Using the Tao to understand happiness

By Robert McGowan

A few days ago I watched a television program called “What Is Happiness.”

Robert McGowan

Robert McGowan

I wish they would have answered the question for me. However, not unexpectedly, they didn’t or couldn’t.

The program, a hodgepodge of inconsistencies and expanded trivialities, did motivate me to look again into a couple of books that are relevant to the television subject.

One of the books is “Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.” The book was written in 2007 by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.

The other book, “365 Tao Daily Meditations,” was written in 1992 by Ming-Dao Deng.

We of course know there are many other books that explain happiness to us and detail how to achieve it.

Just imagine, 500 years before the birth of Jesus a man in ancient China dictated 81 verses, now called Tao Te Ching, or the Great Way. These verses offer advice and guidance, concerned with working for the good.

Dyer, in his book, devotes short comments to each of these 81 verses. Both books are interesting and superior to the mentioned television programs on happiness.

Now, here are a few comments from these two books on the Tao. There are, of course, many other books on the Tao of things.

“In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. Stand by your word. Govern with equity. Be timely in choosing the right moment. One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things. He moves in harmony with the present moment, always knowing of just what to do.”

I usually don’t quote long passages, but I think that you understand that, being an ecologist, I would consider these words of the Tao to be beautiful. And they were written 500 years before the birth of Jesus.

The television program I mentioned in the first paragraph could have been quoted from the Tao and saved a lot of energy, time and money.

And, of course, it would be natural for a former ecology professor to quote these words. Don’t you agree?

Dyer closes his book with these words:

“As you close this book, it is my wish that you, too, will be able to apply this great wisdom of the Tao so that you can, even in the most difficult of times, change your thoughts and enjoy changing your life as well.

I may not be a Tao master, but I am a man of the Tao. However, these words of the Tao Te Ching came to be written and to endure for over 25 centuries. I’m honored to have been called to help clarify them for you. I am at peace. Thank you Lao-tzu.”

Robert McGowan is a Bartlett resident and former professor of biology at The University of Memphis.

Editor's note: To sample the Tao, click here see multiple English translations online.