The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state). When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.
The report of that fulfillment is the regular, unchanging rule. To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent; not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance, and that capacity and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things). From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Tao. Possessed of the Tao, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.
(Tao Teh King 16)
The translation of Lin Yutang is much clearer, I think; here it is: “Attain the utmost in Passivity, hold firm to the basis of Quietude. The myriad things take shape and rise to activity, but I watch them fall back to their repose. Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows but returns to the root (soil) from which it springs. To return to the root is Repose; it is called going back to one’s Destiny.
“Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law. To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment. And not to know the Eternal Law is to court disaster. He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant; being tolerant, he is impartial; being impartial, he is kingly; being kingly, he is in accord with Nature; being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao; being in accord with Tao, he is eternal, and his whole life is preserved from harm.”
Attain the utmost in Passivity, hold firm to the basis of Quietude.
The ideal of the Tao Teh King, the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of Buddha are the same: we must transfer our awareness into the Stillpoint, the Silence that is the unmoving Consciousness which is our true Being. At the same time we must move through the world skillfully, so living as to end the compulsion to further rebirth. Meditation enables us to “attain the utmost in Passivity.” That is, it enables us to live centered in the unmoving Silence while being fully and effectively active. Through long practice of meditation we become able to “hold firm to the basis of Quietude” at all times.
The myriad things take shape and rise to activity, but I watch them fall back to their repose. Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows but returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.
Here we have another unanimity. All things arise into manifestation from the “primal soup” that consists of numberless elements that themselves are composites. Since coming implies going, and getting implies losing (for there is an inexorable impulse to ever return to the original state), it is inevitable that all things will return to non-manifestation, which Lao Tzu sees not as death or destruction, but a return to repose, to peace and freedom from the tension or stress inherent in all forms. There is a Root to all things: the Tao which is both Origin and Completion.
To return to the root is Repose; it is called going back to one’s Destiny.
Total union/identity with the Tao is the only real destiny anything or anyone has. There is no real distinction between sentient and insentient being: all is Tao. And about That nothing can be said.
Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law.
This is a perfect definition of Dharma: the return to the One. Anything that aids in this return is dharmic, and that which hinders the return is adharmic. This is the only basis upon which we should determine what is right or wrong, good or evil. Return is “the Eternal Law.”
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
“Of the born, death is certain; of the dead, birth is certain” (Bhagavad Gita 2:27).
Those who are born are without exception destined to die, so in a sense they are “dead” the moment they are born. In the same way, those that tread the way of the Eternal Law which ends in enlightenment are already enlightened by the fact of their pilgrimage. For this reason, those who walk the Way deserve our utmost respect, and those who persevere unto the end deserve our reverence and imitation.
And not to know the Eternal Law is to court disaster. That is so obvious it needs no comment.
He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant; being tolerant, he is impartial; being impartial, he is kingly; being kingly, he is in accord with Nature; being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao; being in accord with Tao, he is eternal, and his whole life is preserved from harm.
Those who walk the Way advance in unfoldment of character step by step as outlined here until they are the Tao alone.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Rulers