1. The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state). When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.
2. The report of that fulfilment is the regular, unchanging rule. To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent; not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance, and that capacity and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things). From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Dào. Possessed of the Dào, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.
歸根, 'Returning to the Root.' This chapter exhibits the operation of the Dào in nature, in man, and in government; an operation silent, but all-powerful; unaccompanied with any demonstration of its presence, but great in its results.
An officer receives a charge or commission from his superior (受命); when he reports the execution of it he is said 復命. So all animate things, including men, receive their charge from the Dào as to their life, and when they have fulfilled it they are represented as reporting that fulfilment; and the fulfilment and report are described as their unchanging rule, so that they are the Dào's impassive instruments, having no will or purpose of their own,—according to Lǎozǐ's formula of 'doing nothing and yet doing all things (無為而無不為).'
The getting to possess the Dào, or to be an embodiment of it, follows the becoming Heaven or Heaven-like; and this is in accordance with the saying in the fourth chapter that 'the Dào might seem to have been before God.' But, in Zhuāngzǐ especially, we often find the full possessor and displayer of the Dào spoken of as 'Heaven.' The last sentence, that he who has come to the full possession of the Dào is exempt from all danger of decay, is generally illustrated by a reference to the utterances in ch. 50; as if Lǎozǐ did indeed see in the Dào a preservative against death.
From Qigong Meditation: Embryonic Breathing1
1. Approach (Follow) the nothingness (emptiness) to its extremity and maintain calmness with sincerity. Millions of objects (lives) are in actions which allow us to observe their cyclic repetitions. Though there are so many objects, each individual must repeatedly return to its root (origin). When it returns to the root, it means 'calmness.' When it is calmed it means 'repetition of a life.'2
2. When the life repeats, it means 'constant natural routine.' If (one) knows this constant natural routine , then (his mind) is clear (eηlightened). If (one) does not know this constant natural routine, then various unfortunate dangers could occur. If (one) knows this constant natural routine, then (life) is permitted. When life is permitted, then it is impartial. If it is impartial, then it can be completed. When it is completed, then it is heaven (nature). When it is heaven, it is the Dào. If it is the Dào, then it can be long and the death of the body will not be near.2
From Qigong Meditation: Small Circulation1
1. Approach the nothingness (emptiness) to its extremity, and maintain calmness with sincerity. Millions of objects (lives) in action allow me to observe their cyclic repetition. Though there are so many objects, each individual must repeatedly return to its root (origin). When it returns to the root, it means calmness. When it is calmed, it means repetition of a life. When the life repeats, it means constant natural cycle.3
See Introduction, Addenda. ↩︎
Yang, Qigong Meditation: Embryonic Breathing, p. 160. ↩︎
Yang, Qigong Meditation: Small Circulation, p. 251. ↩︎