Yoshifumi Taguchi's column

Taoist Thought and Japan's Heart "The Culture of Seeing what can not be Seen"


From "Spirit of Japan" Tao Management 2002

Seeing what can't be seen.
Hearing what can't be heard.
Touching what can't be touched.
I believe that the Japanese have always had a true appreciation of this and have sought it to the present day.
That's why these things are more beautiful than what we find in reality.
They hold a deeper meaning.
They reach further in to us.
That's why there is value in seeking them.
That's why we can appreciate the universal human state, beyond the several thousand years in time passed, and differences among all races and all isms and insistence.
It exists because it doesn't. It's because monochrome has no color that we can imagine and see a variety of color in it.
It is because it is silent that we can sense some kind of sound. It exists because it doesn't.
It becomes rich because it has nothing.
The richness comes from nothing.
We Japanese have always sought this true richness.
The roots of this are in Taoist thought.
Lao Tse said the following.
"I look at this but cannot see--I call it 'I'.
 I listen to this but cannot hear--I call it 'Ki'.
 I reach for this but I can't gain it--I call it 'Bi'"
Lao Tse understood deeply the fundament of the universe, or 'the Tao (way)' and his philosophy explains how to master this state.
So, what is this 'Tao'?
The explanation is the phrase above.
In other words, the 'Tao' is something you cannot see even if you try to look for it, you cannot hear even if you listen for it, you cannot touch even if your reach out for it.
What on earth is this trying to express?
In this world, all things are 'visible, audible, touchable'.
Thus we live in this world and for everything that we see, hear or touch, we feel glad, sad, worried, frustrated, angry, deploring, pleased and at peace.
But we must also pay attention to something else.
There is another existence in this world.
That is the existence of 'the invisible, inaudible, untouchable' and these are what form the basis of the universe.
Thus, we should rather direct our hearts towards these things.
This means that we don't seek with the power of our eyes, but with the eyes of our heart.
We don't listen with our ears but with our hearts.
We don't touch with our hands but with our hearts.
By doing this we can gain peace in our hearts.
We attain a state of peace only when we gain a feeling of being united with the invisible, inaudible and untouchable. Is that really attainable by us human?
"The Tao produces one, one produces two, two produces three, three produces all things."
Lao Tse says that all things on this earth come from Tao.
Thus humans, too, come from the way.
The so-called 'way' is the mother of humans.
Why can't the mother (the way) and the child (humans) become one?
It is because we do not recognize our mother.
It is not possible to stumble on the way when we are on the wrong track.
Lao Tse is reminding us that our true mother is the way.
He is also telling us that there is a more eternal, immortal existence than those temporary things that we can see, hear and touch.
Since the way is infinite, it can continue to produce finite things.
Only by living side by side with this infinite existence of 'looking but not seeing, listening but not hearing, reaching but not gaining', can we first reach the state of supremeness.
Our ancestors understood this well.
This is clear from the ultimate unique religion 'Shinto' that our ancestors followed.