The Tao is called the Great Mother;
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 6, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
In chapter four, Lao Tzu compared the Tao to an empty bowl. It is inexhaustible to those who use it. In chapter five, it was an empty bellows. Infinitely capable. In both of these metaphors, emptiness is what gives them their utility. It took me a long time to realize this. I didn’t see the “value” in emptiness.
Being empty always seems to be looked on as a “bad” thing. We value “fullness”. Somehow, anything that is empty, has to be lacking something essential. It should be filled. But, of course, that is exactly what emptiness is “used for”. The value of that empty bowl, its utility, is that it can now be filled. With whatever you want to fill it. But, how hastily we rush to fill it. Not appreciating the infinite possibilities available to us in that emptiness. Both, infinity and eternity are in that emptiness. You can use it anyway you want. Just, don’t be in such a hurry to limit yourself to the finite and temporal.
Which brings us to today’s chapter, where Lao Tzu, once again, says the Tao is empty yet inexhaustible.
To refer to the Tao, today, he calls it the Great Mother. Out of that emptiness comes infinite abundance. That is the Way things are. The Tao is the Source, it gives birth, to infinite worlds, all possibilities. In calling the Tao the Great Mother, Lao Tzu isn’t saying the Tao is a woman. He isn’t personifying it. The Great Mother is a name for yin. It is the Female principle at work in our Universe. Yang, the Male, comes out of the Female. And then yin and yang continue to follow each other eternally.
Back in chapter four, Lao Tzu said the Tao is hidden but always present. Today, he tells us where the Tao is hidden but always present. It is always present within you. That is, each of us, contains, within the core of our being, the yin, which gives birth to all things. It is a creative force which you have, within you, to use any way you want. So, how will you use it?
We will have much more to say about this, for there is still much more for us to realize. But, for now, I am going to remember Lao Tzu’s sage advice from yesterday’s chapter, “The more you talk of it, the less you understand.” Trying to talk of the mystery, when we are still caught in desire, is (dare I say it) problematic. Tomorrow, we will talk a little more about what Lao Tzu means by the words infinite and eternal. Then, he will return to talking more about how wise and virtuous persons harmonize themselves with the Way things are.