He who is aware of the Male but keeps to the Female becomes the ravine of the world. Being the ravine of the world, he has the original character (teh) which is not cut up. And returns again to the (innocence of the) babe.
He who is conscious of the white (bright) but keeps to the black (dark) becomes the model for the world. Being the model for the world, he has the eternal power which never errs, and returns again to the Primordial Nothingness.
He who is familiar with honor and glory but keeps to obscurity becomes the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world, he has an eternal power which always suffices, and returns again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood.
Break up this uncarved wood and it is shaped into a vessel. In the hands of the Sage they become the officials and magistrates. Therefore the great ruler does not cut up.
(Tao Teh King 28)
Existence has two (seeming) aspects, the transcendent and the immanent, the Absolute and the Relative. One is an absolute Unity and the other is an absolute Duality, even though they are both the one Tao. The Tao is one, yet It is also dual as is illustrated in the yin-yang symbol. In the Tao Teh King this duality is spoken of in more than one place as “male” and “female.” In Indian cosmology the passive transcendent principle is considered male and the active creative power which manifests as the entire field of relative existence in considered to be feminine (though this was not always so, as the symbol of Nataraja indicates). In Taoism the opposite is postulated: the passive is feminine and the active is masculine. We must keep this in mind whenever the Tao Teh King speaks of male and female.
He who is aware of the Male but keeps to the Female becomes the ravine of the world. There is no reason to tune out material existence. Certainly the artificial world of human making is mostly deadly or useless, but the natural world around us is both beneficial and necessary. The yogi is keenly aware of the natural world, but does not identify with it or allow any of its phenomena to dislodge his consciousness from being centered in the spirit-self.
Those who never lose their awareness of spirit have no danger of being ensnared by matter, but I am speaking of a state of consciousness, not an intellectual outlook or attitude. Many are those who claim to be “above it all” or “understanding” materiality while being hopelessly enmeshed in and addicted to it. There is no way to spiritualize delusion, but many dishonest ways to justify it. One time while I was eating in Yogananda’s marvelous vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard some carnivore related to me that when Edgar Cayce was questioned about eating a pork chop he said: “If I can’t raise the vibration of this pork chop, what good am I?” I saw no reason to point out that Edgar Cayce had proved to be of very little worth, spiritually speaking, and that only a very foolish person would try to raise the vibration of a dead pig, much less waste energy doing so even if it were possible. And anyway, why EAT it? A number of people have bragged to me about their “holy” drug use and sacred sexual indulgence, but their state of mind and life proved them either liars or dupes. So “keeping to the Female” involves very real detachment and non-involvement with the world of deluded humans.
Lao Tzu informs us that those who move through the world while remaining centered in spirit-awareness will be like a ravine into which water flows: all the good and valuable elements of the world will flow to such a one naturally. He will live life to the fullest, and his time on this earth will not be a misery or a weary awaiting of death so he can escape it, though this is the attitude of negative religion. Rather, his life will be full and a means of his development, inner and outer. There is no richer or more satisfying life than that of the yogi, as the Bhagavad Gita describes so beautifully. Here is the result of “keeping to the Female”:
“Yoga-yoked, with the lower self purified, with the lower self subdued, whose senses are conquered, whose Self has become the Self of all beings–he is not tainted even when acting.
“‘I do not do anything;’ thus thinks the steadfast knower of truth while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, speaking, releasing, and holding, opening and closing his eyes–convinced that it is the senses that move among the sense-objects.
“Offering actions to Brahman, having abandoned attachment, he acts untainted by evil as a lotus leaf is not wetted by water. Karma yogis perform action only with the body, mind, intellect, or the senses, forsaking attachment, performing action for self-purification.
“He who is steadfast, having abandoned action’s fruit, attains lasting peace. He who is not steadfast, attached to action based on desire, is bound. Renouncing all actions with the mind, the embodied one sits happily as the ruler of the city of nine gates, not acting at all, nor causing action.
“Those whose minds are absorbed in That, whose Selves are fixed on That, whose foundation is That, who hold That as the highest object, whose evils have been shaken off by knowledge, attain the ending of rebirth” (Bhagavad Gita 5:7-13, 17).
Being the ravine of the world, he has the original character (teh) which is not cut up. Identifying with the Eternal Witness, the Tao, the sage returns to and lives in perfect and undisturbed Unity. Fragmentation is the root evil of the deluded and bewildered who stumble through life after life in this world. Only when the mind and heart are unified along with the body can peace and wisdom be attained. To live in and as The One is the secret of freedom.
And returns again to the babe. Taoist texts speak of the spiritual embryo: the arising in the consciousness of the original state of Tao. We must all return to that primal state. Jesus was referring to that when he prayed: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). We must be clothed again in the Tao, the Tao must become our body and soul. Nothing but the Tao can remain in our consciousness, for the Tao IS consciousness. We must “know” the Tao and “unknow” everything else. The Tao is the Divine Darkness which is the only true Light. All viable mystical traditions tell us this and urge us onward to its realization.
He who is conscious of the white (bright) but keeps to the black (dark) becomes the model for the world. Those who can be aware of and deal successfully with the world and yet never lose awareness of their true nature are a model for all sentient life. Why?
Being the model for the world, he has the eternal power which never errs, and returns again to the Primordial Nothingness. Conserving his inner powers by refusing to expend them in externals, especially in emotions and desires, he is enabled to return to that Unity which existed before Diversity and to which all must return, for that is the sole Goal of evolving life.
He who is familiar with honor and glory but keeps to obscurity becomes the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world, he has an eternal power which always suffices, and returns again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood. This is a reaffirmation of the first two verses. Those who prefer to be unknown to a world which clamors for notoriety (usually undeserved) become reservoirs of creative power which develops into recreative power which of its own turns back to the Primal Integrity and rejoices in the peace and stillness of eternal Formlessness that is hidden by form.
Break up this uncarved wood and it is shaped into a vessel. In the hands of the Sage they become the officials and magistrates. Therefore the great ruler does not cut up. To make something we must destroy the unity and integrity of the material(s) from which it is to be made. That is why the Zen Master Seung Sung advocated the simple maxim: “Make Nothing.” It is the same with people: they can be “made” into many things, but in the “making” they cease to be what they really are. The great authorities, the masters of wisdom such as Lao Tzu, show us how to be what we are, for we can really be nothing else. As long as we try to be something we are not, only great confusion, pain, and evil can result. A yogi I once travelled with in the West was approached by a child on a ferry boat. Seeing his Indian sadhu clothing as well as his long hair and beard, she asked him: “What are you supposed to be?” He smiled radiantly and answered: “Oh, just What I’m supposed to be!”
The truly wise do not disturb the original integrity of people or things. In this way the Tao alone prevails.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Warning Against Interference