I have been ask to explain these terms and will do my best to help those interested . In all things material there must be an opposite, a yin/yang, in order for anything to exist. Consider “up”. How can “up” exist without “down”. Each becomes meaningless without the other. The same with left/right, light/dark, right/wrong….you get the picture. This is relativism. The existence of each is relative to the existence of the other. We can take this further to explain our perception of existence or what we refer to as “self”. Self can not exists without everything else to contrast against. It would be like writing on black paper with a black pen. Just a side thought here: consider the paper as the material world and the pen as “self” or ego. As the color of the pen (self) gets lighter, the easier it is to see or the stronger the sense of “self” or ego is. Now let’s take it to another level. If everything exists there must be it’s opposite or nothing. In the beginning there was nothing. Then Bang” and now there is everything. Did nothing exist before everything? How could it be known? The ole “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound ?” question. So now we have “nothing” or non-being which is the source and “everything” or being which came from the source. Now let’s look at the significance of all of this and how it applies to the Tao and our relationship to it.
“The men of old understood a great deal. How much?
In the beginning they did not know that anything existed; this is virtually perfect knowledge, for nothing can be added. Later, they knew that some things existed but they did not distinguish between them. Next came those who distinguished between things, but did not judge things as ‘being’ or ‘non- being’. It was when judgments were made that the Tao was damaged….”
–The Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter Two “Working Everything Out Evenly”, trans. Martin Palmer
The passage above parallels the development of the child’s mind. The sage is like a child, open, not separate, not thinking so not- doing(another blog topic…lol), the empty mirror. The child’s consciousness does not differentiate. The” wise” (adults) think and in doing so “damage” the essential perfection of Tao. Thought and language “distinguish” and divide. The sage laughs at the wise fools? “What do we ‘know’?”
So now back to being/non-being. Being is everything material, everything you can describe or fathom. Non-being is where we came from, beyond description yet it’s always with us. It is our task here in the material world to get back to our beginning, our perfect state. To become like children again. I imagine most have heard that statement before by the wisest man I know.
To know something definite is totally different than knowledge of Tao because Tao is beyond concept and language.
To conceptualize is to categorize, which divides Tao into that which is, and that which isn’t, making it imperfect knowledge because Tao is indivisible. Thought follows the same principle as language, it relies on distinctions and relations to be intelligible, but there is no relation in the absolute. To think, conceptualize, or speak is to profane Tao by making it into relative truth.
Realization is not necessarily the realization of a thought, it can be realization of Tao by manifesting wholeness, the realization of the sage.
Although the sage is wise, he is like a baby because he does not divide the world into self and other, subject and object. That is the first division upon which all language and thought are based. Without this initial division there can be no coherent meaning. In Piaget’s stages of childhood development there is indeed a stage like this, it is a scientifically observable fact. Children at or below this stage (even though they can use language) think that everyone knows what they are thinking because their concept of self and other is not yet fully congealed. The Taoist sages knew this thousands of years ago.
I hope this helps everyone interested. I wish you all well on your journey down your respective paths.
“The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you’ve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?” Zhuangzi, chapter 26; trans. Burton Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang-tzu, 302