Tao Te Ching

Chapter 42

Tao produces one
One produces two
Two produce three
Three produce myriad things

Myriad things, backed by yin and embracing yang
Achieve harmony by integrating their energy
What the people dislike
Are alone, bereft, and unworthy
But the rulers call themselves with these terms
So with all things
Appear to take loss but benefit
Or receive benefit but lose
What the ancients taught
I will also teach
The violent one cannot have a natural death
I will use this as the principal of teachings


The Tao is the pregnant void - an infinite field of nothingness bursting with pure potentialities. This nothingness produces oneness. The formless, metaphysical Tao gives rise to the one Tao that would eventually encompasses everything in the physical universe.

The oneness of the Tao has no distinctions and no polarities. This oneness distills into the duality of Yin and Yang. Before anything came into existence, Yin energy had already become distinct from Yang energy. Thus, the one Tao has given rise to the two.

The two energies began to interact. They swirled into one another, neither one able to dominate or overwhelm its counterpart. A balance emerges from their interactions with one another. This is the critical third factor: movement, circulation, rhythm all embodied in the dynamic exchange of Yin and Yang.

This dynamism between Yin and Yang produces everything. Life mirrors this in the interplay of male and female energies, resulting in reproduction. All living things are thus grounded in the Yin energy - the source of life - while embracing the active, advancing Yang principle.

Human being are no exception from this rule. The interaction of men and women represents a crucial aspect of the Tao and gives life meaning. This is of significance not only in biology but in spirituality as well. When are are able to integrate the Yin and Yang energies, we achieve harmony and glimpse the divine nature of the Tao.

One aspect of this integration is to be grounded in the Yin principle - humility, quietness, tranquility - while embracing the advancement and visibility of the Yang. For instance, the rulers who occupy positions of power refer to themselves with lowly terms such as alone, bereft and unworthy.

This is true to many things - great advantages appear to be disadvantageous and vice versa. Those who use violence against people seem to make gains at the expense of others, but invariably they all die by violence just as they have lived by violence.

The ancients taught this principle of integration precisely because of its supreme importance in life. As we study the Tao and apply its teachings to life, let us observe this principle, and make it the basis of our cultivation.