Chapter 1: On the Absolute Tao
Let me first tell you the story of how these sutras came to be written, because that will help you to understand them. For ninety years Lao Tzu lived - in fact he did nothing except living. He lived totally. Many times his disciples asked him to write, but he would always say: The Tao that can be told is not the real Tao, the truth that can be told becomes untrue immediately. So he would not say anything, he would not write anything. Then what were the disciples doing with him? They were only being with him. That’s what satsang is - being with him. They lived with him, they moved with him, they simply imbibed his being. Being near him they tried to be open to him. Being near him they tried not to think about anything. Being near him they became more and more silent. In that silence he would reach them, he would come to them and he would knock at their doors.
For ninety years he refused to write anything or to say anything. This is his basic attitude: that truth cannot be taught. The moment you say something about truth, it is no more true, the very saying falsifies it. You cannot teach it. At the most you can indicate it. And that indication should be your very being, your whole life - it cannot be indicated by words. He was against words. He was against language.
It is said that he used to go for a morning walk every day, and a neighbor used to follow him. Knowing well that he didn’t want to talk, that he was a man of absolute silence, the neighbor always kept silent. Even a “hello” was not allowed, even to talk about the weather was not allowed. To say “How beautiful a morning!” would be too much chattering. Lao Tzu would go for a long walk, for miles, and the neighbor would follow him.
For years it went on, but once it happened that a guest was staying with the neighbor and he also wanted to come, so the neighbor brought him. He did not know Lao Tzu or his ways. He started feeling suffocated because his host was not talking, this Lao Tzu was not talking, and he couldn’t understand why they were so silent - and the silence became heavy on him.
If you don’t know how to be silent, it becomes heavy. It is not that by saying things you communicate - no. It is by saying things that you unburden yourself. In fact, through words communication is not possible; just the opposite is possible - you can avoid communication. You can talk, and you can create a screen of words around you so that your real situation cannot be known by others. You clothe yourself through words.
That man started feeling naked and suffocated and awkward; it was embarrassing. So he simply said, when the sun was rising, “What a beautiful sun. Look.! What a beautiful sun is born, is rising! What a beautiful morning!”
That’s all he said. But nobody responded because the neighbor, the host, knew that Lao Tzu wouldn’t like it. And of course Lao Tzu wouldn’t say anything, wouldn’t respond.
When they came back, Lao Tzu told the neighbor, “From tomorrow, don’t bring this man. He is a chatterbox.” And he had only said this much: “What a beautiful sun,” or “What a beautiful morning.” That much in a two or three-hour-long walk. But Lao Tzu said, “Don’t bring this chatterbox again with you. He talks too much, and talks uselessly - because I also have eyes, I can see that the sun is being born and it is beautiful. What is the need to say it?”