Know the male,
yet keep to the female;
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
Know the white,
yet keep to the black;
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can’t do.
Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal;
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.
The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block;
thus she can use all things.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 28, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Two days ago, Lao Tzu talked about the need to let the unmoved be the source of all our movement. The “heavy” is the root of the “light.” The “heavy” refers to the Source we have in common with all beings. Yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about “embodying the light”. This has to do with being connected with each other. The “takeaway” from these two chapters is that we need both yin and yang, heavy and light, in all our travels; if we want our lives to have meaning and purpose.
Today, Lao Tzu continues to show how we need both yin and yang in order to relate to our world. Three times he says, in essence, “Know the yang, yet keep to the yin.” Yang is represented by male, white, and personal. Yin is represented by female, black, and impersonal.
How do we know the one, while keeping to the other? It is all about balance, and going with the flow of nature. Night follows day. To just have yang follow yang is completely unnatural. There is always an element of yin in yang. Yin anticipates, and follows, yang.
In order to receive the whole world in your arms, you must know the male. But, it takes keeping to the female, to nurture the world in your arms. Remember what Lao Tzu said a few chapters back about our being one of the four great powers. It is through following the Earth we become great. This is how we embody the light, while never losing touch with our root. The Tao is always there for us, as if we were little children.
In order to be a pattern, or example, for the world (this is nurturing), we must know the white, while keeping to the black. We can’t just be one without the other. Imbalance makes us weak, when we could be strong. When you let yourself be a pattern for the world, you let the Tao be strong inside of you; and, there is nothing, which will be impossible for you.
Of these three, the last one is, perhaps, the most important. How often is it, we take things way too personally? This is taking things to an extreme, and brings us way out of balance. We must accept the world as it is. This is so important. We see the way things seem to be, and we want to change things. Yang, yang, yang. You can receive the world in your arms. You can be a pattern for the world. But, you can’t change the way things are.
Lao Tzu will talk more about this desire to improve the world, tomorrow. And, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Today, let it suffice for me to say, we must be willing to accept the world as it is. That means maintaining a balance between the personal and the impersonal. When we insist on making things personal, never allowing that the Tao works impersonally, we are destined to always remain in the dark. But, the Tao would be luminous inside of us.
This is talking about returning to our primal selves, a return to our beginning, a return to our common Source. That is why Lao Tzu talks about that uncarved block of wood. This is a metaphor like the empty bowl he talked of in an earlier chapter.
What will become of that uncarved block of wood? The possibilities are infinite. Just like the world was formed from the void, the utensils we use, are formed from that uncarved block of wood; and, what we become, is formed from our primal selves. This is why we must keep returning to the Source. There is where we tap into infinity. We know what we are, like we know those utensils. But, we keep to what we always have been, that uncarved block. That is what makes us capable of using all things.