We are in Kas, Southwestern Turkey, an area known as Anatolia. We plan to walk on the Lycian Way, a hiking trail.
Lao tsu writes about “being one with the Tao.” The word “Tao” means “way.” It is the path toward understanding reality, something that cannot be grasped but experienced. Although this seems abstract, it can be practiced. Come! I’ll show you.
We listen to the Muslim call to prayer five times a day. It is broadcast over a public address system. One line is: “Come to salvation. Come to salvation.”
I’m not advocating any particular religion but I suggest listening to what goes on. These calls to prayer are good reminders. Prayer means paying attention to your inner world, the unseen world, a world that includes both life and death, and being one with this world.
We visit the ancient Roman theatre, built in the first century BC. It is a reminder to watch what is happening. Watch, listen, use all the senses, even the sixth sense.
There are ancient Lycian tombs in and around Kas. Some are very close to where we are staying. The Lycians created a kind of democracy where each village sent representatives. They also left many tombs dating back to the fourth century BC.
The “King’s tomb” is within the town of Kas and has carvings of lion heads on its sides. People say it has a special peaceful quality and old people sometimes gather here. Is there a peaceful place where you live? Could you establish a special place for meditation?
Another 4th century BC tomb is in the hillside, not far from where we are staying. All the Lycian tombs have been plundered, but being around a tomb can grant a kind of inner power/knowledge. There is an inner reality within you that connects the living and the dead.
I will take you for a walk toward Limanagzi so that you can see the countryside and ponder walking meditation.
First, we walk to a tomb above the city. What would life have been like in this place during the fourth century BC? Do spirits live in this place?
We walk toward Limanagzi on the Lycian Way. We walk in silence for a long time. Walking meditation involves breathing in and out in time with your steps. You can practice a mantra, if you wish.
I ask Karen about the book she is reading. The title is “Birds Without Wings” by Louis de Bernieres. In the book, two boys, a Christian and Muslim, are best friends who are attracted to two girls, a Muslim and Christian, who are also best friends.
“What happens next?” I ask Karen.
“One of the girls is extremely beautiful and the other is very ugly but the girls don’t think about that. Each boy is so attracted to his respective girl that they don’t think about it either but, as the girls become mature, some women in town became alarmed because the beautiful girl’s appearance is disrupting everyday life. Men are not paying attention to what they are doing. Whenever the girl passes, they stop and stare and there is concern that someone working on a roof will fall and be injured. The women bring this concern to the imam, the Muslim cleric.”
We come to a tomb, far away from anywhere. Someone had been here — can you touch the place inside yourself, where life meets death?
“What advice does the cleric give?” I ask.
We start walking back toward Kas.
“He ponders the situation and remembers an old, old story about a time when the village captured some Circassian women and brought them home as wives. The Circassians were extremely beautiful and the village women complained. As a solution, the Circassians were required to wear veils. When the local women saw this, they also began wearing veils, bringing harmony and tranquility.”
“The imam devised a parallel solution. He went to the beautiful girl’s parents and suggested that she wear a veil. ‘We are Christians,’ the parents explained. ‘Veils don’t fit with our culture.”Think about the problem,” the cleric suggested. ‘This is a special situation.’ The parents, seeking harmony, told their daughter to wear a veil, which vexed and puzzled her.”
“She discussed the problem with the mistress of a village official. The woman designed a strikingly beautiful gauze veil with a headband of golden coins. The veil concealed the girl’s face, to a degree, but it aroused an even higher level of masculine interest. The men knew she was beautiful but were forced to use their imagination.”
“Then what happened?” I asked.
“Ultimately, the parents and cleric agreed that the girl should no longer wear the veil. It caused too many problems.”
Men and women are inherently different. The Tao, the inner way, provides a path toward resolution of this dilemma. By stilling the mind, you can see reality more clearly. Meditation brings insight. This is what it means to be one with the Tao.
What about the two boys?” I asked. “What happened to them?”
“Some soldiers came to the town and said that there was a Holy War. That meant that men were required to join the army. The mother of the Muslim boy was overwhelmed with anguish at the thought of her husband’s departure. She could not support the family by herself. ‘You must eat dust,’ someone explained to her.”
“The 15 year-old boy secretly arranged it so that he would take the place of his father. When his best friend heard about this, he volunteered to go also but they explained to him that he could not fight in the Holy War because he was a Christian. So the Muslim boy went with the soldiers to Gallipoli to fight in the war.”
“Months later, he sent a beautiful letter to his mother and everyone in the village cried because the letter was so beautiful.”
I provide a parallel example, a post card from an Australian soldier on the other side of this conflict:
“What became of the 15 year-old Muslim boy” I asked.
“He became a sharp shooter because his eyesight was so good,” Karen said. “But the enemy trenches were very close and he could see the enemy very clearly. He saw British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers and even soldiers from India — which puzzled him because they wore turbans and looked like Muslims. He began to question the idea that he was taking part in a Holy War.”
The men in the trenches sometimes threw gifts, such as food, to each other. The British soldiers threw tins of meat, of which they had an abundance, and the Turkish soldiers threw packages, such as olives, of which they had plenty.
Once after a battle they declared a truce so that each side could remove its dead from “no man’s land.” This allowed the men from both sides to get close to each other and all perceived their mutual humanity.
The enemy soldiers were humans, just like themselves. The boy tried to avoid killing as much as possible.
Karen and I walk in silence until she says, “The boy began thinking that there could not be a God because if there were a God, He would not allow this war to occur.”
The story of the Muslim boy reveals a universal dilemma. If a God is all merciful and all powerful, why is there so much suffering? How can this paradox be resolved?
“I had that problem, also,” I said. “When I was a soldier in Vietnam, I could not see how a benevolent God could allow so much suffering. All explanations of this paradox seem to be rubbish. Those who think they explain this problem have not seen the suffering created by war.”
“What happened to the boy?” I asked Karen. “Did he get back to his childhood girlfriend?”
“He had post traumatic stress disorder. The story is a tragedy, not a comedy,” she said.
Eventually, I began meditating. I practiced letting go of my anger. The Tao is reality. God is one with the Tao.
The stories Karen tells reveal fundamental problems. The first step is to become aware of the problem. Then, while meditating, you can gently let the thought go and be one with the Tao. When the mind is still there is no male/female, Muslim/Christian, God/no-God — only breathing in and out.
There are all kinds of ways to meditate and it’s possible to do it as part of daily activity. By meditating, we move toward being one with the Tao.
I make chocolate chip cookies during the Muslim call to prayer.
What might you do to become one with the Tao?
Lao tsu writes (chapter 62):
“The Tao is the center of the universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Tao.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek, you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.”
Practice relaxing while watching the sunset.