Many of the scholars who have written about the Tao Te Ching over the centuries consider this 25th verse to be one of the most significant lessons in the entire manuscript. In my research, all the translations of this passage actually include the word great to describe it.

This verse tells the story that even before the beginning there existed "something formless and perfect." It goes on to say that this formless perfection is the "Mother of the universe." Even though it's nameless, it's called the "Tao," and it's synonymous with what is great. That is, there's nothing within the Tao that is the opposite of great—there's nothing that's puny, insignificant, weak, unimportant, or even average.

The story appears to want the reader to realize there's a pure, timeless energy that's within everything on the planet and that remains uncontaminated by the solid appearance of form. The conclusion is a directive to the student, who is you, the reader. To know this formless perfection, you must "understand the great within yourself." You're the central character in this wonderful saga!

Since you're animated by the eternal Tao, this tale's message of greatness invites you to change the way you live and to see the life you're living change. You can begin to do so by examining thoughts and ideas that are inconsistent with this phenomenal observation made by Lao-tzu, which has been echoed by others throughout history. In her book The Journey, which was published in 1954, Lillian Smith describes it like this:

  • The need that one feels every day of one's life, even though one does not acknowledge it. To be related to something bigger than one's self, something more alive than one's self, something older and something not yet born, that will endure through time.

That enduring "something" confirms your greatness, your absolute connection to the infinite. There's a sense of being permanently aligned with a sort of senior partner that is greatness itself.

Lao-tzu advises you to notice the planet, its people, and the heavens and see greatness. Next, look at yourself and see that you're a component of them all. That is, befriend what appears to be the great mystery of creation by discovering the greatness within you, then bask in the joy of noting the greatness you share with heaven, Earth, and all of its people. By persistently hanging on to your own "greatness heritage," you ensure that the always-present Tao is consciously available. From a perspective of greatness, only greatness can emerge from you; from an inner perspective of inferiority, you only attract events that align with those beliefs.

Your greatness won't be found in a classroom; an apprenticeship; a teacher; or flattering comments from well-meaning family members, friends, or lovers. It is within you. It's crucial for you to become conscious of the greatness that constantly flows through you—to do so, meet it in meditative moments of gratitude, and cease to be influenced by contrary points of view.

In particular, watch and listen for the critical comments that originate from your own inner dialogue. When such thoughts emerge in your mind, let them tell you what they want. If you allow those not-so-great notions to speak, you'll always discover that what they really want is to feel good. Give them the time they need to trust that there's no payoff for their existence, and they will happily merge into the greatness within you. Accessing this quality allows you to participate in the greater whole, where the power of the Tao flows unimpeded by fearful self-judgment. Change the way you live by tapping into this greatness, and the life you're living will literally change.
Excerpted from Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (Hay House 2007)


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