The Taoist Trinity

Lesson #4 of Ruby’s Tai Chi class was jam-packed full of mind-bending stuff, all flowing from poem #14 of the Tao te Ching:

Look at it but you cannot see it!  Its name is Formless.

Listen to it but you cannot hear it!  Its name is Soundless.

Grasp it but you cannot get it!  Its name is Incorporeal.

These three attributes are unfathomable;  Therefore they fuse into one.

Its upper side is not bright; Its under side is not dim.

Continually the Unnameable moves on, Until it returns beyond the realm of things.

We call it the formless Form, the imageless Image.  We call it the undefinable and the unimaginable.

Confront it and you do not see its face!  Follow it and you do not see its back!

Yet, equipped with this timeless Tao, You can harness present realities.

To know the origins is initiation into the Tao.

Again, I’m not going to take a deep dive into this poem, but I’m going to save that for later, when I move out of the Tai Chi section of this blog and move into the Tao te Ching section.  What I do want to talk about is the overlap that we often experienced in Ruby’s class, where he would often bring in elements of the Tao te Ching or the I Ching.  In this class he actually explained this overlap:

“I teach that there are three basic components of Taoism.  Lao Tzu is the written embodiment of Taoism.  The I Ching, the book of Changes, is the spiritual imagery of Taoism.  And Tai Chi is the physical embodiment of Taoism.  So we have these three things that I teach that all blend together to make a Taoist experience, from the written to the spiritual visual imagery and the movement–they all the blend together to make for a complete set.”

This perhaps explains why studying with Ruby was a very holistic experience.  There is the connection with the mind in reading and pondering the words of the Tao.  The connection to the body is through practicing the movements of the Tai Chi form.  And the connection with the spirit is found in the imagery and the consultation of the I Ching – much more about the I Ching to come in the third planned part of this blog.

Repulse MonkeyWhen I look back at what I originally wrote about this lesson, when I took the class in 2005, I talked about fleeting experiences of the oneness of all things and being in the flow, and equating that with initiation into the Tao.   Keeping with the theme of flow, I also commented on the flowing nature of the move we learned that day, “repulse the monkey”.  I think that move, to this day, remains my favorite move of the short form.

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