Tao de Ching – # 4 & 5

These two are very much related.


The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.

The “void” of not doing can achieve more than doing. It is like a well, in the case that if you stay in the void, you see all the possibilities and act on them as they arise. This does mean, don’t have a goals. Unless you are living as a mystic or a sage, we must live in the world and need goals. However, with the goal in mind, be open to the routes to get there, and let the goal guide you whether than to force it. Alan Watts compares this with the Chinese notion of “Mu-Shin”, no mind. Pull back from “making it happen” and allow Quality (Pirsig) to guide you. Use your mind as a mirror and don’t try to hold onto the reflection.

It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.

This stanza is another way of characterizing Tao in its infinitude and timelessness. While this is exactly the sort of declaration that occurs throughout this text that a Westerner will find perplexing, due to our culturally inherent drive for understanding and “solutions”, it is holds with in it one of the keys to enlightenment – the acceptance of not-knowing. Infinity is probably the most confounding of concepts and to reconcile with our drive towards completion is a great spiritual quest. Quantum scientists assure us that there is a way to understand the constituent elements of experience, and that some day we will find them in a physical sense.


The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The “Te” of tao means something asking to “Virtue”. Watts said that the best way to look at this form was as the “healing virtue” of, say, medicinal plants. Both of these verses discuss “Te”, which in this context is a way of handling the experience as an ongoing flow to be responded to rather than fought. Good and evil are there, they are not going away. To say you are “virtuous” because you welcome good and denounce evil is not Te. Te is accepting that both exist as necessary, and finding virtue in operating within that acceptance.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.

Speaks again about living with Mu-Shin. To be self-conscious, to act deliberately and without spontaneity causes the Tao to flee. To gain self-consciousness was to lose Eden. Regain your connection with the nature of being. Amid chaos, Tao stays grounded.





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