Chapter of the Week: #16 [Archive]


I found excrescence in the dictionary: "an often immoderate or abnormal projection, outgrowth, or enlargement" and "forming an abnormal, excessive, or useless outgrowth."

I bet I'm not the only one unfamiliar with that word.


  • edited December 2005
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 16 was originally featured on the 3rd week in November, 2005.

    Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 16
    I do my utmost to attain emptiness;
    I hold firmly to stillness.
    The myriad creatures all rise together
    And I watch their return.
    The teaming creatures
    All return to their separate roots.
    Returning to one's roots is known as stillness.
    This is what is meant by returning to one's destiny.
    Returning to one's destiny is known as the constant.
    Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.

    Woe to him who wilfully innovates
    While ignorant of the constant,
    But should one act from knowledge of the constant
    One's action will lead to impartiality,
    Impartiality to kingliness,
    Kingliness to heaven,
    Heaven to the way,
    The way to perpetuity,
    And to the end of one's days one will meet with no danger.
  • edited December 1969
    [Note: I italicize phrases I borrow from the chapter, and link to phrases I borrow from other chapters to help tie chapters together. While making it more tedious to read, :? the Tao Te Ching is best pondered in the context of the whole.]

    A few days ago I posted Death, as a Rest from Life in which I expressed the view that consciousness continues despite the death of our body and its 'ego'. This chapter ties right into that...

    First, I sense this perpetuity of consciousness each time I truly do my utmost to attain emptiness. Now, to hold firmly to stillness sounds great, doesn't it? (Just like Mrs. Reagan's advice to "just say no"). However, life is about movement, not stillness, about yes, not no. So this is really a tall order, eh?. The Taoist, Buddhist and related world views have rung true to me all my life. Nevertheless, I've always delayed doing my utmost in this realm. Frankly, holding firmly to stillness just runs against my survival instinct. And so I've always procrastinated doing my utmost in this area. Well,... I still do, but not as much as in my youth. Why? Simply put, [chref=51]circumstances bring us to maturity.[/chref] And, I must confess, it really is worth the 'effort'. 'Effort'? Self honesty - facing my self - is the most difficult thing I've found to do. And this has proven to be the prerequisite for doing my utmost to attain emptiness. In a sense, they are the same thing!

    The [chref=40]weakness[/chref] of stillness, and the impartiality which ensues, allow me to watch the teaming creatures return to their separate roots. In the personal experience of stillness, I feel a [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] in which the separate roots become [chref=39]One[/chref]. This sense of returning to one's destiny is the constant in which I can experience eternity in 'each' moment. Again, it sounds great! While I can't spend every waking moment in such stillness, it helps me profoundly to [chref=47]know[/chref] that it is here - whether or not I do my utmost to attain it. It is my destiny, our destiny, regardless of we do, or don't do. It is our destiny even if we never attain emptiness or hold firmly to stillness in life. Personally, truly knowing it is here helps me return here.

    Finally, the sense that we meet with no danger is not literal, so much as a quieting of our fear of danger. We lug around a fear of danger in our minds throughout life, which is very wearing! This fear of danger, of course, all stems from the illusion of 'self'. As the 'self' returns to stillness it sloughs off like dead skin, revealing the way to perpetuity. Seeing this makes life a smoother experience where, [chref=63]in the end, no difficulties can get the better of us[/chref].
  • edited December 1969

    Just a thought - and I know that this is not perhaps quite what you meant by stillness, but still - even in those moments when we stand still, our body is still moving. Our heart continues to beat, our lungs pump in and out, the blood continues to circulate around our bodies. In this way we are watching 'the teeming creatures' of our bodies return to the roots and then leave again - we are doing without doing. If we just take a moment to really contemplate this movement in our moments of stillness we can understand that everything is interdependent and we become more aware of how our bodies are part of the world.

    Like I said, just a thought :wink:
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Little Dragon:[/cite]..., but still - even in those moments when we stand still, our body is still moving. .... we are doing without doing....
    Yes indeed Ms. Dragon!

    Now, I call you, and raise you a molecule, atom, and a quark. And after the quark, and the 'quarket' within the quark, let us ponder the 'space' between the 'strings'.

    My question to you is where does free will end and the [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] begin? :wink:
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