Reflections on Chapter 74 of the Tao Te Ching:
If people are not afraid of death,
how can they be threatened?
If people live in constant fear of death
and unlawful people are arrested and killed,
who would dare to go against the law?
There is always a master executioner.
To take the place of the master executioner
is like borrowing the tools of the master craftsperson.
If you borrow the tools of the master craftsperson,
you are surely to cut your own hand.
One of the ultimate practices in your life is overcoming your fear of death.
I have thought about this a lot. In the Christian American culture, we have an odd relationship with death. A lot of people in the U.S. are Christian. In the Christian culture, many have a strange perception of death. In some beliefs, God decides whether your soul spends an eternity in Heaven, which is a wonderful place and all is good. Or, you spend the rest of eternity in Hell, which is awful and there is fire. It is black or white.
I really don’t ascribe to that thinking at all.
These beliefs are underneath the surface in a lot of people’s lives. It makes death a very frightening thing. What is our soul after we are gone? This is a big part of why I do this work. If I spend my life wisely, I am spending my energy learning how to grow deeper. I am looking deeply at my life and realizing how phenomenal this life experience is. That is why I do it. When I invest in this practice, my life grows deeper and I am investing energy in that.
The more I practice, the deeper my life gets.
The fear of death comes out of not living your life fully. For people who live into old age and have lived fully, death is not frightening. People who fear death have not really lived. They have let fear decide their fate their whole lives. This is what I find so sad about some belief systems… when people have been taught to fear their whole lives, they get to the end of their life and they have this extreme fear because all that is left for them is Heaven or Hell.
If I know human behavior, most Christians practicing fundamentals beliefs probably believe that they are going to Hell… no matter how “good” they have been.
Human behavior is about constantly making mistakes. The 12 Commandments are tricky to live all the time. If God is a judging character in your world and you get to the end and you’ve made some mistakes, perhaps he will decide that you are going to Hell?
What kind of existence is that?
Inside, I get kind of upset when I hear that. I think about the millions of people that have been taught that their entire lives and it really bothers me. That has people living in this fear their entire lives. It is just one of those things. It is really hard for me. It makes me angry to think about it.
This chapter is fabulous because he addresses this fear of death.
Lao Tzu is saying that if you are not afraid of death, nothing can threaten you. Nothing can stand in your way. What else is worse than death to be afraid of? Nothing. There isn’t anything to be afraid of! There is nothing to be afraid of because every mistake can be rectified.
Every mistake can be forgiven.
You can make mistake after mistake and you can keep going back and you can keep doing life and it is OK. No matter what happens, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what the circumstance, you can keep moving forward. That is an incredible thing. It gives you license. If you really look at human behavior, everyone wants to be fabulous. Everyone wants to be the person who does it right. That is a shared human condition, shared by all of us.
Everyone wants perfection and everyone fails.
Those who seem most perfect probably have the biggest ghosts in the closet. The most perfect person is probably the one who has the most failures, hidden from view. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be afraid of death. Don’t be afraid of the death of things or events because nine times out of ten, what comes out of it and the birth on the other side is amazing.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
What do you think? Do you think that I am off my rocker for spouting such crazy ideas or do you agree? Tell us what you think in the comments below. If you like this post, please share it with the buttons at the top of the right panel! Thanks!