Lieh-Tzu describes Tao:-

 Moody Lake


That which is not born gives birth to everything




All things have their place in the universe, whether it is active or passive, moving or not moving. They fulfil their function in the world simply by being what they are. Everything plays a part in the process of creating, nourishing, transforming, and destroying. The creation of one thing is the destruction of another, and the destruction of one thing is the creation of another. In this way, life carries on in the universe. In every moment there is birth and death and there is coming and going. This process never stops.


The Book of the Yellow Emperor says, "The Valley Spirit that does not die is the Mysterious Female. It is the foundation of heaven and earth. It continues forever and cannot be used up." Because the valley is hollow, it can hold the spirit, it can embrace, and it can nourish. Because the valley is empty, it is not subject to birth and death. To transcend birth and death is to enter into the Limitless (wu-chi) and be at one with the origin of heaven and earth.


The Gate of the Mysterious Female is where all things are created. And yet heaven and earth are said to be born from the not-born. This is what is meant by “that which is not born gives birth to everything,” for the Mysterious Female is that which is not-born. Its origins belong to the realm of nondifferentiation, where there is neither birth nor death. Because it is never born, it never dies. Because it never dies, its energy lasts forever. It is in heaven and earth, and heaven and earth do not know it. It is in all things, yet all things do not recognizе it.


If we understand that birth and death are part of the natural order of things, we will know that our lives cannot be controlled by our own efforts, and coming and going are not our own doing. At birth, we take a shape and form; in growth, we undergo development and change; and when our course has run out, we dissolve and return to where we were before we were born.


If we know the order of things, we will understand that when intelligence and wisdom have reached their zenith, they will begin to fade and decay. The rise and fall of shapes, colours, thoughts, and feelings are not subject to control. Because we don't know whence they come or where they go, we can only say that everything that is born comes from the not-born.


 Slateyard Moon


All things are connected and come from the same origin




The ancient sages used yin and yang to talk about the nature of things. They described changes in heaven and earth as the interaction of yin and yang. They said that the Nameless gives birth to the Named and that the origin of heaven and earth lies in that nebulous and unfathomable realm where all things are undifferentiated from each other.


How do things emerge from this unfathomable and undifferentiated realm? They go through four stages. the Primal Oneness, the Primal Emerging, the Primal Beginning, and the Primal Substance.


The Primal Oneness is the state in which all things are undivided and undifferentiated. There is no subject and object, no shape and form. In the Primal Emerging, the Primordial Vapor (ch'i) covers heaven and earth. Yin and yang have not divided, and everything lies within the embrace of the Vapor. In the Primal Beginning, yin and yang divide, and their interaction produces limited but identifiable shapes and forms. In the stage of the Primal Substance, things have not only assumed definite shapes and forms but have taken on qualities. They are hard or soft, light or heavy, moving or still.


Although each thing is said to have its own essence of life, shape, and quality, these three entities are inseparable. They are all connected to the undifferentiated origin. Despite all apparent differences, all things are connected with each other and with their origin, the Tao.


The Tao is formless and cannot be seen or heard. What we see or hear are only the manifestations of the Tao. That is why the ancients said, “Try to see it and it is not there, try to hear it, and there is nothing.” Because the Tao cannot be grasped by our mundane senses, it is futile for us to use ordinary perception to discover the Tao. The Primal Origin has no essence, no form, and no substance. From its undifferentiated oneness, it divides into unaccountable myriad things, and yet in an instant, all things can return to the original oneness.


In the Primal Beginning, the pure and light vapour rises to become heaven, and the muddy and heavy vapor sinks to become earth. It is from the harmonious interaction between the pure and the muddy, the light and the heavy, that humanity came into being. Thus, we are products of the vapour born from the copulation of heaven and earth. We are interconnected with all things — plants and animals, heaven and earth — because all things trace their origins to and owe their existence to the Primal Oneness.


(Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living translated by Eva Wong)