Tuesday, November 29, 2005

tao teh ching 45

Great accomplishment seems imperfect
Yet it does not outlive its usefulness.
Great fullness seems empty
Yet it cannot be exhausted.

Great straightness seems twisted.
Great intelligence seems stupid.
Great eloquence seems awkward.

Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
Stillness and tranquillity set things in order in the universe.

Both Lau and the Ma wang tui text bear out this reading for the most part, except that they read the last line as meaning if you are still and tranquil then you can rule the whole world. Reading this as I generally do, I would say, if you are resting with full confidence upon the openness of the Tao, all the rest - whatever it might be - will simply take care of itself.

Wang Pi says: Because it completes things as the come up, it never forms one complete image...
Great fullness is filled with emptiness, and because it provides for things as they come up, none are treated with special consideration...
In straightening things as they come up, there is no single basis for straightening...
Great skill completes the physical objects of existence with the natural and does not work to any other standard...
Great eloquence speaks to things as they come up and does not engage in any artfulness of its own...

He reads the last two lines as:

Although the heat of activity conquers cold, it is quietude that conquers heat,
So pure quietude is the right way to govern all that is under heaven, ...

and comments: Only when the heat of activity ceases does it conquer cold, and it is in acting without conscious effort that quietude conquers heat. Pursuing this line of thought, we come to understand that that 'pure quietude is the right way to govern all under heaven'. Practicing quietude, one fully realises the authenticity of the people, but if one engages in activity, this will violate their nature. Thus it is only through pure quietude that one achieves all the forms of greatness mentioned above.

Cheng says: The first five sentences (the first seven in our text) parallel the idea that 'something seems like nothing' and 'the substantial seems insubstantial'. Both cold and heat are overcome by their opposites, so, no matter how confused and noisy the world is, it can be set aright by peace and quiet.

Peace and quiet! Utter confidence in 'the mind that is unsupported anywhere'...

Actually, there are several levels to attaining peace and quiet. For most of us, just relaxing at home after a hard day's work is already peace and quiet, and, indeed, it is!
But it's a peace and quiet that is relative - fragile even - and utterly dependent on causes and conditions, which, if not met can create quite the opposite effect. It's also true that this kind of peace and quiet can often be anything but clear-witted, and is, indeed, even quite soporific. One shuts down.
Then there are the peace and quiet of certain types of meditation, and here too, there are many different kinds and, if you like, 'grades' of peace and quiet. There are also many side trips and specific obstacles that need to be avoided by both beginners and even fairly 'experienced' meditators until such time as they have transcended the need to either still or occupy the mind.
Meditation is a vast subject which I am not going to try and cover here, but there is a brief text I translated a couple of years back that may explain some of it, so I will give that here as it very succinctly explains the nature of the moving, unmoving and aware aspects of mind. It's by the great 19th. century Lama Mi-p'am.

An Explication of Unmoving and Moving Mind and the Recognition of their Capacity in the Mahamudra System

by Mi-p'am Rinpoche

For those capable of putting it into practice, here are the essential points of the Mahamudra teachings on the unmoving and moving aspects of mind and how to recognise them and their capacity, leading by stages to a direct perception of the truth of the innate nature of emptiness.
The innate nature of mind is the Buddha–Nature — the Quintessence of Those Who Course in Bliss
(bde gshegs snying po, sugatagarbha) — and this is the pith–instruction pointing out its essence.
Having fully understood that mind is the root of all phenomena, when you look for the essence of mind and come to understand its secret nature you will recognise the selfless nature of all phenomena as understood by those versed in Dharma.
So, when you give up constantly searching after external phenomena and establish yourself in the view of the pith–instructions of the accomplished meditators, when you turn your attention inwards and look into your own mind and there is nothing arising in it, this is what is called ‘the unmoving’, whereas when there are various discursive thoughts arising from it, this is ‘the moving’. In either case that which knows them to be of the actual nature of the innate lucidity of your own mind is what is known as ‘the pure awareness’ or
Meditating in this way, you will come to know the essence of the various hosts of good and bad appearances arising from and dissolving back into your own mind in an uninterrupted manner. Knowing this is meeting face–to–face with all appearance as the inherent radiance of your own mind.
Having nakedly perceived the essence of moving and unmoving mind in this way, you will come to a clear understanding that, though they appear in various guises, they are utterly devoid of essence and are ‘void’. This so–called ‘voidness’, however, is not at all like the empty voidness of space.
Knowledge of all things does not obscure the clarity aspect of omniscient pure awareness and certainty arises as to the emptiness of the myriad objects in which an inherent nature can never be established. Furthermore, when you recognise the secret essence of mind where subject and object are without the least difference, the inherent nature experiencing the radiant luminosity of the quintessential nature of mind, this is what is called ‘meeting one's own pure awareness face–to–face’.
This is the very substance of the pointing–out teachings of both
Mahamudra and Maha–Ati. If you can maintain it, these experiences will arise.
As Saraha says:

Gazing and gazing into the sky of the eternally pure inherent nature,
Vision comes to an end.

And the
Praj├▒aparamita says:

There is no mind in mind; the nature of mind is radiant luminosity.

These point to the same thing.
Since this is by no means easy, it's extremely important that you put it into practice.

This is by Mi-p'am. May it be auspicious.

The emphasis in this chapter seems to be on not having any set schemes and techniques and on dealing, instead, with the present... maintaining a fresh and present wakefulness...

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