Many Daoists and scholars over the two and half millennia would have spent much time trying to decipher what Laozi had meant to say in his Tao Te Ching. And most after spending years of reading would obtain a correct impression that the classic in the main discuss metaphysics and meditation.
However the Huang-Lao (Huangdi and Laozi) tradition, which involved meditation and the cultivation to be good, was perhaps abandoned by various Daoist sects formed during the late Han dynasty or later. Unlike the better known Huang-Lao Daoists: Yu Ching, Zhuangzi, Zhang Liang and others, these sects started to explore other means such as waidan (outer alchemy) while deviant sects explored sexual alchemy to attain immortality. Some sects for example Mao Shan chose to follow the thoughts of lesser sages such as Zhuangzi to attain Tao.
It therefore meant that few really understood what the great sage Laozi said about Tao and virtues (Te) in the Tao Te Ching. Otherwise Daoists would have concentrated on dual cultivation like what the Quanzhen sect practises and not ventured into various ‘New Age’ thingies – which include waidan and sexual alchemy, while ardent followers of Zhuangzi follow him to reject outright the cultivation of virtues deemed Confucian.
In the first verse of TTC Chapter Six, Laozi mentioned about the Valley Spirit and the Mysterious Female. One had seen many Daoists in the web attempting to impress upon others what these metaphors really meant, especially on the Mysterious Female which some say is a way of life and for men to act feminine!
Of course, no student can be said to be utterly misleading since all attempted to grasp their true meaning. It would have been easier to understand the two metaphors if we cultivate Tao or have real teachers. But not many really cultivate or lucky enough to have teachers who happened to be heavenly immortals or Buddhas.
The same would probably apply to the various TTC translators even though some had studied under Daoist and/or Buddhist teachers for several years in the East. Just like Daoists down the ages, if they or their teachers are not there yet, they would not have a clue to what Laozi really meant in Chapter Six. Thus they too remain blameless unless they intend to mislead or make false claims.
Valley Spirit and the Mysterious Female are real phenomena, not a way of life which the unlearned tend to believe or claim. Only when neidan practitioners have reached or about to reach the Center will they realize what the metaphors truly mean. Not otherwise.
In the Diagram of the Primal Integration of yin yang, the mysterious female is depicted in the Center surrounded by the eight trigrams while the valley and the spirit are written on the top and the bottom of the circular diagram respectively. Perhaps the Daoist who drew this diagram knew the secrets.
Does this not speak highly of the ancient sage, Laozi who wrote this Chapter more than 2,500 years ago? If he had not revealed these two phenomena for posterity, would neidan practitioners down the ages know that they are real and indeed exist?
With this brief explanation on the valley spirit and the mysterious female, let me render a simple translation of TTC 6:
The Valley Spirit die not, likewise the Mysterious Female.
The door of the mysterious female is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuously it seems to exist, use it without exertion.
As usual please take my translation with a pinch of salt.
There will be no entertainment of questions on the phenomena, lest a wanderer come to steal the thunder (read cow), the third line of Wu Wang / Innocence!