Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.
Why do the people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take death lightly.
Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.
 Lau has '... are too fond of action', the Ma wang tui text , '... have their reasons for acting'.
 Lau has 'It is because the people set too much store by life...', the Ma wang tui text, '... because they so avidly seek after life...'
 Lau has 'It is just because one has no use for life that one is wiser than the man who values life', the Ma wang tui text, 'Only those who do not act for the purpose of living — Only this is worth more than valuing life'.
Wang Pi says:
In other words, the reason the common folk indulge in deviant behaviour and the reason government ends in chaos always stem from the ruler and not from the subjects. The common folk model themselves on the ruler.
Professor Cheng's commentary says: The people starve because they are taxed too heavily. They are unruly because those above them have become selfish. The people take death lightly because of the stress on urgently seeking life. Conversely, if those above were to practice non–action, they would allow the people to live naturally and would thus be worthy examples of valuing life.
We come back here to the idea that what arises as our universe depends on how we are reading. Those who read life as a disaster get disaster; those who read it as adventure get adventure. Those who see it as an ever unfolding miracle get an ever unfolding miracle. Not that anything changes in what happens — The change is in the point of view.
Thoughts arise, take on form and then disappear. If one clings to them, one is tossed right and left, if one pushes them down, they surge up again somewhere else, and yet — if one simply lets them be — they come... they go... Some are interesting, some important, even, but it doesn't really matter... They are just thoughts, just experiences... fleeting... And ever–changing...
The thoughts model themselves around the reading.
We seem, on the one hand, to be forced to follow the world as dictated by external influences. If, on the other, though, we were simply to follow our own natural bents, borrowing for a while what we needed from life but leaving the rest, understanding that what we have borrowed we will have to return, preferably in better, but at least in as good a condition as it was when first we borrowed it, living lightly, thinking lightly, how different things would be. If, to this, we could add an attitude of ever–expanding kindliness and a recognition that the suffering of even one being is the suffering of all, surely the world would turn in its tracks.
We are driven to seek life, but life is what is here before our eyes, before our feet. There is nothing to seek. What we are pushing ourselves for is excitement, stimulation, change, and so we miss the subtle movements. An image used in tantric sexual terminology is the idea of 'static bliss' — a pre–ordained 'state' that will be the optimum of pleasure. In search of this orgasmic state, punch drunk with the idea of explosion, we miss all the tiny and subtle pleasures that are leading to — and from — it, the candle–lit dinners, the flowers, the taste of the wine... We are careless of life — convinced it's happening somewhere else than here and now.
And we are careless of death. Death (since one seems never to have died oneself) is something that only happens to others... We don't really stop to think about what it might be or how we will avoid regret when it comes to us — who knows, — in the next instant. We don't stop to think that all that separates us from death is that one heart beat, that one breath — that our lives are as fragile as a bubble.
Our minds have become unruly, dragging us round from pillar to post.
This is not a particularly 'modern' or 'occidental' disease: I believe it has always been the case. Otherwise why would beings such as Grandfather Lao have bothered to comment on it?
We get lost. The point is: we are lost only in our imagination — literally... Wrapped in the dreams and nightmares of our own read–out of what we are experiencing.
It's time now to come home.