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Chapter 7: On the Utility of Not-Being

Try to understand Lao Tzu’s sayings. On the utility of not-being he says:

Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being
Arises the utility of the wheel.

A wheel moves because in the nave, in the center, there is emptiness. If there is no emptiness in the center the wheel cannot move. It moves on emptiness.

Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house
From their not-being
Arises the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the nonexistence of things we are served.

This is how one can become total and whole, and to be whole is holy for Lao Tzu. There is no other holiness. It is not a cultivation of religious ritual, and it is not even a cultivation of morality. It has nothing to do with character. Holiness means a life that is whole, a life that has not denied anything, a life that knows no denial, a life that has not said no to anything, a life that accepts, accepts the opposites, a life that doesn’t choose. A life that is choiceless is holy. Holy comes from the same root as whole. If you are whole you are holy, and if you are whole it means you are at the same time life and death also. You don’t hide the fact of death and you don’t try to hide your inner hollowness, emptiness. You don’t try to fill it with rubbish. You enjoy the purity of emptiness also. Nothing is as pure as emptiness, nothing can be - because whenever there is something, impurity enters. Only emptiness can be absolutely pure.

But we are so afraid of emptiness. People come to me and say it is so difficult to be alone because one starts feeling one’s emptiness. Then you seek friends, then you seek lovers, and the whole effort from the very beginning is doomed, because a man who is afraid of his emptiness cannot really love. He is afraid. Deep down there is fear. How can he love? When he moves and pretends that he is in love with somebody he is just trying to escape from himself, his own emptiness. He is trying to forget that somewhere inside there is emptiness and nothingness. He is trying to fill that emptiness by somebody’s presence - and the other is also doing the same.

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