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The History of Great Light

(Original Instructions in Tao)

By Huai-Nan-Tzu

Introduction to the History of Great Light: Origins and Immortals




    TAO is that which encompasses the Universe and gives it dimension. Its height cannot be measured nor its depths fathomed. It made visible what at first had no form. Flowing like a fountain its energies penetrated the void and filled space. By ceaselessly flowing, it transformed murky chaos into crystal clearness.

    TAO is that which penetrates the Universe and touches every part of it. It cannot be exhausted; it knows neither exuberance nor decay. If it could be opened out it would fill the entire Universe; if it could be gathered together, it would not even fill a child's hand.

    Though it can be contracted, it can also be expanded; though it is obscure, it can become clear; though it is weak, it can become strong; though it is soft, it can become hard. TAO contains the balance of the masculine and the feminine, it contains the balance of the light and the dark; it holds together the Universe and Time, and supplies the great with inspiration.

    It is so tenuous and subtle that it pervades everything like water soaked earth. It is by TAO that mountains are high, and abysses deep; that beasts walk and birds fly; that the sun and moon are bright, and the stars revolve in their courses. All mysteries arise from it, and are resolved by it. When the wise obtain the power inherent in TAO, and are established in the center, they walk with the highest spiritual beings and all the Universe is at peace.



    It is through TAO that the stars and the earth move, that processes of change go on without end, and that water flows without stopping; for TAO is the beginning and end of all creation. The rising of wind, the gathering of clouds, are as they should be; so too the rolling of thunder, the fall of rain, and so on, without end.

    The operations of TAO are mysterious. They resemble the actions of the potter, whose wheel forever goes round and round. In the natural succession of change, creations are finished and polished, and afterwards dissolve again into their pristine elements.

    Those who do not interfere and leave nothing undone are in harmony with TAO; those who speak with care understand power; those who know tranquillity and are content, devoid of conceit, are in possession of harmony, even though they live in the midst of a myriad diversities. All things are in accordance with their various natures.

    The energy of TAO operates in the smallest thing and yet compels the mighty universe. Its power molds the universe and harmonizes the masculine and feminine, the light and the dark; it forms the four seasons and brings the elements of nature into accord.

    The benign and gentle breath of TAO cherishes all things, both living and not living; it enriches vegetation with moisture, and permeates stone and metal; it causes the growth of all creatures, giving to one rich and glossy fur, to another abundant plumage. Through its powers embryos mature and creatures are born.

    Because of TAO fathers do not mourn the untimely death of their children, nor does the elder brother that of his younger brother; the young are not left as orphans, nor is the wife a widow. The misplaced rainbow will never appear, nor destructive comets cross the sky, because of the harmonious nature of TAO.



    TAO at its most sublime does not regard itself as the author of Creation, nor as the power which completes, transforms and fashions all things.

    Things which walk, breathe, fly or crawl, await the operation of TAO before they come into being, without recognizing the power to which they owe existence; and they await the operation of the same principle before they die, without feeling any resentment. When people derive benefit from TAO, they render it no praise; so when they misuse it and bring disaster upon themselves, they may not reproach it. When they accumulate and store up riches, this may not be considered an increase of their true wealth; nor when they distribute or scatter it, is it to be considered any impoverishment.

    TAO exists everywhere, yet it cannot be sought out. Subtle and intangible, it cannot be overlooked. If it is piled up, it will not be high. If it is overthrown, it will not be low. Add to it and it does not increase. Deduct from it and it will not be reduced. Plane it and it does not become thin. Cut it, and it will not be injured. Dig into it, and it will not be found deep. Fill it, and it will not become shallow. Shadowy and indistinct, it has no form. Indistinct and shadowy its resources have no limit. Hidden and obscure, it reinforces all things from the formless. Penetrating and pervasive, it never acts in vain. It bends and straightens with the hard and the soft. It rises and falls with the masculine and the feminine, with the light and with the dark.



    When the ideal person of TAO walks upon frost or snow they leave no footprints; when the sun shines upon them they cast no shadow. Their many spiritual achievements appear magical and mysterious to the common mind; the mystical path leads them to know the TAO and the people call them gods.



    Those who come after these ideal people are unable to emulate them, no matter how hard they try.

    Wise and balanced people of TAO are always tranquil and without desiring; they are always content, and have no cares. The Sky is their canopy, the Earth is their vehicle, the four seasons give them power. Perfectly free and knowing no restraints, they advance through the Empyrean; moving slowly or quickly as they wish. They cause the rain to sprinkle moisture on the roads and the wind to sweep the dust; lightening serves to drive them when lagging and thunder provides a path where there was none. Above they roam through the vastness of space; below they pass through the Gate of Boundlessness. There is nothing that does not pass before their vision in their travels, yet, on their return, their fullness of spirit remains unchanged and is not unsettled by these wanderings. Although everything within the four corners of the Universe is under their control, they revert to their foundation. They are this way because they have a firm grasp of TAO; and so they are enabled to travel through Infinity.

    Even though the affairs of the world are not easily administered, they may be directed by a comprehension of the course they naturally take; although the transitions of the visible Universe baffle investigation, they may yet be understood by knowing their actual origin and destiny.



    When a mirror and water are brought close to an object, they reflect it as square or round, crooked or straight, as the case may be, because of their perfect tranquillity. In like manner does the heart of a wise person naturally reflect the principles of TAO. A wise person does not need to hear sounds or see forms; for they are conscious of both, even in the midst of silence.

    The natural quiescence of the nature with which people are born is implanted by the Universal power; the influences which affect people and excite them subsequently, may obscure their real nature. When a person responds to the calls made upon them by natural concerns, that implies an excitation of the mind; and when their faculties are bought into contact with externals, they become the subject of desires and aversions. As soon as a person's desires and aversions are aroused, their mind is enticed into action by external objects; if they are unable to revert to their true self, the TAO is almost extinguished in them. Those who are perfectly centered in TAO do not permit any change through an external agency to take place in their nature. Though they undergo variations outwardly in common with everything else, inwardly they never lose their inherent actuality.

    Utterly non-existent, TAO is always ready to respond to those who seek it; it apportions the world naturally and for everything, great and small, long and short, due provision is made.

    If a person is identified with TAO, although a myriad things present themselves before them, all prancing and rearing in excitement and utter confusion, they are powerless to disturb them. Such people, when in positions of prominence and authority, do not bring their weight heavily to bear upon the people at large, nor do they injure them. Fine people come to them for protection, and the depraved stand in awe of them; since they do not oppose the world, the world does not dare to content with them.