“Without leaving my house, I know the whole universe.”—Daodejing
Ice beneath the rushing river like a cloud of smoke held in time.
The one who understands the way best of all has never even heard it spoken nor the idea of it ever entered their mind. They flow through the world and the myriad things without thought or action. They don’t know anything. They don’t ask any questions and they offer no answers.
What agony it is to reach for something and in the course of the reaching, have it drift further and further away. And yet if you cease to strain and reach, will you find it carried into your hand upon the wind. Joined to the unending stream and all things will flow to you in time.
In the words of Huineng, “emptiness includes the sun, moon, stars, and planets, the great earth, mountains and rivers, all trees and grasses.” Therefore, if we let the emptiness come into ourselves we also invite the myriad things into ourselves and allow the universe to fill us and possess us with its strength and power.
We find ourselves wandering far away from the path. We have lost our way. We have lost the dao. What does it mean for us to return to it? We know what is not the way and thus we can understand what is. We know that the “dao that can be named is not the dao” (Daodejing). We know that “the dao is that from which one cannot deviate; that from which one can deviate is not the dao” (Chung Yung). We know that a bridled and bitted horse is not within the way.
In a sense it is of course true that the dao is non-dualistic. It is likewise true however that the dao is paradoxical. The notion of hsiang sheng or “mutually arising,” as Alan Watts puts it, accommodates much. Things develop and occur together. The seed contains its own negation and fulfillment. Insofar as the dao is non-dualistic, the ancients distinguished between what is in accordance with the dao and what is not. We may be tempted to see this as a binary or dichotomy. In reality of course it is a spectrum. The notions of yin and yang can illuminate the nature of this distinction.
Without the space between dark yin and light yang, they themselves could not exist. Without the gap between two magnets, they would not have force.
That techno-industrial society has deviated is clear. We can do without technology. We can do without cities. We can do without industrialism. We can do without the state. “That from which one can deviate is not the dao.” Let us return to the center, to the mean. Let us regain that from which we cannot turn away.