If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.
- Tao te Ching (S. Mitchell translation)
What is "enough"? How do you "realize" you have it? What do we mean by "rich"? What does it mean to "embrace death with your whole heart"?
Let's take that last one, first. In zen, we say that must be ready to die in every moment. We are ready to die because there is no difference between birth, life and death. So there really is no death. To realize this must be very liberating. I haven't. I still obsess over what will kill me, where I will be buried, who, if anyone, will attend the funeral, and whether the after funeral party ("wake") will be any good. And whether or not Christ, Buddha, Allah, Shiva or Ganash will be there to say "hi" on the other side. I'm not exactly sure whom I'd rather meet in that context...
Still I get the intellectual idea that only by fully realizing the true transitory nature of our lives can we really finally and truly be free and live. When we pretend death isn't real - then we don't really live. We take steps to avoid it individually and as a culture - everything from plastic surgery to vitamins to only putting young people on the cover of just about any magazine you can think of - exists only to ward off dealing with inevitable. This blog would get long and boring if I listed all the ways we avoid this reality but let me name three... see if you can think of more: addiction (pick your poison), expensive caskets with comfortable mattresses, and engaging in high risk activities like BASE jumping.
By realizing we have enough, I think Lao Tzu was simply saying that being alive is enough, that when we realize that we are alive, realize fully that death is inevitable, then we learn how to value things properly, and realize that with this life, this simple, precious and oh so rare life, we are rich beyond belief, beyond heaven and earth.
So enjoy your life. Its the only thing you need, and the only thing you truly have. Anything else is just icing on the cake.
Which reminds me that I have to go and ice an actual cake for my friend's birthday tomorrow!
Om shanti ya'll!
Lao+tzu, Tao+te+ching, stephen+mitchell, tao, taoism,christ, buddha, allah, ganash, shiva