Tao Te Ching Teachings: Eternal No Self


“Heaven is eternal

Earth is ancient

The reason Heaven and Earth

Endure everlastingly

Is because they do not exist for themselves

Thus are they able

To live forever”

That which has a self soon comes to an end. That which has no self never comes to an end. A self is defined by its limitations. What makes me appear to be different from you are my limiting factors: possessing one hair colour instead of another; being a particular height instead of another. What makes you appear to be different from me are your own limiting factors – your size, your smell, your shape, your concerns. In both cases, we are defined by what we are not –   a cookie cutter imprinting our individuating boundaries.

What makes Heaven and earth different (as spiritual principles, rather than just physical realities) is that they are defined by their lack of attributes. Having no attributes, they embrace all attributes – this is the attributeless attribute. Having no selfhood, their consciousness is limited to being neither one thing nor another. Because their consciousness does not dwell in specific vessels, it is free to dwell everywhere. So selflessness is boundlessness. And boundlessness cannot end.


2 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching Teachings: Eternal No Self

  1. Heaven is for me a place suspended above time and space, of great beauty and harmony, it cannot be personified as existing (or not existing) for itself. It is because it pleased God, and he is good. I believe that in heaven we are persons and we have a physical body in a physical domain. The question of the Self is a psychological or neurobiological question as to where we truly exist. In the presence of dissolved boundaries – my term – our mentality, personality can be more widely expressed in our daily lives and is seen and experienced as such by the phenomena such as telepathy and premonitions, hence the horizons of “the self” are extended. I understand that we all have times of expansion and contraction and Eastern thought is good on this. These are also part of Christian science, but less well described than in the broad acceptance of eastern philosophies. But even here, in the west, the mysterious and esoteric are being more widely experienced- by people in christian congregations as in the wider population. Some take them as mere evolution, others define them as spiritual gifts. A discussion of the self helps to prepare the uninitiated, or unexperienced to understand these qualities of thought but there comes a point where we are adept, or confident in our new knowledge. I don’t say that to be demeaning, but Christian spirituality is not lacking in character or definition.

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  2. When I talk of The Way being free of character, it is to say that The Way is infinite and cannot be confined by definitions of any kind, because all such definitions are just the terrified clutchings of our petty minds. Heaven, to me, is also a place beyond space and time – as such, it is not somewhere you go when you die, but an infinite realm it is possible for us all to access right now – by breaking down the illusory aspects of the mind that cling to such things as time and space, so that we can enter into the timeless and the spaceless. Meditation is the vehicle for this.

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