overcomes. It seldom speaks and never asks, but it is answered without question. It is supplied with all its needs and it is constantly at ease because it follows its own plan. It is a way that is a mystery to men and always will be.
If the people are not afraid of death, they do not fear the threat of death. If early death is common in the land, and if death is dispensed as a punishment, the people no longer fear to break the law. To be the executioner in such a land as this is to be like an unskilled carpenter who cuts his hand while cutting wood.
When taxes are too heavy, hunger weighs down the people. When those who govern interfere too much the people become rebellious. When those who govern demand too much of people’s lives, life is taken lightly. When people are starving in the land, life is of little value, and so more easily sacrificed during the inevitable revolution.
Man is born gentle and supple; but at death, his body is brittle and hard. Living plants are tender and filled with life-giving sap; but at their death, they are withered and dry. The stiff, the hard, and the brittle are the harbingers of death, and gentleness and yielding are signs of that which lives. The inflexible warrior condemns himself to death, and the tree is easily broken which rigidly refuses to yield. Thus, the hard and brittle will surely fall, and the soft and supple will overcome.
The Tara is as flexible as a bow; the high is made low and the low is exalted. It shortens the string that has been stretched. It is the way of the Tara to take from those who have more than what they need, providing for those without enough.
The way of the ordinary man is not the way of the Tara. For such people take from those who are poor and give to those who are rich. The Taraman wielder knows that his possessions are as nothing; therefore, he gives to the world, without need of recognition. In this way, he accomplishes that which is required of him; without dwelling upon it in any way. He gives of his wisdom without lofty display.
There is nothing more yielding than water, yet when acting on the solid and strong, its gentleness and fluidity are fantastically destructive. The weak can overcome the strong, and the supple overcome the hard. Although this is known everywhere, few put it into practice in their lives. Although seemingly paradoxical, the person who takes upon himself the people’s humiliation, is fit to rule; and he is fit to lead, who takes the country’s disasters upon himself.
When covenants and bonds are drawn between the people of the land, that they might know their obligations, it is commonplace for many to fail to meet their dues. The Taraman wielder makes certain his obligations are met, while not insisting that others do the same; in this way, he is virtuous. He is without virtue of his own, who asks of others that they fulfill his obligations on his behalf. The Tara does not regulate such matters but remains with the good forever, and acts as their reward.
A small country may have many machines, but the people will have no use for them; they will have boats and vehicles which they do not use and their weapons are not displayed, for they are serious when regarding death. They do not travel far from home, and they make knots in ropes, rather than do much writing. The food they eat is plain and simple; their homes are secure, without the need of bolts and bars, and they are happy in all their ways. Though the activity of the neighbors can be heard not far away, the people of such towns grow old and die in peace.
The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. Those who have wisdom, have no need of arguments for its own sake, for they know that argument is useless in and of itself. Those who have knowledge of the Tara do not train themselves in subtlety, while those who use subtlety to rule their lives, and the lives of others, have no knowledge of the Tara, or of natural happiness. The Taraman wielder never seeks to store up things or knowledge, for he knows, the less of these he has, the more he has, and that the more he gives, the greater is his abundance. The way of the Taraman wielder is piercing, but it does no harm. The way of the Taraman wielder is to work without cunning.