Chapter 52 – Aware

 There was a beginning of the universe
Which may be called the Mother of the Universe.
He who has found the mother (Tao)
And thereby understands her sons (things)
And having understood the sons,
Will be free from danger throughout his lifetime.
Close the mouth.
Shut the doors (of cunning and desires).
And to the end of life there will be (peace) without toil.
Open the mouth.
Meddle with affairs.
And to the end of life there will be no salvation. 

Seeing what is small is called enlightenment.
Keeping to weakness is called strength.
Use the light. Revert to enlightenment.
And thereby avoid danger to one’s life –
This is called practicing the eternal.

 Translation by Wing-Tsit Chan (1963)


 Welcome to the camp,
I guess you know why we’re here.
My name is Tommy
And I became aware this year.
. . . . .
See me.
Feel me.
Touch me.
Heal me.

From “ We’re Not Gonna Take It,” The Who


 Ravi Dykema:  Let’s talk about enlightenment. . . .
Enlightenment used to be central to yoga.  What
Does “enlightenment really mean?

 Swami Shambhavananda:  I think “spiritual realization”
Is a good definition:  discovering the spiritual aspect of
yourself and having that fulfilled. . . . My teacher talked about
conscious awareness:  you’re totally conscious, present in
each moment, and you’re not projecting.  You’re not in the past,
you’re not in the future, you’re right here . . . In the process of
meditation, you become more and more aware of the absolute,
perfection that exists in you.  A lot of people think turning your attention
inward, and in a spiritual direction, makes you unaware or dysfunctional
out here.  But that’s not true.  The more clarity of mind you have, the
more expanded your consciousness is, the more aware you are of
stuff “out there. . . .

RD:  Have you attained that state?

SS:  (laughter) I refuse to answer that question, because how would
you know if I was telling you the truth?

 From an interview with Swami Shambhavananda, the creator of
Shambhava Yoga, in the May-June 204 issue of Nexus.


The Prophet Elijah

The Prophet Elijah

I would like to look briefly at a watershed moment in religious history.  There is a story in Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings in the Biblical Old Testament.  The Prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life, which had been threatened by Queen Jezebel.  After walking for 40 days and 40 nights, he took shelter in a cave on God’s holy mountain.  There he was instructed to go outside because the Lord would be passing by.  He stepped out of the cave into a strong wind; but the Lord was not in the wind.  Next there was an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  That was followed by fire; but the Lord was not in the fire.  Finally there was a tiny whispering sound which Elijah recognized as the voice of God.

In the previous chapter of the First Book of Kings, the Lord had sent bolts of lightning to set a sacrificial alter aflame so that Elijah could win a competition with 450 priests of the god Baal (and then kill all of those priests).  Several generations before that – back in the Book of Exodus – the Lord had come as a strong wind to part the Red Sea for the fleeing Israelites (and then kill Pharaoh’s pursuing army).  In other words, God’s presence had been accomplished by quite a spectacle for a very long time.  Elijah, then, would have expected the Lord to pass by in grand manner to give him an important sign.

Fortunately, Elijah was sufficiently aware that he was able to recognize the small, still voice of God even in a form he did not expect.

Since that time – and certainly today – God communicates with us most often in that small, still voice – the tiny whispering sound – and usually at unexpected places and times.  If we want to hear it, we must be aware of our surroundings.

The Tao which Lao Tzu here calls the “mother of the universe” is likewise often as difficult to discern as a tiny whispering sound.  Lao Tzu tells us, though, that the discernment of the Tao is possible by being aware of and seeking to understand her offspring, which are the things that make up the physical world.

It has been said that there are those who believe in God and then there are those who are not paying attention.  There are those who are aware of that which is called the Tao and then there are those who are not paying attention. “Seeing what is small,” this chapter tells us, “is called enlightenment.”

Seeing what is small and recognizing details is called awareness.  It is sometimes difficult to have that kind of awareness in a society in which one’s senses are constantly bombarded by the mass media, but it is not impossible.

In the quotation above from the interview with Swami Shambhavananda, he does not disclose the level of his awareness because, after all, how would we know if he was telling the truth.  Well, it seems Lao Tzu has answered that question for him in this chapter.  One who is aware will close his mouth, shut the doors of cunning and desires, live in peace and not meddle in the affairs of others.  In other words, whether a person is telling the truth about his or her level of awareness is determined not by what that person says, but by the way he or she acts.  If the rest of us are sufficiently aware, we will be able to tell, Swami.


4 thoughts on “CHAPTER 52 – AWARE

  1. I used to lead nature hikes at Mission Trails Regional Park, a local open space in San Diego. At the end of the hike I would ask the guests to close their eyes and sense the space around them. I would then recite the passage from Kings about Elijah. I then reminded the guests that our world is hectic and full of stress and busyness. I would then invite them back to the park to experience creation and to listen for the small whispers. I am still working on my awareness.

    • There are times when that passage is so appropriate. A few years ago our family was camping at Custer State Park in South Dakota. On Sunday morning, there was a non-denominational religious service scheduled at the chapel in the park. We decided to attend, but when we arrived there was a note indicating that the minister was unable to be there and the service was cancelled. Those of us who were present decided that we should hold our own service. One of the other families had brought a Bible and asked for suggestions as to what we should read. I immediately thought of the passage about Elijah and the wind and earthquake and fire and barely discernible whisper, but I couldn’t remember which Book of Kings it was. I began to whisper to Cathy to ask if she could recall when the person with the Bible said he would like to start – and he started out with that very passage.

      Something about being in an open space, in Nature, often helps us become aware of the small pieces that hold Creation together. You obviously knew that – and still know it. Like you, I am still working on my awareness. You should be aware, now, that we send our best wishes to you and Tracy and all.

  2. Hi Louis,

    I loved your comment about the camping service. That is so cool. I love it when we get these very obvious hints of Tao acting in our lives. They are so fun! Awareness is a continuum. I can always go deeper. It seems that there is no end to level of awareness one can have. (I feel that mine is really just at a beginning most days!)

    • Amy, I am sorry it has taken a few days to respond to your comment. I became involved in an extended discussion based on Chapter 53 that absorbed my modest mental faculties. One thing I am thinking at this stage of the discussion relates to your insight that perhaps there is no limit to our awareness. I wonder if that is true. In many ways it seems that we humans are hardwired for limited awareness. The Sufi poet Rumi seems to hint at that, saying: “when I die I will soar with the angels/and when I die to the angels/what I shall become/you cannot imagine.”

      Be that as it may, there are synchronicities that that do hint of the Tao or some greater force acting in our lives. One of them is the way that we recognize the importance – and existence – of that still, small voice when we let ourselves become more aware of Nature and less aware of civilization. The experience in South Dakota was cool.

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