tao te king chapter 11

Importance of Non-being

How can emptiness be of any value?

Emptiness can be the very purpose of an existence.

When we value something, our attention is often on what we can see or touch.  For example, when you see a pot, your attention is likely to be on its shape, its colours, workmanship and the material it’s made of.

These are the being.  Being is important, or the pot cannot be a pot.  There is, however, something that you can neither see nor touch in the pot that makes the pot useful.  What do you think it is?

It’s the on-being.  In the case of the pot, it’s the emptiness.

Just imagine!  If the pot goes without the emptiness in the body, what is the us of the pot?   You can’t use it to carry water, neither can you use it for cooking.  It’s just a mass of clay!

You cannot see the emptiness, but it’s the purpose of the pot’s existence.   Lao Tzu explains this in Tao Te King:

We mould clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.

— Laozi Tao Te Ching quotes 11

The importance of non-being is applicable to other things as well.

Money is useful not for its paper value, but the things it can buy — as well as the joy of owning the new purchases acquired through the money.  A house is useful not for its pillars and wall.  It is the space where you can live in and build a happy family that is of importance.

However important it is, non-being cannot exist without the being.  A pot cannot be a pot without the clay.  A house cannot be a house without the pillars and walls. Money cannot play the role or exchange if cannot be recognised as a tool of trust.

It’s important is to balance the two.  This is the yin yang of life.


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