Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free;
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why all beings
spontaneously honour the Tao.
The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes and cultivates them,
cares for them, maintains them,
takes them back to itself.
The Tao creates without possessing,
gives without expectation,
guides without interfering,
fosters growth without ruling.
This is called hidden virtue.
The fifty-first verse is beautiful and poetic insight into the creation and sustaining of the universe. Form arises from the formless – that which we might call the Tao – but is never separate from it, in spite of the illusion of a world of disconnected objects as perceived by our physical senses. The formless that gives birth to the form is ever within and around it, as its innermost core and essence. The connection is never severed; the Tao continues to maintain, nurture and cultivate all it has manifested into the world of form.
The Tao might be seen as the ultimate parent, teacher, artist or ruler, embodying that which is called ‘hidden virtue’. It creates and nourishes and cultivates without any attachment to results or expectation of payback. It never interferes with or makes demands of its ‘children’. This is the true essence of love, a love that is utterly unconditional and ever-present. It is the life-blood of the universe and the force that keeps the planets spinning, the rivers flowing and our hair and fingernails growing. It creates out of love and only love, making no demands and harbouring no expectations.
The entire Tao Te Ching is an invitation to embody the Tao in our daily lives. What can we learn from this most profound example of hidden virtue, and how might we apply it in our lives? Can we realise and embody our essential nature to create, nourish and cultivate with the utmost love and without any expectation, demands or interference?