The Record on the Awakening to the Tao
By Ngm Yeun Tzee -- Lau Yard Ming
Translated by Thomas Cleary
(Three prefaces omitted)
The Height of Heaven, the Thickness of Earth
The body of heaven is extremely high. Open, round, immeasurable, it is boundlessly vast. Covering everything, containing everything, it produces myriad beings without presuming on its virtue, it bestows blessings on myriad beings without expectation of reward. Whether people are respectful or insincere, supportive or antagonistic, is left up to them. Whether people are good or bad, attractive or repulsive, and whether creatures are violent and stubborn or docile and obedient, they are allowed to be so of themselves, without any contrivance.
The earth is very thick. Lowly, below all else, it bears everything and nurtures all beings. It can bear even the weight of the great mountains, and it can endure even the erosive force of great waters. It tolerates being pierced by plants and trees, and it submits to the tread of birds and beasts. It does not mind being cheapened by pollution.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of emulating heaven and earth. If people can be open-minded and magnanimous, be receptive to all, take pity on the old and the poor, assist those in peril and rescue those in trouble, give of themselves without seeking reward, never bear grudges, look upon others and self impartially, and realize all as one, then people can be companions of heaven.
If people can be flexible and yielding, humble, with self-control, entirely free of agitation, cleared of all volatility, not angered by criticism, ignoring insult, docilely accepting all hardships, illnesses, and natural disasters, utterly without anxiety or resentment when faced with danger or adversity, then people can be companions of earth.
With the nobility of heaven and the humility of earth, one joins in with the attributes of heaven and earth and extends to eternity with them.
The Shining of the Sun and Moon
The way the sun works, it climbs into the sky in the daytime, thus illuminating the outward, then goes behind the earth at night, thus illuminating the inward. The way the moon works, in the first half of its cycle it produces light, thus illuminating the outward, then in the last half of its cycle it withdraws its light, thus nurturing the inward. Sun and moon, illuminating outside and inside, are all one light.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of using illumination. If people can use illumination outwardly, be careful about what they say and do, refrain from any inappropriate conduct, not dwell on anything but the Tao, not be distorted by the power of sensuality, intoxicants, and material goods, not be seduced by wealth or status, success or fame, not be stained by mundane feelings connected to worldly situations, then they can illuminate the outward as do the sun and moon.
If people can use illumination inwardly, do away with falsehood and maintain truthfulness, leave confusion and return to reality, learn to master emotions, clear up feelings, clean the mind, melt away the human mentality and activate the awareness of Tao, carefully avoiding even the slightest errant thought, then they can illumine the inward as do the sun and moon.
When the inward and the outward are illumined, and all is clear, you are one with the light of sun and moon. When developed to its ultimate state, this is a round luminosity which nothing can deceive, the subtle body of a unified spirit, pervading the whole universe. Then you have the same function as the sun and moon.
Thunder and Wind
Thunder is fierce, intense, and strong; wind is gradual, far-reaching, and soft. When wind and thunder combine, then there is soft gentleness in the midst of hard intensity, and there is hard intensity in the midst of soft gentleness. Hardness and softness complement each other.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of balanced harmonization of hardness and softness. When people practice the Tao to develop character, dealing with events and society, if they are always hard they will be impetuous and aggressive, excessively impatient, so their actions will lack perseverance and their keenness will be blunted. Then again, if people are always soft, they will vacillate, fearful and ineffective, and be too weak to succeed in their tasks. That softness is useless.
If people can be firm in decision and flexible in gradual practice, neither hurrying nor lagging, neither aggressive nor weak, with hardness and softness balancing each other, achieving balance and harmony, then they will benefit wherever they go. If they study the Tao in this way, eventually they will surely understand the Tao. If they practice the Tao in this way, eventually they will surely realize the Tao.
Therefore a classic written by a sage says, "Balance is that mainstay of the world, harmony is the way the world arrived on the Tao. Achieving balance and harmony, heaven and earth are in their places therein, myriad beings grow up therein." Such is the importance of the Tao of balance and harmony.
The Alternation of the Four Seasons
Spring, summer, autumn, winter--these are the four seasons. In spring things sprout, in summer things grow, in autumn things are harvested, in winter things are stored. Each has its turn, then passes on; when the cycle is completed, it begins again, so that the four seasons are linked together in a continuum.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of mutual causation, of subtraction and addition. Now what I mean by subtraction here is the subtraction of excess in strength and volatility, and what I mean by addition is addition to fill the lack caused by pliability and weakness. Being strong without letting strength go too far, being flexible without becoming ineffective, strength is joined to flexibility and flexibility is applied with strength.
Strength and flexibility matching each other, yin and yang matching each other, it is possible to be high or low, great or small; it is possible to advance or withdraw, to go along or oppose. Adapting uninhibitedly, indirectness and directness working parallel, one then merges with the order of the four seasons. Changing freely, there is a heaven and earth in one's own body, a Creation in one's own mind, yet one is not constrained by heaven, earth, and Creation.
The Moon Borrows the Sun's Light
The moon is originally pure yin, without yang--it only gives off light after borrowing the sun's rays. The waxing and waning of the moonlight depends on the position and proportion of the sunlight.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of borrowing yang to transmute yin. The human body is originally pure yin without yang--it must borrow the yang of other to become yang.
"Other" means everything other than oneself--sky and earth, sun and moon, myriad beings, myriad things. The so-called "yang of other" is the primordial open unified energy, which is the undying human being.
This energy is innate, but as it mixes with acquired conditioning it gradually gets scattered among the sky and earth, sun and moon, myriad beings and things, and is not one's own anymore, belonging to other.
If you know this energy is in other, and gradually steal it back to return it to self, restoring the existence of the nonexistent, regaining what had been lost, that is like the moon shining by borrowing the light of the sun. This is the celestial mechanism of taking over Creation and reversing yin and yang. Some deluded mundane persons, who mistake "Other" for women, are simply doomed to hell.
(75 chapters omitted)