The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.
(Translated by S. Mitchell)
This chapter talks about being egoless or selfless.
It is the easiest chapter to explain because there are many examples of this in human history.
My friend told me the story of one terminal ill patient who had lung cancer, whose doctor told him that he did not have much time to live.
He pitied himself and passed his last days complaining at first, but then he decided that he did not have time to waste, so he decided to get involved with charity work. He was so busy helping others that forgot his pain and illness. He recovered miraculously. It seemed that when he forsook his desires; he had also removed his troubles and unhappiness at the same time. He was the happiest when he tried to do good for others and in turn also helped himself.
There is also the example of Jesus Christ, who made the most selfless sacrifice by giving up Himself for the world. Before He was crucified, He knew what great suffering He would have to bear. He was weak for a moment and asked, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” But right away, He remembered that he had to put the world before Himself, and instead ended His prayer with, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” He prioritized the world above Himself, and not only did He regain life for Himself, but also for the rest of humanity as well.
Picture from Wallpoop – The Wallpaper Site
Most of my colleagues were very excited because a new manager transferred to our department. We had heard that he was capable, and he had come to reorganize the business, but after a few days, the new director had done nothing. He showed up at the office politely every day, but just stayed in his room and hardly came out. Seeing that he did nothing, those with bad motives who were initially nervous about his coming became bold and more rampant.
“He is not that capable, just a nice guy. It is easier to fool him than the former manager!”
Four months later, as people continued to feel disappointed towards the new manager, he suddenly took action – he fired all the bad employees, but he promoted the diligent personnel. After taking such a quick and precise action, he seemed to be an entirely different person.
At the year-end dinner party, the new manager gave a speech after everyone had filled and emptied their glasses three times:
“I believe that you were confused by my subdued action when I first came here, and then when I made sudden decisions for the office. I would like to tell you a story so that you will understand why I did so. I have a friend who bought a house with a huge yard. After moving in, he immediately cleared the whole yard. Then he planted new flowers throughout. One day, the original owner came to visit him, and he was shocked to see the yard, asking, “Where are the expensive peonies?”
Picture from Kujo Yardwear
Then my friend realized that he had thought the peonies were weeds and had removed all of them.
Later he bought another house, and although the yard was messy, he did not take action right away. And sure enough, the plants he thought were weeds blossomed in the spring. Likewise, the plants that flowered in the summer were what he thought were weeds in the spring. The small trees stood there quietly for half of a year and then began growing beautiful foliage in the autumn.
He waited until late autumn to make sure that he had seen all the plants and recognized the useless weeds and removed them. That way, he could preserve all of the flowers and trees.”
The manager raised his cup and continued:
“Let me toast to everyone here. The office is like a garden; you are all precious flowers. And flowers can not blossom throughout the year. Therefore we can only recognize it after long-term observation!”
The valley spirit never dies;
We call it the mysterious female.
The gates of the mysterious female,
These we call the roots of Heaven and Earth.
Subtle yet everlasting! It seems to exist.
In being used, it is not exhausted.
(from – The Tao and the Field)
What is a valley? – It is between the two peaks. The difference between peak and valley is that the peak is high up there and filled with rocks whereas the valley is on the bottom and can be like an empty vessel.
The spirit of the valley is the spirit of emptiness. The valley represents the acceptance, endurance, humbleness and it is like the female. On the other hand, the spirit of the mountains is more like the male. It is boastful and not as humble and accepting as the valley. The valley just accepts and without taking action and moreover, it gives life, and then life goes on forever and ever. So it can be called the roots of Heaven and Earth. It is everlasting. Here, he uses the valley to explain “Tao” which is empty, existing, eternal and never exhausted.
As I was searching the material for this chapter, I found that there were a lot of explanations for this chapter and wondered why some did not bother to address the valley spirit. I think it’s important to keep the imagery of the valley spirit in the text. As you can see in chapter 28, he mentions it again:
“…Be the valley of the universe!/Being the valley of the universe…”
If the rooster crows in the morning, the sky will be bright,
but if the rooster does not crow in the morning, it will still be bright.
The morning is not for a rooster to decide,
but for the one who wakes up.
Some people wake up to pass one day,
but some may live their lifetime without waking up(enlightenment).
A person bought a box of pears,
But the weather was bad for keeping pears,
So he picked the worst one every day to eat,
And finally ate an entire box of rotten pears.
To sum up, save the good ones and eat the rotten ones:
When we eat rotten ones, the good ones we saved become rotten,
So that we always eat the rotten ones.
The image is from Secrets Of Zen (Japanese Chill Out) – YouTube
Life is like eating pears,
Because if you only see unhappy things every day,
Your whole life will feel unhappy;
Put down the bad things and throw them away instead,
And every day the sun will shine,
And you will be shining forever!
Cherish happiness now!
No one knows how to control the emotion by nature.
Knowledgeable people are always mindful not to let themselves fall into bad moods.
At the parents’ meeting, the teacher wrote these four questions on the blackboard:
“You miscalculated,” The parents said.
The teacher turned around and said softly: “Yes, you see very clearly that this is wrong, but the other three were right. Why did everyone focus on the wrong answer, and never mention what was right?”
The teacher said, “Parents, education is not about finding what is incorrect, but appreciating what children did right.”
If you are good for a person a hundred times, they forget all of those times when you are bad once!
Here is human reason, where 100 – 1 = 0.
In fact, we make the same mistakes between family members.
The original Chinese text is from https://www.facebook.com/landagent0935239738/posts/1354135637967612.
For the Chinese text, you can click on http://classic-blog.udn.com/singi28831/108754053.
Nature is unkind: (Heaven and earth are unbiased)
It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.
The Sage is unkind: (The sage is not sentimental)
He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.
How the universe is like a bellows!
Empty, yet it gives a supply that never fails;
The more it is worked, the more it brings forth.
By many words is wit exhausted.
Rather, therefore, hold to the core.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Note: The addition here in parentheses is to make the passage more understandable.
The original Chinese text is confusing. The direct translation of the first sentence – 天地不仁 – is “Nature is unkind.” In chapter 67, Lao Tze mentioned the three treasures, which he holds fast and watches closely – the first one is mercy. Therefore here it just implies that the heaven and earth are impartial or unbiased. The direct translation of the second sentence – 聖人不仁 – “The Sage is unkind” is also confusing. With the same principle, here we translate it to mean that the sage is not sentimental and has no preference. Both the sage and heaven and earth just follow the law of nature.
So here: Heaven and earth are unbiased, and because they treat everything like straw-dogs, they let it run its course. Similarly, saints are not sentimental; they have no preference, and also treat the people like the straw dog. Between heaven and earth, is it like a bellows? It is empty and not exhausted, the more you work, the more wind comes out, it is endless. It counts less if you use more words, as too much speech leads to mental silence. It is better to return to the core, that is to keep your mind quiet and empty.
Here Lao Tzu uses two things to explain. The first thing is the straw dog which is used for sacrifice during prayer. Once the prayer ends, the straw is thrown away. It shows that both heaven, earth, and the saint have no bias, they only follow nature and treat the people equally, letting them go with the flow.
The second thing is the bellows. As long as we work on it, the wind will come out and never be exhausted. So the heaven and earth are like the bellows, it is empty but never exhausted and it is up to us to use it.