Chapter 1: Just an Empty Passage
The Venerable Master said:
The Supreme Tao is formless, yet it produces and nurtures heaven and earth.
The Supreme Tao has no desires, yet by its power the sun and moon revolve in their orbits.
The Supreme Tao is nameless, yet it ever supports all things.
I do not know its name but for title call it Tao.
The classic of purity is one of the most profound insights into nature. I call it an insight, not a doctrine, not a philosophy, not a religion, because it is not intellectual at all; it is existential. The man who is speaking in it is not speaking as a mind, he is not speaking as himself either; he is just an empty passage for existence itself to say something through him.
That’s how the great mystics have always lived and spoken. These are not their own words - they are no more. they have disappeared long before; it is the whole pouring through them. Their expressions may be different, but the source is the same. The words of Jesus, Zarathustra, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Mohammed are not ordinary words; they are not coming from their memory, they are coming from their experience. They have touched the divine, and the moment you touch the divine you evaporate, you cannot exist any more. You have to die for God to be.
This is a Taoist insight. Tao is another name for God, far more beautiful than God because God, the word God, has been exploited too much by the priests They have exploited in the name of God for so long that even the word has become contaminated - it has become disgusting. Any man of intelligence is bound to avoid it because it reminds him of all the nonsense that has happened on the earth down the ages in the name of God, in the name of religion. More mischief has happened in the name of God than in any other name.
Tao in that sense is tremendously beautiful. You cannot worship Tao because Tao does not give you the idea of a person. It is simply a principle, not a person. You cannot worship a principle - you cannot pray to Tao. It will look ridiculous, it will be utterly absurd, praying to a principle. You don’t pray to gravitation, you cannot pray to the theory of relativity.
Tao simply means the ultimate principle that binds the whole existence together. The existence is not a chaos that much is certain; it is a cosmos. There is immense order in it, intrinsic order in it, and the name of that order is Tao. Tao simply means the harmony of the whole. No temples have been built for Tao; no statues, no prayers, no priests, no rituals - that’s the beauty of it. Hence I don’t call it a doctrine, nor do I call it a religion, it is a pure insight. You can call it Dharma; that is Buddha’s word for Tao. The word in English that comes closer or closest to Tao is Nature with a capital N.
This profound insight is also one of the smallest treatises ever written. It is so condensed - it is as if millions of roses have been condensed in a drop of perfume. That’s the ancient way of expressing truth: because books were not in existence, people had to remember it.