The Taoist Trader: Tao Te Ching (Chapter 4, Part 1)
The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled.
Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things!
Blunt the sharpness,
Untangle the knot,
Soften the glare,
Merge with dust.
Oh, hidden deep but ever present!
I do not know from whence it comes.
It is the forefather of the gods.
( By Lao Tsu, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
“The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled” describes the Tao as a feminine image, “an empty vessel.” This implies a certain kind of receptivity where your mind is the empty vessel and the Tao (as energy) can flow through you. Thus, wisdom enters your mind like a fresh wind and is not a well of accumulated knowledge that becomes a stagnant swamp. This reminds me of the prototypical Zen tale where the fledgling student approaches the Zen master hoping for a cup of wisdom. The Zen master hands the potential student a teacup and the Zen master pours tea into the cup until the cup overflows.
The meaning of the tale is that the potential student has accumulated preconceptions concerning the nature of life which is symbolized by the overflowing tea cup. The neophyte needs to empty his cup, empty his mind. In other words, he needs to become “an empty vessel” open to being taught by the Tao.
To be continued…