The Tao that can be told is not the absolute Tao

The Tao that can be told is not the absolute Tao

For ninety years Lao Tzu lived – in fact he did nothing except live. He lived totally. Many times his disciples asked him to write, he would not write anything. Then what were the disciples doing with him? They were only 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.

For ninety years he refused to write anything or to say anything. This was 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.

Lao Tzu lived in silence. He always avoided talking about the truth that he had attained and he always rejected the idea that he should write it down for the generations to come. At the age of ninety he took leave of his disciples. He said goodbye to them, and he said, ”Now I am moving towards the hills, towards the Himalayas. I am going there to get ready to die. It is good to live with people, it is good to be in the world while you are living, but when one is getting nearer to death it is good to move into total aloneness, so that you move towards the original source in your absolute purity and loneliness, uncontaminated by the world.”

The disciples felt very, very sad, but what could they do? They followed him for a few hundred miles, but by and by Lao Tzu persuaded them to go back. Then alone he was crossing the border, and the guard on the border imprisoned him. The guard was also a disciple. And the guard said: ”Unless you write a book, I am not going to allow you to move beyond the border. This much you must do for humanity. Write a book. That is the debt you have to pay, otherwise I won’t allow you to cross.” So for three days Lao Tzu was imprisoned by his own disciple.

It is beautiful. It is very loving. He was forced – and that’s how this small book, the book of Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, was born. He had to write it,  because the disciple wouldn’t allow him to cross. And he was the guard and he had the authority, he could create trouble, so Lao Tzu had to write the book. In three days he finished it. And, the first sentence of the book is:


THIS IS THE FIRST THING he has to say: that whatsoever can be said cannot be true. This is the introduction for the book. It simply makes you alert: now words will be following, don’t become a victim of the words. Remember the wordless. Remember that which cannot be communicated through language, through words. The Tao can be communicated, but it can only be communicated from being to being. It can be communicated when you are with the Master, just with the Master, doing nothing, not even practicing anything. Just being with the Master it can be communicated.

Why can’t the truth be said? What is the difficulty? The truth cannot be said for many reasons. The first and the most basic reason is: truth is always realized in silence. When your inner talk has stopped, then it is realized. And that which is realized in silence, how can you say it through sound? It is an experience. It is not a thought. If it was a thought it could be expressed, there would be no trouble in it.

But truth cannot be expressed because the very reaching to it is through silence, soundlessness, thoughtlessness. You reach to it through no-mind, the mind drops. And how can you use something which as a necessary condition has to drop before truth can be reached? Mind cannot understand, mind cannot realize, how can mind express? Remember it as a rule: if mind can attain, mind can express; if mind cannot attain to it, mind cannot express it. All language is futile. Truth cannot be expressed.

Then what have all the scriptures been doing? Then what is Lao Tzu doing? Then what are the Upanishads doing? They all try to say something which cannot be said in the hope that a desire may arise in you to know about it. Truth cannot be said but in the very effort of saying it a desire can arise in the hearer to know that which cannot be expressed. A thirst can be provoked. The thirst is there, it needs a little provocation.

For example, we can say something about light to a blind man knowing well that it is impossible to communicate anything about light because he has no experience of it. But something can be said about light – theories about light can be created. Even a blind man can become an expert about the theories of light; about the whole science of light he can become an expert – there is no problem in it – but he will not understand what light is. He will  nderstand what light consists of. He will understand the physics of light, the chemistry of light, he will understand the poetry of light, but he will not understand the facticity of light, what light is. The experience of light he will not understand. So all that is said to a blind man about light is only relative: it is something about light, not light itself. Light cannot be communicated.


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