Wednesday, December 14, 2005

tao teh ching 60

Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Approach the universe with Tao
And evil will have no power[1].
Not that evil is powerful,
But its power will not be used to harm others.
Not only will it do no harm to others,
But the sage himself will also be protected[2].
They do not hurt each other,
And the Virtue in each one refreshes both[3].

[1]What Gia–fu Feng translates as 'evil' here is generally given as 'spirits'.
[2] Lau says, 'The sage, also, does not harm the people'. The Ma wang tui text rather intriguingly says 'The sage, also, will not harm them'. recognising the inherent ambiguity in this, Henrick's prefers to read 'them' as 'the people', but I prefer to read it as the Sage doing nothing that would upset the insubstantial realms in any way and thereby protecting the people too.
[3] Lau reads, 'As neither does any harm, each attributes the merit to the other'. I would prefer to think (though this is not borne out by the text as such) that this refers to all three, the sage, the people and the insubstantial realms... that the Virtue in each of these feeds and nourishes not only themselves but also both the others as well.

Wang Pi's commentary says:

'Ruling like cooking a small fish' means without stirring. Activity brings harm but quietude brings about the fulfilment of authenticity. Thus, the larger the state, the more the ruler should practice quietude, for only then will he be able to widely contact the heart/minds of the people.
Governing carefully and with the Tao, the spirits there lose their malign power.
Numinous powers do not harm the Natural. When the people hold to the Natural, numinous powers have no hold on them. Since they cannot impose on them, the people will not know if they are numinous or not.

He reads the next line as, 'It is not that these numinous powers do not harm the people, in fact, but that the sage does not harm the people', and comments:

If they unite with the Tao, numinous powers will not harm the people. As these powers do not harm them, they are unaware of them as powers. If he unites with the Tao, the sage, too, will not harm the people. and they are therefore also unaware that the sage is a sage... Relying on a network of power to control the people swiftly brings on the end of the government. If one allows the people to become unaware of numinous powers and sageliness, this will bring on ultimate realisation of the Tao.
Neither the powers nor the sage cause any harm, and sharing the same Tao, they revert to it.

Cheng Man–ch'ing says: Although Lao–tze generally prefers small states with small populations, here he says ruling a large state is like cooking a small fish. This is elsewhere described as 'doing nothing, there is nothing that remains undone'. Chapters 34 and 63 both state that the sage never insists on his sageliness and therefore his greatness becomes a reality. This chapter says that spirits do not haunt mankind and the sage does not harm them. Spirits cannot impede the Tao, and the sage, regarding the people as his children and governing from the point of view of Tao, refrains from weeding out (harming) those who do not agree with him. What is more, in his governing according to Tao, not only do the two refrain from harming mankind, but also the Teh spreads uniformly throughout all.

In meditation one has to exercise due care. If one does not know what one is doing, there is much that one can unwittingly do to set strange patterns of cause and effect in motion. The goals of meditation are many, but my teachers tell me that they can basically be summed up as stilling the mind and developing penetrating insight. The problem is that, once one enters that particular door, all sorts of delicious sidetracks begin to manifest... Because of one's hopes and fears, one has experiences and even flashes of clarity, sees visions, gains 'powers', and so on, all of which are a total distraction, and ultimately nothing... just another ego cul–de–sac.
One cooks a small and fragile thing gently, not pushing it about too much. Gentle fire, gentle handling, taking one's time and keeping a close eye on what is going on. The problem when we sit to meditate is either that we sink into it and doze off or that we get caught up in the thoughts that arise and never really get to either stillness or clarity at all.
Thoughts arise out of nothing, are made of nothing at all, and swiftly change and dissolve back into nothing only to be replaced by more and more, endlessly fountaining, virtually without a break, day and night, year after year after year, instant after instant... Some relate to other thoughts, some just 'come out of the blue', some are important thoughts and most just complete and utter rubbish... And though they have no substantiality and lack all form, they can get us up off that meditation cushion and out the door before we even know what's happening...
The important thing is not the thoughts — not the content of the thoughts — but to see, to know for sure, that what is arising here is just nothing inside a void, a play of lights in infinite space...
Like a drawing on water, it is nothing in its arising; like a snake uncoiling from apparently indissoluble knots, it is nothing as it continues; and, like mist dissolving back into space, it is nothing as it disappears again... It is the nothingness becoming.
And the 'things'... the 'things that make up our reality'... the ground, the sky the animate and inanimate beings that people them, male, female, both and neither, friend, enemy, family and lover... these too are known only in one's experience, in one's own mind... They too are neither something nor not...
When dealing with them, they very much 'exist' and so do the rules pertaining to cause and effect that animate them. But when examined for an essence, the more one looks, the more one searches, the less of anything resembling an essence is to be found there... It always seems just beyond our ultimate grasping...
So maybe it's mind that exists? But when you look for mind, where is mind? There is fleeting and insubstantial 'minding', perhaps, but where is there a mind that could 'mind'? Where is the mind in which the minding happens? When a bird sings, what hears (which is the mind) hears the bird's song somewhere out in 'outer space'. The bird is not singing in my head or in my heart.

Or is it?

'No matter what manifests or how you perceive it, its inherent nature is that of a magical illusion', says K├╝nzang Dechen Rinpoche. 'Clinging to it as actually possessing material characteristics is simply the error of wishful thinking.'


Therefore, if we have any sense at all, we will meditate gently, like the sage ruling a great kingdom, and we will not set up waves and get caught up in reflections, but gently allow the mind to settle till it is as luminous and transparently clear as purest water in an all–encompassing crystal ball. Sure the rainbow lights and all are lovely... Sure the moon reflected on the surface is exquisite...

But that is not the point...

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