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The Unitive State in Taoism

Professor Andrew Wilson

Unification Theological Seminary
from Readings from World Scriptures
(World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts)


T'ien Ken was travelling to the south of Yin Mountain.  He had reached the river Liao when he met a nameless sage, to whom he said, "I beg to ask about governing the world."

"Go away," said the nameless man, "you are a low fellow.  How unpleasant is your question!  I would be in companionship with the Maker of things.  When wearied, I would mount on the bird of ease and emptiness, proceed beyond the world, wander in the land of nowhere, and live in the domain of nothingness. Why do you come to worry me with the problem of setting the world in order?"

T'ien Ken again asked his question, and the nameless man replied, "Make excursion in simplicity.  Identify yourself with nondistinction. Follow the nature of things and admit no personal bias, then the world will be at peace."

Chuang Tzu 7

'Identify yourself with nondistinction:' see Seng Ts'an, pp. 221f; Chuang Tzu 2,



In the Great Beginning, there was non-being.  It had neither being nor name.  The One originates from it; it has oneness but not yet physical form. When things obtain it and come into existence, that is called virtue [power which gives them their individual character].  That which is formless is divided [into yang and yin], and from the very beginning going on without interruption is called destiny.  Through movement and rest it produces all things.  When things are produced in accordance with the principle of life, there is physical form.  When the physical form embodies and preserves the spirit so that all activities follow their own specific principles, that is nature.

By cultivating one's nature one will return to virtue.  When virtue is perfect, one will be one with the Beginning.  Being one with the Beginning, one becomes vacuous, and being vacuous, one becomes great.  One will then be united with the sound and breath of things.  When one is united with the sound and breath of things, one is then united with the universe.  This unity is intimate and seems to be stupid and foolish.  This is called profound and secret virtue, this is complete harmony.

Chuang Tzu 12

This account of creation of all things from non-being leads to the principle that when a person becomes vacuuous he can be united with all things.  See Tao Te Ching 40,; 65, ; Chuang Tzu 15, 19,  Doctrine of the Mean 1.4-5,



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page uploaded 21 December 1999, last modified 20 September 2005