grim reaper


People do not fear death
How can they be threatened with death?
If people are made to constantly fear death
Then those who act unlawfully
I can capture and kill them
Who would dare?
There exists a master executioner that kills
If we substitute for the master executioner to kill
It is like substituting for the great carpenter to cut
Those who substitute for the great carpenter to cut
It is rare that they do not hurt their own hands

Chapter 74, Tao Te Ching

In any given moment, we plant the seeds of our destiny. Inner intentions drive the choices you make, so it is important to be aware of these moments. By reflecting on your past, you can gain insight into how you arrived in this now.

The simplest perspective of Karma is to view it as a law of cause and effect where the actions that you take will have a result. The two most important perspectives for cause and effect are the spiritual view and the physics theory. In Taoism and Buddhism, it is a spiritual principle. In Taoism, it is both spiritual and philosophical.

The name they both have for it is Karma. In Physics, causality is the relationship between cause and effect. Results are always preceded by an action that produced it. In Taoism, both play a significant role in understanding how the Tao is the spiritual and physical realm. An even simpler way to put it is common saying of “what comes around goes around.” Alternatively, you may have heard “what you put out into the world comes back to you stronger or bigger.”

Choice and Destiny.

“If you want to know your past,

look at your present conditions.

If you want to know your future,

look at your actions today.”

Chinese Proverb- Unknown


Choosing is an action, and the result or effect is destiny. In any given moment, you plant the seeds of your future. Inner intentions drive the choices you make, so it is important to be aware of these moments. By reflecting on your past, you can gain insight into the circumstances you realize in the present. These conditions whether right or bad is the result of earlier choice. The results may have been created by choices that you made earlier, or they may be the result of someone else’s choice. So you can see how important the action of choosing is. Not only it is guaranteed to affect your future, but it may and often does influence the future of others.

It is essential that you understand the following points:

  • The Tao (karma) does not play favorites
  • No one can escape its influence or the destiny they create
  • Seeds are planted to grow a garden.
  • What you plant now is what you will reap later. (the garden is a metaphor for your life.)
  • Choices create destiny. What you choose now creates the circumstances of your future (or someone else).The results maybe sooner or later

All of this is karma.

A crucial insight is to realize and accept your responsibility for the circumstances of your life right now. In some ways, it does not matter if the current situation is a result of your choice or caused by something or someone else. Right here, right now you are experiencing the results.

Things happen to us, expected and unexpected, self-caused or not. Be aware of how you react to the things you experience, whether you caused them or not. When something happens, it is typical to react. This reaction becomes a choice with a future result. So even if you did not cause you this problem, be mindful of how your response will create even more karma results. If you did make a bad choice, be careful to understand what went wrong and not repeat the results.

The choices you make while reacting will create your future circumstances. Since you cannot always prevent the unexpected from happening, you must expect the unexpected, accept that it is a part of life, and learn to take the next step or the next choice, very carefully.

How Do You Do This?

So, instead of automatically reacting when something happens, you can in a moment of self-awareness, consider what the wise choice should be. Being able to stop and think what the smart choice may require a degree of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something you cultivate as an extension of meditation.1

Now that you are present and mindful of choice, how do you know what to choose? That is where the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching (the way of virtue) can play a decisive role. Free of automatically reacting, you can let the wise insights and strategies of the Tao Te Ching guide you. Good intentions are not enough.

You must consult experience and wisdom to know what the right action is. It can be the wisdom of the Tao, and it can be your wisdom cultivator over a lifetime of experience. You may have heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Be patient and make a wise choice for the action that seems best.

Try to consider this three step process:

  1. Be mindful of reaction.
    • Be patient and don’t automatically react.
    • Stop and look at what is going on in your
    • Ask if an immediate response is even necessary.
  1. What is your immediate reaction?
  • What is the deeper intention?
  • Are you blaming someone or something else?
  • Can you take ownership of your bad choices in the past?
  • What are you doing and why are you doing it?
  • What will the outcome be?
  • What seeds am I planting?
  • Is Ego at work?
  • Is this virtuous?
  • What might be the cause and effect of my actions?
  1. Let wisdom guide you.
  • What outcome would be best for everyone?
  • What are some virtuous-choices?
  • What would your spiritual teacher or role model tell you to do?
  1. Consider the wisdom of the Tao. What are some Tao strategies that are relevant?
  • Consider your wisdom from what you have learned from your

Change. Look at the complementary relationship between change and cause and effect. Change is inevitable, but how you react is a matter of choice. Choice creates your destiny. As the Tao cultivator, be consciously aware of these two laws of change (impermanence) and karma (cause and effect). Pay attention to your choices as if your life depended on it.

How Sovereignty Helps With Karma

Cultivating Sovereignty is learning to rule your inner kingdom so that when you experience problems or obstacles, you will act wisely. The wise ruler can be aware of the inevitable changes that each day brings. Rather than resist this reality of impermanence, the sovereign cultivator integrates with the corresponding relationship change, creation, and karma. Sovereignty will allow you to unify with the Tao and navigate your life through wise choices. In this way, you create your true destiny.

In ancient times Karma was referred to as “The Great Executioner.” It is a good idea to have a healthy respect for karma; Inevitably you will reap what you sow. Are you familiar with the saying “what goes around comes around”? What you send out, the actions you take will work

its way back around gaining strength. When it fulfills its cycle and arrives back, it will be bigger. So it is with great care that you create the moments of your life. This Tao principle in unavoidable, inescapable and guaranteed. This convergence of karma with the present moment can be catastrophic; hence the saying “the great executioner.” Like nature, the Tao does not play favorites. No one escapes the effect of karma. When and where the convergence happens is unknown and unpredictable. It may return very soon, or it may not catch up to you until another life time. You can run, but you cannot hide.

As you read this, in this now, is the moment of truth where you take control of your life. At this moment you have a choice. Will you choose to continue as a victim of your distracted ego choices? Are will decide to become the sovereign? This decision is the one where you will most certainly begin to create your destiny consciously.

Take charge of your mind by practicing meditation. As you wake up and become self-aware, you can mindfully take part in your destiny through wise choices. There will always be changes in life. Many you will not see coming. You will be the victim of someone else’ poor choice. You will make mistakes. However, the more you practice, the more your skill will improve. With practice and cultivation, you will get better and better. People will notice and ask you how you were able to change for the better. Be the sovereign and let the wisdom of the Tao be your compass as you navigate your life path and you will stay true to your true self.


Mystic Virtue

Right now the title of the next book is probably going to be Sovereignty – The Mother Principle of Power. Section One of the book will be a study of important Tao principles such as Karma, Emptiness, Wu Wei et al. One of the important virtues will be about the principle of Mystic Virtue which in itself is a study of inherent power. Section Two of the book will be a study of virtue and their inherent powers. In chapter 64, Lao Tzu says of Mystic Virtue, “it is so profound, so far reaching”. To understand why virtue is so powerful, one must realize the insights in Mystic Virtue. This is definitely a game changer on the path to Sovereignty.

<from the rough manuscript>

A Study Of Mystic Virtue


Mystic Virtue is so profound, so far-reaching

It goes opposite to material things

Then it reaches great congruence

Excerpt (v13,14,15) from Chapter 65, Tao Te Ching

Why is cultivating and knowing mystic virtue so important? Its power is realized when it reached great congruence. Masters and Sages who have integrated this aspect of Sovereignty are sought out because of their great wisdom and success at life. Their powers are mysterious and profound. They accomplish great things effortlessly and with joy. Because of this mysterious ability, people seek them out for guidance. They are loved and cherished.

There are two main aspects of Mystic Virtue to study. The “Inherent Power” of virtue, and the right choice of “The Two Standards.”

Inherent Power.

A study of mystic virtue is one of cultivating a mysterious and unusual power. But this power is not what you might think. Tao masters and sages attain a different kind of power. Think of someone in your society that you think of as powerful. Consider what kind of power or powers they wield. Examples might be the Mayor of your city or town. Or perhaps it is your Commanding Officer, your professor or your boss. Maybe you are thinking about a powerful Bull or some type of powerful beast. Perhaps you are even considering a shaman who can conjure the wind and rain. While these are all examples of power the power I am talking about is altogether different. It is something called inherent power.

An observation of inherent power reveals that it is hiding in plain sight. You have used it or have been witness to it at various times but maybe never viewed it as significant. What I speak of is a virtuous power. Virtue has two meanings. The obvious one is the one we know as being a high moral standard or action. The other one is as an inherent power.

Consider this example:

by virtue of her patience and self-discipline, she was able to lose 100 pounds.”


by virtue of his reputation of honesty, he was able to gain the trust of the staff.”

Change the phrase “by virtue of” to “because of” and you will gain the insight of inherent power. This is the inherent power of virtue. Masters and sages merge with this power so skillfully that they make the hardest tasks or goals seem easy. They can share insights that bring clarity to murkiness. There is definitely a level of mystique in how they always seem to know and see clearly and so it gained the the description of “mystic“ (mysterious) . Thus it became known as “mystic virtue”.

The Two Standards.

The essence of mystic virtue is to be mindful of the two standards (virtue vs ego) and to take the right action. The inherent power is demonstrated when you are aware of ego intentions but hold to the way of virtue. In every moment you have a choice between spirit and ego intentions. To know both standards but to hold to virtue is called mystic virtue.

Three chapters in the Tao Te Ching show us how to cultivate and attain this mysterious power. They are chapters 10, 51, and 65. These three chapters hold far more that can be discussed in one chapter. So here is an overview of what is required and how to cultivate. They show the two standards of realizing the two standards and taking the right action (choice). As you go through each of these chapters below, look for the two standards and understanding how Lao Tzu is encouraging you to choose the way of mystic virtue.

Chapter 10 addresses the mindset for cultivating and implementing mystic virtue. The two standards are

  • self-awareness vs distraction
  • true-self vs ego.

You cannot choose the right action (virtue) without self-aware and mindful of ego influences.

Chapter 51 describes how the Tao and naturally follows mystic virtue with right action.

  • “Produces without possession”
  • “Acts without flaunting”
  • “Nurtures without domination”

The Tao naturally produces (creates) with possessing. Living creatures are free to take from nature all of what they need. Nature, having no ego, acts without showing off. It nurtures (sustains us) without any need to control or dominate.

Chapter 65 instructs us on using mystic virtue in interpersonal relationships and governing our lives (Sovereignty).

  • Simplicity vs cleverness

Using complexity and cleverness to manage your life and the people in it goes against nature. Most reasonable people will always listen to or follow those who speak and act simply and honestly. Using trickery, complexity to dominate or control others will always lead to a bad end.

Here is a consolidated list compiled from the 3 chapters:

  • Be steadfast without straying (self-aware/mindful)
  • Be without imperfections (seeing reality as it is)
  • Concentrate the energy and reach relaxation like an infant (relaxed and free of stress)
  • Be without imperfections in your perspective (detached observation)

  • Be without manipulation in your personal interactions (the feminine principle)

  • Create without possession (free of attachment to outcome and personal gain)
  • Achieve without arrogance (humility)
  • Raise without domination (help or assist with expectation or compensation)
  • Produces but possess (give freely)
  • Act but not flaunt (action with ego vanity)
  • Nurture but not dominate (holding to the feminine principles)
  • Simplicity rather than cleverness in dealing with people (honesty, simple)
  • Know the ego way but choosing the Tao (the way). Right action

Look for the inherent power in choosing the right standard. In the list above, put the phrase “by virtue of being …” in front of each line. Consider what the mystic power will produce.

Example: By virtue of being steadfast without straying I was able to ….

If you are a leader, think of your subjects. If you are a parent, think of your children. If you are a boss, think of your subordinates. Be the sovereign in both the inner and outer world. Be mindful of the two standards and choose the action; the way of mystic virtue. If you do this with consistency, you will cultivate a great inherent power. This is the way of the sovereign, at one with the Tao.



Wu Wei

Wu Wei and Goals

No matter what it is you do, there is always a way to do it that is effective, effortless, and enjoyable at the deepest level. This is the true meaning of Wu Wei.” – Derek Lin1

Another important principle of Sovereignty is Wu Wei.

Typically, the term “wu wei” is translated as non-doing. However, to think that it means to do nothing is to over simplify the concept and miss the inherent power of unattached action. There are several chapters devoted to wu wei and each has a unique and important perspective.

If you spend enough time with Tao studies, you will at some point here the term “accomplish more by doing less”. This chapter illuminates the principles of Wu Wei and the ego traits to corrupt sovereignty.

Unattached Action

The softest things of the world

Override the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance

Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions

The teachings without words

The benefits of actions without attachment

Are rarely matched in the world.

Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching

The foundation of Wu Wei is unattached action. This foundation principle involves several components. In chapter 43, Lao Tzu explains how softness overcomes hardness. In the physical world, water is soft to the touch but will wear away stone over time. Water penetrates stone and weakens it. This process will eventually change rock and stone to sand. The most obvious example of this can be seen by looking at the Grand Canyon. Also when you walk along a beach you can feel the soft sand that was once solid hard rock. Following the Tao is following nature. In nature water does not have an agenda to wear away the rock, it is not attached to the outcome of creating sand, it just does what it does effortlessly. So another principle of wu wei is to not get caught up in the ego’s attachment to outcome.

Attachment To Outcome

The principle of detached action is another way of looking at how water wears down hard rock. Water is just water and has no attachment to outcome. The sages have instructed us to be like the Tao, so in this case, we are asked to be like water. When you can be mindful of attachment you choose an action that is not dependent on a specific outcome. This important principle forms the bedrock for “giving without expectation, producing without possessing, and nurtures without domination”2. Water does not benefit the world with the expectation of a reward, and neither should we. The ego always takes an action with the expectation of some benefit to itself. This principle of unattached action is important in developing good relationships. You cannot build trust if you are only doing something if you are only concerned with what s in it for me. This type of exploitation will have a karmic reward that you will not enjoy.


Another way of defining wu wei is action without striving. Attachment to outcome sets up the ego state of striving. Striving is defined as making a struggle, to make a vigorous exertion, to achieve or obtain something. Other features to note is that striving creates friction and uses a lot of energy it is working against the flow, to experience resistance, to stubbornly pursue something.

Without going out the door, know the world

Without peering out the window, see the Heavenly Tao

The further one goes

The less one knows

Therefore the sage

knows without going

Names without seeing

Achieves without striving.

Chapter 47, Tao Te Ching

Striving is the action of ego. It’s like swimming upstream, racing against the wind, or pushing against an unmovable object. Even if eventually you realize achievement, the effort will be too costly.

Accomplishing more by doing less.

The Tao is constant in non-action

Yet there is nothing it does not do.

If the sovereign can hold on to this

All things transform themselves

Transformed, yet wishing to achieve

I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless

They shall be without desire

Without desire, using stillness

The world shall steady itself.

Chapter 37, Tao Te Ching

Opposite to striving is an effortless achievement. Like water effortlessly creating the grand-canyon or the beautiful beach, you too can reach your goals by going with the flow of the Tao.

Effortless achievement involves simplicity. When you remove the ego influenced from your perspective, simplicity is the way. Simplicity and effortlessness complement each other. The ego can get caught up in all sorts of crazy expectations driven by desire. Cleverness and complexity are a couple of common traps that make goal achievement much harder.

Controlling the ego is controlling desire. Desire can be a material gain or it can be a form of vanity. Through the stillness of the meditative mind, you can get to the root of desire that causes striving and realizes achievement in a way that is with minimum effort and without striving.

To apply Wu Wei as a living strategy requires being skilled in detached observation. In this state, you can be mindful and pay attention your actions in the present moment. You can call it a situational awareness. Become aware of a strong momentum that you may have as you strive to complete some ego driven outcome. The ego trying as hard as it can to get what it wants is moving against the flow. Where in Wu Wei you have the presence of mind to be detached from that desire driven outcome. Let simplicity and virtue guide you. Like water, you softly patiently penetrate that striving pursuit and listen to your own wisdom. When you can accomplish this, effortless accomplishment will be a very powerful tool.

Wu Wei is more than just a concept, it is a state of being. It is a state of being unified with the Tao

Because Tao is the total spontaneity of all things,

so it can do everything by doing nothing.

Fung Yu-Lan3

The Tao spontaneously creates without effort and without agenda. Cultivating Wu Wei has to become a way of life. This state of being is a kind of connected-consciousness. Maybe you have seen the phenomena but not recognized it for what it is. Some popular descriptions might be “in the zone” or “in the flow”. As are all things in Tao cultivation, meditation and mindfulness are how to develop the skill in being present and mindful of striving and attachment to outcome. Being self-aware, the sovereign can control the ego-choice to fixate on the outcome. Your life wisdom is apparent, but you must have the discipline and willpower to choose it. Of course, it takes a lot of practice, but the opportunity to work on your “self “happens in every moment of awareness.

1From the Tao of Happiness, Derek Lin

2See Chapter 51 Tao Te Ching; (mystic virtue).

3Fung Yu-Lan 1895-1990; was a Chinese philosopher, author of Chuang-Tzu, a translation and interpretation of Chuang- Tzu’s writings.