Taoism is an ability to grasp the changes of the world and to blend with them in a “non action” necessary for a certain quality of relaxation.
The growth, the changes and the decline of phenomena and things, the natural cycles and the principles of creation / destruction , are in the image of the movement of the Tao.
This movement, Fan反, is a “reversion” , a “return ” .
All that is necessary to know about the movements of the Tao is in Chapter 40.
This return to the spontaneous and natural, that existed before the attachment to one’s self-image, is the Practice.
反 者 道 之 动,弱者 道 之 用
天下 万物 生于 有,有 生于 无
Reversion is the movement of Tao
Weakness is the expression of the Tao
All things under heaven come from the manifested ,
The manifested comes from the unmanifested .
“Fan”, reversion , return movement, regression, in this context is similar to what we see in Chapter 25:
大 曰 逝
逝 曰 远
远 曰 反
Big therefore moving ( da shi yue )
Moving therefore at the origin ( yue shi yuan)
Antique therefore at the origin ( yue yuan fan)
You should see here a circular motion, endless, whose origin and end are the same.
It is the absence of progression, of addition. It’s a search for simplicity, a willingness to do more than just learn.
This return leads back to the natural, what is already present, but demands to resurface .
The movement is a movement of return , not of evolution, in fact of evolution in the returning.
The fact of adding, of accumulating, can not go in the direction of a simplification.
The more you search, the more you find there is to search for.
It’s an endless action that projects itself into the future, a linear representation.
The Return is a circular motion.
The weakness is that of the bamboo versus the oak, of water versus fire : a relative weakness that is a source of sustainability.
In chapter 43, it is said “What is soft overcomes what is hard .”
天下 之 至柔
驰骋 天下 之至
Under the sky, what is soft
Dominates what is hard (under Heaven)
This softness and apparent weakness can be found in the combat arts, armed or bare handed, in conflicting human relationships, in life in general.
Here, again we find the two terms “Wu ” and ” You” that we saw in Chapter 1.
无: Wu is what is not manifested, the origin of what is.
有: You is what is manifested, what is the domain of the perceptible .
The manifestation takes its source in the “unmanifested absolute” unmanifested .
The world takes its source in the manifestation of Tao. The Taiji symbol, the black and white circle with two points, is the representation of the movement of the Tao.
It is only about 500 years before JC that Zou Yan will shape this figure that we know so well… 1500 years after the beginning of the Yi Jing .
This representation is only interesting if we see the movement, the “return” of one of the absolute to the other, this dynamic interaction that defines the concepts of yin and yang.
This spiral, endless and onto itself, may contain this idea of reversion. It evolves and changes, but remains identical to itself, it is a representation of the cycles and changes the world.
This concise chapter gives us a lot of information on the practice :
The study is necessary, but it is not the practice
The basics are the most advanced practices
Returnning on what is “known” is a perpetual novelty
Attentive to life, everything is constantly changing in an idenical nature.
The movements and functions of the Tao are the sources of the change and transformations of the phenomena of the world.
Understanding this, in an enlightened observation, enables us to unite ourselves to the changes the world in an active non-action.
This understanding refers to the Yi Jing ( the Book of Changes ), the source of the Feng Shui (the geomancy).
This return to the roots is a human attempt to get as close as possible to the Tao without being able to reach it.
It is not possible to reach as it is in the unmanifested and the human is a manifestation of that.
As the eye can not see itself, what is created can not understand the creator.
After conception, the human being can only taste the De (德), the manifestation of the Tao and its expression in the world.
We can not see the true nature of what is not accessible to our understanding, on the contrary we can see its manifestations.
This chapter is a sublimation of the details of Chapters 25, more concise and precise while becoming more nebulous for the non-practicionner.
A wise man joked : ” a non-practitioner has no more to do reading the Daodejing than a Japanese in a course of taijiquan .”
In the history of mankind, many phenomena have gone to their destruction after their heyday. We find the natural movement of reversion, creation / destruction dear to Lao Zi.
This is the principle of the natural cycles of our system.
It is interesting to note that in the Taoist idea of changing phenomena, anyway, everything returns to the source. This return is the reason why we do not want a relationship to time (past and future), but an union with the present. This is the idea of the trip whose purpose is not the destination but getting there. The circular vision of Taoism as compared to the Western linear view.
Stillness , tranquility, relaxation and non-resistance will enable us to live in harmony with the changing world, to fully enjoy everything that comes in one’s life, to return to the source without conflict. This active non-effort allows us to live in harmony with the Tao , unlike the mind that feeds on time and expectations, projections and questions , doubt and hope.
The weakness of the Tao is an apparent weakness: it is the concealed strength of water. Nothing is more fluid and seemingly weaker than water. In the techniques of martial arts, if the impact power is needed, the fluidity of movement is the source of the destruction of the enemy. This “natural ” flow that is trainable is the power of water.
Furthermore, water has no form, it adapts to its container, as well as air. If the water is in a cup, it takes the shape of the cup, if the water is in the ocean, it takes the shape of the Earth. The air is the same. Water and air are the yin and yang of Feng Shui (Geomancy which means “Wind and Water” ). The Tao includes this yin and yang.
We see this in the study of the beginning of chapter 78 :
天下 莫 柔弱 于 水
而 攻坚 强者
莫 之 能 胜
以其 无 以 易 之
Under Heave, nothing is more adaptable and flexible than water
However, it erodes the strongest and stiffest
Nothing surpasses it for that
弱 之 胜 强
柔 之 胜 刚
The flexible surpasses the hard
The adaptable surpasses the rigid
The image of water is ideal to express this aspect of the Dao. If flexibility is important, the concept of adaptability is really the quality that leads to the return, to the simple. In the capacity of relaxation that is necessary to adapt oneself, there is already an beginning of return .
This is the “De” (manifestation of the Dao ) which is practiced and that points to the Dao, which can not be understood .
All this is interesting and demand something difficult, but essential : the Practice.
Everyone agrees that it is better to be relaxed, flexible and adaptable, but it is rare to see people practicing in this endeavor, which schedule their life in that direction.
Lao Zi already testifies of this fact in his time… and it remains valid nowadays.
In the remainder of chapter 78 :
天下 莫 不知
Under Heaven, everyone can understand that
Yet nobody does it practical
Chapter 78 ends with a sentence that contains a theme of Lao Zi :
正言 若 反
The expressed truth may appear paradoxical
We should not always believe what is expressed and not necessarily doubt either. We must not talk too much and not study too much, but we must acquire knowledge. What is perceived can be false, knowing this we must be attentive with our senses… all this has nothing paradoxical.
All that is said is consistent if it does not refer to an intellectual understanding, but to an understanding through direct experience, by one’s personal practice .
This Taoist capacity that aims to blend in with the changes in the world demands for natural qualities to emerge, but they are dormant in every human being. It is therefore not about winning anything at all !