Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 51

This chapter is a dance between Tao and Te – Tao as the source of all things, and Te as the life force that sustains all things. Many chapters focus on one or the other, so it is enlightening to see here the interplay between the two fundamental concepts of the Tao Te Ching. It is a chapter that delights the ear in the original Chinese because you can hear the rhythm and cadence. It sounds like a dance!

Tao gives birth to all things
Te nurtures all things
Matter forms all things
Environment completes all things

This is a brief story of creation. Tao manifests as the universe through the creative agency of Te. What is undifferentiated and unlimited potential in the infinite emptiness of Tao springs forth and divides into what the Tao Te Ching calls the ten thousand things. It is like light shining through a prism and making rainbows on the wall.

I love prisms, by the way, and recently gave one to my grandson. We had so much fun finding sun coming through windows to create dancing rainbows on walls, floors, curtains, and our hands. But I digress….

Thus the ten thousand things revere Tao and honor Te 
Not because it is commanded of them
But because it is their true nature to do so

I love this passage because it reflects the divine relationship between the creative energy and the created. The Ten Commandments demand honor of father and mother, but here the honor is a natural inherent response, requiring no effort.

Likewise, it is Te’s nature to nourish and sustain all things as they move through the life cycle.

Thus Tao gives birth to all things
As Te nurtures them
Raises and nourishes them
Protects and matures them
Sustains and shelters them

This passage reminds me of Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” So beautiful.

The last four lines are repeated in other chapters. This last section reminds me of Kahlil Gibran’s passage about children. 

Giving birth yet not possessing
Acting yet not claiming credit
Rearing yet not controlling
This is called profound Virtue (Te)

To me this chapter reflects the rhythm of breathing, the exchange between the inhale and the exhale. As we breathe, we dance our own creation, connecting ourselves as individuals to the universal energy that gives us all life.

So beautiful.

14 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching – Chapter 51”

  1. Yes, So beautiful. Breathe in. Breathe out. Rest in the Tao. I love it, Galen, and I think I needed this hexagram right this moment. Thank you. 🙂

  2. You were quick off the mark, DJan. You must have been at your computer when I posted this a few minutes ago. Glad it was timely. Hexagram? Ahh, I bet you are thinking of the I Ching, which does use 64 hexagrams as a method of divination and guidance. These chapters I write about come from the Tao Te Ching, a different text, but with many similar fundamental principles. Easy to confuse the two!

  3. Galen, you didn't digress in your sharing of prisms with your grandson. The light, pure and strong, can be understood more fully in our earthly creation as the colorful mystery that we are privileged and honored to see. Virginia has often lamented that she's never seen a rainbow for real, and you have inspired me here to buy a prism that she can see just how pure light meets us where we are. The colors of the rainbow, the covenant of promise from our God . . . "The universal energy that gives us all life."
    Blessings, dear friend!

  4. When she sees her first rainbow for real she is going to be amazed! In the meantime, a prism will give her a sense of the magic of light. I predict fun for you and Virginia.

  5. I do find this post poetic in nature. It is an articulate and symbolic representation of Christian views that I see repeated in the Tao Te Ching. It reflects common truths which exist in mostif not all religious philosophies. It diffidently reflects our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father is our creator and the Savior is the nuturer in many way. This helps me see Christian truths from another perspective. I like the Psalms verse too.
    Prisms are awesome and I loved your precious moment with your grandson. I might look into getting one myself. I have always enjoyed the magic of light in prisms.
    Blessings and hugs for you!

  6. I might have started a new prism fad, LeAnn! I love them. I have one hanging in my dining room window that catches the morning sun. And I have one at my cabin that throws rainbows on the ceiling when the sun comes up.

    And yes, it seems that there are some common themes in many wisdom teachings, teachings that arose in different eras in different parts of the world. Pretty fascinating.

  7. As always Galen, this is well written. I like your definition of Tao as being the source of all things and Te is the life sustaining force that sustains or nurtures all things as they move through the life cycle.

    I will quote a man by the name of Brendan Hughes in his Ted talk on the emergence of universal consciousness, that I listened to last night.

    He said " Life and death are both processes. Life is the organization of energy into form and death is the liberation of energy from form, and the reduction of form back to its original states"

    So,the Tao process of giving life energy form is sustained by Te until it dissolves back into potential energy in a continuous cycle of what we refer to as birth and death.

    "it reflects the divine relationship between the creative energy and the created."

    Its the divine dance, and we are conscious fractals of this creative life source. We have forgotten who we are , believing we are separate from Tao, the creator and the sustainer af all. All is one and we are "That".

  8. Thanks for the quote and your thoughts on it, Brian. Elsewhere in the Tao Te Ching, it says that "returning" is the movement of Tao. I think that is the liberation of energy from form that Hughes talks about. "Conscious fractals of this creative life source" — I LOVE that!

  9. 'Returning is a movement of Tao' and in other words, death is known as a returning to source. From what is know in Quantum physics,and tying that with Hughe's statement, death can be seen as a liberation of energy from micro particles (in atoms) found in all matter to wave energy (the unmanifested). So, allow me to ponder here…. Spirit can be thought of as unmanifested,self organizing,conscious,creative,loving energy..that is without form. Tao could be thought of as Spirit, God is Spirit, Consciousness is Spirit, Universal intelligence/Love is Spirit. These are all names for the unnameable mysterious Spirit. We are Spirit manifested in human form, Spirit having a human experience. We don't have a spirit,we are Spirit.We don't have a life we are Life. There is only one Spirit, one Consciousness, one universal intelligent Mind and one Life. Yes, we are fractals (individual units/cells) of That.

    Wow! This stuff excites me because we are so much more then we are aware of.

  10. Giving birth yet not possessing
    Acting yet not claiming credit
    Rearing yet not controlling
    This is called profound Virtue (Te)

    This made it all come together for me. Perspective is everything.

  11. These lines captured how I feel about creativity, both my own and that of others:

    ''Giving birth yet not possessing
    Acting yet not claiming credit
    Rearing yet not controlling''

    Once the created object or form is externalised as a finished piece of work, it takes on a life of it's own with the artist or writer acting as an agent…a facilitator, who then relinquishes control and sends it out into the world. This sounds quite a 'fancy' view but as the years have gone by, I've come to feel simply like an agent of creativity (albeit with some nurturing going on) with me just opening a portal, rather than it all coming from me. I'm rather surprised to find myself feeling this, but now, for sure, there is a sense of truth about it.

    I also surprise myself, Galen,as I always seem to find a link to make with one of your posts, which at first sight sometimes I think are too dense or abstract for my understanding. You are bending my thinking processes here and i'm liking it, so thank you!

  12. Indeed, Betty. I was just having an exchange with one of my kids who is having a hard time. I was trying to help her alleviate some painful emotions she is feeling by exploring the underlying perspective. Can't say I was very successful, but it made me see how attached we become to our own possessing and taking credit and controlling, me included! I realized that I should be working on my OWN perspective — ha!

  13. Lynne, I love your description of the creative energy that moves through you not from you. An agent of creativity, a portal — that is perfect. Portal is really a great word.

    I laughed at your last paragraph. It reflects back to me my own inadequacies as a writer, and also the challenge of trying to express in words what is inexpressible. One of the things I love about the Tao Te Ching is its practical wisdom that is applicable in our daily lives. To me it is so accessible, and yet when I try to express it, I am lost in dense, abstract word descriptions and explanations.

    I often think about it as writing about swimming or meditating, something that cannot be learned by words, but can only be experienced by practice. But how do you know what or how to practice without words or demonstrations? Hmm…..

    I'm thinking of so many times in martial arts when I could not understand what my teacher was saying, but when he put my hands on some part of his body where I could "feel" the energy, I got it immediately. Teaching me directly through touch on his body or mine taught me much better than words!

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