Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Determining how and when Tao pervades or recesses all under Heaven

This entry is dedicated to those scholars of Tao and/or the Zhouyi who graced this blog with their visits or comments; since what is written could be profound and above the heads of many.

Therefore if it is beyond your immediate understanding, reread it when you are ready. It may provide you with further clarity on ancient Chinese thoughts and a deeper understanding of the Tao Te Ching and the Zhouyi. It would also depend on whether or not, first class scholars of Tao and/or the Yi would want to weigh in with their comments and thoughts. Here goes.

It is said that Heaven governs time while Earth governs space. To overcome fate, the Junzi needs to master time and space. Therefore the study of Heaven and Earth was of special interest to the ancients and the Junzi down the ages. This study can be considered part and parcel of Tao and the Zhouyi.

Investigating into things, one has found a particular teaching on Heaven and Earth which may arouse the interest of scholars of the three doctrines.

Top scholars and those who have cultivated Tao for a decade or more are most welcome to try to find the real meaning behind this teaching that the ancient sages passed down to posterity in their respective classics and book – the Book of Changes, the Tao Te Ching, and the Analects.

The second part of the exercise is to determine how and when such phenomena - the pervasion and recess of Tao which can be paraphrased as the opening and closing of heaven and earth - occur. The thing to remember is the examination of the subject of Tao and the Zhouyi, and not either or. Otherwise the scholar may not fully understand this ancient teaching.

About two thousand five hundred years ago, Laozi wrote in the Tao Te Ching:

May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows? Emptied, yet it loses not its power; moved again, and it sends forth air the more.’ [Legge]

On or about the same time, Confucius taught this to his students as recorded in Book 8 Chapter 13 of the Analects:

When Tao pervades all under heaven, be prominent. When Tao recesses, go into hiding.’ [AL]

In the Da Zhuan (The Great Treatise), it is said:

The Book of Changes is vast and great. When one speaks of what is far, it knows no limits. When one speaks of what is near, it is still and right. When one speaks of the space between heaven and earth, it embraces everything.’ [W/B]

In the Commentaries to the Hexagrams, it is said:

When heaven and earth are creating in change and transformation, all plants and trees flourish; but when heaven and earth close, the able man withdraws into the dark.’ [W/B]

Since the teaching is related, the holy sages and the two great sages knew or would have experienced what had been indicated. It depicts that great minds think alike. Grasping the complete meaning can advance our own understanding of Tao, Yi, cultivation and fate. However, it does not mean that our knowledge is equal to these ancient sages.

It is said that a great and wise scholar, Wang Bi [A D 226 – 249] wrote about the meaning of the Book of Changes as a book of wisdom, not as a book of divination. Several centuries later, a top Confucian scholar, Zhu Xi [A D 1130 – 1200] attempted to rehabilitate it as a book of oracles; in addition to a short and precise commentary on the I Ching, he published an introduction to his investigations concerning the art of divination. [W/B lx]

Since the Book of Changes has been or can be used as a book of wisdom or a book of oracles, both the two scholars were right. However if Yi aficionados use the Book of Changes solely for wisdom or only for divination, then I am afraid they may not have reached a sufficient depth to understand or interpret what the ancients had said in this instance.

Having read some articles on their thoughts, both these scholars cannot be said to have deep knowledge of the workings of Tao as compared to Chen Tuan and Shao Yong.

Perhaps a simple explanation can be suggested: ‘Wang Bi who died early at the young age of 24, and Zhu Xi, strictly a Confucian, were not versed with neidan (inner alchemy) meditation’.

For ‘without seeing what can be seen, without feeling what can be felt, without hearing what can be heard’ as indicated in the Tao Te Ching, Daoist texts, and in Buddha’s Shurangama Sutra; how far can any Tao cultivator go? If one cannot go far in the real cultivation, how much can one really know about Tao?

Sinologists and their Chinese mentors appeared not to have shown their comprehension of the entire meaning in the teaching, even if they were versed with Classical Chinese and ancient philosophy.

The renowned late sinologist, James Legge and his mentor(s) had somehow completely fluffed the meaning in his Analects translation, the reason for my simple translation of what Confucius had actually said. Legge mentioned – caution – in his interpretation of the line in the Zhouyi.

Richard Wilhelm and his learned mentor did better by explaining why and what the able have to do, with the closing of Heaven and Earth. But Wilhelm and his mentor had not covered the angle on Tao.

If cultivators of Tao and Yi scholars do not understand what Laozi and Confucius meant, writings of the Zhen Ren or the Quanzhen heavenly immortals like Zhong Liquan, Lu Dongbin and Zhang Boduan can provide some guidance.

If you cannot find the real meaning behind the teaching on Tao and the Zhouyi, and/or the second part of the exercise – the determination of how and when the phenomena occur - try discussing it with likeminded fellows or consult your learned teacher(s) including the Heavenly immortals (Tian Xian), if any.

But do not expect any help from me. Since how would I know?


I thought the entry on Hexagram 62 which took three working days to write and fine tuned was long since the sensitivities of a well known translator had to be taken into account, to prove a point.

This entry took much longer, since it could be a revelation or not of a real teaching. Over the past few weeks, I had to ponder and reread what were indicated by the ancients, the Zhen Ren and the wise.

Therefore I would appreciate if readers provide a citation to this blog entry if they intend to use the material elsewhere for their studies, website, blog, and/or for gain.



Luis Andrade said...

Great post, Allan. You've shown a lot in it. Just don't exclude yourself from the "like-minded fellows"

Best wishes,


Allan said...


Top scholars may have to take time to examine and ponder the significance of this revelation.

After the entry was posted, the blog received two hits from Beijing, China. It is possible that the readers could also be referring to their learned peers or teachers to have a fuller comprehension of what was taught by the ancient sages.

If we wish to learn something from top scholars of Tao and/or the Zhouyi, we have to give them sufficient time to compose their thoughts into writing.


ballantrae-reprint said...

May I make a comment?

I had been making some notes about The Fool card (number 0) in the Tarot. The word "fool" is from a root that means "bellows" and so the card can be warning us not to become inflated or to overestimate weaknesses as well as strengths.

Also, zero is nothing before it becomes something.

Then I read in your blog entry:
"May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows?"


A link in one of the comments led me to The Shurangama Sutra where I open at random to a section about false consciousness being without a location and read:

Why is the straightforward mind the field of enlightenment? At
the point when you have not yet given rise to a first thought, that is
your true mind, your Way-mind.