Know the male,
yet keep to the female;
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
Know the white,
yet keep to the black;
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can’t do.
Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal;
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.
The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to to the block;
thus she can use all things.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 28, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
We have been talking, over the last few days, about how our relationship with the Earth governs our lives. Today’s chapter, also, is about our relationship with the world in which we live. Once again, yin and yang play a vital role in enabling us to follow the Earth in its natural rhythms. Yin and yang interact together to create balance and harmony in our Universe; and so, in our world. By understanding this, we can be lived by the Tao and find all things falling into place as we do what comes naturally.
Over and over again, Lao Tzu tells us, “Know the yang, yet keep to the yin.” Male, white, personal – these are all yang. Female, black, impersonal – these are all yin. I have said this before, but it bears repeating: One isn’t good, while the other is bad. It is balance between yin and yang that Lao Tzu is wanting. This is the only way to achieve balance and harmony in ourselves, our lives, our world, our Universe. You don’t want to be one, while avoiding the other.
Knowing the yang, while keeping to the yin, is how to receive the world in our arms, be a pattern for the world, and come to accept the world as it really is. That is what we have been talking about doing. When we have this balance of yin and yang, the Tao never leaves us, and is strong and luminous inside of us.
Luminous is a very interesting word. For the last couple of days, Lao Tzu has been talking about the interaction of light with heavy. In that case, the light he was referring to wasn’t the luminous variety. Embodying the light, took into account how it relates to the heavy. But today, we are back to talking about the luminous kind of light. This is about enlightenment. And, once again, we see how yin and yang complement each other.
When we allow yin and yang to complement each other in our lives we become like a little child. That little child is a favorite metaphor of Lao Tzu’s. It is a metaphor, not just of the innocence of the little child, but of that child’s unlimited potential. There is nothing that little child can’t be. It has all the potential in the Universe bound up within it, just bursting at the seams waiting to be let out.
When female and male are combined, you get a little child. We understand that in a physical sense. But Lao Tzu is speaking metaphorically here. He is wanting us to return to our primal selves, to be like a little child.
This is how to interact in our world. By being like a little child. Receive the world in your arms. Be a pattern for the world. And, finally, accept the world as it is. This is how we go about returning to our primal selves. This is the path of enlightenment.
We understand the complementary relationship between female and male, so we understand how to produce a little child. We understand how black and white work together to be a pattern. The familiar yin yang symbol shows the balance of black and white flowing and interacting together. But when we start trying to understand the interaction between the impersonal and personal, things may start to get a little harder. I am sure you have heard many times, “Now, don’t take this personally.” How am I not to take it personally? You have either harmed me or are getting ready to. Of course, I am going to take it personally. How do we know the personal, yet keep to the impersonal?
That seems to be the most difficult thing of them all. And, probably because it is more difficult, the reward is that much greater. When we accept the world as it is, is when the Tao becomes luminous inside of us. But Lao Tzu doesn’t leave us without any help to understand.
After talking about that little child, nothing more personal than a little child, he goes on to talking about an uncarved block of wood. And the chapter takes a strange turn from the personal to the impersonal. He says this world in which we live was formed from the void. The void, yet another impersonal thing. It is just like utensils are formed from that block of wood. Utensils are something that we use personally. The uncarved block of wood, is impersonal. The Master, knows the potential contained within that uncarved block of wood. She knows the utensils. Yet, she keeps to the block. She never loses sight of it. Even when she is looking at and using the utensils, she is keeping before her that uncarved block. And, that is how she can use all things – both personally and impersonally.
Return to your primal self, allow the Tao to be luminous inside you, accept the world as it is. Tomorrow, we are going to talk further about the importance of accepting the world as it is. I don’t usually give a preview for tomorrow. But these chapter divisions are sometimes messy. And Lao Tzu isn’t finished with this topic.