The Infinite

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Daoist Beliefs
The Great Dao
Original Meaning of Dao
Laozi's Creative Use of The Concept of Dao
The Main Meaning of the Concept of Dao
The Major Functions of Dao
Virtue
The Significance of Virtue
Expression of the Unity of Dao and Virtue
Becoming an Immortal by Attaining
Dao is ruled by Spontaneity
The Significance of Spontaneity
Observing the Way of Heaven and Following its Motions
Cosmogony
Cosmogony
The Creation of the World
Formation of the Daoist Theory of Universal Evolution
The Process of The Creation of the World
The Thirty-six Heavens
The Netherworld
Yin-Yang and the Supreme Ultimate
Yin-Yang and the Supreme Ultimate
Vital Breath
The Infinite and the Supreme Ultimate
The Infinite
The Supreme Ultimate and the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate
Yin-Yang and the Five Agents
Social Ideals
Social Ideals
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Purity, Tranquility and Non-interference
Salvation of Humanity
Philosophy of Life
Understanding Dao and Establishing Virtue
Education by Daoist Enlightenment
Ethical Education and Practise
Ethical Education and Practise
Accumulation of Hidden Merits
The Secret Meaning of Karma
Norms for Doing Good Works
Methods of Doing Good Works

'The Infinite is Dao, a state more primordial and ultimate than the Supreme Ultimate

The Infinite( 無極 Wuji ) is the conception Laozi uses to denote the ultimate of Dao. Chapter 28 of the Laozi says: "He who knows the white but keeps to the black becomes the model of the world. Being the model of the world, he rests in constant virtue, and he returns to the Infinite". So the original meaning of the Infinite is Dao, the infiniteness of Dao. Daoists after Laozi have all used the term 'the Infinite' to denote this meaning, with only slight differences in emphasis. In the section 'Unfettered Excursion', Zhuangzi says, "beyond the Infinite it is still the Infinite". By this he means that the world is infinite and beyond infinite it is still infinite. The Laozi Zhangju by He Shanggong of the Han Dynasty explains "returning to the Infinite" as longevity. According to Daoism, longevity can only be attained through uniting with Dao. Therefore, it is the same to define the Infinite as Dao or as longevity. Being infinite, Dao existed before Heaven and Earth, has existed for infinite time, and will exist forever. Being infinite space, Dao is not confined to any concrete realm. So "the Infinite" is used to denote Dao. When used in the perspective of universal evolution, the Infinite, in contrast with the Supreme Ultimate ( 太極 Taiji ), often means the period when Heaven and Earth were not formed. This period is older and more ultimate than the chaos from which Heaven and Earth directly originated. This period is Dao. Therefore, the Infinite is the origin of the Supreme Ultimate. Daoists all pursue union with Dao. The concrete method of doing so is to return to the original and ultimate state. This is the so-called "Returning to the Infinite" ( 復歸無極 Fugui Wuji ).

Between the Infinite and the formation of Heaven and Earth, there are five stages, which are called the "Five Supremes"

The Five Supremes ( 五太 Wutai ) refer to the Supreme Change ( 太易 Taiyi ), the Supreme Origin ( 太初 Taichu ), the Supreme Beginning ( 太始 Taishi ), the Supreme Simplicity ( 太素 Taisu ), and the Supreme Ultimate. They are the five successive stages before Heaven and Earth evolve out of Dao. The 'Supreme Change is the state before Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ) appears. (The Explanations of Sexagram qian in Auguries Of I Ching and dthe Liezi both say that "the Supreme Change is the state when Vital Breath is not seen.) Daoist theories about Magic Techniques in the Song dynasty also attached great importance to this stage. The General Discussion of All Daoist Skills ( 道法 Daofa ) by Zhang Shanyuan, in Vol. 67 of the Great Collection of Daoist Skills ( 《萬法會宗》 Wanfa Huizong ), says: "The Supreme Change is the primordial infinite void before Yin and Yang divide. At this stage, it is lightless, formless and nameless. Silent and formless, it is called the Supreme Change. The Supreme Change is the origin of deities and the state when Vital Breath has not appeared. The stage after the Supreme Change is the Supreme Origin. Liezi said that the Supreme Origin is the stage when Vital Breath has just appeared. Zhang Shanyuan held that the Supreme Origin is the stage when Vital Breath appears and form has not appeared through the changes of Yin and Yang. The Supreme Origin is the stage when Vital Breath originates, but form has not come into being. After the Supreme Origin is the Supreme Beginning. The Supreme Beginning refers to the beginning of form. However, form here is not visible form, but the state before Heaven and Earth formed. The Explanations of Sexagram qian in Auguries of I Ching defines it as follows: 'the Supreme Beginning is the beginning of form". Zhang Shanyuan says:"The Supreme Beginning is the intercourse of Yin and Yang. The One came into being through the intercourse of Yin and Yang. Form is born through the One. Though there is form, substance is still non-existent. The Supreme Beginning is the stage when form has originated but substance is still non-existent. After the Supreme Beginning is the Supreme Simplicity. Liezi defines the Supreme Simplicity as the beginning of substance. Zhang Shanyuan held that the Supreme Simplicity changes and form comes into being. Substance comes into being after form, but has not attained body. Supreme Simplicity is the beginning of substance without body. After the four stages of Supreme Change, Supreme Origin, Supreme Beginning and Supreme Simplicity, Vital Breath, form and substance all exist but are not divided yet. A state of chaos is thus formed, which is called Chaos ( 混沌 Hudun ) by Liezi and Supreme Ultimate in other Daoist texts. Zhang Shanyuan held that Chaos is the body of Dao. Its movement and stillness generate the intercourse and changes of Yin and Yang. The Five Agents ( 五行 Wuxing ) and all beings are thus born. This Chaos is called the Supreme Ultimate. It is from the stage of Supreme Ultimate that Heaven and Earth begin to form. The conceptions of the 'Five Supremes' are an exploration and generalization of the states before Heaven and Earth formed. They are important both to Daoist philosophy and to the theories of Daoist Magical Arts.