Monday, December 05, 2005

tao teh ching 51

All things arise from Tao.
They are nourished by Virtue.
They are formed by matter.
They are shaped by environment[1].
Thus the ten thousand things all respect Tao and honour Virtue.
Respect of Tao and honour of Virtue are not demanded,
But they are in the nature of things.

Therefore all things arise from Tao.
By Virtue they are nourished,
Developed, cared for,
Sheltered, comforted,
Grown and protected.
Creating without claiming,
Doing without taking credit,
Guiding without interfering[2],
This is Primal Virtue.

[1] Lau has:

Things give them shape;
Circumstances bring them to maturity.

The Ma wang tui text contends that it is their unique capacities that give them form.

[2] Lau's reading (borne out by the Ma wang tui reading) is:

It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.

He calls the 'virtue' in the last line 'mysterious'. The Ma wang tui text calls it 'profound'.

Wang Pi's commentary, says:

Once things achieve life, they are nurtured. Once nurtured, they attain physical form. Once they have physical form, they achieve completion. What is the origin from which life comes? It is the Tao. What is the source from which it is nurtured? It is virtue, Teh. What is the cause of their physical form? It is matter. What is the agency that brings them to completion? It is unique potential. It is this cause alone that makes it possible for each and every thing to have physical form. It is this unique and characteristic potential that makes it possible for them to achieve completion. Beginning with how they achieve life and up to the manner in which their potentiality reaches its completion, since there has to be an origin for them, all these processes have an origin, and this origin, without exception, is the Tao. Thus, if all processes are traced back to their ultimate origin, we invariably arrive at the Tao. It is only when tracing them back to their individual origins that we find separate terms for these causes.
The Tao is the origin of all things and virtue is the power behind their potential. Only after they originate do they have a potential, so this is why they naturally honour the Tao. Any neglect of Virtue will bring harm, so this is why they naturally esteem Virtue.
... Each thing obtains the protective shade it requires to ensure that no harm comes to its body...
He (Wang is now reading this as the work of the sage) provides for them but does not possess them.
He has Virtue but the people are unaware of his being their master, for it emerges from the secret and the dark (cf. ch. 10).

Professor Cheng says: The creativity of Tao and the fecundity of Teh cause all things to take shape, and affinity brings them all to completion. How can creatures other than men know to revere and value Tao and Teh? Yet this what Lao–tze is saying here. He emphasises it, saying 'no command is given' and yet each thing naturally performs its duties. Creating, conceiving, growing, fostering, sheltering, comforting, nurturing and protecting tax fecund Teh to the utmost. It neither possesses nor controls. It governs growth but does not govern slaughter. Indeed, Teh has always been thus.

I do not agree that 'creating, conceiving, growing, fostering, sheltering, comforting, nurturing and protecting tax fecund Teh to the utmost'. On the contrary, as far as I can see, it performs these actions without the least difficulty because it is always rooted in the openness and readiness of Tao. There is not an instant where it pauses. Nor do I think — apart (perhaps) from the wanton, mindless and disrespectful omnicide that seems to be the great pleasure of human beings — that 'slaughter' is not included in its all–encompassing purview. In fact the mindless grabbing of humans probably is part — albeit an utterly twisted part — of it... what happens when you ignore it...

The important thing here is that, not only do things endlessly and seamlessly arise — fountain — out of their open potentiality — their emptiness — but each one, following its own inherent nature then develops to its full, blossoms, and then fades... Any interference with this is just folly — even total madness when undertaken on a large scale (and are we not living in, through and as the very results of this now in the opening hours of the 21st century?).
Each thing follows its nature, and — when not interfered with or distorted by 'clever' ends–in–view — grows to its fulfilment, some 'straight', some 'crooked', exactly as they were meant to be.

But how difficult it is not to want to 'tweak' or meddle!


No comments: