Wednesday, November 16, 2005

tao teh ching 32

The Tao is forever undefined.
Small though it is in the unformed state, it cannot be grasped.
If kings and lords could harness it,
The ten thousand things would naturally obey.
Heaven and earth would come together
And gentle rain fall.
Men would need no more instruction
and all things would take their course.

Once the whole is didvided, the parts need names.
There are already enough names.
One must know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea.

Lau's version is different enough to cite here in its totality:

The way is forever nameless.
Though the uncarved block is small
No one in the world dare claim its allegiance.
Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it
The myriad creatures will submit of their own accord,
Heaven and earth will unite and a sweet dew fall,
And the people will be equitable, though no one so decrees.
Only when it is cut are there names.
As soon as there are names
One ought to know that it is time tostop.
Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger.
The way is to the world as the River and Sea are to rivulets and streams.

The Ma wang tui text seems more in line with this.

Wang Pi's commentary says in part: The Tao is formless, not attached to anything, and (...) cannot be named, so we use 'nameless' to refer to it... The uncarved block... has nothingness for its heart/mind, and this too is nameless. Thus, if one would attain the Tao, there is nothing better than holding on to the uncarved block. One who is wise may accordingly become a capable minister, one who is brave may be used in a military capacity, one who is clever may be assigned bureaucratic duties, and one who is strong may be charged with heavy duties, but the uncarved block as such has no such predeliction and almost totally lacks existence. Thus the text says 'no one can make it his servitor'. If one embraces the uncarved block, engages in freedom from conscious effort (wu wei), lets neither one's authenticity be hampered by things nor one's spirit be harmed by desires come, the people submit to one spontaneously and one attains the Tao as a matter of course.
... when Heaven and Earth unite, though not sought, sweet dew falls of its own accord, (and similarly) if one holds onto one's real nature, though not ordered to do so, the people will live in harmony of their own accord.
'When the cutting starts' refers to when the uncarved block begins to fragment...

Cheng Man-ch'ing's commentary (again in part) reads: In an earlier chapter I commented on 'Tao is always without a name'. Because the characteristic of Tao is its purity, 'original uniqueness' [translated above by Gia-fu Feng as'the unformed state'] decribes this purity. Though tiny as a pea it is '... inferior to no power in the world', even the Tao...
A note here says (in part): 'I will keep them in their places with the original uniqueness of the Nameless' in chapter 37, expands on the present chapter. Tao is 'always without a name', and here it is called 'original uniqueness'. Later on 'without a name' refers to 'uniqueness', while Tao, on the other hand is 'everlasting non-action'...
He continues: The breath of heavenb descends, the breath of earth rises, and their intermingling becomes springtime causing 'sweet liquor' to fall. If a ruler can cleave to Tao, it will spontaneously spread among the people and his government will achieve peace... 'With the genesis of the world,' it saysin chapter 25, 'I do not know it name and reluctantly style it Tao. If forced to, I reluctantly describe it as great'. This is 'names coming to be'. 'Knowing where to stop is becoming free of danger' and one thus endures.

Mike Cope reckons I was thrashing about a bit yesterday and he's probably right, so I'll keep it as brief and as to the point as possible today: One thought leads to another until all of space is clouded over with the deep gloom of one's brilliant ignorance, trapped in the fine-meshed web of one's 'cleverness'. Better to stay with purity of the source - the uncarved block that is 'the Way'.

'Sweet dew' is a technical term for both Taoists and the Buddhists.
For the former it is the mingled energies of heaven and earth descending as nectar and often symbolised by and even embodied in the saliva of an experienced meditator. For the latter it is the 'elixir of immortality' that is ultimate truth.

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