Chapter 1: On Knowing the Eternal Law
Lao Tzu says on knowing the Eternal Law:
Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.
The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose,
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
But returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.
To return to the root is Repose;
It is called going back to one’s Destiny.
Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law,
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.
Death is destiny. It has to be so because death is the origin - you come from death and you go to death. Life is just a moment between two nothingnesses, just a flight of a bird between two states of non-being.
If death is destiny, as it is, then the whole of life becomes a preparation for it ( a training, a discipline in how to die rightly and how to die totally and utterly. The whole of life consists in learning how to die.
But somehow a wrong conception about death has entered humanity, the conception that death is the enemy. This is the basis of all wrong conceptions, and this is the basis of humanity going astray from the eternal law, from Tao. How has this happened? It has to be understood.
Man has taken death as the enemy of life - as if death is there to destroy life, as if death is against life. If this is the conception then of course you have to fight death, and life becomes an effort to survive against death. Then you are fighting against your own origin and you are fighting against your destiny. Then you are fighting against something that is going to happen. The whole fight is absurd because death cannot be avoided.
If it were something outside you it could be avoided, but it is inside. You carry it from the very moment you are born. You start dying really when you start breathing, at the same moment. It is not right to say that death comes in the end, it has always been with you from the very beginning. It is part of you, it is your innermost center, it grows with you, and one day it comes to a culmination, one day it comes to flowering. The day of death is not the day of death’s coming, it is the flowering. Death was growing within you all this time, now it has reached a peak; and once death reaches a peak you disappear back into the origin.