Saturday, October 29, 2005

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 YĆ¼, 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.

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