Daodejing Chapter 16: knowing the constant

Daodejing constant

致虛極,守靜篤。萬物並作,吾以觀復。夫物芸芸,各復歸其根,歸根曰靜,是謂復命。復命曰常,知常曰明。不知常,妄作凶。知常容、容乃公,公乃全,全乃天,天乃道,道乃久,沒身不殆。
Reach perfect emptiness;
Maintain perfect stillness.
All things emerge,
I observe them return.
All things grow and flourish,
Each one returns to its root.
Returning to the root is called stillness;
This is what is called regaining to your destiny.
Regaining your destiny is called the constant.
Knowing the constant is called serenity.
Not knowing the constant leads to recklessness and violence.
Knowing the constant leads to tolerance;
Tolerance leads to impartiality;
Impartiality leads to enlightenment;
Enlightenment leads to Heaven;
Heaven leads to the Dao.
The Dao leads to resilience,
And to living out your days free from danger.

At a time when we are only beginning to understand, much less grapple with, the potentially negative impacts of 24/7 smart phone connectivity, it is worth noting that Laozi had similar concerns about the people of his era getting so caught up on the relentless daily treadmill that they were too “full” and exhausted to lead satisfying lives.

His answer to this problem was to urge you to emulate the way by aiming for a state of perfect “emptiness” and “stillness” in order to understand how the process of creation and reversion operates. Observing the “constant”, the pattern by which all animals, plants, and humans emerge, grow, flourish, and ultimately return to their original state, enables you to develop a more detached perspective on your life and place in the world.

The more attuned you are to the constant, the more receptive, tolerant, impartial, and inclusive you become and the less energy and emotion you waste getting caught up in mindless drudgery and meaningless disputes. By embracing the way, your resilience increases and you can extend the length of your life by minimizing the risk of “encountering any calamities.”

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