According to Chen Guying, the
Wu as such is full of inexhaustible
and yet invisible vitality;
and correspondingly it contains
endless and numerous You.The
interaction between Wu and You
exemplifies the dynamic process
of the metaphysical Dao engendering
Heaven, earth and the myriad
things. As a consequence of
this process, this seemingly
transcendental Dao comes into
close contact with the concrete
or phenomenal world, thus making
the Dao anything but a hanging-in-the-air
or empty concept. That is why
the Dao is deemed to feature
a "double character"
which is somewhat metaphysical
on the one hand, and physical
on the other.
As has been observed, this chapter
attempts to explain the Dao
as something beyond verbal expression
and conceptualization, and that
it is the origin of Heaven,
earth and all things. Many people
are under the impression that
Lao Zi's statement is deliberately
mystifying when he calls the
Dao "deeper and more profound."
In fact what Lao Zi is stressing
here is that the Dao, as the
fountain-head of the myriad
things, lies in the deep and
profound origin of the universe.
Although Lao Zi proclaimed that
the Dao can not be named or
told, he actually offers certain
ideas about the Dao, for instance,
its indescribability and innumerability.
Later in Chapter 25 (DDJ) Lao
Zi further explains the essence
of the Dao by admitting that
something existed prior to Heaven
and earth, but whatever it was,
it was in a state of chaos.
As there was no name available
for it, he called it the Dao
for the sake of convenience.
According to scholars of the
Dao De Jing, Lao Zi made use
of many terms from the empirical
world to interpret the Dao,
but then discarded them one
after another. This indicates
that empirical terms are inadequate
for defining the Dao, and underlines
the subtlety of the Dao.
It should be mentioned in passing
that the concept of the Dao
as fashioned by Lao Zi may have
been derived from two preexisting
terms known as tian dao (the
Dao of Heaven) and tian ming
(Heavenly destiny or fate),
which seem to be associated
with primitive shamanism. Lao
Zi's concept of the Dao may
have been a substitution for
a supernatural being or God
used worshiped by the ancient
Chinese. This may explain why
religion in the sense of a supernaturally
sanctioned order has been virtually
absent from the Chinese cultural
context ever since.
A sound comprehension of the
Dao, as we may claim, can hardly
be attained without examining
the writings of another notable
Daoist, Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu).
Unlike his predecessor Lao Zi,
who expressed his vision of
the Dao in a highly condensed
poetic and aphoristic style,
Zhuang Zi strove to explain
the Dao along with its characteristics
by means of metaphoric prose.
For instance, he comments on
the nature of the Dao through
the voice of a person he names
wu shi (meaning "no beginning").
In Knowledge Wandered North
(i.e. Chapter 22, "Zhi
Bei You," in The Book of
Zhuang Zi), he says, "The
Dao cannot be heard; if heard,
it is not the Dao. The Dao cannot
be seen; if seen, it is not
the Dao. The Dao cannot be described;
if described, it is not the
Dao. That which gives form to
the formed is itself formless.
Can you understand that? There
is no name that fits the Dao."
This is obviously an extended
explication of the Dao as it
appears in Chapter 14 (DDJ).
Then, the subsequent remarks
made by Zhuang Zi can be counted
as a further explanation. That
is, "He who, when asked
about the Dao, gives an answer
does not understand the Dao.
And he who asks about the Dao
has not really heard the Dao
explained. The Dao is not to
be asked about, and even if
it is asked about, there can
be no answer. To ask about what
cannot be asked about is to
ask for the sky (meaning to
try to measure the immeasurable,
such as the sky). To answer
what cannot be answered is to
try to split hairs. If the hair-splitter
waits for the sky-asker, they
neither will ever perceive the
time and space that surround
them on the outside, or understand
the Great Beginning that is
within. Such men can never trek
across the Kunlun Mountains,
(the most formidable range of
mountains known to the ancient
Chinese and often cited metaphorically
to suggest something sublime
or extremely difficult), can
never wander in the Great Void
(meaning here the universe)"
(see Burton Watson. The Complete
Works of Chuang Tzu, pp. 243-244).
This obviously stresses the
subtlety, profundity and indescribability
of the Dao. However, it goes
to extremes by absolutizing
and mystifying these features
of the Dao. If the above is
the case, how could it be possible
for Lao Zi to write more than
5,000 words about it? And correspondingly,
how could it be possible for
Daoism as a school of thought
to have lodged itself permanently
as a quintessential part of
Chinese philosophy? Many philosophers,
both Chinese and non-Chinese,
have ever since endeavored to
comprehend the nature and character
of the Dao. It is intriguing
to notice that another answer
to the question as to what the
nature of the Dao is offered
in Zhuang Zi's work (Chapter
23, "Geng-sang Chu").
It goes like this: "It
(the Dao) comes from no source;
it goes back in through no aperture.
It has reality, yet there is
no place where it resides. It
has duration, yet no beginning
or end. Something emerges, though
through no aperture--this refers
to the fact that it has reality.
It has reality, yet there is
no place where it resides-this
refers to the dimension of space.
It has duration, but no beginning
or end--this refers to the dimension
of time. There is life, there
is death, there is a coming
out, there is a going back in--yet
in the coming out and going
back its form is never seen.
This is called the Heavenly
Gate (rian men). The Heavenly
Gate is non-being. The myriad
things come forth from non-being.
Being cannot create being out
of being; inevitably it must
come forth from non-being. Non-being
is absolute non-being, and it
is here that the sage hides
himself" (see Burton Watson,
Ibid., pp. 256-257). The term
Heavenly Gate (tian men) means
similar to the version "doorway
to all subtleties" in Chapter
1 (DDJ). The "sage"
mentioned in this context appears
somewhat like a god, yet a humanized
god similar to a divine person.
Additionally, the English rendering
of You as "being"
should be "Being-within-form,"
and that of Wu as "nonbeing"
should be "Being-without-form."
For Zhuang Zi's consideration
of the two categories corresponds
to Lao Zi's in this context.