Lao Tzu and Nothingness

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As we near the end of our discussion of qigong, it seems appropriate to return to Lao-Tzu. While Confucius discussed mainly rules governing people's behavior in society, Lao-Tzu threw light upon the laws of the universe and the nature of all living creatures. The concept of Tao has always fascinated people.

"Tao gave birth to the One; the One gave birth successively to two things, three things, up to ten thousand. These ten thousand creatures cannot turn their backs to the shade without having the sun on their bellies, and it is on this blending of the breaths that their harmony depends." (Chapter XLII)

"For though all creatures under heaven are the products of Being, Being itself is the product of Not-being." (Chapter XL)

The opening line of Tao Te Ching, "Tao gave birth to the One," can be interpreted as meaning, "Tao gave birth to the One Tao from Noth-ingess." Tao creates all things and Tao is the prime mover. Nothingness (Not-being) does not mean empty space, but an inexhaustible capacity. The creative action of Tao is brought forth as the admixture and mutual action of Yin qi and Yang qi-, it gives birth to vital power harmonized with Yin and Yang.

"There was something formless yet complete, That existed before heaven and earth; Without sound, without substance, Dependent on nothing, unchanging,

All pervading, unfailing.

One may think of it as the mother of all things under heaven. Its true name we do not know; 'Way' is the by-name that we give it.

Were I forced to say to what class of things it belongs I should call it

When you read these chapters using your visualization ability, you may have a vision of primal chaos beginning to evolve slowly, like particles in primordial soup, producing various things little by little. Interestingly enough, the Tai-ji diagram looks very much like a spiralling cluster of stars (Figures 24-1 and 24-2).

In the Yang philosophy we divide things into two and then integrate them once again. The clockwise Tai-ji diagram symbolizes the creation of all things when Nothingness is transformed into Yin and Yang. The counterclockwise Tai-ji diagram symbolizes the opposite process (Yin and Yang unite and return to Nothingness). We can think of this as a never-ending process of differentiation and union, development and decline, birth and death. But we should note that while Yin and Yang are each constantly evolving and disappearing, each also contains the other.

"The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;

The names that can be named are not unvarying names.

It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;

The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.

Truly, 'Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essences';

He that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes.

Figure 24-1

Yin and Yang in constant transformation.

In the Yang philosophy we divide things into two and then integrate them once again. The clockwise Tai-ji diagram symbolizes the creation of all things when Nothingness is transformed into Yin and Yang. The counterclockwise Tai-ji diagram symbolizes the opposite process (Yin and Yang unite and return to Nothingness). We can think of this as a never-ending process of differentiation and union, development and decline, birth and death. But we should note that while Yin and Yang are each constantly evolving and disappearing, each also contains the other.

These two things issued from the same mould, but nevertheless are different in name. This 'same mould' we can but call the Mystery, Or rather the 'Darker than any Mystery', The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences." (Chapter I)

Figure 24-2

Barred spiral nebula NGC 1365.

The first chapter of Tao Te Ching has been known for centuries as a difficult teaching. For that every reason, I will interpret it casually here, using my qi intuition. My restatement of the chapter would go something like this: Tao is not something that you can always define. Look, I am able to attain the stage of Nothingness any time I want, and I am able to become one with everything in the outer world. You give them names; in doing so, you assume that you know them well. Can't you see that this is a mistake? All things have existed constantly from the beginning, long before they had names. By giving things names, you set them as a general idea in your mind and distinguish yourself from them.

If you want to see their ultimate truth, stop separating yourself from them, and become one with them. At the same time, however, you must know the difference between yourself and other things, keeping the self separate. These two views can be seen as Yin and Yang. You need both to comprehend all things. This duality also indicates the function of Tao. In Tao, you can go further and further for its origin. In Tao, anyone can realize "who I am," or learn the nature of the self. Therefore, learn the law of nature—that is, Tao!

If you consider the two views, consisting of the inner essence and outer aspects, as the vibration of all things and the particles of all things, it will be easier to understand. Or, you can substitute for these two views the concepts of the qi of all things and the physical substance of all things. Chapter I of Tao Te Ching is full of meaning and only someone who embodied Nothingness, like Lao~Tzu, could ever have described it. There are male and female, day and night, inside to and outside, truth and false or hot and cold. The Yin and Yang act on each other, and develop by being opposed to and pulling against each other. The mechanics of this friction is the ultimate principle of creation.

In qigong, it is important to look at the inner essence of all beings. If, after mastering the Macrocosmic Orbit method, you are able to do this, you will enter the world of the Transcendental Orbit method.

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