“The Tao remains unnamed
simple and though small
no one can command it
if a lord upheld it
the world would be his guest
when Heaven joins with Earth
they bestow sweet dew
no one gives the order
it comes down to all
the first distinction gives us names
once we have a name
we should show restraint
who knows restraint avoids trouble
to picture the Tao in the world
imagine a stream and the sea”
(Taoteching, verse 32, translation by Red Pine)
WANG P’ANG says, “The Tao has no body. How could it have a name?”
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “We call it ‘simple’ because it hasn’t been cut or polished. We call it ‘small’ because it’s faint and infinitesimal. Those who can see what is small and hold on to it are rare indeed.”
CHIAO HUNG says, “‘Simple’ means the natural state. When it expands, it’s everywhere. When it contracts, it isn’t as big as the tip of a hair. Hence, even though it’s small, it’s beyond anyone’s command.”
WANG PI says, “If people embrace the simple and work without effort and don’t burden their true nature with material goods or injure their spirit with desires, all things will come to them on their own, and they will discover the Tao by themselves. To discover the Tao, nothing is better than embracing simplicity.”
JEN FA-JUNG says, “In terms of practice, if people can be serene and natural, free themselves from desire, and put their minds at rest, their yin and yang breaths will come together on their own and penetrate every artery and organ. Inside their mouths, the saliva of sweet dew will appear spontaneously and nourish their whole body.”
LU HUI-CH’ING says, “When a ruler acts, the first thing he does is institute names.”
HSUN-TZU says, “Now that the sages are gone, names and reality have become confused” (Hsuntzu: 2).
TE-CH’ING says, “What is simple has no name. Once we make something, we give it a name. But name gives rise to name. Where does it end? Hence, Lao-tzu tells us to stop chasing names.”
LI JUNG says, “The child who depends on its mother suffers no harm. Those who depend on the Tao encounter no trouble.”
WU CH’ENG says, “The Tao has no name, but as Virtue it does. Thus, from nothing we get something. But Virtue is not far from the Tao. If we stop there, we can still go from something back to nothing and return to the Tao. Thus, the Tao is like the sea, and Virtue is like a stream, flowing back into the Tao.”
LI HSI-CHAI says, “Although Heaven and Earth are high and low, they join together and send down sweet dew. No one makes them do so. And there is no one who does not benefit. Although the Tao separates into things, and each thing has its name, the Tao never abandons anything. Thus, the breath of rivers eventually reaches the sea, and the breath of the sea eventually reaches rivers.”
LAO-TZU says, “The reason the sea can govern a hundred rivers / is because it has mastered being lower” (Taoteching: 66).
Command and control. That is the nature of the beast, Leviathan, the State. But, the more they reach out to grasp, the more they try to hold and control, the more they tighten their grip, the more it slips through their fingers. It is beyond anyone’s command.
There is a natural order. Things simply fall into place. This happens spontaneously, and you know this intuitively. But, try to control it, try to intervene and interfere with this natural order, and everything falls into chaos.
That is why it is so important to know restraint. Practice restraining your self, and you can avoid all trouble.