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That which is born in the state of Previous Existence, is born invisible—or formless; being extant in the state of Subsequent Existence, it is incorporeal. But that which is incorporeal has never really been extant; wherefore such a thing may be said to be unthinkable. The inherent nature [of man] is quiescent; then his mind is within him.† The mind [of man] is active; then his nature is within him.‡ When the mind prevails, the inherent nature is annihilated; when the mind is annihilated, the inherent nature becomes manifested. Resembling emptiness, without external form, it is then pure and pellucid, perfect and complete.
The Great TAO is without peer; wherefore [its votary] ever maintains, interiorly, the Actual—the Existent. His unalloyed inherent nature is inactive; wherefore his mind never asserts itself externally. Self-sufficient and spontaneous, illimitable in extent [are the internal resources of such a man]! Whatever may be the circumstances of surroundings with which he is brought into contact, he ignores them all; he is not engulphed in the toils of the Six Despoilers; living in the dusty world, he is yet outside of it; he is not drawn into the transmutations of the myriad affinities. Being perfectly quiescent, he never moves; possessing perfect harmony,§ he never changes. His wisdom reflects, as in a mirror, the entire Universe; his emptiness evolves inaction.
| The existence of Law he perceives to be its absence;|
Not to cultivate [TAO] he understands as, really, its cultivation;
He embracingly upholds the myriad forms of Life
Without so much anxiety as the tip of a thread of silk.
* The most superficial perusal of this essay will be found sufficient to detect the strong Buddhist influences to which the author was subjected. Its date is therefore probable later than the Han.
† That is, while quiescence, which is the real nature of man, is in the ascendant, the mind remains inactive; it does not emerge from the interior.
‡ When the mind bursts forth in action, the inherent nature of man, being quiescent, takes no part in it, but remains tranquilly within.
§ Harmony, in the sense that all his powers are held in perfect equilibrium; or, perhaps, in harmony with ###.