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)
Today, Lao Tzu expands on his theme of the infinite usefulness of the Tao. To me, it is significant that he doesn’t say it is like the Great Mother. Nor, does he say it is the Great Mother. He says it is called the Great Mother. Calling is just just another way of naming. And, that is significant because Lao Tzu has already given us caveats about naming eternal things. Still, there is significance in naming the Tao, the Great Mother. He is giving us something we can all understand, mother, and using that metaphor to point at what the Tao is.
It is empty yet inexhaustible. Yes, we already understood that from his earlier likening it to a well and a bellows. It gives birth to infinite worlds. That would make it great. What Lao Tzu is getting at is defining the Tao as the Source of everything. Yesterday, he said the Tao gives birth to both good and evil.
But, good and evil aren’t on our plate for discussion today. It is those infinite worlds that intrigue me. I can almost picture the Tao, the Great Mother, as being in some distant and remote “center” of the Universe, a cosmic star factory, birthing new stars and worlds for eons past and eons yet to come.
I say “almost” because that isn’t the image that Lao Tzu is trying to conjure for us. He isn’t wanting us gazing out to the nether regions of the observable Universe. He wants our gaze to be turned inward. Where is this Tao of which he speaks? “It is always present within you.” That is where “the Great Mother” will be found, giving birth to infinite worlds. Your world. My world. Our world. Infinite worlds. You can truly use it any way you want.