I’m fond of the Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo translation of the opening chapter of the Daodejing:
TAO called Tao is not TAO.
Names can name no lasting name.
Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of the ten thousand things.
Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.
These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep —
Deep and again deep:
The gateway to all mystery.
After meditating yesterday, I came back to the fourth stanza: “Empty of desire, perceive mystery. / Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.”
Could “desire” be a bit misleading here? Imagine that the Absolute is the ocean. Imagine that the ocean is perfectly, abidingly still. Then imagine the very first “stirrings” (Nisargadatta) of the ocean, the nascent agitations or perturbations or vibrations that ultimately give rise to waves.
Let us translate thusly: “Without stirring even a bit, the Absolute.”
For us, there is usually the faintest or grossest stirring. A sensation combined with the desire to do something about it. The first stirring of an image. A hint of anxiety. A feeling of restlessness. Some movement anyway. Stirring, we perceive the manifestations. (Which, ultimately of course, is fine.)
But then what is ‘behind’ or ‘underneath’ all manifestations? What is the ground of manifestation? If everything (every thing) returns to the One or Source, to what does the One or Source return?
Without stirring even a bit, sinking, sinking, and sinking until the completest abiding stillness unveils itself. As it is.