81 Chapter Translations & Interpretations

Chapter 16 – Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet

Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet:
as myriad things act in concert, I thereby observe the return. Things flourish, then each returns to its root.

Returning to the root is called stillness; stillness is called return to Life, return to Life is called the constant; knowing the constant is called enlightenment. Acts at random, in ignorance of the constant, bode ill.

Knowing the constant gives perspective; this perspective is impartial. Impartiality is the highest nobility; the highest nobility is divine, and the divine is the Way.

This Way is everlasting, not endangered by physical death.



Support Author: Thomas Cleary
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The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the Authentic Tao Te Ching and the Inner Teachings of Chuang-Tzu

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3 Responses to “Chapter 16 – Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet”

  1. Christina T Ngo says:

    I’m actually working on concentration practices from the Mahamudra tradition (as outlined in Daniel Brown’s Pointing Out the Way book) in order to position myself towards automatic emptiness practices. Any tips on emptiness of self and out-there-ness?

  2. Lao Tsu says:

    Thank you for your question and although I am not trained in the Mahamudra tradition I will share my thoughts…

    Something that comes to mind is trusting in the Universe. Knowing that “Cosmos” literally means order and that there is purpose behind everything that happens in your life. It can be difficult to understand a seemingly random event in the tapestry of the whole, but everything is connected to the whole. This knowing may offer a sense a peace and allow the mind to free itself from judgment of any moment…

    You will know where you are on the path as you know thyself. Your reactions to any event or challenge are a mirror for who you truly are on the inside. As you empty your mind, you will begin to see your true self more often.

    It can take some time to get used to emptiness, but it is the essence of your being. It will happen more often as you as you train to empty yourself of everything and let the mind become still.

    Eventually, emptiness will become full-ness.

    • Christina T Ngo says:

      i am reading and re-reading each line from both the chapter 16 paragraphs as well as your response to my query. i do so until i understand them intellectually but more so in the hopes that i might experience with no effort, in an instant, a moment, that deeper felt sense of resonance beyond even the cellular level. when does trust come…before or after letting go, surrendering?
      as for emptying practices, some teach to still the mind means to just observe & let what arises and passes without agenda. others say to emotionally experience fully each arising thought, grab, emotion–no matter how difficult until it no longer produces reactivity…like allowing the crying child to throw a temper tantrum until the energy of the content dissipates. and still others say it’s a matter of conscious decision to tag an obscuration, a grab, a negative thought as conditioning and therfore not part of our original nature and to endulge/wallow in that which arises is to etch it further into the psyche–but i don’t know how one can just “decide” without first having a felt taste of one’s original essence. all of these various approaches to emptiness practice all make sense in one way or another. having options can be both expansive and confusing. i think yoomuch maybe, huh?

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