Derek, The Tao of Daily Life has an interesting cover that shows a bowl on a stand. What do they represent? Do they have a special meaning that is related to the Tao?
Yes. The Tao is everywhere, so it is very much present in the cover as well. The bowl and the stand together represent p’u, the Tao concept meaning “plain and simple.” Notice how they do not seem particularly refined, and yet still project a special beauty. In the same way, plainness and simplicity may not seem particularly remarkable, but for those who live in the Tao, they are the endless source of joyous serenity.
The lesson of the Tao is to be fully engaged as you tend to the basic necessities of life. A sage would say: “When you eat, eat.” This may sound simple, almost too simple, but think of all the times when your mind is somewhere else as you sit down for a meal with family or friends. The bowl reminds us that following the sage’s advice consistently can be much more difficult than it seems.
The bowl also represents another important lesson from the Tao: It is not the substance of the bowl, but its emptiness, that makes it useful as a bowl. The same is true of human beings. Those who approach the world with minds already filled with preconceptions are not likely to learn anything. Those who understand the usefulness of emptiness are different. They approach life with a humble heart that has plenty of room for new ideas, new friends and new experiences. The bowl reminds us that this is the way to live for the true Tao cultivator.