Saturday, December 03, 2005

tao teh ching 49

The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others[1].

I am good to people who are good;
I am also good to people who are not good
Because Virtue is goodness[2].
I have faith in people who are faithful;
I also have faith in people who are not faithful
Because Virtue is faithfulness.

The sage is shy and humble — to the world he seems confusing.
Men look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child[3].

[1] Lau has: 'He takes as his mind the mind of the people'. This is borne out by the Ma wang tui reading.
[2] Lau has, 'In so doing, I gain in goodness' and repeats this formula three lines below. This is borne out by the Ma wang tui reading which has 'attain' rather than 'gain in' for the first, but reads, '... in this way he gains their trust' three lines below.
[3] Lau reads this completely differently. He has: 'The sage in his attempt to distract the mind of the empire seeks urgently to muddle it. The people all have something to occupy their eyes and ears, and the sage treats them all like children'.
The Ma wang tui text reads the first line of the last section differently again, saying:

As for the sage's presence in the world he is one with it.
And with the world he merges his mind.

The rest is much like Lau's version.

Wang Pi says:

Such a one always acts in accordance with things.
If one always handles people in accordance with their usefulness, the good involved will not be lost.
No one is discarded.
They each use that which is sharp (viz., the ears) and that which is clear (viz., the eyes).(*)

(*) Wang Pi's commentary to the Commentary of the Judgements for hexagram 50, Ting, 'The Cauldron', reads: When the sages and worthies receive nourishment, the sage himself (i.e., the sovereign) accomplishes things with out purposeful action. This is why 'it is through sun (compliance) that the ear and the eye become sharp and clear (i.e., that wise and worthy ministers become his eyes and ears).

1. All are made harmonious and rendered free of desires, so they are just like infants. 'Heaven and Earth established the position of things, and the sages fully realised the potential inherent in them. Whether consulting with men or consulting with spirits, they allowed the ordinary folk to share in these resources.' (*) One with such resources always shares them, whereas those who hoard always take. If such resourcefulness is important to the ruler, it will be thought important by the people; if he values goods, they, too, will value goods.

(*) Han K'ang–po's commentary on section 12 of the Commentary on the Appended Phrases in the second part of the I Ching reads: The sages availed themselves of the rightness of Heaven and Earth and so had each of the myriad things come to its full potentiality. 'Consulting with men' is equivalent to discussing things with the mass of people in order to determine the chances of success or failure. 'Consulting with spirits' means resorting to divination in order to examine the possibility of good or bad fortune. Since they did not enslave their capacity for thought and deliberation, failure and success came to light of themselves, and, since they did not belabour their capacity for study and examination, good fortune and misfortune easily made themselves known. They categorised the innate tendencies of the myriad things and thoroughly explored the reasons underlying the most obscure and most profound of things. This is why the ordinary folk were allowed to share in their resources and 'delighted in being the sages advocates and never tired of doing so'.

2. Matters have their progenitor and things have their master. If one acts accordingly, cap tassels may cover one's eyes yet one need not fear deception; yellow embroidered flaps may block one's ears yet one need not fear trickery. Why should such a one cudgel his brains investigating the tendencies at play among the common folk? If one tries to utilise the powers of bright scrutiny to investigate the people, they will compete with each other to avoid it. If one makes demands on the people in the spirit of mistrust, they will compete with each other to respond in kind.. The heart/minds of all under Heaven are not necessarily the same, so if people dare not differ in the way they respond, none will be willing to act in accord with their own tendencies. How terrible this is, for there is nothing that causes greater harm than such use of bright scrutiny.
3. If one relies on intelligence, people will attack one in litigation. If one relies on force, they will contend with him. If one's intelligence does not come from others but one still takes a stand on the field of litigation, it will mean exhaustion. If one's strength does not come from others and one still takes a stand on the field of contention, there will be danger. There has never been a ruler who was able to ensure that no–one was able to use either strength or intelligence against him, and those who follow this course have but themselves to pit against others, while they in their force number tens of thousands. If one then increases the net of the law, makes punishments more exacting, blocking up the smallest avenues of escape and assaulting the most hidden places of refuge, like birds frightened in confusion above or fish scattered in confusion below, the myriad folk would have nowhere to place hand or foot and the common folk would be forced to act in violation of nature.
4. This is why 'the sage resides amongst all under Heaven in perfect equanimity and with total impartiality'. His heart/mind free of any control, 'for the sake of all under Heaven, he merges his heart/mind with theirs', so his thought is without tendency to favour or to slight. If there is no perceived need to investigate, why should the common folk hide? If there is no demand made on them, why would they seek ways to respond? Free of all need to hide or respond, none would fail to act in accord with their innate tendencies. None would be forced to discard what they able to do and made to do what they cannot, or to discard a strength and made to employ a weakness. When this course is followed, those who speak speak of what they know, and those who act do things of which they are capable. The common folk fix their eyes and ears upon me, and I do nothing but treat them all as my children.

Cheng Man–ch'ing's commentary is brief: The Sage is determined only to merge his mind with the mind of the common people. To him there is no ‘kind’ or ‘unkind’, no ‘faithful’ or ‘unfaithful’. He therefore regards everything as his own children, and does so calmly and slowly as he takes care of the world. ‘Calmly and slowly’ describes breathing with composure.

‘Virtue’ as referred to throughout, is, of course, Teh. Other renderings of this word include ‘nature’, ‘power’, ‘manifestation’... ‘Virtue’ here is used in that sense — the old sense of ‘virtue’ — which also then brings into question the rather limited modern usage, doesn't it?

Real meditation is no meditation. If we automatically liberate everything into the ultimate nature with pure awareness, then we are always in meditation. There is no distinction as to ‘now I am meditating’, ‘now I am going about my daily business’. Everything is effortlessly the pure presence of direct awareness.
One simply remains in pure awareness itself, without effort, without striving, without hardship. This is real meditation.
Experiences of vastness, openness and self–sprung ‘wisdom’ then arise continually like a great river.
There is no ‘wandering’. Everything that arises quite naturally frees itself into the ultimate state. Everything that arises is the display — the manifestation — of that ultimate state. This is the meditation of the sky–dancer, the great immortal that rides upon dragons and tigers or moves through all of space without the slightest obstruction. This is ultimate meditation.

Easily clouded by the ‘breath’ of conceptuality.

So the sage has no end–in–view — no ultimate intention. There is a poem by the 17th. c Zen Master, Hakuin Ekaku, that expresses this perfectly:

How many times has Tokuun, that idle old gimlet,
Not come down from the seat of marvellous attainment?
He hires foolish wise men to bring him snow,
And he and they, together, fill up the well.

We are only one person. Sentient beings are numberless. What we want is nothing in comparison to what sentient beings need. Therefore we take the mind of all sentient beings as our own mind, their wants and needs as our first and only concern. These wants and needs are often as senseless as filling a well with snow, but that is not our business... They think they need to do this, so we hire them to do so and pitch in ourselves to give them a hand.
Sooner or later, the penny drops... ‘Oh! — What are we doing?... Wells fill from below’...

... We 'hire' someone else...

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