Friday, October 28, 2005

tao teh ching 10

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,
Can you avoid separation?
Attending fully and becoming supple,
Can you be as a newborn babe?
Washing and cleansing the primal vison,
Can you be without stain?
Loving all men and ruling the country,
Can you be without cleverness?
Opening and closing the gates of heaven,
Can you play the role of the woman?
Understanding and being open to all things,
Are you able to do nothing?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is the Primal Virtue.

I think I'll just give the Lau in full, too. It's phrasing touches on subtly different points:

When carrying on your head your perplexed bodily soul, can you embrace in your arms the One
And not let go?
In concentrating your breath can you become as supple
As a babe?
Can you polish your mysterious mirror
And leave no blemish?
Can you love the people and govern the state
Without resorting to action?
When the gates of heaven open and shut
Are you capable of keeping to the role of the female?
When your discernment penetrates the four quarters
Are you capable of not knowing anything?[1]
It gives them life and rears them.
It gives them life yet claims no possession.
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude.
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue.

Lau has a few interesting notes here: On the first line he remarks, 'Man has two souls, the p'o which is the soul of the body, and the hun which is the soul of the spirit. After death, the p'o descends into the earth while the hun ascends into the heavens (*). Cf. (Ch. 42) "The myriad creatures carry upon their backs the yin and embrace in their arms the yin"...' The mysterious mirror is , of course, the suble energy of the mind. And '...The gates of heaven are, according to the Keng sang ch'u chapter of the Chuang-tze, the invisible gateway through which the myriad creatures come into being and return to nothing...', the 'fountain' I was referring to yesterday.

(*) Henricks's note in the Ma wang tui says that - at least in the modern conception of the thing - the p'o is the soul that lingers near the grave for a while while the hun is that which continues on in the cycle of incarnations

[1] Henricks points out that the two versions of this line, 'without using knowledge' and 'without taking action' are well-known and even common variants.

Wang Pi is different again: He reads the first line as

Stay where your earthbound soul is protected, and embrace integrity: can you do
this with never a deviation?

His commentary says: Tsai (usually to 'uphold') means something like 'dwell in' (ch'u). 'Where your earthbound soul is protected' ( ying p'o) is where one always dwells (*). 'Integrity' (yi) is a person's 'authenticity' (chên)(**). In other words the text says: 'Can you remain in the dwelling-place where you always live, embrace integrity, and do this with never a deviation? If so, the myriad beings will spontaneously submit themselves to you'.

(*) Linn's note syays: In interpreting ying p'o (where your earthbound soul is protected) as a place providing long-term safety, Wang's commentyary differs markedly from that of Ho-shang Kung's which equates ying p'o with hun p'o (etherial and earthbound spirit) and which almost all later commentators and translators follow, usually taking ts'ai (settle in) to mean 'preserve', 'keep' or 'sustain' - "Can you (or 'if you can') preserve your etherial spirit and earthbound soul/spirit'.

Another possible translation hun and p'o is as 'the spiritual and animal souls'.

(**) Wang's commentary to the first passage of Ch. 32 reads: If one embraces the uncarved block, engages in no conscious effort (wu wei), lets neither his authenticity (chên) be hampered by things nor his spirit ( shen) be harmed by desire, then the people will submit to him spontaneously and he will attain the Tao as a matter of course.' Note that Wang equates yi (integrity), chên (authenticity) and p'u (simplicity).

His commentary of the second passage reads in part that what the text is saying is ' Can you trust entirely to the vital force endowed by nature, attain the harmony characteristic of perfect softness, and, like the infant, be utterly without conscious desire?' If so, the people will achieve their proper span of life and fully realise their natures.
On the third passage he says: Mystery means the ultimate extent and subtlety of all things. In other words the text says, 'can you cleans away the misleading and the specious so as to attain a vision capable of grasping the ultimate and the subtle, not allowing things to get in the way of its brightness or flaw its numinous power?' If you can, you will be one with the mystery from beginning to end.
As regards the fifth, he says: The 'gateway of heaven' is a term for that through which all under heaven passes, and 'open or shut' refers to moments that decided good order or chaos. Whether open or shut, the effect prevails equally throughout all under heaven... The female joins in but does not initiate the singing, responds, but does not act of her own accord...

Professor Cheng's commentary is also quite long and complex. Bearing in mind that he was - amongst other things - a master of t'ai chi ch'uan, and was thus interested in k'ung fu ('hard work', 'application'), it's interesting to look at in detail so I'll give his reading and interpretation in full:

Can one unify the spirit-of-the-blood and the spirit-of-the-breath and keep them from separating?

The spirits of the blood and breath are referred to in The Yellow Emperor's Classic on Internal Medicine and the Kuan-yin Tzu. In the latter it says that the nature of blood is to descend, and that of breath ( ch'i) to ascend), but thatr, when one dies, this orfer is reversed. the spirit of the blood rises and the spirit of the breath descends.The ancients all discussed spirit-of-the-blood and spirit-of-the-breath in this fashion. the text asks whether man can unify these two 'spirits', even to the point of avoiding death.

In concentrating the ch'i to attain resiliency, can one be like a baby?

'Concentrating the ch'i' refers to breathing which has been explained earlier (cf. ch. 6). Regarding 'to attain resiliency', Ch'i-po said 'let the circulatory systems of blood and ch'i flow freely'. This is the basis of Lao-tze's emphasisi on the cultivation of ch'i, as in the sayings 'the tendons are resilient and the grip is firm', and 'reverse old age and become like a child'.

In cleansing the Mysterious Vision can one do it flawlessly?
In loving the people and governing the nation, can one cause the people to be without knowledge?
In opening and closing heaven's gate can one do it without the Female?
In spreading enlightenment in all four directions can one do it without conscious action?

'Cleansing the Mysterious Vision' refers to Chapter 1 where it says, 'if always without desire, one can observe indescribable marvels; if always desirous, one sees merest traces'. If it is granted that man can wash his vision, can it be done cleanly and without blemish? In loving the people and governing the nation, can one cause the people to be without either cleverness or desire? 'Female' refers to the trigram k'un, 'earth', and also means 'to close'. The earth trigram looks like this:

_ _
_ _
_ _

The gate of heaven cannot always be open and never close.
'Spreading enlightenmment far in all four directions' means to hear what is commonly heard and see what is commonly seen. Can this be accomplished without conscious action. In view of the six questions raised above, who can harmonise with the Tao? Lao-tze emphasises the feminie as in 'know the masculine, yet cleave to the feminine'.

Produce and provide a good environment;
Produce but do not possess.
Act but do not control.
Raise but do not harvest.

This called Profound Teh.

If things are done according to nature, it will not be necessary to act consciously or to insist that others rely on you. 'Profound Teh' is that of the earth itself. Compare this with ch. 65 'Profound Teh is so deep, so far-reaching, that it causes things to return and eventually reach the Great Confluence'. This is what is meant by Tao.

As mentioned in the first chapter, I VERY strongly contest the idea that merely sitting quietly with your legs neatly pressed and folded will bring you anywhere except to a state of profound mental quiescence (which is no bad place to be!)(but)...

There is much that might be said here, but I somehow think that this is enough, no?

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