“Heavy is the root of light
still is the master of restless
thus a lord might travel all day
but never far from his supplies
even in a guarded camp
his manner is calm and aloof
why would the lord of ten thousand chariots
treat himself lighter than his kingdom
too light he loses his base
too restless he loses command”
(Taoteching, verse 26, translation by Red Pine)
HAN FEI says, “‘Heavy’ means to be in control of oneself. ‘Still’ means not to leave one’s place. Those who are heavy control those who are light. Those who are still direct those who are restless.”
WANG PI says, “Something light cannot support something heavy. Something small cannot hold down something large.”
CONFUCIUS says, “A gentleman without weight is not held in awe, and his leaning is not secure” (Lunyu: 1.8).
CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “Roots are heavy, while flowers and leaves are light. The light wither, while the heavy survive. ‘Still’ means tranquil, and ‘restless’ means excited. Excitement is subject to birth and death. Tranquility endures. Hence, the still rule the restless.”
TE-CH’ING says, “‘Heavy’ refers to the body. ‘Light’ refers to what is external to the body; success and fame, wealth and honor. ‘Still’ refers to our nature. ‘Restless’ refers to our emotions. People forget their body and chase external things. They forget their nature and follow their emotions. Sages aren’t like this. Even though they travel all day, they don’t leave what sustains them.”
KUAN-TZU says, “Those who move lose their place. Those who stay still are content” (quoted by Chiao Hung).
WU CH’ENG says, “When a lord travels for pleasure, he rides in a passenger carriage. When a lord travels to battle, he rides in a war chariot. Both of these are light. And behind these come the heavier baggage carts. Even though a lord might travel fifty kilometers a day in a passenger carriage or thirty kilometers a day in a war chraiot, he does not hurry so far ahead that he loses sight of the baggage carts behind him.”
TS’AO TAO-CH’UNG says, “‘Supplies’ means the precious commodities with which we maintain ourselves and without which we cannot exist for a second.”
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “A lord who is not heavy is not respected. A plant’s leaves and flowers are light. Hence, they are blown about by the wind. And its roots are heavy. Hence, it lives long. A lord who is not still loses his power. A dragon is still. Hence, it is able to constantly transform itself. A tiger is restless. Hence it dies young.”
HSUAN-TSUNG says, “Traditionally, the Son of Heaven’s fief included one million neighborhoods with a tax revenue of 640,000 ounces of silver, one million cavalry horses, and ten thousand war chariots. Hence, he was called ‘lord of ten thousand chariots.’”
SU CH’E says, “If the ruler is light, his ministers know he cannot be relied upon. If the ministers are restless, the ruler knows their minds are bent on profit.”
The “lord” in today’s verse is the ruler from yesterday’s. One of the four great powers, imitating the Tao, its nature becoming Humankind’s nature. A lord might travel all day without going far. Just like the Tao. You don’t get to be great without being ever-flowing and far-reaching, and always returning to your Root.
Your Root. Your Source. It is heavy. It anchors you, so even in the midst of storms you don’t get tossed to and fro, being swept every which way, flitting about like a fool.
You can’t let restlessness be what moves you. You have to be still. You have to let stillness master the restlessness.
To be still is to be calm. Disaffected by everything external. To not be swayed by fleeting circumstances. To hold on to what never changes, to what always endures.
To be still is to be aloof. Detached from all things external. Things come and go, Neither reach for them as they come, nor hold on to them as they go.
To be light is to lose touch with your base. To be restless is to lose your command. Command, here, doesn’t just refer to a ruler exercising power over others. That is just a metaphor for the inner stillness which gives you command of yourself. You can never treat yourself lighter than your kingdom. Your kingdom, once again, doesn’t refer to an external kingdom, but your inner being. It is that which holds you, that supports you. The Earth, Heaven, and the Tao.