Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing)
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We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; but it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel; but it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce and cut out doors and windows to make a house;
And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends. [We live in it.]
Take advantage of what is, turn some existing into a great advantage: just make as much as you can out of it here.
Feel free to recognise the possible usefulness of what is not yet here. Prosper by clever use of something of the not-yet kind.
The five basic colours can astound the eye: [some colourful displays can make one] a lot confused,
The five sounds of music can stun or deafen the ear,
The five tastes may dull or spoil the palate [it is not the taste but the causes of the taste (what you eat) are at work thus].
Too much hunting and chasing makes a [very clumsy] mind go mad.
Things that are hard to get, keep one on one's guard. Valuable things and products, hard to get, can impede their owner's progress.
So the wise man is concerned with his navel and belly before his eyes.* He can consider the tummy first, not the eye.
That is: He [regularly tones down or] disregards [concerns with] the world outside - the "that" thing. And he accepts, goes for and in the end grabs over-normal prowess deep inside him - his Taoist "this". It is more or less a way of living. In it, he learns to minimise some of the impacts of the [outer] one but accepts [welcomes and cherishes] the other. As they say: He rejects the one but accepts the other.
NOTE: Belly stands for an inside selfsameness or self, and the eye represents the world of matter through our sense experiences. [Cf. Wic 36]
"Be glad for favour. Still receive favour or disgrace with regular apprehension.
Be cautious not to lose the winning sort of favour. Lower favour and disgrace can cause one dismay;
We can have fears because we have a self. Yet what we value and what we fear are as if within that inner sanctimonium self."
What does this mean:
"Favour and disgrace can cause one dismay?
Those who receive favour from above are dismayed when they receive it.
And should they lose it they turn distraught.
What does this mean:
"What we value and what we fear are as if within our serious self?"
Regard great trouble as seriously as you regard the body. One reason that we suffer hurt is that we have bodies.
When we do not regard that gross body as [a predominant, capital side to the self], what have we to fear? [Lao tse.]
And so, the one who values his experienced world as part of his exploring inner self, can then be entrusted with a rule.
He who loves the all as an aspect of his sensing self -
The all can then be entrusted to his care.
Look at it, it can't be seen,
Is called the invisible.
Listen to it, it can't be heard,
Is called the inaudible.
Grasp at it, it can't be touched,
Is called the fine formless.
These three elude all solid inquiries;
They merge and become [as] one.
Its rising brings no light;
Its sinking, no darkness.
It can't be defined,
On the way back to where there is nothing [to look at].
It is called shape free from shapes;
the form without form;
The image of nothingness.
That is why it is called the elusive [counterpart of a self, i.e. of phenomena];
Go towards them, and you can see no physical front;
Go after them, and you see no rear.
Hold on to the Tao of old to master the things of the present.
Master what once was, from the start, somehow.
It is the essence of rarefied, pearl-stringed Tao.
The best rulers of old had fine natures, mysterious, too deep, they couldn't be understood.
And because such men couldn't be fully grasped at once, they appeared to be
Cautious, like wading a stream in winter;
At a loss, like one fearing and having to deal with danger on every side;
Reserved, like one who pays a visit;
Pliant and yielding, as ice beginning to melt;
Genuine, like a piece of raw wood;
Open-minded like a valley;
And blending freely like a troubled, muddy stream of water.
Find repose in a muddy world by lying still; be gradually clear through tranquillity. You can assume such murkiness, to get still and limpid in the end - bright and clever. Maintain your poise and calm long in between.
So strive to make yourself inert, eventually to get full of life and stir.
By such [regular and sound] activity come back to life.
Who hugs this way does not want to fill himself to spilling over.
Just because he guards against being over-full, there is no [unwanted] overflowing.
He can be like a garment that endures all, beyond wearing out and renewal.
Attain complete humility towards the void;
Hold firm to the basis of quietude.
The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
Now, I watch them fall, worked on, back to their repose and roots.
Like plants that flourish, some return to the soil and root they grew from.
To return to the root is basic repose;
It is quiet and returning to some destiny.
To submit to a destiny is to find the eternal shelter, the always-so: eternity's way [Tao].
To know eternity's always-so is to be somewhat illumined.
Not to know it courts disaster.
He who knows eternity-shelter has room in him for nearly everything - he's wide as tolerant.
Being much-including, there is little prejudice;
To be without blunt prejudice is kingly;
To be kingly is to be well in accord with nature; it is also to be of heaven.
To be of heaven in unison with an undaunted nature is to be in a way;
An eternity-way, and he that owns it, is not to be destroyed, even though his body decays and ceases.
Of the best the people hardly ever know they exist;
The next best they flock to and praise.
The next they shrink from;
The next get reviled.
"Not believing people you turn them into liars" -
Such bosses do not command the people's faith.
They lose faith in them and take to oaths!
The wise man is a clever ruler; he values his words highly.
It is so hard to get a single word from him at any price that when his task is finished, a work well done, everyone says,
"It happened by itself, and we did it."
When the great Tao declined,
Humanity and righteousness appeared, jen and i.
Next, when brightness and know-how came in vogue,
The great pretence fully started.
When the six family relationships are not in harmony
There is open talk of kind parents, "dutiful sons" and deep love to children.
A confused country enmeshed in disorder praises ministers in chaos and misrule.
Banish wisdom, discard knowledge,
Then the people will benefit a hundred times.
Banish human love, just dump righteous, moral justice,
And then the people will be dutiful and recover deep love of their kin.
Banish cunning and skill, dispel profit; dismiss utility,
Then thieves and robbers will disappear.
These three things are not enough; externals are somehow decorations,
And purposes are not enough; they tend to rob life and make it too little complicated.
Therefore let people hold well on to keeping accessories; keeping simplicity to look at.
Let them go on and shield their internal soul's nature
As some ritual, raw block to hold,
And some private, secret means.
Let them foster less ardent desires.
Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.
Between "Yes, sir," and Of course not", how much difference is there?
Between what is called good and bad, how much difference is there?
And the end isn't yet.
All men are wreathed in smiles, ever merry-making,
As if feasting after the great sacrifice, like ascending a tower in spring.
I alone am inert, like a child that has not yet given sign;
Like a new-born child that cannot smile yet.
I seem to be homeless, I droop and drift as though I belonged nowhere, completely unattached.
All men have enough and to spare;
I alone seem to have lost everything; I am like one left out.
Mine is indeed the mind of an idiot, my heart must be that of a fool,
I can look dull - muddled, nebulous!
The world is full of knowing people that shine;
I alone am dull, confused.
I seem to be in the dark.
They look lively and clear-cut self-assured;
I'm alone, depressed, maybe patient as an ocean,
Blown adrift, seemingly aimless, never brought to a stop.
All men can be put to some use; as worldlings have a purpose.
I alone am intractable and boorish,
I seem to be rustic, stubborn and uncouth, yet differing from most people,
But I differ most from others in that I prize no sustenance that does not come from the breast of mama mia.
Ca: Chan, Wing-Tsit. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1963.
Tat: Waley, Arthur, tr. The Way and Its Power. A Study of the Tao the Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought. New York: Evergreen/Grove, 1958.
Wic: Yutang, Lin. The Wisdom of China. London: New English Library, 1963.
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