Tao: The origin of Creation
There is a thing chaotic yet formed,
It was born before Heaven and Earth.
It is self-sufficient; it does not change.
It goes in all directions, but is not exhausted.
It could be considered the mother of all creation.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao.
If forced to name it, I would call it Great.
Being great, it fades away.
Fading away, it becomes distant.
Being distant, it reverses.
Tao is great.
Heaven is great.
Earth is great.
The king is great.
Within the boundaries of the land there are great things,
and the king is one.
The person follows the pattern of earth.
Earth follows the pattern of Heaven.
Heaven follows the pattern of Tao.
And Tao follows the pattern of Nature.
Lao Tse's Tao Te Ching
The foundation of Chinese thought is the belief in a single cosmic universe, a Oneness with no beginning or end. Older than any schools of Chinese philosophy were certain basic beliefs that helped the Chinese understand themselves in relation to the world: in the beginning, the world was an endless void called Wu Chi. It was pictured as an empty circle formed by dotted lines. From this arose activity, expressed as yang and shown as an empty circle, and inactivity, expressed as yin, and shown as a black circle. The interactions of activity and inactivity are called tai chi, shown as the famous yin-yang circle, half black and half white.
Tao and Nature
Man places himself in harmony with his body.
His body tunes itself to the slow unfolding of life
Life flows in harmony with the Tao
The simple principle of Energy is for a dynamic interchange between two polarities which create power--- today recognized as a simple electrical principle. The Chinese discovered, without giving it a name, that this simple principle seemed to act within the universe and resulted in the creation of all things. They understood that Nature required a balance between two polarities in order to exist. This they called the Yin/Yang Principle, or Tai Chi. This principle of Energy, is named Tao.
If Tao is Energy, Taoism might be defined as a set of beliefs which enables us to live successfully within that Energy; indeed, ultimately to recognize that we can become that Energy. As a consequence, Tao becomes a way of living in accordance with natural laws, living as Nature intended. In today's world this can be particularly difficult when we are beset by modern technology and all desires, illusions and possessions that it generates. The first requirement of Tao then is living as simple a life as possible and for that we have to go back to basics, to the beginning.
Starting from the philosophical viewpoint that Tao is the beginning, the point of origin common to everything, there equally have to be universal processes for manifestation and realization. Arising from that common beginning are a myriad of expressions, each one being unique. Having said that, there do seem to be certain laws which are applicable to all those expressions and to the interrelationships between them.
The Taoist will do his best to discover and understand those laws, conform to them as much as possible and find the best 'fit' for himself within the scheme of things. Ideally, he has no need to interfere in that scheme. If he does deem it necessary to do so, he will do as little as possible to disturb the status quo. When he trusts the processes of the universe he is able to accept that he is part of those processes and will co-operate with them rather than trying to control them.
Thus when a follower of Tao, finds himself in a particular situation or context, he is able to take an overview, for he knows he does not exist in isolation. He is able at one and the same time to see why the situation has arisen, what needs to be done and what will be the consequences of any action that is taken.
The Tao Te Ching expresses this concept thus:
Empty yourself of everything.
Maintain a steady serenity.
All things take shape and become active,
but I see them return to their source,
like vegetation that grows and flourishes,
but returns to the root from which it springs
Returning to the source is serenity;
it is to realize one's destiny.
To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
Not to know the eternal
is to act blindly and court disaster.
Exploration and experimentation leads the Taoist to conclude first of all that everything in Nature is inter-related. From that comes the knowledge, through observation of those interrelationships, that all phenomena have a time and place to occur, interact and evolve. Life is cyclical in Nature; there is growth and decay which in turn is followed by growth. The law of the Tao, reflecting natural order, states that everything returns to its starting point. Anything that develops to its extreme will invariably revert to the opposite qualities. The Tao Te Ching states:
Reversion is the movement of the Tao.
Taoism carefully observes then calculates these natural laws, experiments with the findings in order to prove the hypotheses by further observation and finally confirms those laws and all the implications. It therefore might be called a qualitative science.
Traditional Chinese science has, in many ways, been more successful than its Western counterpart in bringing light to bear on the workings of Nature, perceiving the latter purely and simply as a unified energetic force. This is why in the most modern physics of the universe, quantum field theory, the universe itself can be described through analogy as a still and transparent ocean of energy with all existing manifestations being waves within it.
There is a basic core to all Taoist practice, expressed in Chinese as Ching Chi Shen Wu Tao. Ching is the life force which gives rise to Chi; Chi is vital energy which gives access to Shen; Shen is spirit which achieves Wu; Wu is emptiness which leads to --- the root of all things. This progression, however, is not linear, but is cyclical and it is this that allows us to understand the workings of Nature.
Working on this premise, the basic life-force becomes Chi, a manifestation of energy. This permeates everything and is the aspect of life that is worked with most by the Taoist. When Chi becomes stable and is no longer chaotic it begins to become more refined and ultimately gives access to Shen or Spirit. When the Taoist practitioner achieves this state of awareness, there is a sense of connectedness with the natural world and a depth of perception which means becoming conscious of the natural flow of life. There is a feeling of belonging and a profound sense of reality. The practitioner has little sense of time or space; one of the apparently more negative aspects is that nothing matters any more.
In reality, we move through this feeling until it becomes a sense that nothing consists of matter, that everything is illusion and that there is no substance to anything. This is the basic life-force putting itself in touch with Emptiness. The paradox is that as everything is nothing, so it is also everything. In other words, there is actually no difference between being nothing and being every-thing.
Normal everyday life has a way of interfering with this perception and it becomes quite difficult to hold on to the concept. It is this concept of Wu (Emptiness) that is so central to Taoism. The aspect of wu-wei (doing nothing) is thus not so much taking no action, but understanding Emptiness.
Nature is also a manifestation of the elusive Tao. Tao is both everywhere and nowhere and we can learn to live in harmony with Nature in all its forms. Looked at in a purely rational manner this is impossible, so we have to suspend disbelief and try to achieve Emptiness, simply allowing Energy the freedom to flow through us.
The Way takes no action,
but leaves nothing undone.
When you accept this,
The world will flourish
in harmony with nature.
Nature does not possess desire.
Without desire, the heart becomes quiet;
In this manner the whole world is made tranquil.