Wednesday, January 04, 2006

tao teh ching 81

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good[1].
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm[2].
The Tao of the sage is to work without effort[3].

[1] Lau has, 'Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.'
[2] Lau has, '... benefits and does not harm.'
[3] Lau has, '... is bountiful and does not contend.'

The Ma wang tui text has significant differences, so I give it in full here:

Sincere words are not showy;
Showy words are not sincere.
Those who know are not 'widely learned';
Those who are 'widely learned' do not know.
The good do not possess a lot;
Those with a lot are not good.(*)

The Sage accumulates nothing.
Having used what he had for others,
He has even more.
Having given what he had to others,
What he has is even greater.
Therefore the Way of Heaven is to benefit and not cause any harm;
The Way of Man is to act on behalf of others and not to compete with them.

(*) These two lines literally say: 'The good are not many; the many are not good'. Henricks has changed the pu–to (not many) that is actually in the text to wu–to (not have much) in the belief that this makes a more logical reading. I am not so sure.

Wang Pi says:

Honesty consists in simplicity.
The basic is the uncarved block.
The ultimate consists in the One.
The sage keeps nothing as his own private property. Only someone this good can be as generous, for he does no less than leave others entirely to themselves.
(The more he does so), the more he is honoured and the more people are drawn to him.
The action of the Tao of Heaven is always to beget and to bring things to completion.
Because the benefits of the sage are provided in accordance with Heaven, they do not provoke people to contend with each other.

Professor Cheng says: Herein is Lao–tze's idea of truth, goodness and beauty. Dress in coarse clothes and carry the jade in your bosom: beauty is within. It is not something that everyone in the world can know. 'The wise are not widely learned' means to concentrate on the One. Doing things for others and giving of himself, the Sage feels fulfilment and gain; he follows the example of heaven and is not mean. Moreover, the Tao of heaven promotes birth and growth rather than harm. The Sage follows the Tao, and thus accomplishes without competing.

Realising that we do not have to freeze things into being what we think they are, and that, even if we do, they dissolve and melt into being something else forthwith anyway, and then something else again, we can learn to let go — to go with the flow, as it were...
So doing, we learn a little compassion for those who do not yet know this, and — basing ourselves in this — work for the well–being and benefit both of individuals and of the whole.
There is no need of recognition for this: what is important is that it works.
And what is so beautiful is that anything that comes our way can be turned to (or is that 're–turned to'?) this end.

Are not our 'gifts' simply so that we do not come empty–handed to the feast?

No comments: