While reading Lao-tzu on this beautiful morning in Chicago, two passages about virtue (goodness) caught my eye and begged to be shared ;)
To practice virtue is to selflessly offer assistance to others, giving without limitation one’s time, abilities, and possessions in service, whenever and wherever needed, without prejudice concerning the identity of those in need.
If your willingness to give blessings is limited, so also is your ability to receive them.
This is the subtle operation of the Tao.
We want to love and we want to give when it’s convenient. It is easy for us to place requirements on those that we will help. Perhaps we feel inclined to help those that look like us…or believe what we believe…or live where we live. But true virtue is based on an understanding that these distinctions are illusions. There is really no separation. We come from the same Source. Because we are all connected, it is only through giving that we are able to receive.
Those who wish to attain oneness must practice undiscriminating virtue.
They must dissolve all ideas of duality: good and bad, beautiful and ugly, high and low.
They will be obliged to abandon any mental bias born of cultural or religious belief.
Indeed, they should hold their minds free of any thought which interferes with their understanding of the universe as a harmonious oneness.
The beginning of these practices is the beginning of liberation.
The nature of duality is such that when we say something is good, something else automatically becomes bad. When we define beautiful, ugly is automatically created. We go through life in a constant struggle because we are taught from birth to categorize. We become trapped by these divisions. At home, we learn that this is right and that is wrong. In church, we learn that this group will be saved…that group will not. Constant divisions are created. We lose sight that everything just IS. Instead, we want to change everything else. Liberation comes from the understanding that we can only change ourselves.
Photo source: Kandahar, Afghanistan by Steve McCurry
Author note: I am a huge fan of Steve McCurry! I find his photography to be transformational. While some photographers capture the pain and tragedy of war, I find that Steve somehow manages to capture hope and courage. In this photograph I see a child and a man that many would brand enemies. In them I see the same spark of divinity that is in each of us. I can only guess that their injuries were a side effect of one of the many wars that miss the point…that we are all the same.