Tao is a very profound subject to know and few down the ages have shown the wherewithal to write a complete study of the Way. For without a deep working knowledge of the Book of Changes, and of the Tao Te Ching, a study of the Way would just contain a lot of bias and misinformation leading to unnecessary hindrances to its cultivation.
This intended comprehensive study of the ancient Way (Tao) will comprise of a series of articles that could show up the bias of past eminent Chinese scholars and the accompanying misinformation which probably had hindered many down the ages from the cultivation of Tao.
Since the Tang Dynasty, eminent Chinese scholars have had made studies of the Way (Tao). The most prominent of these scholars was probably top Tang poet Han Yu better known by his honorary name Han Wen Gong (Duke Wen of Han). It is to be noted that Han Yu had taught Confucian studies to his young nephew, Han Xiangzi – who later became one of the famous Eight Immortals (Ba Xian). However, Han Yu in turn rejected his nephew’s proffered teaching of Tao. His study of the Way while influential to Neo Confucians including Zhu Xi of Song restricts readers’ knowledge to the confines of benevolence (Ren) and righteousness (Yi). To remain truthful, he called it the study of the Confucian Way.
Yet true scholars of Tao, similar to Laozi and Confucius before them, know for a fact that the Way is universal. Why then is the Way universal?
The holy sages who discovered Tao during their lifetimes embedded this extraordinary natural phenomenon in the Book of Changes for posterity. In the Judgment of Hexagram 24 Fu / Return (extract), it is said:
“Friends come without blame. To and fro goes the Way (Tao). On the seventh day comes return.”
This is the course of heaven. [Commentary on this part of the Judgment by Confucius – W/B]
“Return is the movement of Tao.” Laozi, Tao Te Ching Chapter 40.
Since Tao cannot be perceived with any of the senses and can seemingly appear or disappear anytime for years, it can be called an extraordinary natural phenomenon.
While Tao cannot be directly perceived, the holy sages, the two great ancient sages – Laozi and Confucius –, and Mencius had had taught how to determine its presence or its absence all under Heaven. And according to these sages, when Tao is all under heaven, myriad things flourish. When Tao withdraws from all under heaven, myriad things recede.
When Tao can so affect the myriad things and mankind with its appearance or its disappearance, is it not therefore universal? (Refer to the Book of Changes, Tao Te Ching, Analects of Confucius, and the Book of Mencius.)
And the Book of Changes could also forewarn the utmost sincere who can foreknow and is like a spirit of the impending disappearance of Tao from all under heaven. (My previous articles on the phenomena and on the particular omen of the then impending closure of Heaven and Earth on September 15, 2008, as it unfolded provide easy reference for eminent Yijing and/or Daoist scholars if they want to do further research.)
“In the Discussion on the Trigrams (Shou Gua) (Eight Wing), ancients of great antiquity had indicated that the holy sages put themselves in accord with Tao and Te (natural law and moral law), and in conformity with this laid down the order of what is right. By thinking through the order of the outer world to the end, and by exploring the law of their nature to the deepest core, they arrived at an understanding of fate.
Their purpose was to follow the order of their nature (Xing) and of their fate (Ming). Therefore they determine the tao of heaven and called it the dark and the light. They determined the tao of earth and called it the yielding and the firm. They determined the tao of man and called it benevolence (Ren) and righteousness (Yi). They combined these three fundamental powers and doubled them; therefore in the Book of Changes a sign is always formed by six lines.” [Book II pages 263 and 264 W/B]
In the Commentary on the Words of the Text (Wen Yen) (Seventh Wing), it is indicated that “Because the holy man is clear as to the end and the beginning, as to the way in which each of the six stages completes itself in its own time, he mounts on them toward heaven as though on six dragons.” [Qian / The Creative Book III page 371 W/B]
The holy man, clear to the end and beginning, is therefore able to mount on the six lines of Qian toward heaven as though on six dragons.
Therein lays the ancient secret to the dual cultivation of human nature (Ren Xing) and fate (Ming).
In so doing, humans would cultivate the tao of heaven, the tao of earth and the tao of man; eventually putting themselves - like the holy sages - in accord with Tao and Te. And attain immortality.
Celestial immortality is reached where “Tao last forever, without body, (there is) no death” – Laozi, Tao Te Ching Chapter 16.
The cultivation of Tao (Siu Tao) is the common term used by both Daoists and Buddhists in the Far East for this dual cultivation of human nature and fate; while Western translators have had in the main translated the term to: “the cultivation of essence (Xing) and bodily life (Ming)”.
Top scholars of Tao would eventually come to know that the technical term “human nature and fate” rather than “essence and bodily life” is more appropriate to their study and cultivation of the Way.
In the meantime, go and find a real teacher. The Quanzhen celestial immortals are the real teachers of the Way (Tao). Their knowledge of human nature (Ren Xing) and fate (Ming) is infinite.