One who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
The infant is protected from insects,
wild beasts and birds of prey.
Bones are soft, muscles are weak
yet its grasp is firm and strong.
Though its mind is innocent,
its body is virile,
so intense is its vital power.
It can cry all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.
The child is one with the Tao,
living within harmony and grace.
This is why the child
finds eternity within a single day.
To know harmony is to know the changeless;
to know the changeless is to have insight.
The Master understands that when something
reaches its prime
it will soon begin to decline.
To unnaturally try to extend life is not the Tao.
And whatever is against the Tao soon ceases to be.
Lao Tzu uses the example of a newborn baby or young child as being one that is in perfect harmony with the Tao. An infant cannot help but be at one with life, for its mind has yet to develop and attempt to take over the show.
The infant does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. Its body is soft, flexible and weak, and yet contains tremendous power (sometimes when a baby or toddler grabs your hand it’s amazing how much strength they possess!). The child has a great deal of integrity; there is no holding back, no role-playing, no getting lost in thought and conceptualisation – that will all come later, for better or worse.
The child expresses itself unreservedly, unapologetically, without any hesitation. It can be tremendously enlightening just watching a young child, for they live in a state of freedom and approach life with a great deal of immediacy and freshness. Until the ego develops and the child gets lost in a sense of “I”, “me” and “mine”, it approaches life effortlessly and largely without desire and preconception. Time is meaningless to the infant; the child lives entirely in the present moment, not yet lost in the mind-created concepts of past and future.
Lao Tzu advises us to ‘know the changeless’ as we progress through life and experience the inherently changeful nature of phenomenal existence. In spite of all the immeasurable changes that are forever occurring in and around us, what never changes? It’s worth spending time pondering this question. The answer is only within. Are you aware of the changeless, or the ‘constant’ as some translations call it? Can you be rooted in that? Can you avoid the desire to cling to and unnaturally extend life?
Because the Master is rooted in the changeless, he is unafraid of outward changes. He lets all things come and go as they please, holding on to nothing. He has no expectations, no desires, no need to cling to the temporal. Thus is his spirit immortal and unchanging.