Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.
Above, it isn’t bright.
Below, it isn’t dark.
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it, and there is no beginning;
follow it, and there is no end.
You can’t know it,
but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from;
this is the essence of wisdom.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 14, translation by Stephen MItchell)
Well, it would have to be a riddle. Lao Tzu told us right at the beginning that the mystery of the Tao is shrouded in darkness within darkness. The Tao is the Way; it is the art of living at ease in our Universe. And today’s chapter is a riddle. Because the gateway to all understanding can only be found by peering into that darkness.
You can look for it, you can listen for it, you can reach for it. But that isn’t going to help you. Because there isn’t anything to see, or to hear, or to grasp. We talked yesterday about that illusory ladder leading, we hope to success. But above it isn’t bright and below it isn’t dark. The art of living at ease, so very subtle, is beyond anything that we can know. It is always returning to nothingness. This is why it is important to appreciate non-being for everything that it is.
It has no beginning and no end. That is why you can’t approach it or follow after it. Are you getting discouraged? Don’t. No, you can’t know it. But you can be it. It takes that detachment we have talked about before. It takes knowing that we don’t know. It means not forcing, not trying to control. It takes realizing where we came from. We talked before about the difference between knowing and realizing. Realizing means taking that step back. Knowing we don’t know. And being content not to know. That is when realization comes. You don’t know it. You can’t know it. But you can be it. You can be at ease in your own life. By realizing that all you think you know, all your efforts, are not helpful, but hindrances. It is in returning to your primal identity. That of a newborn. That knows nothing. And does nothing. They just are. That is where you come from. That is your beginning. Realize this. Take a step back from everything you are doing. Everything that you have done. And wait. Wait on the realization. This is the essence of wisdom. Your own gateway to all understanding.