Lao Tzu based his foundation on a completely different gestalt. Had we understood his concept we would create an entirely new world! He says, “You are not a separate entity. Then where is the question of enmity?”
You are not an individual. You appear so only because you have no idea of the aggregate. The fact is, wherever there is the individual, he is connected to the aggregate whole. The individual cannot exist without the total aggregate. You are because everything else is. The tree at your gate is also a part of the reason for your existence.
I heard a story about Lao Tzu: One day one of his disciples was sent by someone to break a few leaves from a tree. He broke a full branch and was taking it when Lao Tzu stopped him. “Don’t you know you fool,” he told the disciple, “If any part of this tree is destroyed, you too become less to that extent? When this tree stood before us, full and green, we too in a manner, were full and green. Today, its wound has caused a scar within us also. We are not apart, we are one.”
Lao Tzu objected to a single branch being broken from the tree, but we have destroyed full jungles! Now we realise it was a terrible mistake. We had cut off the jungles because we thought them to be our foes. Man was afraid of the wildlife they harboured and so destroyed them and built townships. He did not realise that all the rains that poured on his land, all the breeze that blew and cooled the land cannot be without the jungles! If we cut down the jungles our towns will be no more.
Now, there is a stir against the cutting of trees. It is a crime to break a single leaf for man will fall with the extinction of trees. Lao Tzu said 2,500 years ago that when a tree is denied of a single branch, we too are lessened somewhat, within ourselves. The tree is very much a part of us, a part of existence. It is just as if we were to remove a part of a painting from the main work. It would not then be the same. One single stroke of the brush can change a whole picture. A slight digression changes the total from and hence, all the following connections.
We cut down trees unscrupulously in order to clear a good place for man’s dwelling. We have destroyed completely many species of animals also. Ecology believes in the interrelationship of organisms with their environment. They say, that man has to suffer because of the things he has destroyed. The birds that sing in the jungles are equally a part of us. When birds stop singing in the jungles, we shall have created a hindrance in the music that is in nature and then our minds will never know the peace and joy that came with their singing. We are not aware of this for man is a small creature who spends all his life in a corner of his house. He knows not of the vast world outside. He is totally unaware of the clouds that glide in the skies, he does not see the flowers blooming on the trees, nor does he hear the song of birds in the spring.
Three years ago, a book was published in England called The Silent Spring. A sudden drastic change had taken place. Thousands of birds suddenly fell down from the trees and died. Thousands other lay dead in the streets of the towns. All spring was suddenly hushed into silence. Due to some fault in the atomic energy research experiments, this catastrophe took place. England lost a major part of her singing birds which will be hard to replace. The spring in England can never be the same.
And we think—what difference will the change in spring make in our lives? Will our roads or our market-places be affected if the birds stop singing in the trees? Would that life be so aloof and apart? But it is not so. There, everything is joined and inter-connected. If a star becomes extinct, it affects the earth, even if it is millions of light-years away.
If the moon is no more there will be enormous changes on earth. There will no longer be waves in the oceans; the menstrual cycle of women would become erratic. A slight difference—and everything changes.
Lao Tzu says, “Let things be as they are.” Accept them, they are your companions. Do not segregate the opposite. That which seems hostile and unfriendly, let even that be where it is, for the pattern of nature is deep and profound and full of mystery. Everything is joined within. You do not know what problems you create when you set apart a single thing in nature.
Now as the science of Ecology has begun to spread and man has begun to understand, we have begun to realise how difficult it is to tell in how many ways we are interconnected. For example: if we cut off trees then the life-elements that the trees gather for us will no longer be. The trees absorb the rays of the sun and make them fit to be absorbed by our bodies. The direct rays of the sun cannot be converted into a fit form of consumption for our body. The plants draw the elements from the soil and turn them into food for us. Little do we realise that if the trees and plants had not been there to produce the vegetables we eat, they would be under the soil—a mass of earth! It is the soil below that turns into food that is capable of being digested by our system.
The moment you effect the slightest change in the order of things, you effect an equal change within your own selves. There is one integrated existence and the non-existence is very much a part of it. Everything is connected within this existence—death, illness: everything!
And Lao Tzu says, “If there is the attitude of friendship, of companionship, between the various parts of existence, if there is the feeling of oneness with each other, instead of over-powering each other, a wonderful music is created in life.” This very music Lao Tzu calls Tao; that very music is Religion; that very music is ‘Rit’.
It is now becoming more and more clear that as the understanding of Ecology expands, our understanding of Lao Tzu, will also become more profound. The more we begin to understand the unity within the diversity, the less we shall be in a hurry to change the order of things.
I was reading somewhere the other day, that if we continue to throw oil into the seas, either through the waste-matter from factories or from ships, in sixty years’ time this oil will cover the surface of the oceans. Then we shall need no more world wars to finish us, for the life-elements formed by the sea-waters with the help of the sun will no longer be formed due to the layer of oil.
Now we use detergents instead of soap. The latest discovery of Ecology says that if man continues to use these detergents, he will kill himself. When we wash clothes with soap, the soap gets reabsorbed in the soil within fifteen days. In fifteen days, it is again lost in nature; but detergents take 150 years to be reabsorbed in the elements. So it will be in the soil for 150 years and it will begin to turn into poison within the first 15 years. This means it will stay in the soil for 135 years, as poison.
The scientists proclaim that at the rate these detergents are being used in the world today, whatever grows on the soil will become poisonous within the next 50 years. Then you will not be drinking water but poison. Then the vegetables we eat, will be poisonous. But this understanding we do not have now. We use detergents because soap costs more. It seems alright now—we are being thrifty but remember; whatever we do, is interrelated. The slightest modification causes a great deal of difference.
Lao Tzu was against change of any kind. He used to say: “Accept life as it is. Accept the opposite also, for there is a secret to it also. Embrace death when it comes. It too has its secret. Do not fight with life; yield to it. Surrender to existence. Do not struggle with it.”
Abridged from The Way of Tao by Osho