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 six, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday’s chapter was one I wrestled with for hours. That isn’t normal for me. If all my commentaries were that much of a struggle, I’d have figured out a long time ago that I have no business talking of such matters. It was the knowledge of good and evil that I was wrestling with, of course. The part about bellows – that is easy. But, when you start wrestling with good and evil, you really find yourself in very strange territory. That really was the point. Leave such things to the Tao. Focus on what us mere mortals were meant to concern ourselves: How to care for all beings. Lao Tzu will have more to say about the problem of evil in later chapters. As we continue insisting on treading where we don’t belong. The better news is that we will learn much more about how to care for all beings. But the best news of all, at least for me, is that, today, we are back to talking about the empty yet inexhaustible, Tao.
Yesterday, Lao Tzu said the Tao is like a bellows. Today, he says it is called the Great Mother. In earlier chapters, Lao Tzu has already established the harmony that exists between emptiness and abundance. This is simple yin and yang. The more you use it, the more it produces. Calling it the Great Mother, however, introduces to us a further aspect of the Tao.
When we were saying the Tao is like a well or a void, we were focusing on its emptiness. Saying that it is like a bellows, helps us to realize how we can get abundance out of that emptiness. But, once you start referring to the Tao as the Great Mother, it becomes abundantly clear that the Tao is very fertile. Today’s chapter is all about yin. And, fertility. The Tao gives birth to infinite worlds.
Fertility has long been considered a blessing; while barrenness is considered a curse. There is nothing barren about the Tao. Everything it sets out to do comes to fruition. Lao Tzu will refer to the Tao in feminine, yin, motherly, terms. That is going to be Lao Tzu’s way throughout the Tao Te Ching. He will refer to various aspects of the Tao which affirm its yin qualities.
Understanding how inexhaustibly fertile the Tao is, the next thing for us to understand is it is always present within each and every one of us. It isn’t in some far off and remote corner of the Universe, giving birth to infinite worlds. It is within you and me and all beings. It is from within each of us that the Tao’s inexhaustible fertility gives birth to infinite worlds. You don’t have to go on some pilgrimage to find the Tao. It is already present within you.
Now, how are you going to use it? Go ahead, start thinking creatively. Let your imagination be as fertile as the Tao. You can use it any way you want. What kind of world do you want the Tao to give birth to within you?