Moved by Tao one returns
Used by Tao one is meek
All beings under Heaven are born from desire
Yet desire is born from emptiness.


Some translators render the last line “something is born from nothing” or, even “being is born from non-being” which gives it a more ontological or metaphysical ring. I have preferred to put it in a slightly more psychological way. The character 有 you, in ordinary Chinese, means "to have” and 无/ 無 wu means "to not have". They are very common terms. So we could take it that creatures are begotten because the parents want to have them and the desire to have them arises from not having them. This gives the verse a very prosaic, everyday, sense. Translators generally, however, see a more philosophical or spiritual meaning in it.

The notion of 无/ 無 wu (Japanese mu) has played a substantial part in the development of Sino-Japanese thought both in Taoism and in Buddhism. Thus in Zen/Ch'an wu is the gateway to enlightenment. The Wumenguan (J. Mumonkan) 無門關 is a famous collection of koans and the first is the Wu (Mu) Koan in which Zhaozhou is asked whether a dog has Buddha nature and he replies “wu”, adding, "because it has the nature of karmic delusion". Many Zen students have spent many years studying this story.

So we can take it that wu here in this very short chapter indicates something akin to the Buddhist idea of shunyata, the void, emptiness, which signifies the nature of mind prior to the arising of karmic delusion.

The first line of the verse can signify that the Tao moves in cycles, though one would have to add that no two cycles will ever be the same, rather as waves are cyclical movements of water, but without ever any perfect repetition. It can also signify that the person of Tao returns to the old ways. We have seen how Taoism looks back to a former age of plenty when all was in accord with the Tao. It can also, thirdly, indicate that the Taoist does not go far from his roots. He may take the yang role when it is necessary, but he returns to the yin position as soon as possible. When the battle is won, he does not revel in the glory, but simply goes home. Fourthly, returning can refer to death. We are all going to die, to return to where we came from, though not exactly. While we are in this realm of form we are blind to the other side, but Taoism is aware of the spirit world where we began and to which we return with whatever real learning or development we have experienced in this fleeting visit to what we unknowingly call the “real” world.

So the method of the Tao is to adhere to meekness. The weak shall overcome the strong. Meekness that is not a pose is a form of emptiness. The person lays claim to nothing. In this sense they are wu. It is because he lays claim to nothing that everything he actually needs appears naturally.

Views: 24

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

Bombu Quote

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on January 27, 2020 at 11:25 0 Comments

Quote from Anthony De Mello:
“…in awareness you will understand that honour doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a social convention, that’s all. That’s why the mystics and the prophets didn’t bother one bit about it. Honour or disgrace meant nothing to them. They were living in another world, in the world of the awakened. Success or failure meant nothing to them. They had the attitude: “I’m an ass, you’re an ass, so where’s the problem?”

Namo Amida Bu( ;

Sagesse féline...

Posted by Tamuly Annette on September 29, 2019 at 12:00 1 Comment

En l'absence de Darmavidya, j'ai - en ma qualité de voisine et d'amie - le privilège de m'occuper (un peu) de Tara, la petite chatte. C'est un bonheur  de la voir me faire la fête chaque fois que je me rends à Eleusis: elle s'étire, se roule sur le dos au soleil ou saute sur mes genoux. J'ignore si elle a profité de l'enseignement du maître des lieux, mais j'ai comme l'impression qu'elle me donne une belle leçon de sagesse: elle…



Posted by David Brazier on August 20, 2019 at 21:38 3 Comments

At the moment I am feeling very sad for the state of the planet. As I write the great forests are being consumed by fire, both the tropical forest in Brazil and the tundra forest in Russia. The great forests are the lungs of the earth. I myself have lung problems. When there are parts of the lungs that don’t work anymore one can run out of energy. It can strike suddenly. We will probably not do anything serious about climate change or wildlife extinction…


© 2020   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service