Before the Heaven and Earth existed there was something nebulous:
Silent, isolated, standing alone, changing not, eternally revolving without fail, worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name and address it as Tao. If forced to give it a name, I shall call it “Great.” Being great implies reaching out in space, reaching out in space implies far-reaching, far-reaching implies reversion to the original point.
Therefore: Tao is Great, the Heaven is great, the Earth is great, the King is also great. There are the Great Four in the universe, and the King is one of them.
Man models himself after the Earth; the Earth models itself after Heaven; the Heaven models itself after Tao; Tao models itself after nature.
(Tao Teh King 25)
Before the Heaven and Earth existed there was something nebulous: silent, isolated, standing alone, changing not, eternally revolving without fail, worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
This is the potential for manifestation known in Sanskrit as Mulashakti or Mulaprakriti: Primal Power that breathes without breath and moves without motion, not to be confused with the manifestation we call Shakti or Prakriti. It is more allied to Pradhana, the primordial “substance” that evolves into Divine Energy, producing the evolving cosmos and the evolving vehicles within the cosmos in which the individual consciousnesses are embodied. It is this understanding that divides the Oriental religions from those of the West.
The West sees relative existence as a kind of mechanistic toy, totally unlike the Toymaker who uses it for his amusement, destroying it when it displeases him and venting his anger and frustration on it when it does not go according to his intentions. Human beings are caught in the middle of this, subject to materiality yet desperately needing to placate the Toymaker and win his favor so he will eventually take them out of the present toy and put them into a better one for their own enjoyment. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
The East sees our present status as living entities within a living “womb” whose purpose is to lead us into higher and higher “births” which enable us to become increasingly more conscious until we realize our eternal and infinite potential, recognizing ourselves as waves or points in an infinite expanse of Life and Consciousness which is our own essential being. At the full opening of our consciousness we realize that we are ourselves the source and empowerer of this entire process of perfection, that perfection has always been ours in potential, that nothing has ever begun or ended for us, only manifested within our own consciousness linked to Infinite Consciousness.
I do not know its name and address it as Tao. If forced to give it a name, I shall call it “Great.” The Tao is not great in the sense of being big or powerful, but in the sense of being Everything and Nothing at the same time, embracing both form and formlessness, being and non-being, life and death, knowing and unknowing, while transcending them all and remaining what It has always been.
Being great implies reaching out in space, reaching out in space implies far-reaching, far-reaching implies reversion to the original point. It has long been said that if we go far enough in a straight line we will eventually come back to the original point. That is the way of the Tao. Its very greatness means that eventually It returns to Its original unmanifested potential state. In the beginning is the ending. A yogi needs to keep this in mind when considering the nature of his practice and its ultimate purpose.
Therefore: Tao is Great, the Heaven is great, the Earth is great, the King is also great. There are the Great Four in the universe, and the King is one of them. Heaven and Earth are the manifested duality of the power, taking on the forms of endless dwandwas or “pairs of opposites.” (I will let you formulate your own list.) “The King” here represents any human power which affects us, and that includes our own power. At the time of Lao Tzu the Emperor was an absolute force that had unlimited power over all within the boundaries of his empire. The King can also represent the forces of nature, as we will see from the next verse.
Man models himself after the Earth; the Earth models itself after Heaven; the Heaven models itself after Tao; Tao models itself after nature. Naturally man conforms to the material world around him and therefore mistakenly identifies with it. The “earth” is material creation which ever expands and strives to transcend itself in order to return to the measureless “heaven” of creative intelligence from which it expanded and became separate. Heaven is the direct “offspring” of Tao and consequently seeks to reunite to the Tao as the earth seeks to reunite with heaven. The Tao, in contrast with those that seek to be like the higher, seeks to conform to the lower, to Mother Nature spoken of in the opening verse. That is, the Tao reaches out to the further reaches of manifestation, secure in the sureness of eventually returning to Its own starting point. Someone has said that waves are the laughter of the ocean, and all its extensions are the joyful play of the Tao. In India this is known as the Nitya and the Lila, the Absolute and Its momentary play at being the ever-changing many while yet remaining at rest in Its own unchanging nature.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Heaviness and Lightness