Saturday, October 29, 2005

tao teh ching 31

Good [1] weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them.
Therefore followers of the Tao never use them.
The wise man prefers the left,
The man of war prefers the right.

Weapons are instruments of fear; they are not a wise man's tools.
He uses them only when he has no choice.
Pëace and quiet are dear to his heart,
And victory no cause for rejoicing.
If you rejoice in victory[2], then you delight in killing;
If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfil yourself[3].

On happy occasions precedence is given to the left,
On sad occasions to the right.
In the army the general stands on the left,
The commander-in-chief on the right.
This means that war is conducted like a funeral.
When many people are being killed,
They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
That is why victory must be observed like a funeral

[1] This word is missing in the Ma wang tui versions and a source of confusion for some. Cf. below.
[2] The Ma wang tui text, reads these two lines on rejoicing in victory rather as rejoicing in weapons as beautiful which is in itself tantamount to delighting in instruments of ill omen and in killing.
[3] Both Lau and the Ma wang tui text agree that this means one cannot realise one's intentions as regards spreading one's ideas.

Interestingly, this and chapter 66 are the only ones that have no commentary by Wang Pi, and - of course - there is much speculation as to why this might be.
Was it - as I felt myself in writing it down - that this chapter seemed to him to be a later interpolation? If so, it certainly existed well before he did (he was born in 226 CE whereas the Ma wang tui texts date from early Han times nearly 500 years before). Or was it simply, as John Lynn suggests, that he felt it was self-evident and didn't need a commentary from him? In fact, in his commentary on ch 63, he cites a line from this chapter (but not brought out as such in the Gia-fu Feng translation), viz., that rather than rejoicing in weapons as beautiful one should instead be utterly dispassionate as regards them,thus showing that he was, indeed, awre of this chapter as it stood. Lynn also mentions that it is quite feasible that the commentary has simply been lost. Henrick's mentions that in some editions of the the Lao-tze, chapters 30 and 31 are brought together as one inasmuch as they seem - at least on the outside - to deal with the same subject.

Professor Cheng's commentary points out that several early commentators were upset by the 'fine' in the first line while others left it withoutout commentary. He himself also suspends judgement.
His commentary then continues as follows: ... the ancients, when they took up arms, believed it to be inauspicious and so used the right side. They did not consider even victory a cause for celebration, but rather mourned the multitudes of slaughtered. That is why chapter 69 says, 'when opposing armies face each other, the one stung by grief will be victorious'.

Inasmuch as it appears, on the surface, simply to repeat what was said in chapter 30, this chapter might well seem to be either redundant or a later interpolation, but - with some reflection, I might add! - another interpretation could be as follows: For some odd reason, weapons are regarded (at least by most men and some women) as beautiful. I note, for example, when demonstrating the sword form of t'ai chi ch'uan, that many are fascinated by it not because of the projection of chi into the instrument so much as because of the beauty of the instrument itself and of its manipulation.
T'ai chi ch'uan and t'ai chi chien(*), however, are both 'rooted in the feet, develop in the legs, find direction in the waist and manifest in the fingers'... What this ultimately means is that it doesn't really matter what you do with the hands as long as they fully manifest what is coming up from the feet through the legs and waist. Calligraphy is a good non-martial example. Or sweeping.
I, too, rather like swords and knives... for various reasons, magical, practical and as extensions of chi... Also because they are often very good examples of their makers' art. I do not, when examining a sword, imagine myself (or anyone else for that matter) cleaving somebody's head with it or sticking it into anyone's softer and less protected parts.

(*) Very roughly translatable as t'ai chi open-handed sparring and t'ai chi sword form.

I am also, I find, very rarely strategic... I respond in the instant rather than think things through to an end I might be seeking... In fact, I find 'desired ends' generally quite undesirable (as in: 'be careful what you wish for; it may just be granted').

What I mean by all this is that for people who like to manipulate and who deem strategy a useful tool in their lives, there is a fascination with the logic of things - the 'straight line' logic of the brain. I believe (having never yet seen a straight line in nature except the seeming ones of light rays which I am assured are actually curved, if over vast distances of space) rather in the 'eco' logic of the 'heart' - the 'heart-mind' mentioned a few chapters back.

I think it's this tendency here that Grandfather Lao is pointing to. The universe is sacred. Anthing you do to 'make it better' can only really make it worse, or, at very best, be of fleeting effect. There is a fascination in thinking you're in control, but who actually ever is? Those who control best are like surfers reading the instant of wave through their feet and bodies and responding 'im-mediate-ly', so to speak - without 'mediating' thought or preprepared 'plan' and 'strategy'. They, at least, are alive to the moment - unless (like myself) they happen to be woolly-minded into the bargain.

tao teh ching 30

Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of the Tao,
Counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe
For this would only cause resistance.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed,
Lean years follow in the wake of a great war.
Just do what needs to be done.
Never take advantage of power.

Achieve results
But never glory in them.
Achieve results
But never boast.
Achieve results
But never be proud.
Achieve results
Because this is the natural way [1].
Achieve results
But not through violence.

Force is followed by loss of strength [2].
This is not the way of the Tao.
That which goes against the Tao comes to an early end.

[1] Lau has, 'Brings it to a conclusion, but only when there is no other choice...' The Ma wang tui text reads: 'He achieves his result, yet abiides with the result because he has no choice'.
[2] Lau reads, 'A creature in its prime doing harm to the old Is known as going against the way...', and the Ma wang tui text, 'When things reach their prime, they get old; We call this "not the way"', which is echoed in the reading by Wang Pi (cf. below).

Wang Pi says: Even one who, in accordance with the Tao, assists the ruler of men may not use military force to gain power over all under heaven, so how much more is this true for the ruler of men who devotes himself to the Tao.
Whereas one who consciously works at governement earnestly seeks to have an effect and make things happen, he who has the Tao earnestly wishes things to revert to where no conscious effort (wu wei) is involved...
... (A)n army is a cruel and wicked thing. In no wise beneficial, it is certainly harmful for it devastates the people and ravages the land...
Kuo (result) means chi (relief), that is to say that a good military leader sets out to relieve the people of danger and then stops. He does not make personal use of his military power... (It is used only) in cases where there is no other choice (and should not then be taken advantage of).
'Its prime' is a metaphor for force and refers to the sudden rise of military power. A sudden rise of this sort goes against the Tao and will come to an early end just as 'a whirlwind does not last all morning nor a rainstorm the entire day' (cf. ch.23).

Cheng's commentary reads: 'Such affairs tend to reverse themselves' means that one who kills will in turn be killed. Chapter 31 says, 'Fine weapons are not auspicious instruments. Everything hates them. Therefore practioners of the Tao will have nothing to do with them'. Chapter 42 says, 'the end of a strong man is untimely death'. Moreover, calamity follows an army wherever it goes. Not only does a good man not do such things, he cannot even bear the sight of them.
This chapter speaks of those who use the Tao to strengthen the world. After attaining the expected outcome, one must not become complacent, smug of conceited. Even when there is no choice but to go to war, one should not be forceful since, just as a flint knife is easily broken, anything that grows strong will soon decay. Force is against the Tao, and anything that is contrary to the Tao soon ceases to be.

For me, this chapter speaks of consciously avoiding slipping into the use of force to achieve a desired end. In her Mahamudra as Inherent Liberation, the 11th. century yogini Niguma says:

Do not do anything special with the mind:
Simply abide in the authentic and natural state.
Your own mind is reality and the key is to cultivate this without wavering
And directly experience the vastness that is beyond all extremes.

In the transparent ocean
Bubbles appear and dissolve.
Just so, thoughts are no different from ultimate reality
So find no fault but simply remain at ease.

Whatever arises, whatever occurs,
Don't grasp - just let it go on the spot.
Appearances, sounds and objects are your own mind
And there is nothing outside of mind.

Mind is beyond the extremes of birth and death.
Awareness, the nature of mind,
Uses the objects of the five senses
But does not waver from reality.

In the state of ultimate balance
There is nothing to put into practice nor anything to abandon,
There are no periods of meditation or of post-meditation.

The 'authentic and natural state' mentioned here is just this Tao of wu wei beyond all coming and going, beyond all duality.
'Cultivate' as I have translated it here is sometimes also translated as 'meditate upon', but in this instance the idea definitely goes far beyond any contrived meditation to strike more at that of 'direct experience' [the Tibetan word sgom (pronounced gom with a hard 'g') translates the Sanskrit bhavana which, although itself often translated as 'meditate', actually means 'to cultivate' or 'bring forth']. Many Tibetan teachers teach that 'meditate' actually simply means ' to become used to - accustomed to', so here the idea is to discover and then remain unwaveringly in the state beyond all attachment for as long as possible without contrivance - generally a couple of seconds for a beginner.

Yön-ge Min'gyur Rinpoche says:

Here we are relaxing in our body and mind while being aware that that is what we are doing. By being aware that we are relaxing when we are relaxing, we come to gain control over our mind. So that's easy, right? It is very easy. You do not need to do anything. You do not need to meditate. You do not need to create anything. You do not need to work hard. Therefore it is easier than sleeping! When we want to sleep, we need to make our bed and make sure there's a nice pillow and then finally we lay down and relax.

When we relax in this way what is our mind like? Our mind is relaxed and comfortable but still we cannot identify it; we can't point at our mind and say "this is my relaxed mind" or "this is my comfortable mind." This meditation technique that has just been described is called shamatha or calm abiding meditation without object.

Beginners probably would not experience that type of meditation for more than two, three or five seconds, but that's fine. We should practice in short segments many times. If we set out a very large container and put it in a place where it could catch drops of water, these single drops of water will cause the whole container to become full. In the same way, if we practice in short segments many times, our meditation will improve. We shouldn't think thoughts like "I need to sit for a long time," "I need to stop my thoughts," because thoughts will happen and we cannot stop them. We can't shoot our thoughts, we can't burn our thoughts, and even if we set off a bomb, that will not stop our thoughts. That is the nature of mind. We do not need to stop our thoughts. What do we need? We need mindfulness. The main point about shamatha meditation is mindfulness, or, in other words, awareness...

If you understand this meditation-without-object technique, you will attain Buddhahood very quickly. Maybe in two or three days [laughter]. It is a very profound meditation but there is nothing special about it.

Our biggest obstacle in meditation is the movement of thoughts - thoughts of desire, aggression, ignorance, jealousy and so on. There are all kinds of movement in our minds - we usually think of these thoughts as getting in the way of our meditation and harming or destroying our meditation.

But if we understand the key points of meditation, then those very thoughts actually will be support for our meditation and will not harm our meditation at all. It is the same as how forms become support for our meditation.

As we look at our thoughts in this way, even a hundred thousand thoughts, that means you have a hundred thousand supports for meditation. That is very good. The thoughts themselves become a support for holding our mind.

Links to his teachings can be found here:

Strange to quote Tibetan Buddhism as a commentary on Taoist teachings, no?

And yet so it is.


tao teh ching 29

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses and complacency.[1]

[1] Lau reads this entire text as pertaining to the empire. He reads the last line of the third verse as, '... Some destroy and some are destroyed,' which seems odd to me.

A note to the he Ma wang tui text says, 'I find Hsü Kang-sheng's discussion of these lines persuasive: he feels that the missing characters (in an obvious lacuna in the Ma wang tui text) should be ch'ui huo ch'iang huo ts'o - 'blow cold, some are firm and strong, others submissive and weak. This would give, starting with line 8, 'Some are hot, others blow cold; some are firm and strong, others submissive and weak'... It seems clear throughout that these are pairs of extremes.'

Wang Pi - reading our 'The universe is sacred' as 'Everything under heaven is the numinous vessel' - says:

'Numinous' is that which is formless and infinite. A vessel is something formed by combining things together. But, since all that is under heaven is composed without form, we call it 'the numinous vessel'.
The myriad beings follow nature in forming their own natures. This is why one can act in accord with them but not act on them, can identify with them but not interfere with them. Beings have their constant nature, so if one tries to create something artificial out of them, one is sure to destroy them. Beings have their own comings and goings, so if one tries to grasp them, one is sure to lose them...

Cheng says: Spirit has no shape and a vessel has no spirit. Speaking of a vessel endowed with spirit emphasises that the world is something one can neither strive to master nor grasp.
... Chapter 64 says the sage 'assists all things to fulfil their natures, not daring to contrive any other action'. He proceeds according to whether he is leading or following, breathing stronly or gently, growing powerful or weakening, persevering or falling, doing away only with any excess, extravagance or extreme.

Assuming, again, that the 'political' analogy is merely symbolic of pure awareness and its manifestations as the universe as experienced, the idea being expressed here is that there is no need to apply antidotes. As the 11th century yogini, Niguma, once stated:

If you don't understand that whatever appears is meditation,
What can you achieve by applying an antidote?
Perceptions are not abandoned by discarding them
But are spontaneously freed when recognized as illusory.

What is meant here is that - if one recognises the pristine awareness - the wu chi of the Tao - the manifestations as waves of experience and so forth that arise out of it, manifest within it and then dissolve back into it just like waves in the ocean, look after themselves.

If not, however, you get stuck with the manifestations, and anything you try to do only makes things worse.

tao teh ching 28

Know the strength of man
But keep a woman's care!
Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.

Know the white
But keep the black!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.

Know honour
Yet keep humility.
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block[1].

When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus 'a great tailor cuts little'[2].

[1] Most other texts read the ideas contained in these three verses in terms of cause and effect, e.g., 'When you know the male and yet hold to the female, You'll be a river valley for all under heaven'.
[2] Lau has:

When the uncarved block shatters it becomes vessels.
The sage makes use of these and becomes lord over the officials.
Hence the greatest cutting
Does not sever.

Henricks reads the next to last line in the ma wang tui text as, '...When the sage is used, he becomes the head of officials...'

The ideas of 'vessels' and 'carving up' also refer to government lackeys and governmental-type regulation. 'Thus,' says Henricks, ' the sage is one who can govern (=carve) without destroying (=splitting up) what is natural in people.'

Wang Pi's commentary says:

The male is the category that assumes the lead; the female brings up the rear. One who sees that he is foremost amongst all under Heaven must put himself in the rear. Chapter 7 says, '... the sage places himself in the rear yet finds himself in front'. The river valley solicits nothing yet things come to it as a matter of course. The infant uses no knowledge of its own and yet communes with the knowledge of nature...
... it is only with constant return to such ends (infant, the infinite and the uncarved block) that virtue completely fills the one in whom it resides. A later section (ch. 40) says, 'Turning back is the activity of the Tao'. Efficacy is not something that can be seized in that it resides at all times in the mother.
The uncarved block is authenticity. When authenticity fragments, many different kinds of behaviour emerge and many different types of people appear, just like a variety of implements. Because they are fragmented, the sage stands as chief of officials above them. He emplys good men as teachers for those who are not good, and those who are not good become the material to be worked on. By his reformation of customs and transformation of habits, he brings about a return to the One.
Because 'the great carver' takes the heart/mind of all under Heaven as his own heart/mind, he never cuts(*).

(*) As in the Chuang-tze tale of the butcher and the prince mentioned a few chapters ago, for example.

Chen Man-ch'ing says: This section clarifies how the tao benefits from being the lesser and delineates the way for a person to proceed. See chapter 32, 'The Tao is to the world as a brook or valley is to the river or ocean'. Chapter 66 says, 'that which makes the river and the ocean king of the hundred valleys is the ability to benefit from being lower'. The message is the same: cleave to the feminine, the dull or humility, and benefit from the lesser position. To 'be the valley' or to'be a guide' indicate ways for a person to proceed. Never swerve from your inner nature, thereby bringing it to fullness, and you will be able to return to the state of infancy and the pre-conceptual, or original uniqueness. Thus, by turns, Lao-tze describes the Tao because it is so difficult to name.
Compare (the last verse) with chapter 32, '... no matter how insignificant one's original uniqueness, nothing in the world can make it inferior', because it is a nucleus complete in itself. As soon as original uniqueness is divided and instrumentalities apear, the situation no longer includes only the tao itself. Therefore the sage employs the instrumentalities as officers, according to their various capacities. If they reurn to original uniqueness, this may be likened to subtle governance which does not seek to 'shape'.

Assuming for the moment, as I generally do, that this text is NOT actually about politics except by tertiary and even quaternary analogy, let us imagine that the 'agents' mentioned here are, for example, the sensory experiences, thoughts and emotions...
Pure awarenes without either bias or attachment may be likened to a king and the arising display of experience and the thoughts and emotions it occasions to his retinue.
Intelligent deployment and appreciation of these latter while avoiding all attachment and bias is the role of the sage as chief official.

Wu chi (as first explicitly mentioned in this chapter, but implied in some that have gone before) is a purely Taoist conception of the 'origin of things'. The Confucian equivalent is t'ai chi... During the Sung dynasty (960 - 1279 C. E.) Chu-hsi combined the two visions, and, rewriting Chou Tuan-yi's treatise T'ai-chi T'ao Shuo, explained this movement as follows:

Wu chi - 'the Void', 'Emptiness' - is the uncarved of block of pure awareness.
The 'shattering' or 'carving' of the block is the arising of t'ai chi - 'the supreme ultimate' - which is the first manifestation of the primordial duality of yin-yang, yang appearing first as the movement of its energy, which, when it reaches it's extreme, reverts to the stilness in which the yin or manifest essence begins to apear. Movement and stilness follow each other, yin and yang interact and thus the five elements, water, fire, wood, metal and earth are born.
The five vapours mutually enrich each other to generate the four seasons.
From the properties of the five elements and the sessence of wu chi generative energy emerges. The male is born from the Way of Heaven (the trigram ch'ien) and the female follows the way of earth (the trigram k'un).
The union of ch'ien and k'un gives birth to the myriad things, and the myriad things combine and procreate thus giving rise to the infinity of forms, all of which have their origin in wu chi. (Cf. the diagram illustrating the commentary to ch.25)

This parallels the possible combinations of yin and yang which it also then becomes quite interesting to examine :

In a first series of combinations, yang can support yang or support yin, and yin can support yang or yin. This is generally represented by a series of of four digrams (if such a word exists?)

___ _ _ ___ _ _
___ ___ _ _ _ _

Combining again, we get eight trigrams, yang supporting yang and yang, yang supporting yang and yin, yang supporting yin and yang and yang supporting yin and yin, on the one hand, and yin supporting yin and yin, yin supporting yin and yang, yin supporting yang and yin and yin supporting yang and yang, on the other. As follows:

___ _ _ ___ _ _ ___ _ _ ___ _ _
___ ___ _ _ _ _ ___ ___ _ _ _ _
___ ___ ___ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This ordering - father, youngest daughter, middle daughter eldest son, eldest daughter, middle son, youngest son, mother (heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain, earth), also gives the following groupings: father and youngest daughter together = metal, fire = fire, eldest son and eldest daughter together = wood, water = water, and youngest son and mother together = earth. Fire is in the south, water in the north, wood in the east (and southeast), metal in the west (and northwest) and earth technically in the centre, but also in the northeast and southwest, more or less as follows:

The eight trigrams combine to make the sixty four hexagrams which, with their six lines of change and the fact that each one can remain the same or change into any one of the 63 others, represent the ten thousand things in all their change and variety.

Nuff blather for one day. Let me shut up.

tao teh ching 27

A good walker leaves no tracks;
A good speaker makes no slips;
A good reckoner needs no tally.
A good door needs no lock
Yet no-one can open it.
Good binding requires no knots
Yet no-one can loosen it.[1]

Therefore the sage takes care of all men
And abandons no-one.
He takes care of all things
And abandons nothing.

This is called 'following the light'.[2]

What is a good man?
The teacher of a bad man.[3]
What is a bad man?
A good man's charge.
If the teacher is not respected
And the student not cared for,
Confusion will arise, however clever one is.
This is the crux of mystery.

[1] Generally all five lines here have the same format... 'a good closer of doors... a good tier of knots...'
[2] Lau has '...following one's discrnement', the Ma wang tui text, 'This is called the Doubly Bright'.
[3] The Ma wang tui text is the only version that has:

Therefore the good man is the teacher of the good,
And the bad man the raw material for the good.

Wang Pi's commentary says:

He follows the path of the Natural, neither formulating nor implementing, thus things attain perfection without his leaving track or print on them.
He follows the nature of things, neither distinguishing nor discriminating, thus no flaw or blame can be laid at his door.
He follows the count of things without relying on external forms.
He follows the natural bent of people, neither formulating nor implementing, and thus, though he uses neither lock nor cord, no opening or untying is possible?
These five all refer to the avoidance of formulation and implementation... One should follow... nature... and not try to carve (it) into shapes external to (it).
The sage does establish punishments and names in order to impose restrictions on the people. Nor does he create promotion and honours in order to search out and discard the unworthy... Because he does not exalt worthy and the resourceful, the common folk do not contend.Because he does not value goods hard to get, the common folk do not become thieves. Because he does not allow them to see desirable things, their hearts are not subject to disorder. It is because he keeps the heart/minds of the common folk free from desire and going astray that 'no-one is discarded'... The good man relies on goodness to keep those who are not good in order... he does not use it to discard those who are not good.
No matter how much intelligence one has, if one depends on that intelligence but does not conform to the natural bent of things, one is bound to get lost on the way...

Cheng's commentary doesn't add much except to point out that ancient sovereigns such as the Emperor Yü, the 'Millet Prince' and King Wen cared not only for the people but also for animals and all other beings, thus leaving no-one out at all. This is an important point, often forgotten, glossed over or just plain misunderstood by those who imagine that this is a basically political text.
Hexagrams Chi chi and Wei chi (63 and 64 - 'After Completion' and 'Before Completion' in Wilhelm's translation) speak in some detail of remaining aware as something fades and comes to an end and maintaining the thread of that awareness through the subtle beginnings of the arising of the next thing. Generally speaking, our attention-span is not very long and we are pulled from pillar to post by first this idea then that experience, these perceptions and those interpretations. If truth be told, we generally have no idea where we are at all. Guru Padmasambhava, the 8th. century yogin who established Tantric Buddhism in Tibet, said: Though my view is as vast as space, my attention to detail is finer than the finest-ground flour'.

This, surely, is the attitude to have.

tao teh ching 26

The heavy is the root of the light;
The still is the master of unrest.

Therefore the sage, travelling all day,
Does not lose sight of his baggage.
Though there are beautiful things to be seen,
He remains unattached and calm[1].

Why should the lord of the ten thousand things act lightly in public?[2]
To be light is to lose one's root.
To be resteless is to lose one's control[3].

[1] Here Lau has: It is only when he is safely behind walls and watchtowers That he rests peacefully and is above worries.
The Ma wang tui text reading bears this out.
[2] The Ma wang tui text has '... treat his own person more lightly than he does the land?', but in a note Henricks points out that the Wing-tsit Chan version of the standard text links this line even more firmly with the one above, reading: Even at the sight of magnificent scenes, He remains leisurely and indifferent. How is it that the lord with ten thousand chariots Should behave lightheartedly in his empire?'.
[3] Lau has: 'If restless, then the lord is lost'. This borne out by the Ma wang tui reading. Legge has 'loses his throne'.

Wang Pi's commentary says: In all things, it cannot be that the light supports the heavy or the small press down the large. That which does not act causes action, and that which does not move brings about movement.Thus it is that the heavy is certainly the foundation of the light and quietude surely the soveriegn of activity.(*)
Because he treats the heavy (i.e., himself as sovereign) as the foundation (of the state), he does not separate himself from it (the protection of his retinue).
His heart/mind is not captivated by the glorious scenery.
... 'Losing his foundation' means to lose his life. 'Losing his throne' is to lose one's position of authority.

(*) Wang"s commentary to the top line of hexagram 32, Heng (Perseverance, Duration) says, 'Quietude is the sovereign of activity and repose the master of action. Thus repose is the state in which the one at the top (the so-called 'superior person') should reside, and it is through quietude that the Tao of everlasting duration works.
Chien Chung-shu cites another passage from the I Ching relevant to the elucidation of this passage, viz., the commentary to Fu, hexagram 24 (Return) from the Commentary to the Judgements which says: In 'Return' we can see the very heart and mind of Heaven and Earth.' Wang Pi's comment on this is as follows:

Return as such means 'to revert to the original substance', and, for Heaven and Earth we consider the original substance to be the heart/mind. Whenever activity ceases tranquility ensues, but tranquility is not opposed to activity. Whenever speech ceases silence is the result, but silence is not opposed to speech. This being so, even though Heaven and Earth are so vast that they possess all the myriad things in great abundance, and that these, activated by thunder and moved by the winds, undergo continuous and countless transformations, yet the original substance of Heaven and Earth is perfect quiescent nonbeing (wu). Thus, it is only when earthly activity ceases that the heart/mind of Heaven and earth can be seen. Had Heaven and Earth had being (substance, actuality) instead of this heart/mind, it would never have been possible for the manifold different categories of things to have become endowed with exstence.

A further note, to the last section this time, and again citing Wang's commentary on the I Ching, says: 'The many cannot govern the many; that which governs the many is the most solitary - the One. Activity cannot govern activty; that which - due to its constancy - controls all activity in the world is the One. Therefore for all the many things to exist, their controlling principle must reach back to the One, and for all ac tivities to manifest their function, their source cannot but be the One.

Cheng's commentary reads: 'Lightness ' is comparable to twigs and leaves; 'heaviness' is like the roots and trunk, or basis. Emotions are like shooting stars. Tranquility is like sunlight. Baggage means the necessities of life. Even when the Sage travels for only a single day, he does not leave his 'baggage' - he does not abandon his roots... Even though he dwells in a 'palace', he leads a life wich is in way out of the ordinary,... (and does not) behave lightly, thereby losing his roots (or) become emotional and lose his judgement...

There are several important notes here.
Firstly, why does Lynn translate hsin as heart/mind? In the orient (and this includes for the Indians and Tibetans), for all the fact that the thinking faculty is recognised as being located in the brain, the mind as such is seen as seated in the breast - in the 'heart of the person' as it were. Though clumsy, Lynn's translation reminds us that what is under discussion here is NOT just the thinking faculty but the entirety of 'that which experiences' seen as a dynamic presence and process rather than as a 'thing'.

This chapter really does hit the heart of things.
If we assume that 'the One' mentioned above is the 'nameless, fathomless ancestor of all that exists', then what is being said here and the Buddhist idea that form is the manifest presence of openness and openness the ultimate nature of form, neither being in any wise separable from the other, are - literally - one and the same. 'The stillness in stillness is not real stillness', goes the ancient Ch'an saying: 'the stillness within motion is stillness indeed!'
The idea expressed in Wang Pi's commentary very neatly sums up at least one of the arguments concerning the Buddhist notion of 'non-self'... If things really are what they are, then they should never change. It is beacuse they are simply the coming together of an infinity of ever changing and equally impalpable 'causes and effects' that anything seems to come into existince, persist for a while and then fade and change at all.

Interestingly, too, the primary sense of the Sanskrit word 'guru' is 'weightiness' - 'someone or -thing that is weighty with qualities'.

This relates very closely to my 'fountain of youth' and 'dragon dance' mentioned before.
The very heart of the matter. From here, within this and returning to it in the end, everything else unfolds

tao teh ching 25

Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion[1].
Perhaps it is the mother of the ten thousand things[2].
I do not know its name.
Call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, I call it great.

Being great, it flows.
It flows far away.
Having gone far it returns[3].

Therefore 'Tao is great;
Heaven is great;
Earth is great;
The king is also great'.
These are the four great powers of the universe,
And the king is one of them.

Man follows the earth.
Earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
Tao follows what is natural.

[1] This line - translated as 'It operates everywhere and is free of danger' by Henricks and by Lynn - is missing in the Ma wang tui text.
[2] Lau has 'It is capable of being the mother...', the Ma wang tui text 'It may be regarded as the mother of Heaven and Earth...' (and not just of the ten thousand things).
[3] Most other versions have more or less the idea that, being great it goes forth, and that in its going forth - its distance - it is conceived of as returning.

The Wang Pi commentary says: Since it is amorphous, we are unable to know it yet the myriad things are all completed by it... We do not know whose child it is, therefore 'it was born before heaven and earth'.
Chi liao (which generally means 'silent and empty/vague') here means 'without physical form or substance. Nothing exists that can match it. In the end it always transforms back into what it was at the start, never losing its constancy...
Operating everywhere, nothing out of its reach and yet never in any danger, it begets and keeps whole the vast physical totality and may thus be regarded as the mother of the myriad things.
Names are used to distinguish forms, but, amorphous and complete, it has no form, so we cannot make any such determination.
Names are used to distinguish forms, and style names are used to distinguish attributes. To speak of 'Tao' - 'the Way' - is derived from the fact that absolutely nothing fails to follow it and because, of all the terms that might be used to address 'the amorphous and complete', this has the broadest meaning... Seeking a reason for styling it thus, we find that it is connected with the notion of greatness. But once such a connection exists, separation is sure to occur, and once separation occurs, all sense of what it ultimately means is lost. Thus the text says: if forced to give it a name, we call it 'great'.
'Goes forth' means 'operates', so the meaning here is not restricted to the single sense of great as in 'great body'. Since it operates everywhere, there is nowhere it does not reach and this is the meaning of 'going forth'.
'Far-reaching' means 'to reach the ultimate'. Since its operation is all-encompassing, there is nothing that lies beyond its infinite reach and no particular direction of operation which it might favour over any other... Because it does not subordinate itself to that to which it goes as a substance, it 'stands alone'. This is why the text refers to its 'return'.
... The king is the master of men ('man' regarded here as the quintessence of all that is between heaven and earth... Though he may not be in charge of something great, he is still great and considered a cohort of Heaven, Earth and Man.
Although we speak of the 'four greats' and all things have designations or names, as such, these are not what they ultimately are. When speaking of 'Tao', this has a derivation. First there is the derivation and only then do we refer to it as 'Tao'. Although this is the greatest of equivalents for it, it nonetheless falls short of its ultimate greateness for which no equivalent exists. That for which no equivalent exists cannot be named. The Tao, Heaven, Earth and the king are all included in that for which no equivalent exists.
'To model himself on' means 'to follow the example of'. It's by taking his models from Earth that Man avoids acting contrary to Earth and so obtains perfect safety. Its by taking its model from Heaven that Earth avoids acting contrary to Heaven and so realises its capacity for upholding all that exists. It is in taking its model from the Tao that Heaven avoids acting contrary to the Tao and so achieves its capacity for encompassing all that exists. It is by taking its model from the Natural that the Tao avoids acting contrary to the Natural and so realises its own nature. Taking the model of the Natural means that when it exists in a square, it takes squareness as a model, and when it exists in a circle, it takes circularity as its model: it does nothing that is contrary to the Natural. 'The Natural' is a term for which no equivalent exists, an expression for that which has infinite reach and scope. Just as knowledge falls short of being without the capacity for knowing, so physical forms and earthbound souls fall short of embryonic essences and images, and embryonic essences and images fall short of being free from forms and having the twin modes of yin and yang falls short of being beyond them

Thus each takes its model in the one above: The Tao complies with the Natural, which results in Heaven's having someything to rely on; Heaven finds its models in the Tao, thereby giving Earth something to emulate; Earth takes its model in Heaven which results in Man's finding images in the Earth. The way a king becomes master is by treating what he rules as a single entity.

Cheng's commentary contends that the line concerning the greatness of 'the king' should actually refer to 'mankind'. This seems perfectly correct to me, but none of the versions I have (aside from his, of course) has this reading. He continues:

Why does mankind 'follow the ways of the earth'? Because earth's Teh is fecundity. Why does earth 'follow the ways of heaven'? Because yin and yang interact. Why does heaven 'follow the ways of Tao'? Because the Tao melds with it to form a unity. And why does Tao 'follow the ways of Nature'? It does so because it is part of Nature.

I love this chapter because it comes very close to my own vision of reality as being like a continuous fountaining of becoming arising out of nowhere, manifesting as dream-like display, and then dissolving back into the plenum for immediate recycling and rebecoming... The 'fountain of eternal youth', as it were... the dragon-dance of space dancing space in to space...

Pure perception sees what is; conceptualisation judges...

Conceptualisation is 'that'; pure perception 'this'.

[The diagram in this section comes from Eva Wong's excceingly interesting Cultivating Stillness, SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS 1992, p. xvi. The descending order on the left describes the arising of the ten thousand things out of wu chi. The ascending order on the right shows the practice of returning to the supreme ultimate and beyond]

tao teh ching 24

He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to followers of the Tao,
'These are extra food and unnecessary baggage'.
They do not bring happiness[1],
Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.

[1] Both Lau and the Ma wang tui text here read 'Since there are those that hate such things...'

WangPi doesn't have much to add except that he sees 'standing on tiptoes' as seeking political advancement and 'striding' as flaunting oneself.

Cheng says only: Fascination with oneself, self-righteousness, self-promotion and gloating are all products of chapter 22 (*). Another explanation for this section might be that a man of Tao will not travel the paths of eating in excess or doing what is questionable.

(*) That is to say, the negative qualities warned against in chapter 22.
There Cheng takes issue with Lao-tze for proposing the contraries of just these qualities as being the more intelligent path; here he seems to concur as regards the negative effects that naturally stem from them.
Be it said, I find his commentary both confusing and challenging.

For me, this chapter has to do with recognising, deciding to act within and maintaining 'authenticity' - 'genuineness'.
It is fairly certain that braggarts get ahead in the world for a while, but that whatever they set their hands to brings with it certain collapse - often with wide-spread consequences. 'Standing on tiptoe' as I understand it, is trying to have oneslef noticed - to stick out above the crowd.
An interpretation of the second line I like (not least because I've noticed it to be true in practice) is that those who stride generally have no idea how to just stroll, amble... Striders are always 'going somewhere', always have some 'important thing' to do... Amblers... amble...
Best when one knows how to do both, no?... To stride when striding is called for, and then take one's time when time there is for that.
Authenticity does not require continuous publicity and advertisement. On the contrary, trying to push ahead is a sure sign of a lack of confidence in oneself or a lack of security in what one imagines one's position is. Those who really master what they know and are are generally quite extraordinarily content to just get on with the details of their lives without too much fuss - and without looking left or right (or up and down) to see what other people have got that they haven't.

I'm reminded here of the fable of the dog with the bone that saw itself reflected in the water and tried to get the bone that dog had...

tao teh ching 23

To talk little is natural.
High winds do not last all morning.
Heavy rain does not last all day.
Why is this? Heaven and earth!
If heaven and earth cannot make things eternal,
How is it possible for man?

He who follows the Tao
Is at one with the Tao.
He who is virtuous
Experiences Virtue.
He who loses the way
Feels lost.
When you are one with the Tao,
The Tao welcomes you.
When you are one with Virtue,
The Virtue is always there.
When you are one with loss,
The loss is experienced willingly[1].

He who does not trust enough
Will not be trusted[2].

[1] The Ma wang tui text reads this singularly differently:

To the one who is one with Virtue, the Way also gives Virtue;
While for the one who is one with loss, the Way also disregards him.

Since teh means both 'virtue' and 'gain' or 'attain', there is also a possible play on words here and these four lines could equally well be translated:

One who devotes himself to attainment is one with gain,
And one who devotes himself to loss is one with loss.
To the one who is one with attainment, the Way also gives attainment;
While for the one who is one with loss, the Way also disregards him.

[2] This line is absent in both version of the Ma wang tui text, but is present in all later versions.

Wang Pi's version is so different again, that I give it and its commentary in full:

The 'inaudible' is a way of referring to the Natural.

'When we listen for it but do not hear it, we call it the "inaudible"'(cf. ch. 14). A later section says: 'When the tao is spokenn of, how bland: it has no flavour at all! We look for it, but there is not enough there to see anything at all. We listen for it, but there is not enough there to hear anything' (cf. ch.35). As that is so, such expressions as 'no flavour at all' and 'not enough there to hear anything' are actually the most appropriate way of referring to the Natural.

Thus a whirlwind does not last an entire morning and a rainstorm does not last the day. What is it that causes them? It is Heaven and Earth. If even Heaven and Earth cannot make them last long, how much less can man?

In other words, sudden praise does not last long.

Thus, to undertake things in accordance with the Tao, the man of Tao becomes one with the Tao.

Undertaking things means managing affairs in accordance with the Tao. The Tao completes and benefits the myriad things without form or conscious effort. Thus, one who undertakes things in accordance with the Tao 'tends to matters without conscious effort and practices the teaching that is not expressed in words' (cf. ch.2). On and on, he has only apparent existence, yet through him the people achieve authenticity. He is the embodiment of the Tao...

The man of virtue becomes one with virtue.

Virtue/success (teh) results from having little. 'Having little gives one access' (cf. ch.22), and this is why the text here refers to virtue, success and access (all contained within the meanings of the word teh). If one practices virtue/success, one will embody virtue/success... (*)

The man of failure becomes one with failure.

Failure results from entanglement in great possession. One entangled in having much fails... One who practices failure embodies failure...

He who becomes one with virtue the tao also endows with virtue; he who becomes one with failure the Tao also endows with failure.

In other words the Tao reacts to one's practice and responds in kind.

If one fails to have trust, there is a corresponding lack of trust in onself.

When one's faith in those below fails, 'a corresponding lack of trust in onself' occurs.

(*) Lynn's note here says: Wang identifies teh (virtue) with teh (success and associates teh (success) with the expression teh chi pen, 'have acces to one's roots', i.e., be successful in accessing them. One's 'roots' are one's essentials, one's 'authenticity', that which is the pure embodiment of the Tao. Creative, spontaneous and natural, one's roots compare to the 'root of Heaven and Earth' (cf. ch. 6).

Since it once again misconstrues Lao-tze's meaning, I shall give Cheng in full and base any comments i might have around this... He says: It is in harmony with the Tao when speech is short and natural. Chapter 43 says, 'few in the world attain wordless teaching and the benefit of non-action'. This is the exact opposite of chapter 5's 'too many words quickly exhaust'. Although caused by heaven and earth, hurricanes and thundershowers cannot last long because, too furious and violent, they fall outside natural laws for enduring phenomena. Lao-tze's explanation reflects contempt for human striving (my italics).

This is complete and utter nonsense.
Lao-tze may, indeed, regard 'pushing the river' and 'tugging at shoots to help them grow more quickly' as a useless occupation, but that is purely secondary. What he's actually trying to say is that the causes and conditions for that which endures at not - generally speaking - violent and explosive. 'Nature's way is to say little'. Nature does not in-sist, it per-sists... Generally quite quietly and gently.
If human striving means only that braggarts and loudmouths scrabble and shove in their rush for 'the top', then yes, Cheng is right. Grandfather Lao regards such actions not only as 'degrading', but as a direct highway for conflict and suffering, this is sure. But I am not that convinced that that was what Confucius meant by the Tao of Mankind either. Confucius believed in striving for perfection, certainly, but that perfection could only take root in the eternal quest for the appropriate, the consistent examination of one's actions and motivations, and a careful attention to the balancing of the yin and the yang.
Loa-tze contends, rather, that the yin and the yang are naturally balanced, and that all one really has to do is to realign oneself with this ever-present nature.

Cheng continues, with his usual acuity: Those who are in communication with the Tao are, in turn, welcomed by the Tao. Because of such communion, the attainment of the Tao is a joy. The same reaction holds for those who are in communication with the Teh, and so forth. This idea is expressed in the Book of Change (hexagram 1, Chien, line 5), 'similar tones respond to one another (sympathetic vibration); beings with silmilar 'life-force' (ch'i, psycho-physiological energy, breath) seek each other'. The statement 'those in communication with failure are also welcomed by failure' should be placed alonside the text of chapter 38: 'Thus, if Tao is lost, Teh appears; if Teh is lost, humanism appears; in humanism is lost, justice appears'. With rumination, one will understand Lao-tze's point: if people fail in practicing virtue and success, they will be happy to accept humanism. Those who have failed in following Tao and Teh because they do not understand them, thereby accept humanism, or - failing that - justice, and are perfectly happy to do so.

'Some are not true enough to the Tao, and so there are those who are not true to it at all', (Cheng's reading of the last line) means that those who have failed in following either the Tao or the Teh lack faith, and that this finally leads to complete faithlessness.

So... 'to talk little is natural'. I'll shut up.

tao teh ching 22

Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain[1];
Have much and be confused[2].

Therefore the wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all[3].
Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
Not boasting,
They receive recognition.
Not bragging,
They never falter.
They do not quarrel
So no-one quarrels with them[4].
Therefore the ancients say, 'Yield and overcome'.
Is that an empty saying?
Be really whole
And all things will come to you.

[1] Wang Pi reads this line as, 'Having little gives one access. Having much leads one astray'. His commentary says: This is the Tao of nature, which is just like a tree. The more a tree has, the further it is from its roots; the less it has, the closer it is to roots. In like manner, the more one has, the further one is from one's authenticity. That is why the text uses the expression 'leads on astray'. The less one has, the better the access to one's roots. This why the text speaks here of 'access'.
[2] Lau reads these pairs in temporal sequence: Bowed down then preserved/Bent then straight, etc., but the Ma wang tui text bears out Feng's reading.
[3] Ma wang tui: '... become the shepherd of the world'. Unless I severely misunderstand this text, this one of the first times that Grandfather Lao is actually talking about being an example to others as such. Up to now, almost anything he's said - even when referring to 'others', 'the people' and so forth - has actually had to do only with cultivation of oneself as per the Great Learning cited yesterday.
[4] Most other versions have something more like: No-one is able to compete with them for the simple reason that they do not compete. This certainly makes more sense in the context.

For all the fact that Cheng, as far as I can make out (and please forgive me if I am wrong), completely misreads the ultimate intention of Lao-tze, his commentaries on the words and links to other chapters are far from uninteresting, so I shall continue to use him here and to point out his Confucianist bias wherever it comes up. A perfect example is the conclusion drawn in the opening sentence of his commentary below - Although such an idea may be acceptable in the context, for example, of t'ai chi combat, the object of which, after all, is to put an end to conflict as swiftly and painlessly as possible, no Taoist practitioner would live his life based on this utterly conflictual notion.
Cheng says:

The ancient phrase(*) has it: 'Yield and become whole', meaning making concessions in order to achieve greater results in the totality of events. Lao-tze invokes examples. The sayings, 'bent... straight', 'hollow... filled', 'exhausted... renewed', and those which follow in later chapters, such as 'know the masculine, cleave to the feminine', 'know the bright, keep to the dull', 'understand glory, keep to humility' or 'sick of sickness, you will gain health', all express parallel ideas. One who can put into practice the dictum 'small amounts are attainable; large amounts confusing... take Oneness as the guide', penetrates to the very core and source of the Tao and will not be confused.

(*) The Book of Rites.

What blows my brain is that, despite the fact that the conclusion of the paragraph totally contradicts that of the first sentence, what he's saying here - his final conclusion - is exactly spot on. I mentioned before that I wondered whether he was not just throwing a cat among the pigeons... I still wonder...

He continues:

The meaning of the remaining lines is similar to a statement in the Book of Change: The goal of the noble man is 'to be humble in the face of adulation and thus be a shining light; to be able to endure the most extreme degradation'

all of which makes perfect sense, and then adds the following note: When Lao-tze introduces the quote 'yield and become whole' from the Classic on Rites, he means it in a theoretical sense. However, when, on the brink of death, Tseng-tze(*) summoned his disciples and said 'Examine my feet, examine my hands. The Book of Odes says, 'In fear and trembling as if hanging over an abyss or treading on thin ice'. Henceforth I know release from committing faults my little ones!' his words come directly from his personal experience in life and so are much more meaningful than the mere theories of Lao-tze.

(*) His translator's note here says: Tseng-tze (Tseng Shen, 505 - c.436 BCE) was an outstanding pupil of Confucius and was noted for his filial piety. In this death-bed quote (Analects 8:3), he is referring to the dictum that a filial child should take care of his body so that when he meets his ancestors in the after-life he will be as whole as when he was born into the world. This is one of the goals of the noble man...

... Of the Confucian 'noble man', perhaps. The Taoist 'noble man' is of a far subtler order. For a start, the Confucian 'noble man', 'superior man' was - indeed, and inevitably - a man.
Leaving that for the moment,, however, what Lao-tze is actually saying here is that, in remaining true to the openness you will find that everything else proceeds of itself to the very goal you are seeking, viz., that of all-encompassing and absolutely natural perfection. The 16th. Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpa'i Dorje, once remarked that, if the centre is kept clear, everything it needs will quite naturally come to it.
This is a very, very difficult idea to live by.
You see it, for example, in the t'ai chi exercise called 'push hands': Unless they happen to be extraordinarily adept, the moment the two partners place their hands on each other, there is already a modicum of tension and expectation. Technically, at that point they have already both 'lost', and someone who was really adept would already have used that tension to throw them yards off without the slightest exertion of effort on his part. It's almost innate: a situation apears; one sets oneself up vis-à-vis it, and already one is wrong... This is the very nature of duality.

Lao-tze is saying: let go of all that; come to rest here... in this... here...

Just a note concerning Professor Cheng: I think it's very useful to have someone who doesn't go along blindly with the ideas put forth here as one of our commentators. Inasmuch as I, too, have enormous respect for the 'Philosopher K'ung' (Confucius) and those of his school, he certainly makes me think twice before committing myself to you!

Useful, no?


tao teh ching 21

The greates Virtue is to follow the Tao and only the Tao.
The Tao is elusive and intangible.
Oh, it's elusive and intangible, and yet within is image.
Oh, it's elusive and intangible, and yet within is form.
Oh, it's dim and dark, and yet within is essence.
The essence is very real, and therein lies faith.
From the very beginning until now its name has never been forgotten.
Thus I perceive the creation.
How do I know the ways of creation?
Because of this.

Both the Lau and the ma wang tui text are different enough from this to warrant my giving both in detail. Lau has:

In his every movement, a man of great virtue
Follows the way and only the way.
As a thing the way is
Shadowy, indistinct.
Indistinct and shadowy,
Yet within it is an image;
Shadowy and indistinct,
Yet within it is a substance.
Dim and dark, yet within it is an essence.
This essence is quite genuine
And within it is something that can be tested.
From the present back to antiquity
Its name has never deserted it.
It serves as a means for inspecting the fathers of the multitude.
How do I know that the fathers of the multitude are like that? By means of this.

And the Ma wang tui:

The character of great virtue follows alone from the Way.
As for the nature of the Way, it is shapeless and formless.
Formless! Shapeless! Inside there are images.
Shapeless! Formless! Inside there are things.
Hidden! Obscure! Inside there are essences.
These essences are very real;
Inside them is the proof.

From the present back to the past,
Its name has never gone away.
It is by this that we comply with the father of the multitude (of things).
How do I know that the father of the multitude is so?
By this.

Wang Pi's line-by-line commentary says:

K'ung (which usually means 'great') here means (a different character also pronounced k'ung) 'empty'. Only by embracing emptiness as virtue can one ensure that one's actions conform with the Tao... 'Dim' and 'dark' refer to the appearance of that which is formless and not attatched to anything... The tao originates things due to its formlessness and brings them to completion due to its freedom from attachment. The myriad things are originated and completed in this way, yet do not know how it happens... 'Abstruse' and 'indistinct' refer to an appearance of unfathomable profundity. It is so unfathomably profound that we cannot treat it as something seen, yet the myriad things all proceed from it... (W)e cannot see it and so fix what its authentic existence is,... 'but within it the essence of things (ching) is there'... When things revert to the unfathomably profound, the ultimate state of authentic essence is attained and the natures of all the myriad things is fixed... The ultimate of perfect authenticity cannot be named. Because it is nameless (wu ming), this is its name. From the present and back into antiquity, nothing has ever reached completion except through it... Chung fu - the father of everything - means the origin of all things. 'Nameless' is used to convey what the origin of the myriad things is... 'This' in the last line means what has just been said above. In other words, if you ask how I know that the myriad things originate in nothingness, I know it by this.

(That's the first time, so far, that I've really appreciated - or probably even properly understood - Wang Pi's commentary)

Cheng says that the Tao becomes Tao when, in the midst of evanescence and elusiveness, there is form and substance; when, in the midst of vacancy and darkness, there is a real essence. It is verifiable since its name has never been lost, and the origins of all living creatures are evident within it. Consequently one can know the circumstances of the phenomenon of the Tao: b dint of the form and substance within it, it reveals the presence of an essence so genuine that it is the authentification of the Tao, indicating also the depth of one's moral cultivation. 'In the 81 chapters of the Tao Teh Ching,' he points out, 'there are a total of seventeen properties ascribed to Teh'... These include 'primal Teh', 'best Teh', 'everlasting Teh' and so on, but the point is that, the more mysterious the Tao, the more real the Teh; the more vacant the tao, the more concrete the Teh; the more obscure the Tao, the more obvious the Teh. (Cheng reads Teh here as 'moral cultivation', but I think 'virtue' - or, as Waley renders it, 'power' - comes far closer to the original meaning... One is almost tempted to say 'manifestation' or 'energy'). He continues: When the Tao is cultivated in a person, his Teh is 'real'; when cultivated in a family, it's Teh' has 'greater influence; when cultivated in a village, state, or the world, Teh is 'lasting', 'abundant' and 'universal'.
He disagrees vehemently with Wang Pi, however, as to the meaning of the term k'ung mentioned above, and he contends that it must mean high as in 'high moral development' and cannot possibly mean 'empty'. 'Tao takes teh as its root and trunk, he says. 'If this root is made 'hollow' or 'empty', the Tao has no base on which to stand. If one does not allow this single word its true meaning, then the five-thousand-word Tao Teh Ching will be shaken to its foundations.'
Again I find myself in disagreement with him. Tao does NOT stand upon Teh. If anything takes a stand upon anything (which I'm not at all sure it does), then surely Teh, as the 'manifest energy' of Tao, must be rooted in and take its stand upon it?

I think this all clears up in the note appended to this chapter by Professor Cheng himself: I give it here in its entirety.

This chapter describes what it is about the Tao that makes it the tao. Those who sincerely desire to aproach the Tao of Lao-tze will have no place to get a handhold without this chapter and chapter 14.
Lao-tzu has his own Tao, attained through breathing techniques. If those who wish to cultivate their health and enrich their lives follow the principles of non-action and no desire and practice them seriously and with discipline, they will certainly get results. That is why the text says the Tao has a form, substance and essence so real that it is verifiable.
How do I know that Lao-tze is capable of all this? When I was young, I was sick unto death, and, to make a long story short, I followed Lao-tze's method of cultivating chi (the psycho-physiological energy that is an amalgam of breath, generative energy and mind), enabling me to lengthen my life for more than forty years. How can I ever forget the rewards Lao-tze has given me?
Nevertheless, I am a human being, and, as such, must speak of the Tao of Mankind. My real desire, therefore, is to follow Confucius to the end. If it were otherwise, even if I lived as long as P'eng Chu (who is reputed to have lived to be 800 years old), of what use would my life be to mankind? Although to seek a long life has its purposes, they are at a far remove from the study of the Tao of Mankind.

I'd like to take issue with this here.
If Professor Cheng - by his own admission here, a card-carrying Confucian - imagines that the Tao of Lao-tze comprises nothing but a few breathing exercises and increasing the length of one's life, he has either entirely missed the point or is actively (and somewhat dishonestly) trying to dissaude his reader from following this path.
There is no rejection of the 'Tao of Mankind' in the Tao as expressed by Lao-tze. On the contrary, all he rejects is self-conscious and self-righteous deception of both oneself and others, and the sort of activities that lead to hollow 'successes' or to downright suffering.
He does, certainly, believe that - left to itself and not distorted by extraneous hopes and fears - nature always knows best, that water will always seek the lowest place and somehow - even by dissolving back into vapour - find its way home to the sea...
He also feels - quite correctly - that encouraged desires and anxieties, and the laws and strictures that soon after become necessary to police them - are far more dangerous than they at first seem. We, in the early 21st. (as we so arrogantly call it) century, are living with the rather disquieting results of just such. It may be, as Cheng contends, that the Tao of Mankind is to seek some ultimate utopian paradise, but - as Confucius himself points out - for human society to attain such a state, the first consideration is the appearance of the genuine 'emperor'. Confucius notes sadly that the real emperor appears only every thousand years or so, and that everyone else in between is simply either setting him up or tearing him down.
It might be worthwhile here to quote the root text of the so-called 'Great Learning' - the Ta Hsüeh - which, although ascribed by Chu-hsi to Confucius, was originally part of the Li-chi, the "Book of Rites," one of the five Chinese classics, dated to the 3rd. c. BCE... I follow Legge:

What the Great learning teaches is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.
The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end.
Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning.
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay inthe investigation of things.
Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed.Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.
From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.
It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered. It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for,and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for.

What is blatantly obvious here (or blatantly obvious to me, at any rate) is that what these texts are saying - one to a would-be civil servant and one to someone who simply wished to live out his years doing what seemed useful and pleasant to him - is exactly the same thing: No matter what you want, the root of it lies in sorting out yourself first. Then, whether you take 'the path of learning, where something is gained every day', or 'the path of the Tao, where something is given up every day', it's the same thing. This is the whole point.
The Tao embraces everything.
That's why Lao-tze is so keen that you give up holding on to clever but intricate and crabbed little versions of what might might be possible.

Cor! Really sounded off on that one, didn't I?


tao teh ching 20

Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles[1].

Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox[2].
In spring some go to the park and climb the terrace,
But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it leaarns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother[3].

[1] The famous 1st line of chapter 20 that some scholars think should be the last line of chapter 19 and that Lau considers should be the first. I mentioned the arguments put forth by Henricks for moving the line to the end of 19 in yesterday's entry.
For my own part, I love the fact that 'scholarship' has its knickers in a knot about a line that is saying what this says.
Really makes me grin.
Also interesting (assuming Feng knew what he was doing with the punctuation), is the fact that the line as it stands here makes two suggestions: (i) give up all pretention to cleverness, and (ii) get rid of your problems - solve them, dissolve them, forget them, but get rid of them.
[2] The t'ai lo feast actually entailed the sacrifice and consumption of a sheep, a pig and an ox.
[3] I particularly like Lau's reading of the last two lines (this was the version that first woke me up back in the 60s, after all):

I alone am different from others
And value being fed by the mother.

The Ma wang tui text reads the first seven lines completely differently:

Argument and angry rejection;
How great is the differenc between them?
Beautiful and ugly;
What's it like - the difference between them?
The one who is feared by others
Must also, because of this, fear other men.
Wild, unrestrained! It will never come to an end!

and it reads the last two lines as

But my desires alone differ from those of others -
For I value drawing sustenance from the Mother.

(By an odd quirk of typography, the word 'alone' in my copy is underscored, which again gives yet another possible interpretation which I'm sure would NOT be acceptable to 'scholarship - Oh well!)

Wang's commentary says: As is said in chapter 48, 'The pursuit of learning means having more each day, but the pursuit of the Tao means having less each day'. As such, learning seeks to increase what one can do and advance what one knows, but, if one were free from desire and thus content, what would one seek to gain in having more? And if one could stay on the mark without undue concern as to how it was being done, what would one wish to learn by knowing more. As is said,

Finches have mates,
Doves do too.
Those who live in wintry climes
Are sure to know one fur from another.
That which is already sufficient unto itself by nature
Will only be ruined if one tries to add to it.

So what is the difference between lengthening the duck's legs and cutting down the legs of the crane?(*) And why should the fear of praise that leads to promotion be any different from the fear of punishment? How far is approval from disapproval or praise from censure? Therefore, if feared by others, I should also be in fear of them. One dare not rely on such things as a basis for action.

(*) Aha! The very Chuang-tze I cited yesterday!

... befuddled by praise and advancement and excited by honour and reward (people) let their desire run free and trheri heart/minds become excited and contentious.
... I, in my solitude, have no form that can be named and provide no hint that can be detected, just like an infant who has not yet learned to smile.
... longings and ambition... fill their breasts to overflowing. Thus the text says 'all have more than enough... I alone engage in no conscious effort and have no desires, as if I had lost all capacity for them.
... the heart/mind of a completely stupid man is innocent of distinction, and his thoughts are free of any consideration of good and bad... Innocent of distinctions, I cannot be named.
... (Others) make their brilliance shine. They discriminate between each and every thing,... (but) my tendencies cannot be discerned. I have no ties to anything - no attachment...
... Everyone is seeking the chance to fulfil some purpose. I have nothing I want to do. Moddled and oafish, I appear to know nothing at all...
'Drawing sustenance from the mother' refers to the root of life, the Tao. Everyone forsakes the roots from which true sustenance can be drawn in preference of the blossoms that decorate the branch-tips. Thus the text says 'I alone wish to be different from others'.

Cheng says (after a while): Compare the lines'what others fear, I must fear' with chapter 49, where it says, 'I am kind to the kind. Iam also kind to the unkind'. If everyone is treated with equal kindness then what is there to fear?...
... The Mother is the mother of all things - that is air, or breath (ch'i)...

He compares the words 'I alone and different from the rest' and the last six sentences with chapter 57, where it says: 'I practice non-action...I love tranquility... I do not interfere in anything... I am without desires', pointing out that this is how Lao-tze views the ego. One who is ego-centric cannot alleviate his notions of intention, necessity and insistence. This - says Cheng - is in diametric opposition to the views of Confucius, and it is in just this that the crucial difference between the two men lies...

Cheng saw an enormous difference between what he calls Lao-tze's Tao and the Tao of Mankind as enshrined in the teachings of Confucius. In Grandfather Lao he obviously perceived a path of quietism, and it would seem that this quite bothered him.

It is a conceit of mine (or perhaps just plain conceited) to see (or imagine) myself as like this bloke described here. At any rate, this is certainly how I would like to be (on the one hand). A poem I wrote, many years ago for a cabinet-maker friend of mine I hadn't seen for many years:

beyond this glow loving hands half seen
furnish feasts of bread meat and wine

we sit within and smile

two old chairs rapt in oceanic silence

still fire-heart red beyond the grey, you

inner and outer polishing
etched, unnoticed, into your bones

me longer-haired and woollier now than ever

foolish like a child
no idea at all of where i'm coming from

where to go

Not much else to say, is there?


tao teh ching 19

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.

Give up kindness, renounce morality,
And men will rediscover filial piety and love.

Give up ingenuity, renounce profit,
And bandits and thieves will disappear.

These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves.
It is more important
To see the simplicity,
To realise one's true nature,
To cast off selfishness
And temper desire[1].

[1] Somewhat intriguingly, the Ma wang tui text (which, be it recalled, is the earliest example of the text known to us) has:

These three sayings,
Regarded as a text, are not yet complete.
Thus we must see to it that they have the following appended:

Manifest plainness and embrace the genuine;
Lessen self-interest and make few your desires;
Eliminate learning and have no undue concern.

This last line, too, is generally taken, but with enormous reluctance, as the first line of ch. 20. Henricks argues that it is in fact the last line of this one on the basis of the internal evidence of the rhyme closing each of these lines in the Chines (p'u - 'genuine', yü - 'desires' and yu - 'anxiety'), the fact that neither example of the Ma wang tui text ends with punctuation and that, if the text speaks of 'three sayings' needing completion, there should logically be three lines appended to it as well.

Wang Pi points out that sagehood and intelligence are words pointing to the best of human talent, benevolence and righteousness are what is best in human behaviour and cleverness and mental acuity are the best of human resources. That they are expressly repudiated here is because such 'ornaments' are inadequate as they stand... Far better, therefore, to identify with simplicity and with a minimum of craving and desire.

In the light of this, Cheng's reading of the above lines is interesting in itself. He sees it as:

I believe that these three statements show that words are inadequate.
The people should be made to adhere to these principles:
'Look to the origins and maintain purity;
Diminish self and curb desires'.

In his commentary, however, he continuous to question the wisdom of Lao-tze's 'sage' (or is it that he asks us to?)... Sure, he says, the sage who can put his wisdom to work is acting (wei), and Lao-tze wants to keep the people ignorant (cf. ch. 65): 'The ancients who were most adept in ruling did not try to enlighten the people, but... gradually made them stupid'. Chapter 38 says, 'If Tao is lost, Teh appears. If Teh is lost, humanism appears. If humanism is lost, justice appears,' and chapter 49 says, '(the Sage's) mind merges with the world. The Sage treats everyone as his children'.
However, says Cheng, if he suggests that we look to the origin and maintain purity, diminish self and curb desires, how will the people then 'benefit hundredfold'? Furthermore, he adds, if man discards humanism and justice - the basic tenets of the Tao of mankind as far as the Confucians are concerned - what real hope is there of a return to parental affection and filial piety?

Doubtless wiser than myself, he refuses to speculate on such 'superfluous' ideas, but I think there's a thing or two to say on the subject that could be worthy at least of consideration.

For a start, I don't think Grandfather Lao is saying stop practicing these things... What he's actually saying is don't be a sanctimonious bullshit artist whose 'compassion' wouldn't make the pages of pulp romance and whose morality is only for judging others, an idiot whose 'knowledge' makes the word 'parochial' sound like endless galaxies and whose only real interest is me me me.
He's not saying goodness, wisdom, kindliness, morality, ingenuity and profit are evil per se. He's asking us to step beyond our own tiny versions of same and return to unselfconscious practice and self-discipline (another word, oddly enough, for freedom). That is why the Ma wang tui text insists that 'these sayings are not complete' and that they find their completion in simplicity, authenticity, unselfishness and contentment, in not imagining oneself to be anything beyond what one is and, consequently, in unselfconsciousness.
It has nothing to do with 'the people should be like this', or 'I should set a good example to the poor, iggerant masses'. It's for YOU that you need to let go of all the useless baggage and ornamentation of 'being clever', not for some imagined 'them'.

tao teh ching 18

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.

When there is no peace within the family[1],
Filial piety and devotion arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos,
Loyal ministers appear.

[1] Echoing the Ma wang tui text and most others, Lau has 'When the the six relations (father and son, elder and younger brother, husband and wife) are at variance...'

Wang says: When one abandons tending to matters without conscious effort, replacing this with practices of mercy and establishing the idea of goodness, this means that the tao has become invested in things(*). When one employs methods and uses intelligence... on'e intentions become obvious and the form they take visible... When the six relations exist in harmony and the state maintains good order all by itself, no one knows where the obedient kindly and loyal are to be found. It is only when fish forget the Tao of rivers and lakes that the virtuous act of moistening each other comes into being(**).

(*) This means that, once the pristine simplicity of the uncarved block of the Tao is lost, tangible entities such as mecy and goodness arise.
(**) This is a paraphrase of the 'Great Master and Teacher' section of the Ch'uang-tze: 'When sources dry up, finding themselves stranded together on the ground, fish moisten each other with spit and wet each other with foam, but how much better it would be if they could just forget each other in rivers and lakes!'

Cheng waxes most eloquent on this brief chapter, his commentary and it's notes covering two full pages, but basically what he's saying is that - although it seems, on the surface, that Lao-tze is attacking humanism here - since the Tao is without form or substance - without even name or origin - how can it ever be lost? And if there were no-one - no beings at all - to appreciate the fact of its existence, what would it matter if it existed or not. Mankind without humanism and justice is as inconceivable as heaven without its qualities of yin and yang or earth without its qualities of hardness and softness... The gross hypocricy is as if heaven and earth had only the qualities of yin and softness - when the qualities of yang and hardness lose the affirmative, yin and softness take over. When humanism and justice are not sharp and clear, then great hypocricy arises, yet Lao-tze himself praises uprightness in government, so, even if such hypocricy does exist, it is no real cause for concern... it is, in a sense, the very Tao of mankind, the third in the trinity of heaven, earth and man, the so-called three 'powers' or 'agents' comprising the metaphysical cosmos of Chinese thought.
He points out that, when family relationships really have fallen into disorder, the merest glimpse of correct relationship is easily mistaken for filial piety. He has an interesting note here: 'Lao-tze is speaking from the reverse side of things, and he has his reasons, but I wonder what brought the six relationships into existence? How would they fall out of harmony? How could there have been 'a golden age of government'? And how did this fall into darkness and confusion? To assert that everything was the product of non-action is overdoing it a bit. Lao-tzu alone desires to live according to non-action; those who practice plail action outnumber him a billion to one. From this it is possible to deduce that what Lao-tze advocates is impossible to put into practice.

I find this last statement (a 'conclusion', after all, being simply where someone stops thinking about something) not a little intriguing. Not least inasmuch as Taoism is the avowed raison d'être and modus operandum of t'ai chi ch'uan of which Cheng was an acknowledged master.

But I will agree it's walking against the stream. (Many a Taoist tale of what you find up there, too, when you finally get there!)

What is important here, of course, is unselfconsciousness which is not a contrived 'consciousness' of some weird entity called the 'unself', but simply being and doing without too much in the way of name and packdrill.
Once you start being clever about things, it will often take you on a trip through many years of apprenticeship, journeymanship and even mastery before you get back to the original, unselfconscious spark that set you off in the first place... If you ever get back there at all!
This is not to say that study and training are useless, or that being kindly and respectful are not desirable qualities. On the contrary! But vaunting oneself on having such, when they are - indeed! - no more than the merest drop in the ocean, will certainly prevent you from advancing any further until you forget them again.
What the buddhists call mara - the demon of limiting ideas.

Friday, October 28, 2005

tao teh ching 17

The very highest is barely known by men.
Then comes that which they know and love.
Then that which is feared.
Then that which is despised.

He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.

When actions are performed
Without unnecessary speech,
People say, 'We did it!'

Most texts, following Wang Pi on the assumption that this is a breviary for good government, consider that 'the very highest' and so on refer to qualities in people. Cheng, however, agrees with Feng (and myself, as luck would have it) in following Ho-shang Kung's interpretation. Let me give Cheng's text in full:

From time immemorial there have been some who have know (the Tao).
There have also been those who sympathetic toward it and praised it.
There have been those that feared it.
There have been those who ridiculed it.
There have been those who were not true enough to it,
And so there have been those who have not been true to it at all.

T'ai-shang-hsia means that in the times of great antiquity (t'ai-ku-chih t'ien hsia) there were those who knew the Tao(*). There have also been thos who feared the Tao as though 'crossing a stream in midwinter'. And there have been those who have gone beyond merely laughing at it, and have actually ridiculed and reviled it.

(*) This is the key phrase in Ho-shang Kung's interpretation.

How invaluable are the words,
'When an accomplishment is achieved and the task is finished,
People say it was only natural'.

What the people appreciate is that the task is finished, but they consider it only natural. They do not know that this is the result of non-action and that the Tao works according to nature.

Grandfather Lao goes into this again later in some detail (cf. ch. 41), but here he first speaks about the subtlety of things... That which is most subtle can barely be intuited - if at all!. For some this fact gives enormous freedom, for others it is a source of anxiety, and , for others again, it is too much to conceive of and they either laugh it off as madness or not-to-the-point, or reject the very thought that this could be so and revile all those who see it as such.
Such is the nature of the Tao...
Even the most fundamentalist 'kick-it-and-it-grunts "realists" and "scien-tists" (as opposed to genuine scientists, and not excluding all other stripe of fundamentalist) are included within it, unbeknownst to them...
Was it not ever the case that that which is broader and more profound contains and embraces that which was less so?

It also brings us back to the popular idea that the Tao is 'simple' ... As 'simple', perhaps (and if 'simple' is the word for it), as the coming together out of an ever-receding 'nothingness' of the particles that make up the proton and electron of a single atom of hydrogen, let alone hydrogen's mystical (and electric) communion with oxygen that gives us water, the basis of all life as we understand it and the very image of the Tao...
If it is in any wise 'simpler' than this, that simplicity must surely be the 'infinite complexity' of the plenum void.

Another point is that it is always all these levels - from the sublime to the utter gorblimey - simultaneously becoming, persisting and dissolving like the very fabric of the dream it actually is.

tao teh ching 16

Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature[1].
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being kingly, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal,
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away[2].

[1] Most other texts have the idea of returning to one's own nature - to one's destiny.
[2] The Ma wang tui text says: 'If you're one with the Tao, to the end of your days you'll suffer no harm'.

Wang's commentary says: In other words 'attainment of emptiness' refers to the state of absolute guilessness, and 'maintenance of quietude' to the state of perfect genuineness... With emptiness and quietude, one observes the eternal return. Everything that exists arises from emptiness, action is born of quietude. Thus, although the myriad things interact, they all ultimately return to emptiness and quiet, which is the state of absolute guilessness... When one returns to the root, one becomes quiet... when one is quiet, one returns to one's destiny. When one reverst to one's destiny, one fulfils the constant dimensions of one's nature and destiny, and this is why that state is referred to as 'constancy'. Constancy as such has neither predeliction nor outer characteristic, exists as neither light nor dark, and results in images that are neither cold nor warm. To understand constancy is called 'perspicacity'... but if one lacks this and sets forth to do something, one will find that deviency has entered one's destiny and that the people depart from their destinies... (If) there is nothing one does not embrace, one attains the state of oceanic impartiality. With oceanic impartiality one attains a state (of) universal presence. With universal presence, one becomes one with Heaven. Making one's virtue conform to that of Heaven and embodying the Tao so that it completely permeates one, one attains the state wherein the absolute limits of emptiness are reached. Attaining the absolute limit of emptiness is to attain the constancy of the Tao. As such one attains a state that is absolutely devoid of limits. Nothingness is such that neither water nor fire, neither metal nor stone can destroy it. If it is put to use by the heart/mind, the wilf water buffalo and tiger will find no way to strike one with horn or claw, and weapons of war will be powerless to use edge or point against one. What danger could there possibly be?

Cheng says: Utmost emptiness, profound tranquility, 'the ten thousand things rise and fall' - this is the enactment of action-without-action. Things flourish,and yet in the end each returns to its root, to the constancy of its 'tranquility'. I watch this cycle which is 'a return to yang', a phenomenon associated with the yang or active principle (*). Those who do not understand this constancy blunder into wrongdoing. Disaster will surely follow... One who embodies the tao is never again in danger of losing his self.

(*)Tranquility is generally associated with the yin or passive principle. When yin, however, reaches its ultimate limit - just as the first instant after noon is night, or that after midnight is morning (AM changing to PM and vice-versa) - it changes into yang in accordance with the cycle of polarity.

tao teh ching 15

The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.[1]

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?[2]
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfilment.
Not seeking fulfilment, they are not swayed by desire for change.[3]

[1] The Ma wang tui text has these two lines in reverse order, but both it and all the others I have read the line Feng translated as 'Hollow, like caves' as something more like 'Broad and expansive, like a valley'.
[2] The Ma wang tui text does not read this as a question. It has:

If you take muddy water and still it, it gradually clears.
If you bring something to rest in order to move it, it gradually comes alive.

[3] Most other texts have the idea that, not seeking to become full, they were never in need of renewal.

This is a rather intriguing chapter, particularly when compared with the description in ch.22 where the 'Man of Tao' is described as much 'softer-edged'.