Friday, April 16, 2010


DHS 156

Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength.
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of willpower.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be
eternally present.

Tao Te Ching
Lao Tsu

Here in the thirty-third chapter of his book, Lao Tsu makes it clear just what we can accomplish while traveling on the henro trail — whether that's in a pair of boots on the Shikoku Henro Trail, on a bike saddle on the US TransAm Henro Trail, on any number of other henro trails around the world.

All too often, because of the nature of our society, our culture, and our current philosophies, our daily lives are dominated with knowing and mastering others. Life is looked at as a zero sum game — if i am going to succeed, if i am going to get ahead, if i am going to lead a good life, then that means i have to do so at the expense of others. Most people won't admit they think that, maybe because they don't realize they do, but you can see it in debates currently raging in the US such as those on the topics of health care and financial reform.

A great many people oppose all kinds of reform, and they say it is because they oppose governmental intervention. I don't believe that, though. I believe these people fear that if more people are given access to health care then their health care options will be restricted or reduced in some, currently unknown, way. They fear financial reform because this will, in some currently unknown way, hinder their chance to hit the jack pot, to achieve the American Dream, to make it rich.

People think that in order to succeed you have to succeed at the expense of someone else; for you to move up, someone else can not. People believe that to have a "successful" life they need to know and master everybody else to ensure they come out on top. And this is why this country is in such bad shape. There no longer exists a culture that recognizes the benefits of knowing and mastering yourself and the rewards inherent in accomplishing these.

It takes a henro trail to give you the time and nourishment needed for any serious attempt to learn how to do this. This trail doesn't have to be in a pair of boots or on a bicycle, it can also be on a zafu in a quiet room in your house, or at a spiritual center, or at the beach. It just needs to be somewhere that feels nourishing, somewhere quiet so that your mind can settle down, somewhere unprovoking so that "you" can slip away and peace and understanding can come forth.

"Walking the henro trail" is synonymous with "knowing and mastering yourself." This walk requires long periods of quiet, long periods where you shut your mind off and stop talking to yourself. This walk requires countless hours of effort until the incessant internal dialogs are finally brought under control and you start to see those gaps between your thoughts, those silent beacons inviting you inside for a visit with your real self.

It takes strong will power and sometimes (almost) unbearable amounts of perseverance. At the start of the trip you will wonder what you have gotten yourself into. You will wonder how to get yourself out of it. But when you endure long enough, suddenly, you will get a glimpse of who you aren't. You will get a glimpse of that "you" standing completely naked, stripped bare of all the adjectives that it usually uses to clothe itself in attempts to define itself and to impress others. If you endure long enough you will not only get a glimpse of nothing but also understand why that glimpse brought tears to the corners of your eyes.

It is on the henro trail, any henro trail, where you learn that dying is a reason to rejoice. Where you learn that dying and then continuing to walk leads you directly to eternity. Where you learn that when you have enough to keep you alive on this walk you not only have all you need, you are unimaginably rich.

This is what the henro trail is, and Lao Tsu knew it well.


Moving Company Charlotte said...

"Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength"

This is just wonderful. It is a pleasure to find your Blog. I would definitely follow your upcoming posts and i hope there would so much to learn from you.

Lao Bendan said...

Thanks for the kind words, but don't think there is anything you can learn from me.

My blog is not an attempt to teach, but a public way to remind myself what is really important in life. If, at the same time, others find the same reminders useful, then that makes me happy, but that's not why i write.