Written By Basilio Chen

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I received some questions about Chapter 1 of the Tao Teh Ching.  I will elaborate as best as possible below:

Question #1: The problem (from my point of view) is that this subject (Taoism) is not easy to understand, making it difficult to even formulate a question.

Yes, the title of the book and the flowering content is sometimes considered misleading.  It is only easy to understand after you have acquired wisdom and can interpret its cryptic code.  The surface also appears to sound nice and mysterious but you have to study and interpret it.  Many ancient books are like to to hide secrets away from people who do not deserve the knowledge.  The flowery content makes everyone coming over and over to read it because it sounds pleasant and mysterious.  Yet is not easy to understand for the common person because it is not meant to be easy on the first try in order to discourage most people.  (it was not meant for everyone only for the selected few).

What Chapter 1 does tell you is how to prepare to develop that ability to foretell and find the “secrets” inside that text but not only the Tao Teh Ching text but the “secrets” around your universe.  Once you develop that ability, is as if a new world reveals itself.  I know for myself since I can now see more beyond and more into the future than before and see more the real truth beyond most people.  (But there are people that are better as well and any person understanding certain principles can also obtain it.  That is what Chapter 1 prepares you for.

The last extension of the question is a side note.  “Is that this subject (Taoism) my good disciple says…  The word Taoism needs to be carefully discussed here since some relate it to a religion.  The Tao Teh Ching (to my belief) does not promotes any religion and I would not even consider it remotely related to the religion some call Taoism (although some unwise people would bend facts to say it does for their benefits).  We are not discussing religion here.  We are referring to a tool left by very wise people for posterity for people of worthy cause to find secrets and develop into complete human beings and the the maximum of their destined abilities.

Question #2: Looking at it in the context of Tai Chi, one question I have (my good disciple asks) is regarding the statement, “If always desirous, one sees merest traces.” How does this relate to the “desire” to learn Tai Chi? Doesn’t one need the “desire” in order to learn? If we are desirous, will we end up learning mere traces of  Tai Chi and not the real Tai Chi? How does one know if what you have learned is just “traces” or if it’s real? Or have I completely misinterpreted this passage?

First, I see the Tao Teh Ching as a tool to complement the study of Tai Chi.  When I say Tai Chi I refer to the teachings embodied in the Tai Chi form of exercise.  The Tao Teh Ching becomes the intellectual tool to complement the written classics of Tai Chi the exercise.  (part of which I quoted in my prior posting called “ What is Taiji (Tai Chi), Really?“.

Next I will break down Question #2 into separate parts and provide answers as best I can.  The question refers to the statement “If always desirous, one sees merest traces”:

How does this relate to the “desire” to learn Tai Chi? Without desire you cannot accomplish anything difficult.  Tai Chi is difficult.  You do need that desire to achieve.

Doesn’t one need the “desire” in order to learn?exactly correct as said above.  You need desire to pursue a worthwhile and difficult task.  (I hereby emphasize the words “WORTHWHILE” and “DIFFICULT”.  You can consume your energy for non-worthwhile tasks that are also difficult and lose time and focus which could be used in the pursue of something more long term of value). However after achieving your goal, you can no longer pursue it with desire.  Is like an artist after completing its creation, it destroys it in order to not be attached to it.  (Only when you do this, you will seek for a higher goal.  If now you will forever be attached to that level and stay there enjoying yourself and not progressing).  Again, “Desire” is a tool to be used but only used for worthy things.  (hopefully Chapter 1 teaches you what you consider to be worthy – ie non-material and things are truly lasting.  No food, not clothing, not a TV set…something more valuable for you).  Later in the Tao Teh Ching, it refers to the fact that the wise person after achieving its goal, he “retires”, meaning gives away and stop working in seeking the goal, in other words stops using “Desire”.  I hope I have explained how Desire is a tool.

The Tao Teh Ching later on goes by clarifying that the only Desire you are suppose to have is the “Desire to Discover the Tao”.  So this may sound to some people contradictory (and many subjects in the Tao Teh Ching and Tai Chi as well are contradictions.  Here is where you learn that contradictions are also powerful tools.  This is for future discussion).  So, again, Desire must be used for valid purpose.  Using your Desire to accomplished things that have limited value will waste energy and time.

If we are desirous, will we end up learning mere traces of  Tai Chi and not the real Tai Chi?” You now know that you need Desire for anything worthwhile and difficult.  Tai Chi is worthwhile and is difficult so you need desire.  And if you have the right teachings you will learn the real Tai Chi.  That is why is important to have the proper transmission from an authoritative source.  I am most gratefull for the rest of my life to the teaching of my master teacher Professor Hu Yuen Chou.  But I also had the tremendous desire and I worked very hard and spent a lot of time and sacrifice to study and seek.  I certainly used a lot of Desire to pursue real Tai Chi.

How does one know if what you have learned is just “traces” or if it’s real?Tai Chi teaches to accomplish things with least effort following the Natural Law.  Assuming you have no modern facilities, no cars, no motors, how to use 4 ounces to deflect a force of 1,000 pounds?  When you do push hands you are trying each time to do the same with less effort.  Then you learn you can accomplish the same without any effort.  How to deflect 1,000 pounds without effort? not even 4 ounces?

If you are accomplishing that and getting better you are moving in the real direction.

What are traces.  Hopefully by now you can tell of a incorrect Tai Chi motion performed by many common practitioners.  Perhaps you can look at the physical movement of other people and tell they are using unnecessary force to do things and thus get injured.  If you have practiced Tai Chi with the right person and continue training and studying and asking and searching, you will arrive at the true destination, and the Tao Teh Ching serves as the guide.  (Read it once, keep reading, and 5 years later bring it out to compare again to see if you are still following its guidelines).  The same with Tai Chi every day make a Tai Chi movement and make sure you remind yourself to keep the ligaments stretched and how to use least force to get moving.

The exercise I demonstrate in class of how to move an object like a chair from one place to the other with least work and effort.  Hopefully you can also in your daily routine automatically unconsciously do effortless things and the realized later you did it differently and easier than before.  You can begin seeing that you are thinking and doing things other ordinary people have more difficulty doing or using more force doing.

Best way is to teach a new student who has never done Tai Chi.  See how ackward the movements are.  How undeveloped their muscles are and how undeveloped their knowledge is.  Also discussing Tai Chi with other apparent Tai Chi people including so called masters and experts.  Especially the charlatan ones.  You then begin to see thru the fault of others how your wisdom and true knowledge is developing.

The ultimate test will be to ask if the action follows the Natural Laws of the Universe.  This only means nature is your best teacher.

Today we have a lot of clutter and things that creates smokescreen in front of us and clouds the vision of what is real and what is not.  It becomes more important to pursue true knowledge.

Tai Chi Chuan, the exercise of Tai Chi, trains the physical body and develops the muscles of the mind to be able to receive deeper knowledge.  It is up to each individual to put it to practice.  Desire becomes a tool to not let go and continue your pursue, develop martial skills, body strength, mental discipline and give you the foundation to receive the knowledge.

I want to close by saying, the knowledge comes to you naturally but you have to have the body and mind prepare to have it flow into you.

To prove my point above using myself as the laboratory.  Many people rely on cosmic and obscure tools and fortune tellers that on their own needs profit and fool people that enjoy the “traces“.  Many of my students and family knows I have been making simple predictions over the past 8 years which now has manifested as facts now including the collapse of real estate and the stock market.  (Never did I knew how major it was going to be).  Now I will tell you on record that in the next few years from 2010 there will be major food shortages and pestilence and the rate of earthquakes will increase until the major war completes.  People will turn against people, government will turn again people.  After this period completes with the major war, peace will return for 50 years but before major disaster complete.

This is the Natural Law of the Universe reacting to the major consumption of yin resources oil and gas and material of the past 50 years and that now will lead to a reaction in yang energies in order to achieve balance.

Thru this period, practicing Tai Chi and meditating on the words of the Tao Teh Ching will bear you fruits and even prepare for it and for some others even benefit from transforming negative yang energy into positive yin energy.