When the intelligent and animal souls are held together in one embrace, they can be kept from separating. When one gives undivided attention to the (vital) breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as a (tender) babe. When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights (of his imagination), he can become without a flaw.
In loving the people and ruling the state, cannot he proceed without any (purpose of) action? In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven, cannot he do so as a female bird? While his intelligence reaches in every direction, cannot he (appear to) be without knowledge?
(The Tao) produces (all things) and nourishes them; it produces them and does not claim them as its own; it does all, and yet does not boast of it; it presides over all, and yet does not control them. This is what is called ‘The mysterious Quality’ (of the Tao).
(Tao Teh King 10)
According to scholars, this tenth section is the most difficult to translate of all the Tao Teh King, so we will be feeling our way along, but hopefully we will get some of Lao Tzu’s intended teaching.
When the intelligent and animal souls are held together in one embrace, they can be kept from separating. A great deal of the human being’s problem is his fragmentation into many parts, or at least having the components of his nature out of synchronization with one another, no longer functioning as a single, whole entity, and even in conflict with one another. That is why we have the expression “personality conflict.” In the early days, what we call psychiatrists were called “alienists” because they dealt with those who have become alienated from external reality. But that alienation usually has its roots in internal alienation. This has two forms: alienation from one’s own Self (this takes many forms), and the alienation of one’s inner factors from one another. The inner gears no longer mesh and may even attack and damage one another or bring one or more gears to a halt.
Lao Tzu is saying that these parts of our makeup can be held together in a complete and harmonious unity that will never revert to the state of separation.
Lin Yutang, however, considers that this sentence is about the individual’s capacity to unite himself with the Tao in a permanent manner. Disunity with the Tao is the condition that makes inner, individual disunity possible, so this is relevant, indeed.
Both problems exist, beyond doubt, and they both need to be solved. So now Lao Tzu gives his prescription for our trouble.
When one gives undivided attention to the breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as a babe. Two things need to be done. We must attend to the movements of the breath–inhalation and exhalation–and to the root impulses which produce the inhalation and exhalations. Thus the breath and consciousness become unified and our original, eternal state of union with the Tao is experienced. To explain the way to do this would take up too much space here, so I will just refer you to the book Soham Yoga: the Yoga of the Self.
When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights, he can become without a flaw. Few are those that develop an inward orientation of the mind, and very few of those are able to resist wandering within in the labyrinth of psychic experiences that ultimately prove no more real or worthwhile than idle daydreams. One of the signs of an authentic yoga practice is its cutting off of those psychic distractions right at the beginning of meditation. It is necessary to aim the mind straight at the target and shoot for it with no side excursions. Rare are those who even know how to do this, and rarer still those who crush the ego and do so. Again, see Soham Yoga: the Yoga of the Self.
In loving the people and ruling the state, cannot he proceed without any action? Lin Yutang: “In loving the people and governing the kingdom, can you rule without interference?” The Taoists had no use at all for the Confucian approach to government, which was extremely invasive and unrestrainedly heavy-handed. As a result, they usually refused to become government employees of any type. Some, however, felt they should prove the validity of Taoist theories of government by joining and showing the way. Some did succeed. The basic idea of Taoist government was that the officials should be so evidently virtuous and intent on the welfare of people that their example would be followed: that people would do right for its own sake and for their own self-respect and integrity. It often worked, and this challenge of Lao Tzu was vindicated.
In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven, cannot he do so as a female bird? The translator says that Taoist commentaries on this sentence say that the “gates of heaven” are the two nostrils, and this is in keeping with what has gone before. “Shutting” the gates is making the breath so subtle that it disappears for a while and become totally internal. And this internal breath sustains the body just as well as the outer breath usually does. But this dramatic process is not one that can be done in the usual sense–that is, it is not intentional, but occurs as a side effect of the deep internalization of the awareness. In the East a common simile of this state is the female bird sitting on her eggs. Her attention is completely absorbed on the eggs, not on the things around her. Sri Ramakrishna said that her eyes have a distinctive indrawn expression, and that an adept yogi’s eyes look the same.
While his intelligence reaches in every direction, cannot he be without knowledge? Lin Yutang: “In comprehending all knowledge, can you renounce the mind?” There is a knowing that is merely intellectual and therefore theoretical, but there is a knowing that is a matter of direct experience which results in something far beyond intellectuality, so far that it is sometimes called “unknowing.” Unknowing is actually intuition which cancels out the need for the lesser knowing of the mind. This is referred to in the Bhagavad Gita (9:1) as “that innermost secret: knowledge which is nearer than knowing, open vision direct and instant,”
Now we come to one of the most wonderful passages in this book, and one that should be carefully pondered especially by those raised in the God Is Watching You And You Had Better Watch Out Or Else religions of the West. The Bhagavad Gita speaks the truth about this superstition, too, but here Lao Tzu has put it so succinctly and yet so completely.
The Tao produces all things and nourishes them; it produces them and does not claim them as its own. This first clause tells us that the Tao is intimately involved with all things, maintaining the existence and the possibility of their evolution. Yet, even though their source, It does not look upon them as Its possessions in the way a human artisan would regard the products of his skill. We do not “belong” to the Tao, we are a part of the Tao. That is a completely different matter altogether. We are not pygmies squatting at the feet of some Big Master, owned by him as his slaves who are dependent on his will for their very life. Few things are more paralyzing and poisonous than this Big Daddy view of God as a Cosmic Tyrant that we had better obey and please or else suffer forever and ever. Just as bad and erroneous is the Big Sugar Daddy idea of God who still has to be obeyed in order to get the sugar. No wonder the West has been so violent, competitive and vengeful throughout its recorded history, ruled by governments that are supreme in authority and in which the individual is so often crushed ruthlessly if not heedlessly. Freedom exists in comparatively few lands, and there it is in constant peril of annihilation. Big Brother is indeed watching in politics, and Big God is watching in religion. Both have little regard for the individual, but delight in a herd mentality they can easily control. The modern outcry for world government and world order comes from hearts and minds intent on domination and suppression of dissent, not peace as they claim. And the sheepwits accept it meekly. As a Greek Orthodox theologian has written, “the ‘peace’ they want is the feverlessness of a corpse.” It is a natural consequence of their religion.
It does all, and yet does not boast of it. Think how full Western scriptures are of gorilla-like chest-beating assertions by God implying that we who would dare question or disobey are as nothing, mere motes floating in a sunbeam. For a perfect example of this, see the thirty-eighth and subsequent chapters of Job which contain megalomaniacal ravings supposedly by God to shut Job up and put him in his place. God supposedly says: “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” Oh my.
Here are just a few of the idiotic questions put to Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors?
“Have you commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know its place?
“Have you entered the springs of the sea?
“Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?
“Has the rain a father?
“From whose womb comes the ice?
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion?
“Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds?
“Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, Here we are?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion?
“Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young?
“Can you mark when the deer gives birth?
“Who set the wild donkey free?
“Will the wild ox be willing to serve you?
“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?
“Have you given the horse strength?
“Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
“Have you an arm like God?
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook? Can you put a reed through his nose?”
Who would find this convincing and humbling or intellectually devastating? Yet: “Job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.… Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” For a satirical treatment of this divine psychosis of both God and Job, see The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God, by George Bernard Shaw.
It presides over all, and yet does not control them. This is a major point. Naturally the omniscient and omnipresent Tao is aware of all things and holds all things within Its consciousness, otherwise they would cease to be. But, having manifested them within a framework of natural law, the Tao needs do nothing more. Human beings, on the other hand, can indeed control both themselves and their environment as an exercise in the evolution of consciousness. It is all in our hands, including the consequences we call karma. This is what free will is all about: an inescapable faculty that God never interferes with. No, neither Mommy-God nor Daddy-God will kiss it and make it well. That is what we are intended to do for ourselves.
This is what is called ‘The mysterious Quality’ of the Tao. However, it is only mysterious to limited human consciousness, for it is the only possible Order (Ritam) of things.
In conclusion we need to realize that in our personal life sphere we must eventually be exactly like the Tao, for that, too, is our Mysterious Quality.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: The Utility of Not-Being