There are three layers to the universe. In the lower, Tai Ching, and the middle, Shan Ching, the hindrance of a physical bodily existence is required. Those who fail to live consistently in accord with the Tao reside here. In the upper, Yu Ching, there is only Tao: the bondage of form is broken, and the only thing existing is the exquisite energy dance of the immortal divine beings.
Does one scent appeal more than another? Do you prefer this flavor, or that feeling? Is your practice sacred and your work profane? Then your mind is separated: from itself, from oneness, from the Tao.
The first practice is the practice of undiscriminating virtue: take care of those who are deserving; also, and equally, take care of those who are not. When you extend your virtue in all directions without discriminating, you feet are firmly planted on the path that returns to the Tao.
Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing. . . . If you wish to attain oneness with the Tao, don't get caught up in spiritual superficialities.
Who can enjoy enlightenment and remain indifferent to suffering in the world? This is not in keeping with the Way. Only those who increase their service along with their understanding can be called men and women of Tao.
A man's excellence is like that of water; It benefits all things without striving; It takes to the low places shunned by men. Water is akin to Tao. . . . In all the earth nothing weaker than water, Yet in attacking the hard, nothing superior, Nothing so certain in wearing down strength: There is no way to resist it. Note then: The weak conquer the strong, The yielding outlast the aggressors.
. . . These are notions of the mind, which is like a knife, always chipping away at the Tao, trying to render it graspable and manageable. But that which is beyond form is ungraspable, and that which is beyond knowing is unmanageable. There is, however, this consolation: She who lets go of the knife will find the Tao at her fingertips.