Friday, October 28, 2005

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.

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