Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 16

Chapter 14 focused on the mystery of Tao. Chapter 15 described how one lives in harmony with Tao. This chapter celebrates the revelation of Tao through the manifestation of the “ten thousand things,” representing all creation.

Attaining complete emptiness
Abiding in perfect tranquility
Watch the ten thousand things
Arise and return
All things flourish
Then return to the root

This passage reminds me of sitting at the creek by my cabin. There is this one spot where I can sit comfortably on a flat rock and just ... watch. I watch the creek laughing by, birds bobbing on the bank for the insects flickering in and out of shadows. Under the giant trees, tiny moss forests bloom with even tinier red flowers.

One time a salmon paused right in front of me, resting for a moment on its upstream pilgrimage. Ah, the perfect example of flourishing and returning. The salmon’s birthplace sends it forth in youth to travel far, then calls it home. The salmon heeds the summons, swimming with unwavering intent to fulfill its destiny, returning to its origin to end one cycle of life and begin the next.

Buddhism teaches that everything is impermanent. Everything that lives will die. But life itself does not die. Each day succumbs to night, and returns in the morning to dispel the darkness.

Returning to the root is stillness
Stillness is destiny 
Destiny is eternal
Knowing the eternal is enlightenment

The character for enlightenment   combines the sun   and the moon  . Light is without form or color. Only when it is separated into individual parts of the spectrum can we see color. I have a prism hanging in my window. When the morning sun streams in, the prism throws rainbows all over the walls and curtains. As the sun moves on, the rainbows disappear, leaving the sun’s radiance to fill the room without differentiation. Again, manifesting and returning.

So how do we know the eternal? We have a perfect reminder built right in. Breathing! I dance the eternal dance with every breath. Breathing in is the first thing I did when I was born...manifesting. When I die, my last exhale will complete the cycle...returning. And with each breath during all my years, I embody the natural harmony that is my existence. Not holding on or forcing, not denying or rejecting. My breath happens naturally if I allow it.

As does everything.

Life is Tao breathing. Manifesting as the ten thousand things and returning to Tao. The dance of being and non-being. Abide in perfect tranquility...and watch.

Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10


  1. I would think a further excellent post could be had by examining the why of enlightenment being the joining of the sun and moon glyphs. Alas, I am not the one to do it, as thunderstorms race across my tranquility right now. Thank you for putting up with our differences.

    1. CW, my study of Chinese characters used in this ancient text offers many such fascinating layers of meaning. I don't know the answer to your question, but perhaps it has to do with the sun and moon being the two sources of light in the heavens.

  2. I am totally with you here, Galen. It is all in the breath. God breathed life into Adam, and He abides in every breath we are blessed to take upon this earth.
    I've been privileged to read some Christian blogs lately that touch upon our breathing rhythms, the mindful slowing down, as being our entrance upon God's presence. This can't be wrong, especially when it's espoused across all cultures and religions. God knows what He is doing!
    Blessings to you!

    1. I've read that the Hebrew letters spelling Yahweh, when pronounced, sound like a breath. So with every breath we are breathing the name of God. Cool, huh?

  3. To me your writings are so poetic at times and this was one of them. I would say somewhat like music too, as it flows and has the up and down flow of notes. It reminds me of what you are writing about in this and other chapter's on Tao.
    There is such a such flow to life; like the breath in and the exhale out. I do see God's work in all things He has created. It's all so beautiful. I loved your thoughts on your moment at the cabin; I remember some your other times of writing about these precious moments of solitude.
    Thanks you so much for sending me the book! You are awesome and I have begun to read it. Thanks for blessing my life with you thoughts; they have been inspiring.
    Big Hugs for you!

    1. LeAnn, your comments are always so kind and generous. Thank you for blessing my life with your graciousness. And you are welcome for the book! I hope you like it.


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