Saturday, October 29, 2005

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

No comments: