The Cup

The Cup
-Swami Vivekananda

This is your cup -- the cup assigned
to you from the beginning.
Nay, My child, I know how much
of that dark drink is your own brew
Of fault and passion, ages long ago,
In the deep years of yesterday, I know.

This is your road -- a painful road and drear.
I made the stones that never give you rest.
I set your friend in pleasant ways and clear,
And he shall come like you, unto My breast.
But you, My child, must travel here.

This is your task. It has no joy nor grace,
But it is not meant for any other hand,
And in My universe hath measured place,
Take it. I do not bid you understand.
I bid you close your eyes to see My face.

6 years have passed since I read "The Cup" in one of my high school literature courses,and this poem still remains my favorite.

Savouring Taoism..with a personal flavour

Google,for all its brand value,does come up with some pretty fucked-up search results en route.Doing a google search on the pliability criterion of a metal today,I accidentally stumbled on to the ancient chinese philosophies of Taoism.Now,I had read about the Zen saints and Lao-Tzu in some Osho books of Dad,but had never been interested enough.Tinkering with the link however i was immediately hooked up,and an hour later when i finshed,I was glad.

"Dark have been my dreams of late"(I have been reading the Lord of the Rings,again!).Perhaps not so much pained,but yeah, i was pretty worked up on some issues that continued to haunt me in my societal behavior,day to day traits et al.Hostel life just seemed to accentuate this,when you suddenly feel alone and responsible for your acts,even after being surrounded by plenty of people and some very very special friends to lend in a hand now and then.Posts like this and this were written in moments like these,and it felt slightly ironical that the same situations found a more elegant expression in the words of an obscure Chinese saint of ages ago.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, or “Great Way,” more than 2,500 years ago.Browsing the 81 verses that constitute the Tao one cannot help but notice two things-the power of rationality behind them,and the beauty that lies in their simplicity.In the following lines I have tried to collect some verses which seemed to find a personal niche within.

Strength and flexibility.People often confuse pliability with weakness... and firmness with strength, when exactly the opposite is true. A dead, brittle, unbending tree is most likely to crack -- just as our firmest, most unbending beliefs are most likely to be flawed.When we are sure that we are right, we do not bother to consider the alternatives.It is not necessary that we always judge things correctly.Sometimes a pinch of perspective does help.Lao-tzu used plants as an analogy for this in the 76th verse of the Tao Te Ching: “All things, including the grass and trees, are soft and pliable in life, dry and brittle in death... A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind.”

Leading by not leading. We invariably face resistance when we try to tell others what to do. Lao-tzu believed that the best leaders do not give orders at all. In the 17th verse of the Tao, he wrote, “With the greatest leader above them, people barely know one exists... The great leader speaks little... When all is finished, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ ”Let others choose to do things the “right” way. Try saying, “I know that you know the right thing to do,” rather than lecturing those around you about the way things ought to be done. Chances are, people do know what to do. Show faith in their ability to make the right decisions, and they usually will make them. The ultimate goal of a leader is to make leadership unnecessary.

The nature of water.Lao-tzu says in the 78th verse of the Tao Te Ching, “Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water. But for attacking the hard, the unyielding, nothing can surpass it.” When someone wrongs us or disappoints us, our initial response often is anger. Yet anger will only push this other person further away. Hang back when you’re about to show how hard you can be. Try using patience rather than attempting to take rigid control.

Inaction also works. Our natural inclination is to try to solve our problems and fight our adversaries. A calm response -- or even no response at all -- often is the better choice. Lao-tzu wrote in the 26th verse of the Tao Te Ching, “The still is the master of unrest. Realizing this, the successful person is poised and centered in the midst of all activities... To be restless is to lose one’s self-mastery.”Not every problem is solved instantaneously.Sometimes we must sit back, allow the cyclical nature of the world to occur, and trust that built into every problem is an end to the problem.It is surprising how remaining patient in the face of your greatest challenges,most often problems solve themselves. And even when they do not, a silent and steady observation is more likely than a panicked, impulsive reaction to lead you to the proper solution.

As I scribbled earlier,the sheer force of rationality and its impelling simplicity is what makes Taoism so much popular and relevant even in modern times.It is difficult to imagine that a country of such ruthless dictators gave the world something as sorted out as this many,many years ago.

Yo China!