The Tao is Tao

By Jos Slabbert

All these thoughts,
words arranged on paper,
come from the Tao
and return to the Tao.
Yet they do not touch it.



Even when the last star
has imploded
and only blackness remains,
the Tao will be Tao:
emptiness in emptiness,
silence in silence,
yet everywhere;
beyond existence,
yet the essence of life.


The Tao is silence
cannot capture.
The Tao is emptiness
not even
can embrace.


We come from silence,
we return to emptiness.
All movements and forms
between silence and emptiness
emptiness and silence.


The Tao has
no beginning,
no end,
no past,
no future.
Even this moment
is an illusion.


The Tao is the source of all words
to those that are silent.


The Tao gives true power
to those who do not use power.


The Tao fills with thoughts
those minds not attached to concepts.


The Tao shows the way
to those who do not need to be shown.


The Tao
approaches those
who have stopped searching for
the Tao.


The Tao
does not protect anyone,
yet the only protection
is to stay close to
the Tao.


The Tao
wants no worship,
yet all sentient beings become silent
before the beauty and mystery of
the Tao.


The Tao
is not interested in teaching
anybody anything,
yet true wisdom can be learnt from
the Tao.


The Tao
has nothing to give,
yet life itself
comes from
the Tao.


The true person of Tao
shows compassion
without hope of reward,
for she can find a treasure
and discard it.


The courage
to show compassion
comes from
the acceptance of


The ignorant see the turmoil
flickering before their eyes
as the only reality.
The person close to Tao
sees the forms moving before her as:
empty and fleeting,
a magician’s sleight of hand,
yet timeless and real;
so many thoughts,
mere emotions,
insubstantial dreams,
yet the substance of life,
inseparable from


Analytical thinking,
which divides and dissects,
does not satisfy the needs
of the spirit,
for the spirit finds peace
in unity,
which exists only
in emptiness,
where thinking has no influence.

To step into the realm of the spirit
is to abandon thinking.
Can you step over the precipice,
not knowing what is below?
Life starts this way.


As the rivers solidified
and the mountains shifted,
his mind moved
and the leaves rustled in the wind.


Like ice drifting on a river
at the end of winter,
he faded into emptiness
as he moved with Tao.


Even when your mind has become still,
it is still crashing across emptiness with fury,
like the dunes of a desert
against silent mountains.


After the ego has perished,
the true self rises from its dust
like desert flowers
after spring showers
have swept across arid plains.


True faith
complete trust
without understanding:
It is to accept


The sage does not search,
for she accepts emptiness.
Nor does she explain,
for silence needs no explanation.


The ignorant argue vehemently.
The sage smiles and enjoys her tea.


The intelligent
win arguments
and lose.
The foolish
lose arguments
and sulk.
The wise
refuse to argue
and gain.
The person close to Tao
does not argue,
because she has nothing to say.


Silence is not a form of ignorance,
yet remaining silent can be folly.

Verbosity is stupid,
yet words can carry silence.

The Taoist sage uses silence
to express silence.


Arguing about the inexpressible
hatred and fear.
The Taoist sage knows only
brings compassion.


The ignorant
argue about the indefinable
and destroy
wisdom and compassion.
The Taoist sage knows
the essence
beyond words,
and he therefore prefers
to be silent.


The silence of the sage
the essential words
of those ready
to listen to him.


The awareness of perfection
is the symptom of its loss.

If perfection means the end of movement,
then perfection does not exist.

The wise person
is aware of perpetual imperfection;
the person in harmony with Tao
finds strength in change.


The Tao is unpredictable
to those that live according to plans.
Only those who have no agenda
are in harmony with the Tao.


Even in emptiness
there still is a shiver of breath.
Even in total silence
the wind whispers in your ear.


If I am non-existent,
then whose hurt do I feel
when their disapproval
hangs over me like a threat?

If I have become one with silence,
then what is it in me
that murmurs in agony
when her loving eyes turn cold?

If I am empty,
then whose pride
keeps me awake at night?


Why do I cling to myself
as if I really exist?
I refuse to accept with joy
what I will enter through suffering.

Behind me are
illusions of reality,
before me


Like fuel-starved fire
fading into ash in the cold,
beliefs fed by emotions
will surely fail you
when you need them most.
The Taoist sage
ignores emotions and
by the ego.
The Taoist sage
does not cling even to silence,
for clinging to silence
is turning your back on emptiness.


People who hate
are ignorant
of the emptiness and beauty
which fill all sentient beings.
The Taoist sage,
dwelling in emptiness,
does not need to show mercy,
for there is nobody to be forgiven.
His compassion does not waver,
for it is based on emptiness.


The righteous
will insist on justice
and rip out the eyes of the blind
to make them see.
The Taoist sage lives outside
the merciless cycles of vengeance and hatred,
for he knows
there is no such thing
as anger in peace:
a moment of rage
can destroy the fruits
of a thousand years of virtue;
only patience
can guide one towards

Only in a placid pool
can the moon be reflected
in all its perfection.

The righteous
subscribe to ‘an eye for an eye’;
the Taoist sage
prefers to be blind.


accepting invention as reality,
ignorant people
rant and rave
when confronted by
insignificance and mortality,
which are but images in their minds.
In their fear,
they resist
the natural flow of the Tao
and cling to
illusions of immortality and constancy.
In their despair,
they refuse to
turn the light inwards,
leaving their true selves
in darkness.
In constant agitation,
they are driven
by every object of desire
crossing their paths.
In their helplessness,
they are trapped by
the eyes of those around them.

Not clinging to anything,
the Taoist sage
is at ease with
what the confused see as
for illusions do not touch him.
Totally detached,
the person close to Tao
accepts mortality
as the joy and pain
of arriving and leaving.
The Taoist sage
is touched
but not ruled
by the eyes around him.


The ignorant
live in fear and anger of
the inescapable laws
of cause and effect.
They try to ward off Karma
as if it were some beast that could be slain.
They grovel before the gods
as if their favour
could render Karma ineffective.
the wheel of birth, life, suffering and death,
runs over them,
leaving them in tatters.

The Taoist sage
Karma is inescapable,
yet he lives free from dread,
for he knows
he is Samsara,
and the wheel cannot run over itself.

The person in close harmony with the Tao
lives without anger,
for he understands
Karma is but himself:
there is nothing to be angry with.

The Taoist sage lives
as if
the inexorable justice of Karma
and the relentless inevitability of Samsara
do not touch him,
he is liberated from himself.


The fool
performs his deeds of merit
in full public view,
reaping praise and vanity,
and losing the fruits of virtue.

The religious
carry humility
on their heads like a crown,
falling prey to vanity.

The wise
avoid public deeds of merit,
knowing it is only
the deed performed in obscurity
that brings true merit
and nourishes the spirit.

The Taoist sage,
residing in emptiness,
does not care for merit,
and simply does
what compassion dictates,
irrespective of whether
her deed is performed in public
or in the safety of obscurity.

The true self,
centred in Tao,
cannot be harmed by praise,
and does not need
the nourishment of humility.

The true self
is part of the absolute
and truly free.


True freedom
is to live
in total detachment,
free from desire
and ignorance.
It is to reside
in silence and emptiness,
from whence
wisdom and compassion come,
in total harmony with
the eternal flow of the Tao.

The Taoist sage
does not cling
even to freedom.
He is
truly free.


Does everything come from the Tao?
Babies bloated with hunger,
their mothers haggard with grief?
Boy soldiers, drugged,
hacking off human limbs?
Warriors in the sky
inflicting suffering on the defenseless?
Innocent beings,
smelling death,
lined up for the butcher’s knife?
Does this infinite suffering come from the Tao?
And do those tiny emaciated corpses,
their suffering done,
return to the Tao?

If we are empty,
then why does so much blood spill from us?
If reality is in my mind,
then why do corpses smell?

How can I polish my mirror
when there are bloodstains on my coat?
How can I hide in emptiness
when suffering is so real?

If reality is illusion,
then why do the cries reaching my ears
not become faint?

How can I search for peace when
people are searching for food?

Only when we live
in harmony with the Tao
will harmony come.
There is no other way.
Only when compassion and wisdom
flow in abundance
from emptiness and silence
will cruelty fail
and mercy prevail.


The Taoist sage
is wise
like a new-born baby
before the first thought
has entered
her virgin mind.
The Taoist sage
is as unconquerable
as a young child
protected by innocence.
The Taoist sage
moves in the world
yet dwells in


The intellectual
searches for meaning and synthesis,
and desperately tries to dissolve
the great paradoxes of life.
The person close to Tao
- needing neither meaning, nor synthesis -
lives in harmony with paradoxes,
for they are the broken language of the spirit
pointing at the ineffable.


The Tao is absolute and
dependent on nothing,
least of all priests and disciples
who turn the inconceivable
into doctrines of influence.

The Tao is not a concept
and cannot be spread by words.
The absolute needs no promotion,
for it is nowhere and everywhere.

The Taoist sage
has no mission to fulfil
and prefers to be
silent and invisible.


is not
a lack of knowledge,
but a lack of faith
in the unknowable.
The ignorant
cling to knowledge
as if knowledge can explain
the inexplicable.
The Taoist sage
in harmony
with the mysterious.


is the root
of all suffering.

The ignorant
try to escape suffering
by accumulating knowledge,
in this way increasing
their ignorance.

The wise
try to find meaning in suffering
through knowledge,
in this way increasing
their suffering.

The Taoist sage
eats apricots in summer
and sits close to the fire in winter.


In their restlessness,
ignorant people
try to quench
their thirst for life
with objects of desire,
like brackish water,
leave them
even thirstier and
more restless than before.

Accepting emptiness
and becoming silent
brings peace to the restless,
for the Tao
is like
a bottomless well
filled to the brim with
fresh water.


Will the sage close to the Tao
become extinct
in a world where the ego is the norm?
Will despair drive the sage from the Tao
as his compassion turns to bitterness?
Isn’t it inevitable
in a world ruled by ignorance
that the new-born mind becomes a stranger to itself
even before it can take its first tentative steps?
Isn’t innocence being destroyed by greed
even before the innocent have a chance
to make a choice?

Isn’t our harmony with the Tao irretrievably lost?

Do not despair.

The Tao is in us;
and we are in the Tao.
There is no separation
from the Tao.

Like a flash of lightning
illuminating the night sky,
one instant of enlightenment
once in a thousand years
will drive ignorance away.

The Tao has no power,
yet it is unconquerable.

The Tao is like flowing water,
which is soft and
seems to be subdued
by hardness,
yet washes mountains
into the oceans.


Even when you understand
every detail of the universe
and have uncovered
the mystery of life,
you will be entirely ignorant
if you do not reside in emptiness,
from whence all compassion flows.

Even when you have no education
and cannot even write your name,
you will be a true Taoist sage
if you reside in emptiness,
from whence all compassion flows.


To cease thinking is folly
where survival is at stake,
yet it is even greater folly
not to enter silence
where thinking carries no weight.

The Taoist sage
thinks when thinking is necessary,
but she never breaks silence.


The pure sound of the bell
penetrates the ear
of the wise man and the fool alike,
but the Taoist sage
the clear silent call of Tao.


The abundance and beauty
of the lush green valley
are seen by farmer, poet and healer alike,
but the Taoist sage
sees the splendour of Tao.


The senses fill our minds
with a perpetual stream
of form and sensation
which drive the ignorant to action.
The Taoist sage does not act,
for she sees
only emptiness and silence.

The person in close harmony with the Tao
ignores the volitional,
and is moved only by compassion
born from silence.


The humble man close to Tao
becomes less every day.
When he has lost himself completely,
only his true self remains.


Enlightenment is not gain;
it is the loss of everything dear.
Even wisdom and truth disappear
when only silence and emptiness remain.


The impatient fool
crosses the raging river
only to be swept away by the floods.
The wise man
uses wisdom
as a sturdy craft
to reach the other side.
The Taoist sage
has the patience
to wait
until the floods subside,
but then he will not cross the river,
for he will sit on its banks
at ease,
admiring the perfect reflection
of the moon
in its silent waters.


The person in total harmony with the Tao
is kind
not for reward,
nor in obedience,
she is kind
she is kind.


The person close to the Tao
sees no purpose,
has no aims,
yet lives a life
with purpose
reaches all aims.


The ignorant need aims;
they act according to plans.
The wise do not need aims;
they act on insight.
Those in harmony with Tao
do not act;
they simply do
what comes next.


Without the Tao,
losing is a way of losing,
winning a way of gaining.
With the Tao,
losing does not exist,
and winning does not matter.


The wise know
it is only
when you hide your light
that you spread it.
The person in harmony with Tao
does not even know
she has
a light to hide.


The true word
does not exist,
for the Tao
no name.


The fool
is controlled by thoughts.
The wise man
controls thoughts.
The Taoist sage
in silence.


the ignorant.
The Taoist sage
is shaped
by silence.


The ignorant whine and revile
when the seemingly solid
at their touch.
The wise search furtively
for justice hidden in injustice.
The Taoist sage knows
the substantial
is illusion
and justice
out of reach
where greed rules.

The sage close to Tao accepts
disillusionment and futility
as the gateway

The person moving with Tao
lives life
every moment
in spontaneous harmony
with his true self
as if life
is the only meaning.

To the person in total harmony
with the Tao,
meaning is non-essential
and futility non-existent.


The wise believe aimlessness
is a vice.
The person close to Tao
uses aimlessness
as a virtue.


The wise shape their destiny
through noble thoughts.
The Taoist sage
has no destiny to shape.


The person in harmony with Tao
ignores justice
and obeys no laws:
is moved
by compassion.


When you expect it least,
the ego,
declared dead,
will surge into your mind,
and in an instant
you will seem so far removed from Tao
as heaven from earth.

Has it ever happened to you?
Don’t despair.
Let it go.
Do what comes next.

Accepting failure
is a humbling experience
akin to enlightenment.
In an instant you will discover
that heaven and earth are one and
that you have never been separated from Tao.

The Taoist sage
lives in harmony with failure
and never fails.


Compassion may have a destructive agenda.
Wisdom may be egotistical small talk to impress.
Friendship can be as fickle as a bubble on a wave.
Material easily turns to dust.
Success is an illusion nurtured by the ego.
Popularity is insubstantial and fickle.
Even life is fleeting:
a dance of shadows on the wall.
Yet all these things -
life -
are real
when they rise out of emptiness.


Camouflaged as virtue in all its splendour,
vanity lurks,
ready to strike and devour
The ambitious are its staple diet,
for they are attracted to its glitter.
The religious fall prey to vanity,
for they become obsessed with salvation.
The wise become victims of vanity,
for they fall in love with the concepts of virtue.

The person in harmony with Tao
is beyond the reach of vanity,
for she does not cling to virtue,
but she dwells in emptiness,
and uses silence as a shield.


The ego is a terrible taskmaster
who drives you to
Once your spirit
is exhausted,
you will be

The Taoist sage
has no ego
his spirit
to exhaustion.
He is never too busy,
for he does not flee
from his true self.


Desire is the fuel of the ego.
You will never find your true self
as long as this fire burns in you.
Even the desire to be virtuous
will corrupt you in the end.
True goodness comes from emptiness,
where thinking has stopped and
the fire has been extinguished.


Compassion transforms
guilt into innocence
as it turns the farcical
into true encounters
pointing at the ineffable.

The true self is as innocent as a tree,
with its roots anchored in the earth
and its branches embracing heaven.


is to be like a child
who reaches out to
an exquisite bubble
floating before her,
mesmerizing her
with reflections of light,
and when it bursts
at her touch,
she gazes
in shock and wonder
at its
in the empty air.


The silence of the Taoist sage
is more powerful than
the clamour of demagogues,
yet his silence can be heard
only by those who are silent.


Hurling insults
at the Taoist sage
is like
throwing stones
at empty space.

The Taoist sage
clings to nothing
and therefore
has nothing to lose.
He cannot be hurt,
because he has accepted


It is true for this life
that suffering
is inevitable,
yet not all suffering
is unavoidable.

The ignorant
create their own agonies
when they allow
their desire, greed and hatred
to turn the fiction in their minds
into the reality of suffering.

The Taoist sage
does not suffer
mind-driven torments
caused by
desire, greed and hatred.
the avoidable,
for her silence is complete.

When she faces the inescapable,
the Taoist sage
suffers with
the equanimity and patience
only the acceptance of emptiness
can bring.


The greedy strive for happiness
as if it were a possession
that could be achieved or bought.
They do not understand that
happiness is not a possession.
It is a spiritual quality
as elusive as the wind brushing your cheek.

Those that have found
what they perceive to be happiness,
will cling to it desperately,
and destroy it,
like someone crushing a beautiful flower
in passionate embrace.

The person in harmony with the Tao
understands that
the glitter of happiness is often
a facade covering
dissatisfaction and greed.

The Taoist sage knows:
If happiness is a constant feeling,
then it does not exist.
If happiness is an aim,
then it will vanish
the moment the aim is achieved.
If happiness is the satisfaction of the
then it is a form of hell.

Clinging to happiness
inflates the ego
destroys compassion.

People close to the Tao
ignore the ego:
they need no happiness,
for they are alive.


To serve your ego is
to worship a false identity
created by yourself.
It is like a man suffering from amnesia
reinventing himself because
he has forgotten
who he is.
It is like living in a day dream.
When you awake from the dream,
you will discover
the image in the mirror
is the image of a stranger,
yet your true self.

At this moment of awakening
when dream and reality untangle,
you realize
what you have thought
to be your real self
has never existed.

As you move closer to see the stranger
the image in the mirror will fade
and disappear.

The truly enlightened
look into the mirror
to find
only emptiness
in its reflection.


The person close to Tao
without hope
and is never disappointed.
Her thankfulness
no bounds.


The Taoist sage
is not so cruel as
to turn the other cheek.
He simply walks away.

The Taoist sage
does not give in
to conquer.
He refuses to fight.

Yet, if in true danger,
with no other way out,
the Taoist sage
will face
the destroyer
like a true warrior
who has nothing to lose,
for his power comes
from emptiness.


The Taoist sage
will rather lose face
than manipulate others
to save face.
If non-manipulative action
cannot save him,
he prefers dishonour.

The Taoist sage is not touched
by the opinions of others,
for he lives in emptiness
where reputation does not exist.


The Taoist sage
does not trust
people claiming wisdom,
for he knows
wisdom does not promote itself.


The Taoist sage
is wary of
open declarations of compassion,
for he knows
compassion is humble
and operates out of sight.


The Taoist sage
holy men who praise themselves,
for he knows
the true self needs no praise.


When unable to avoid
people who delight in the grief of others,
the Taoist sage
does what comes next,
his silence is stronger
than their brashness.


The ignorant
feel cold and lonely
when they think of
the Tao,
without pity,
beyond their reach.

The Tao
does not weep at their feet
when they are suffering.
The Tao
does not take their side,
and does not destroy their enemies.
The Tao
is not a friend
who protects and consoles them.
The Tao
has no face.

When storms rage around us,
we are at the mercy of Karma.
Even the Buddha becomes wet in the rain.

The ignorant long for a place where
Karma has lost its power,
and where their prayers
liberate them
from the effects of their deeds.

The person in harmony with Tao
lifts her face to the rain,
shivers in the snow,
and perspires in the sun.


In this endless and merciless
cycle of suffering,
the law of cause and effect
reigns supreme
and without respite
over everything;
Karma towers over all,
blocking out the sun,
yet its shadow does not fall
on the person walking with Tao.


The oak slumbers in the acorn.
The bird waits in the egg.
Realities ferment in dreams.
Every thing and every no-thing,
existent and non-existent,
lie dormant in the
Yet the Tao has nothing to do
with it all.


Desperate and ignorant people
search for peace
on perpetual waves of inconstant emotion
or in the possession of things.
The Taoist sage knows
peace is
neither a condition,
nor a possession,
nor an emotion.
Peace is


The wise are wary of words,
which corrupt rather than cure.
They know
is the obesity of the ego,
the symptom of ignorance.

The wise will tell you that,
like dust on a mirror,
words distract and distort reality.
In the hands of those with evil intent,
words of wisdom
lead to

The true Taoist sage,
silent as he may be,
has no fear of words,
for he knows
the mind
may mirror reality,
yet it is not a thing
and cannot be contaminated by dust.

The true self
is pure and absolute
as Tao.
It is in Tao,
and Tao is in it.


Only silence
can explain
the inexplicable.

Who can think the unthinkable?
Only the sage
in total harmony with Tao.
Yet his thinking
is an act of complete faith
beyond concepts.


How do you bring people into harmony with the Tao?
You can only point at the invisible.
It is like using sign language in the dark.
The mystery is that it works.


I see my reflection
every particle of dust.
Even the mountain has my face.
The bird ruffles my feathers
and the spider spins my web.
Who can sense the loneliness of a parrot in a cage?
Who can feel the slow passion of a snail?
Only the true sage in total harmony with the Tao.


When I strike you,
your blood will certainly flow from my veins.
When you are starving,
your bloated belly is gnawing into my flesh.
The laughter in your eyes
lights up mine.
I can see my face in yours.
Can you see yours in mine?


The greedy
see in all beings
objects to be exploited for gain.
The Taoist sage
sees only sentient beings
filled with emptiness.

The man filled with greed,
carrying an axe in his heart,
sees in the forest
objects to be destroyed for profit.
The Taoist sage,
filled with emptiness,
sees the forest
as an untouchable temple
inhabited by friends.

turns people blind to
the beauty of emptiness
in all things.
Only in total detachment
does the wonder of Tao become visible.


Should the victor delight in victory
while the defeated suffer humiliation?
No, for the Tao
cares for neither victory nor defeat.
The Taoist sage cannot delight
in glory
which inflicts pain.


Should the wealthy enjoy their luxuries
at the cost of poverty?
No, for the Tao
cares not about the insubstantial.
The Taoist sage cannot enjoy
what is based on sorrow.


Is life which causes
suffering worth living?
Yes, because suffering is unavoidable.
The Taoist sage lives
a life
minimizing suffering.


What good is honour
if it causes
The Taoist sage cares not for
even if it is innocent.


Is truth really truth
when it is made possible by deceit?
No, for the Tao knows
neither truth nor deceit.
The Taoist sage does cling to truth,
for clinging to truth
is betraying it.


People in harmony with the Tao
prefer to be
destroying life
to protect
the fruits of greed.


The Taoist sage does not trust
the wisdom of the masses.
He believes in
the wisdom of silence.


People in harmony with the Tao
obey authority
as far as their true selves
allow them to do so.
The Taoist sage
will not hesitate
to pay the price for his silence.


Should ignorance be carried by faith?
No, for faith is based on wisdom
beyond words and concepts.
The Taoist sage has
that banishes ignorance.


In the world of common sense,
yes is yes,
and no is no.
To the Taoist sage,
yes and no are identical.


Knowledge based on ignorance
decreases fear
only to increase it tenfold.
Only dwelling in
truly banishes fear.
The Taoist sage
without fear,
like an innocent child unaware of the world,
and he carries his knowledge
as if it does not exist.
His faith is complete.


The comparative perception of beauty
is essentially cruel.
The Taoist sage does not differentiate
between the beautiful and the ugly.
Beauty is beautiful
when it emanates from


on the sorrow of others
is destructive.
True creativity
from emptiness.


The true Taoist sage
is oblivious
of greatness and smallness.
He treats stones and dignitaries
with equal respect.


Even trying to get rid of the ego
inflates the ego.
The person in harmony with the Tao
ignores the ego
as compassion immerses him
in the eternal flow of the Tao.


Even the person in harmony with the Tao
finds it difficult
not to cling to
usefulness and approval.
without hesitation,
the person in total harmony with the Tao
would allow his jealous rivals into his realm
as he fades
into emptiness and insignificance.


The wise do not cling
even to virtue,
for they know
clinging to virtue
is the proof of its loss.
The person in total harmony with the Tao
does not cling to his virtue,
for he is unaware of it.


When people are close to the Tao,
mercy is cherished more than gems,
and those that have failed
share the table with
those that have succeeded.


People in harmony with the Tao
eat when they are hungry
and rest when they are tired.
They build homes for shelter
and not for show;
they wear clothes for protection
and not as a facade.
They work to live,
and not to demonstrate superiority.
They need neither unity nor division.
They speak to communicate
and not to control.
They love silence.
They do not know
who their leaders are,
for their leaders
are true leaders.
They obey no law,
yet break none,
for their laws
are based on compassion.
They sleep like innocent children,
with open windows
and unlocked doors.


After the curse
and before his reaction,
anger faded into
The sage in harmony with the Tao
does not allow external discord
to disturb his silence.


is not the mother
of beauty and truth,
but the child of ignorance.
Yet to the Taoist sage,
truth and beauty can come
even from suffering.


by our intelligence.
still lies within our scope of thought.
seems beyond our reach
even when our thoughts
have ceased.
is beyond the reach
of our intellect
precisely because it is not fiction.
our true self
has always been
in total union
with the complete universe.


The ignorant are trapped
by their thinking.
The realization of this
is the key
to enlightenment.


Those desperate for peace
drive all thoughts from their minds,
locking themselves behind iron gates,
from where there is no escape.
The Taoist sage has peace
and remains unattached to thoughts
which may come and go
as they please.
His gates being wide open,
the Taoist sage wanders
in total freedom
wherever the Tao leads him.


Silence is not the absence of thoughts and emotions,
but the freedom from attachment.


Even after he has entered emptiness,
the fragrance of peach blossoms
fills the air
like incense.


Even after his illusions have evaporated
into emptiness,
the image of her face
pale as a lily in the shade.


Even after he has become silent,
the song of the wind
moving through the forest
echos softly
in his ear.


As calmness returned,
her thoughts tiptoed in,
like apprehensive guests,
ready to leave
at the first sign of disapproval.

Like intruders afraid of the light,
her negative emotions receded,
as she called them by their names.

At last,
all unwanted guests gone,
she was
surrounded by


The wise person
alters ugly thoughts.
The person in search of enlightenment
good thoughts.
The person in total harmony with the Tao
does not cling
even to good thoughts.


To desire is to obtain.
To aspire is to achieve.
The Taoist sage
neither desires
nor aspires,
yet he leaves nothing undone.


To the ambitious,
joy and disillusionment
follow in painful succession.
The Taoist sage
cannot be disillusioned,
for she carries
no ambition and no illusion.
Without hope,
she lives
like one filled with hope.
Her joy flows from emptiness.


If your gaze is fixed on form, the essence disappears.
If you focus on emptiness, form vanishes.
The fool confuses form with essence.
The wise know the difference.
The Taoist sage sees
form and essence as


Form and emptiness are interdependent,
yet identical.
Silence and sound are different,
yet the same.
Subject and object exist,
yet they don’t.
Every thing is in all things,
all things are in every thing.
We have never met,
yet we have known each other
since before time existed.
Knowing this brings peace.
Accepting this great mystery is true enlightenment.

Do you despair
when this mystery
seems to block your way?
Enlightenment comes when it comes.
It is in the blades of grass
you have trampled with your feet.
You cannot go to it, but it will come to you.


The ignorantly sincere
vainly try to reduce their egos,
but their egos grow only bigger.
The wise person
ignores his ego
and serves selflessly,
so that his self,
starved of thought,
The person in total harmony with the Tao
has no ego,
for she has entered
and lives
with compassion.


The nobly ambitious
glorify visions
and enthrone ideals
in their hearts.
The wise
distrust visions
and know even the noblest ideals
can be corrupted.
The person in harmony with Tao
trusts only


The wise
control the self
to obtain strength.
The person at one with Tao
ignores the self
prefers to be weak.


Victory belongs to
the greedy.
The Taoist sage prefers defeat.


The wise have right thoughts
in order to obtain mastery
over themselves.
The Taoist sage ignores thoughts
in order to avoid control
over anyone.


Victories attained through right thoughts
keep holy men fretful,
afraid that a moment’s lapse
might throw them back
in the throes of arrogance and wretchedness.
The Taoist sage sleeps tightly,
for she dwells in emptiness
where there is nothing to win or to lose.


Men craving holiness
use words
to create images of their gods,
and confuse
their pride
in their own inventions.
The Taoist sage
shuns words
trusts silence,
knowing full well
the Tao is beyond the reach of concepts.


Men of religion often
claim to be holders of
The Truth,
in this way creating power
for themselves.
The person close to Tao
ignores power,
for she knows
truth has no name.


The ignorant need rules and aims.
The worldly need possession and pleasure.
The religious need dogma and power.
The Taoist sage
eats when he is hungry
and sleeps when he is tired.


A confused world often equates
blessedness with influence.
a hidden quality,
the pathway to misery.


The wise stay calm to obtain power.
The Taoist sage is serene
she is not interested in power.


The person craving blessedness
gives food to the poor
to save his own soul.
The Taoist sage
gives food to the poor
because he does not want them to go hungry.


The Taoist sage
is a sincere teacher,
for he does not betray his true self.
He can be trusted completely,
for he neither loves nor hates.
He seems distant and without pity,
yet his silence
points at the Tao.


If you look closely,
you will not find a thing.
Existence is an illusion;
emptiness is real.
Yet existence and emptiness


Turning towards emptiness
to escape reality
is turning away from your true self.
Losing yourself in reality to escape emptiness
is falling prey to an illusion.
Like a drowning man clinging to an imaginary branch,
you will surely perish in the floods.


There is no unity
in the world of differentiation.
Unity lies
where it is not needed.


Walking away from wisdom is wise;
rejecting wisdom, though, stupid.


Those with faith have power,
but they never use it.
Only the weak utilize power.
The meek are blessed,
for they live in harmony with the Tao.


To lose because you are not able to win
is defeat.
To lose because you do not want to win
is victory.
Yet the true sage
would not know the difference,
for she does not compete.


The wise person
bears scorn
with grace,
knowing full well
the scandal monger
is the best teacher.
The person in harmony with the Tao
does not repay scorn
with grace,
but with
the neglect
worthy of compassion.


Even in the midst
of hectic throngs,
the gentle breeze caresses her cheek.
Even when greed
controls all emotions,
she is gentle and mild.
Even in murky smog,
she glimpses the radiance of sunset.
Even when violence
throbs in people’s minds,
she steps
crossing her path.


On his death bed,
his family mourning,
he is serene,
for he knows
is an illusion:
there is no beginning and no end.

There is only the endless flow of Tao.

The man of Tao has no fear,
for he walks with Tao.


The Tao is without pity,
yet all compassion flows from it.


Why am I alone
when they cheer?
Why can’t I cry
when they weep?
Why does the rhythm
of their music not move me?
Why do I alone see
the darkness in their light?
Why do I alone despair when
they are filled with triumph?
Why does this food taste
like tears?


If the Taoist sage
has the power
of someone moving in harmony with the Tao,
why does he avoid company?
Has he not learnt how to deal with men?


If the Taoist sage
is so close to Tao
that he is unmoved by danger,
then why does he walk amongst people
as if he is crossing a dangerous river?


If the Taoist sage
knows all the answers,
why does he not answer questions,
but remains silent?


If the Taoist sage
is so effective
that he reaches all aims
without having aims,
why is he satisfied with so little?


If the Taoist sage
is detached,
controlling his own emotions and thoughts,
why does he weep
when he sees a child without feet?


If the Taoist sage
is of such significance
to the world of the spirit,
why does he seem so insignificant
among those that count in the world?


If the Taoist sage
is dispassionate
and so much in control of himself,
why does he remain silent when he should speak,
and why does he speak when he should remain silent?


If the Taoist sage
is so developed on a spiritual level,
why does he prefer
the company of the humble?


If the Taoist sage
knows the world so well,
why does he seem so lost
amongst the sophisticated and the chic?


If the Taoist sage
is filled with wisdom and Tao,
why does he go unnoticed
in the world?


If the Taoist sage
is at one with the universe,
why does he walk in the world
like a strange guest?


If the Taoist sage
is so wise,
why does he appear so dumb
amongst those renowned for cleverness?


If the Taoist sage
is enlightened,
why does he move in the light
as if in darkness?


If the Taoist sage
is wise and serene,
why does he seem so full of doubt?


If the Taoist sage
dwells in emptiness and silence,
why does his flesh decay
like yours and mine?


If the Taoist sage
is filled with compassion,
why has he disappeared into the wilderness,
never to be seen again?


The sage in harmony with the Tao
is invisible
in a world of greed,
and of total insignificance among
those hungering for power.

The man of ambition
cannot else but look down with scorn
on the humble man close to Tao,
for his aimlessness
is folly
to those with an agenda.

The Taoist sage
ignores power
and does not complain
when he has to pay the price
for emptiness.


I long for Tao
like a hungry baby
for his mother’s breast.
Yet now that I am weaned
and cleverness reigns,
and my mind
me from the rest,
I am like a lonely parrot
trapped in a cage,
miming sounds
made by my captors,
instead of calling
for my lover.


After the end
and before the beginning,
we searched across the silent wastes.
From horizon to horizon,
we saw only
and we knew:
we had always been,
we had never existed.


If she is a product of survival,
then why does she not gloat in victory,
but weep with the loser?
Ah, my friend, don’t you understand?
What you call survival is cruelty.
Her realm is that of the spirit,
where survival is defeat.
She appears only once in a thousand years,
but everyone drinks
from her bottomless well.


Even in slumber
I searched for her face,
like someone obsessed,
and when it became clear
I would never succeed,
and I stopped searching,
she appeared
not in glory but without trace,
and I saw my self in her face.


The Tao is unreachable
yet she is humble
and closer to you
than your mind.


Even when she has been
wracked, torn apart and degraded,
and she can smell her own decay,
her true self
unstained, pure and innocent
as Tao.
Even though she cannot escape Karma,
the inexorable laws of cause and effect,
suffering does not enter
her paradise of silence and emptiness,
pure and beautiful
rise from
the humus of decay.


If the Tao is silence,
why do words of wisdom
enter the minds
of those close to Tao?


If the Tao is emptiness,
why are those close to Tao
with the joy of life?


If the Tao does not care for us,
why are those beings
moving in harmony with the Tao
so blessed?


If the Tao does not support anyone,
why does the Taoist sage
have the courage
of a tiger?


If the Tao is without pity,
why are those
in harmony with the Tao
filled with


If the Tao is mysterious,
why do those close to Tao
see so clearly?


If the Tao is unreachable,
why do I feel her breath on my cheek?


Look around you and see!
The world is overflowing with infinite Tao!
Everything comes from the Tao
and returns to the Tao.
She is neither cruel, nor kind.
She is vague, yet clear.
See her beauty in the setting sun!
She dances with the wind
and laughs with the clouds.
Her silence echoes across the valleys.
She is no thing, no where,
yet everywhere and everything.
She does not exist
and yet she has always been.
She does not know you,
yet she touches you everyday.

She is Tao,
Mysterious and Beautiful.


In emptiness
it is clear:
The Tao is Tao.

How do I know?
tells me so.

Jos Slabbert 2000
Postal Address: P.O. Box 4037, Vineta, Namibia
Fax No.: 09264 64 46 1014 E-Mail:

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