Tao by Matsumoto

Taoism videos / Chapter 56 A.

Nikko’s three monkeys


<POINT>This intriguing chapter is fairly technical, and its teaching is not too difficult to apply in your daily life.

One who knows does not say.

One who says does not know.

As for this, we don't need any explanation.

This golden rule is true of any noisy minority and silent majority.

Noisy ones often get what they want, but you never know it's good for them.

These first two sentences are an uncomfortable declaration of Lao Tzu's own contradiction.

If he knows Tao well, he dare not try to explain it by words. Tao cannot be described with them.

It is something you experience personally, become aware of, and live through.

But what can we say? Are we better off without Tao Te Ching?

Why don't we consider that this elusive text is a manual of life.

Compared to the manual for a latest mobile phone, it is not so badly written.

Block the openings. Close the gate.

"The openings" are the holes where your precise energy leaks. (In other words, you increase resistance.)

When you are nervous or frustrated, your energy evades.

It's because you are not able to accept the present state.

Some say that the eyes are the windows of your mind.

Surely, windows are openings where information comes in and goes out.

Is information coming into you through your eyes indispensable?

Well, yes, but not all the time.

If we need the external information constantly, why have many species developed eyelids in the course of evolution (if evolution has existed, of course), and why do we need to sleep?

What does "external" mean any way?

The so-called "outside" is one part of your hologram projected by you as a form of the manifestation of the fundamental energy.

It is important because it is a catalyst to make you emit the energy.

Having said that, it is still an illusion, and it is no use being overwhelmed by it.

That's why we close our eyelids to take a short break from a dominating catalyst and fall asleep to take a longer break.

Shut your eyes, and, in the darkness, you will be a step closer to yourself.

Other disturbing openings are evidently ears.

While visual information is more immediate and quotidian, audible information is more abstract and intellectual.

«"Block" your ears» means «abandon all you have learned at school».

If they don't respect intellectuals, people will stay away from contention. (☞See Chapter 3 Do nothing)

Lao Tzu shows his disrespect to intellectual analyses.

When you study, you accumulate your knowledge every day.

When you do Tao, you reduce everything every day. (☞See Chapter 48 Reduce and reduce)

He thinks that knowledge is a kind of dregs, which has to be got rid of.

In the age of quantum physics and relativity, if you believe only Aristotelian and Newtonian theories, you are extremely limited.

If you are stuck in science, how can you go in the realm that it cannot explain?

Would you like to say, "Things that science cannot explain are not supposed to exist."?

Isn't it a bit like saying, "The earth is flat." or "The sun goes around the earth."?

Lao Tzu is quite wise to ponder that so-called intellect is just a hindrance.

An intellectual contention is like ripples on the surface of the sea.

It provokes one's emotional reaction, but has nothing to do with something in the depth.

To listen to the wise «little voice» at the bottom of your guts, the ears should be kept stuffed.

Literally and metaphorically the biggest opening of all is your mouth.

Being a big mouth is the least preferable attitude when you do Tao.

The more you talk, the farther away you drift from your own true self, which is the synonym of Tao.

Why do we have to rely solely on verbal or conceptual communication?

Why do we have to convince others?

Although Lao Tzu makes fun of other intellectuals and thinkers contemporary to him, he never tries to convert you to his own philosophical camp.

If you believe in Tao, it will do the job of convincing others.

Or rather, we have to ask ourselves who we convince. Who are "others"?

"Others" do not exist in the world of Tao.

The moment you think about something, your idea is distributed to others.

Or, more like, your idea itself is induced by other beings.

In either case, there's no need to cry out your opinion.

You create non-you (=others). Non-you (=others) defines you. You and non-you are the same. (☞See Chapter 3 You and non-you)

Now let's stop wasting our time in making ourselves heard.

If you buy packaged holidays to Japan, it is highly likely that you will visit Nikko, which is less than 100 kilo meters (60 miles) for the north of Tokyo.

Toshogu shrine there is well-known for its three monkeys.

They are Mi-zaru (Don't see), Kika-zaru (Don't hear), and Iwa-zaru (Don't say).

The word "zaru" means "don't" in old Japanese and puns with "saru (=monkey)" after the combination if the two words changes the consonant "s" of "saru" to a "z".

The colourful woodwork was created by a master craftsman in the Edo period 江戸時代.

The three monkeys embody a typically Japanese attitude, "See no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil".

The masterpiece is very photogenic and often seen in a travel guide book to Japan.

Interestingly, the photo might be as misleading as some oriental philosophies.

Is it worth spending a day in Nikko to see the three monkeys?

Definitely, yes.

But, you have to be prepared.

In fact, the work is quite small, compared to the impression you might get from the photo in your guide book.

So, please do not get disappointed when you find out the world-famous tourist attraction is at the size of a tray in a fast food restaurant.

Of course, its size does not tarnish the creativity of the old master. It's exactly as the relatively small volume of Tao Te Ching never debases its value.

It is amazing how many tourist spots are surpassed by their pictures and stories in a travel book and especially those in an agent's brochure.

So, you may agree with Lao Tzu when he tells you to "close the gate" of flooding information.

How can you listen to your little voice from the bottom of your heart when you are pelted with information through your senses?

Not to mention, how can you "be one with Tao"?

Shut down your sensory mechanism as much as possible in order not to be misled or distracted.


The identical characters 塞其兌 閉其門 can be found in Chapter 52 Enlightenment. There they are translated as "If you stuff its holes and close its gate" in accordance with the following main clause.

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If you know "Tanuki", you will never be fooled by the myth of Japanese efficiency. Ask some of your friends who have studied or worked in Japan. They can tell you some anecdotes that will change your biased idea about the nation's productivity.

Tanuki is often translated as raccoon dogs. I don't know if raccoon dogs in the American continent enjoy the same status concerning their virility and laziness as their Japanese counterpart. Studio Ghibli's «Pom Poko» portrays these aspects precisely and is highly recommended if you are expecting a business meeting with seemingly machine-like colleagues or clients from Far East.

If you are the one who has to fly to the country of the rising sun, the ability to use the word "Tanuki" will save you some rising yens. Tanuki soba buckwheat noodles are one of the cheapest dishes widely available in the land of Sushi, which is not exactly a Japanese equivalent to a hamburger in terms of price. You can order a Tanuki soba at any noodle joint in a major railway station along with a Kitsune, which is the Japanese name of the fox.

Whether you order a Tanuki or a Kitsune, the noodles in the bowl are the same. The difference is the toppings. While you get a piece of Abura-age (fried Tofu) marinated with slightly sweetened soy sauce when you ask for a Kitsune, you get a heap of crispy bits of fried flour-dough if you cry "Tanuki" at the bar. Surely, you have a choice between soba and udon, which is a Japanese answer to fettucini, although most Japanese believe that the combinations of Tanuki-soba and Kitsune-udon are better than otherwise.

Thanks to Maruchan Corp., now you can enjoy Tanuki soba outside Japan. «Midori no Tanuki 緑のたぬき / Green Tanuki» is as highly recommended as the film «Pom Poko». It tastes surprisingly good, considering that it is just 3-minute instant noodles.

-Chapter 23 Noises don't last. "A noisy downpour doesn't last all day", says Lao Tzu. Hear no evil.

-Chapter 5b What's a Hologram? Here comes Lao Tzu's answer. "Between heaven and earth, isn't it a bellows?"

-[Practical uses] Nintendo means "Do nothing" Corp.. When you visit Tokyo, you should not miss Nikko 日光 and Akihabara 秋葉原. At Akihabara, you can still see some traces of the days when Japan was still a third-world country. Hard to find? Yes, but it's fun to search them.

-[Practical uses] Mirror, mirror on the wall. In the land of Hello Kitty, if you are not cute, you are nobody. But the definition of being cute is not as universal as you think it is. Neither is that of being beautiful. It is a story about an ugly Japanese girl in London.

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-Chapter 56 How to be One with Tao

-Chapter 56b Be like dust

-Chapter 56c Dark Depth

-Taoism videos / Chapter 56 1-5 Block the openings

-Taoism videos / Chapter 56 6-10 Kanshiketsu / Like dust

-Taoism videos / Chapter 56 11-15 Benefit?

Quick guide > Tao Te Ching translation > Chapter 56 > A. Nikko’s three monkeys

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  [Chapter 56 How to be One with Tao]  A. Nikko’s three monkeys

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