Turning towards Destiny

The wisdom of the Dao Te Ching offers the human being a means of insight and a new basis for his heart. When Dao is working in a person things become visible from within. He/She can change circumstances in a salutary way by acting out of acceptance.

Turning towards Destiny

We live in uncertainty about the future. This is not only true for our personal future but also for the future of the planet. We want to plan, to shape, to control. Life, however, very often deals us different cards than we would like. Other people get in our way with their actions, viruses infect us, global upheavals thwart our plans. Who, or what, is at work there – chance, evil intent or fateful forces?

The religions of the world talk about guiding forces. Their inner teachings see human life integrated into a cycle of rebirths, helping the human being on his way to learn, to gain spiritual insight and, in the end, to reach liberation. Thus, man carries baggage sometimes called karma (meaning: destiny), serving as a field of developmant for the entirety of mankind. Karma does not only include the burdens of past mistakes and continuing attachments but also faculties and maturity of the soul. Thus, man is on his path from unconsciousness through the „narrow eye“ of the ego to the awakening of his true eternal self, which is one with God.

Daoism, also espousing the concept of rebirths, draws the path of man and the world as a sequence of fundamental facts that have no ultimate earthly goal such as peace or perfection. However, it is a path leading to DAO, to the primordial mother, to All Unity. The Dao Te Ching[1] describes dealing with war and peace, honor and shame, above and below, beauty and ugliness from the higher perspective of Dao. All these situations of life are transient and man should not cling to any of them. All the teachings of this book are imbued with an almost dancing lightness and power and with the freedom that is an effect of being connected to Tao.

The much older I Ching[2] shows the path of mankind through 64 phases of transformation, which do not strive for a final solution on the earthly plan, but let the human being come to maturity in order to be finally led to Wu Qi, the one elemental force. As in the case of Dao Te Ching, it is obvious that the solution lies on a different level of being, pervading and supporting everything on earth. When it comes to the question of destiny, both works show that man is able to live through ups and downs and, by accepting them, can find a way that opens up the eternal plane of being for him. We do not receive recipes for success and eternal peace, but rather impulses to find out about the eternal other, the Dao, behind „good and bad“ and to unite with it. This is the task of destiny. In this sense, the 16th chapter of Dao Te Ching states:

Immersed within the heart of the void, keep tranquility’s essence.
The myriad things together arise,
I thereby perceive their returning.
Now things flower, and in flowering each one returns to the source.

The returning to the source is called tranquillity,
This is the returning to destiny,
The returning to destiny is the eternal,
To know the eternal is wisdom.

When one does not know wisdom, disaster arises!
Knowing the eternal is wide-ranging,
Wide-ranging means open-minded,
Open-minded means royal,
Royal means heavenly,
Heavenly means the Dao,
The Dao means everlasting.
Bodiless and without form, cannot wither or perish.

Who can – and should – create emptiness within himself to the highest and silence to the most complete, that is, free his consciousness from the weight of the world and rise to Dao? That person in whom Dao begins to work can do it. Dao works out of itself offering the human being a means of insight and a new basis for his heart. This way, one can understand  further and see the world from the perspective of Dao. There are several places in the Dao Te Ching where Lao Tse asks: „How do I know this?“

And the succinct answer is: “That’s exactly why.” Therefore, it is impossible to support the teachings with arguments. When Dao is working in a person, he or she is touched by the truth of these teachings. The root of all things becomes visible, as it were. No matter how things come to us, they turn around for us and become visible from within as effects of Dao. They are transitory. But they are also one with Dao because Dao bears them. In the same way, every single person who recognizes Dao in himself and follows him, returns to Dao in life. At first this is a process of insight. He who can deeply accept this fact for himself is able to go back to the root by giving his self to Dao. “The sages put their selves behind all other people, yet it is before all others they shall eventually stand.“ [4] The true self that appears in this silence enables the turn to destiny.

Accepting the teachings of destiny

This is not a trick of the ancients to evoke resignation to fate – in oppression, in persevering in rigid hierarchies and systems. On the contrary; the essence of a person who renounces his (old) self becomes wide. Nevertheless, he still has a way to go which will be made easier for him if he accepts the teachings of fate. This is why he has to turn to fate. He is bound to it anyway.  Most of the time we are wasting a lot of energy by repressing or ignoring things or pushing them away from us and onto others. But, we are connected to the things we encounter. It is possible to recognize this connectedness in silence and to accept the lessons. This is a deep spiritual process that cannot be grasped with words. It means becoming subtle, going along with everything that is and, therefore, paradoxically, a successive release from the material world and its sequence of cause and effect. “The returning to destiny is the eternal.” In an alchemical process, fate, whatever it may be, reveals the eternal in us.

In Lao Tse’s words, the knowledge of eternity brings clarity and results in tolerance. Clarity and tolerance do, indeed, have a point of contact in that the clarity gained brings with it a deepened feeling and recognition of that wisdom which is at work in all events. He who opens himself for this becomes tolerant and is able to accept all things. At this point, it must be stated that accepting includes the possibility of changing and shaping things. How much more salutary is the action of a person who does not act out of aggression or hostility towards people and circumstances, but out of acceptance. This is exactly why, in the words of Dao Te Ching, acceptance leads to justice. One does not have to defend oneself, one does not want to achieve anything for oneself personally. This kind of justice leads to the heavens.  The Dao Te Ching is full of statements about the blessings that such a Being and Acting brings about, as here in the second chapter:

The sage focuses on non-action in his works,
Practices not-saying in his speech,
The myriad things arise but are disregarded
The sage produces but does not own
Acts but does not claim
Accomplishes work but does not focus on it
Does not focus on it, and thus it does not go.

Here, Lao Tse shows the image of a person combining wisdom, love and power without any side effects.  This is a sublime image. It can inspire us to face fate with open eyes and an open heart.


[1]The Dao Te Ching probably dates from the fourth century before Christ..Whether it comes from a single person named Lao Tse (meaning “old master”) is not certain. Dao means “Path, sense”, Te means “virtue, inner strength” and Ching describes a canonical oeuvre. This article uses a translation from the Chinese into English by wikisource.

[2] The I Ching dates from the 3rd millenium before our time. Originally it was used as an oracle to help emperors and commanders with difficult decisions. Nowadays it may serve as a mirror of all conceivable situations of life. The 64 transformation processes are hexagrams, i.e. combinations of six times Yin or Yang. As an answer to a question, each transformation process shows the present hindrances as well as the path for the mastering of a fundamental situation.  Among others, the hexagrams No. 63 “After completion” and No. 64 “Before completion” are interesting. They show that the I Ching does not end with contemplating on completion to be achieved but with the condition “before completion”. The topics of the last hexagrams are also named “The river is already crossed” and “The river is not yet crossed”. Crossing the river is a metaphor for the termination of tasks and leave-taking from the Old.  The I Ching shows that a final task solving is not possible on the earthly plane and perfection on earth does not lead to an eternal balance or condition of happiness. This way, the 64 transformation processes lead to consciousness about the essence of the world and the individual process of maturing towards final liberation and thus merging with the primal force.

[3] Translation taken from wikisource

[4] See chapter 7

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Date: July 11, 2020
Author: Angela Paap (Germany)
Photo: Pixabay CCO

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