Sunday, January 01, 2006

tao teh ching 78

Under heaven nothing is softer or more yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff[1].
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no–one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them[2].
He who takes upon himself the country's disasters deserves to be king of the universe[3].
The truth often sounds paradoxical.

[1] The Ma wang tui text continues with the water image here, taking the second line of the couplet as an explication of the first, and reads this as: 'That water can defeat the unyielding— That the weak can over come the strong— (everyone under heaven knows this...)
[2] Lau, borne out by the Ma wang tui text, says, '... Is called a ruler worthy of offering sacrifice to the gods of earth and millet', and adds a note to the effect that each state had (and possibly still even has) its own shrines to the gods of earth and millet, and a state was considered independent only as long as its ruler was able to maintain these shrines.
[3] Most other readings reckon king or emperor of the world will be enough.

Wang Pi's commentary, which concerns the first section only, says that:

The impossibility refers to water. In other words, if one employs the softness and pliancy of water, no–one can ever take one's place.

Professor Cheng says: In assaulting the hard and strong nothing is better than water, and yet, though the whole world knows this, no–one can practice it. Hence the Sage says if one can accept even the filth and disasters of a nation, one will be lord of the society and ruler of the world. Words of truth seeming the exact opposite is similar to knowing the usefulness of water, yet not practicing it.

If, without stirring, one can allow the thoughts to come and go of themselves, regardless of whether their content is 'good' or 'naughty'... just let them arise and then dissolve again, while we simply stay with the awareness, this is what is really meant by meditation... Staying with the awareness is 'stillness', and being aware is 'insight'... When one retreats from no 'fall' and rushes toward no 'opening', but simply stays with and dissolves within the instant, then whatever arises is the source of enlightenment.
Water is deceptively powerful, even in repose. Try and push your hand flat down into water and you soon discover that it's resistance, though apparently opening up before you, is quite powerful and firm. Also, once you've finally managed to push your hand down into it, where are you? Completely surrounded by it.
This is the very essence of the t'ai chi ch'uan ideas of sticking, adhering, joining and following.

As is said, 'It has no teeth, yet can bore through iron and stone; it has no bones, yet can carry a ship weighing ten thousand tons'.

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