In the first entry of the topic, a reader came up with a few good questions about what came before Tao; immortals and deities; dual cultivation; and whether by consulting the Yi, we are in fact approaching Tao.
Since my answers could be relevant to fellow travelers of the Way and students of the Yi, and/or other readers still trying to figure out what chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching really means, I include them in this second entry. Here goes.
According to Laozi, Tao the mother of Heaven and Earth existed before all things including that of god(s). (Refer to TTC chapters 4, 21 and 25 etc) If Tao is the mother of Heaven and Earth, what existed before it?
According to ancient Chinese history, Heaven and Earth were in existence before humans became immortals and deities.
There is a subtle difference between Daoist immortals and deities, in case readers have not noticed in previous Yi entries related to divinities. Daoist immortals like Buddhas are learned and cultivated, while some deities may face difficulty in discussing the Yi.
Consulting the Yi can be a way to approach Tao, if we follow what the Junzi do. Like fellow travelers of the Way, the Junzi also cultivate.
And what do they cultivate?
The ancients said that they cultivate Tao and Te (refer TTC chapters 23 and 54). To make it simpler for the multitude, the Neo Daoists wrote down for posterity, the dual cultivation of essence and of bodily life.
If we do not even know about this dual cultivation, it would prove difficult to understand what Laozi indicated in TTC 16. Since we need to cultivate Tao and Te to achieve utmost emptiness and guard assured stillness. Only from there can fellows of the Way proceed further to returning to destiny.
At the end of this magical far journey, we may come to realize that Tao last forever, without body, no death.
‘Immortality!’ exclaimed my learned Daoist friend when I reached the final verse of the simple translation of TTC 16. And he is right, in case you had not seen it that way. My recent verse-by-verse discussion with him included references to Confucian thoughts and the Yi.
With this further explanation, perhaps fellow Tao cultivators and Yi students can come to the same conclusions?