Friday, December 23, 2005

tao teh ching 69

There is a saying among soldiers[1]:
I dare not make the first move but would rather play the guest;
I dare not advance an inch but would rather withdraw a foot.

This is called marching without appearing to move,
Rolling up your sleeves without showing your arms,
Capturing the enemy without attacking,
Being armed without weapons[2].

There is no greater catastrophe than underestimating the enemy[3].
By underestimating the enemy, I almost lose what I value.

Therefore when battle is joined[4],
The underdog will win[5].

[1] Most texts read something like 'those who specialise in arms and strategy'.
[2] For this section Lau reads somewhat differently:

This is known as marching forward when there is no road,
Rolling up one's sleeves where there is no arm,
Dragging one's adversary by force when there is no adversary,
And taking up arms when there are no arms.

The Ma wang tui text has:

This is called moving forward without moving forward —
Rolling up one's sleeves without baring one's arms —
Grasping firmly without holding a weapon —
And enticing to fight when there is no opponent.

[3] Lau has 'taking on an enemy too easily', and the Ma wang tui text, 'thinking you have no rival'.
[4] The Ma wang tui text adds 'and the opponents are fairly well matched'.
[5] Both Lau and the Ma wang tui text assert that it is the side that that is stricken with sorrow and grief that will win.

Wang Pi's commentary reads:

When not advancing an inch but withdrawing a foot, the other side will not stop you.
... Through humility, deference, pity and kindness, one dare not commit one's own troops first. when one does use troops, it seems as if one 'campaigns as if there were no campaign, rolls up one's sleeve such that no arm is exposed, wields weapons as if there were no weapons involved, and leads in such a way that one faces no opponent'. This means there is no–one to grapple with.

Reading the next line as having to do with not having a viable opponent, he comments: ... Through humility, deference, pity and kindness, one would not wish to seize such power that among all under Heaven one will have no viable opponent. If one cannot stop but finishes up with no viable opponent, however, this is a disaster for one and all. 'Treasure' refers to the 'three treasures' (compassion, freedom from grasping and humility).
He who feels pity and is sure to exercise mercy, will not pursue advantage but do everything to avoid harm. Thus he will surely be victor.

Cheng Man–ch'ing says: The text expands on the 'three treasures' mentioned previously, admonishing to 'be the defender' and to 'retreat a foot' following on the precept 'not daring to be first'. To wield a weapon but not clash with that of the enemy, to raise one's fist without showing them, and to move without moving means that retreat is a way of advancing. To lead the enemy on without opposition is to be irresistible. Parental love, stung by grief, inspires victory. If I take the enemy lightly I am on the verge of losing my 'three treasures'. This is Lao–tze's unorthodox military strategy.

Hakuin Ekaku says: Patience is not 'putting up with the more or less uncomfortable'. Patience is to accept everything, even the utterly unacceptable, without the least complaint or question.
Amongst the Buddhists, enemies and trying situations are regarded as one's most precious treasure inasmuch as, without them, how would one ever learn patience? Anyone can patiently endure the easy. It is only in difficult circumstances that patience becomes necessary and can thus be 'learned' (for 'learned' it certainly must be! — If there is one thing that is not innate, it is certainly patience!).
Nor is there any enemy more redoubtable than anger. It is said that a single instant of anger wipes out aeons of merit and we all know of circumstances where friendship and even love turn to hatred in an instant because of a moment of anger on our part... This is why one should never underestimate the enemy nor engage it directly. If you fight against something, blow for blow, it is certain that you will be swept off in anger sooner or later. The only technique is to lead it on without engaging with it — without opposing it — until it dissolves, at the same time making energetic progress in the good.
What does this entail? It entails vigilance.
If one is aware when anger first arises and fully understands the depredations that are going to stem from it, one can let it go (or, at least, so I am told). In letting go one's anger, first and foremost, it just dissolves — it has nowhere else to go — and, secondly, one has strengthened oneself in learning at least one detail of patience, so the gain is actually twofold.
As it is, our only patience is with our own worst enemies — our ignorance, our anger, our greed, pride and jealousy. This is madness. Kyabje Düd'jom Rinpoche in his Rangkyön Ngöshe or Prayer by which One Recognises One's Own Faults, says, ' Examining ourselves, we are without the slightest shame for our own bad deeds, yet when it comes to others, our patience is as short as the tail of the drawa mouse'.

For this reason, it is always the one with compassion who wins.

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