The Text of the Month No 1

By Jos Slabbert

Do you understand?

Even when the last star
has imploded
and only blackness remains,
the Tao will be Tao:
emptiness in emptiness,
silence in silence,
nowhere,
yet everywhere;
beyond existence,
yet the essence of life.
(The Tao is Tao, 1)

Explanation and comment

Many who have invested their faith in a personal God utilized as a kind of confidante, coach, advisor and consoler will not understand how something so vague as the Tao could appeal to anyone. The Tao cannot be contacted and cannot be used. The Tao has no face. It is silent and unreachable. It is without the kind of pity many people expect from their gods. It is without the possibility of instant salvation which attracts so many people to certain concepts of god.

Taoists will tell you they prefer to face life without any illusion. In the final analysis, you are responsible for your own fate.

The Taoist sage
knows
Karma is inescapable
(The Tao is Tao, 39)

There are no shortcuts allowing you to sidestep the results of your actions. You will reap what you have sown. You need courage to accept this.

But there is more to the Tao than just accepting your own responsibility. As we begin to live closer to the unimaginable, which we call Tao even though we know it is not its name, this mystery begins to exert its positive influence on us.

The poem above expresses the feeling of certainty and comfort the Tao gives to those moving close to it.

The first wonderful "attribute" of the Tao is that it is absolute:

Even when the last star
has imploded
and only blackness remains,
the Tao will be Tao

It is untouched by anything that happens in our world. It is beyond time, which is only a dimension of our world. The Tao is not only beyond the existence of our planet, but of our universe, and all universes beyond it.

It is untraceable and untouchable:

emptiness in emptiness,
silence in silence.

It is beyond space:

nowhere,
yet everywhere.

But, and this is part of its beauty and its mystery, it is

beyond existence,
yet the essence of life.

It is not part of our existence, yet it is the substance of our lives. But even its "meaning" has nothing to do with the clarity usually associated with the word. It is essentially mysterious, but it is in its mystery that we find faith and peace.

Unlike adherents of many religions who demonstrate their lack of faith through their painstaking efforts to describe their gods, often giving their gods human features, the person in harmony with Tao accepts the mystery without any effort to understand.

The Taoist sage does not invest his faith in his own futile efforts to describe the inexplicable, but he has true faith in the absolutely mysterious.

True faith
is
complete trust
without understanding:
It is to accept
silence
silently.
(The Tao is Tao, 22)