Friday, October 28, 2005

tao teh ching 8

The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the tao.

In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind .
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing[1].

No fight: No blame.

[1] Lau gives the first three lines a slightly different spin:

In a home it is the site that matters;
In quality of mind it is depth that matters;
In an ally it is benevolence that matters

The Ma wang tui text reads the third as

In giving, the good thing is being like Heaven

Both read the last line in full: It is only because it does not compete that it is never at fault.

Wang Pi points out that what people reject is the lowly. Both Wang Pi and the Ma wang tui text read 'like the Tao' as 'close to' or 'resembling' the Way. Wang Pi explains that whereas the Tao has no physical existence, water does, and thus the text refers to them as almost, but not quite the same.
Water, of course, always seeks out the lowest level and fears no plunge, nor even the foulness of the place its's passing through. Left to itself, it settles. Stirred up, it muddies, but then settles again.
It comes out of the seas, forms into clouds and washes down from the highest peaks back into the sea in endless pattern, cleaning, purifying and purging away, as it goes... Nourishing and refreshing, and totally beyond more than the the most rudimentary control of man or beast. It is the very image of permanence within impermanenence; impermanence within permanence, of persistence and change, and - next to heaven and earth - is the mother of all that lives.
I am told by Chinese friends, by the way, that this chapter is the very essence of Chinese civilisation.

Interesting stuff. The very basis of t'ai chi ch'uan.

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