• frank
    1.4k
    What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job? — Tao Te Ching

    This is a comment from Stephen Mitchell on this passage:

    "The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. Unencumbered by any concept of sin, the Master doesn’t see evil as a force to resist, but simply as an opaqueness, a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process,"
  • T Clark
    3k
    What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job? — Tao Te Ching

    I'm glad you started this thread. I love the Tao Te Ching. I've read several versions, and like Mitchell's best. I've read that some think his version is too Americanized and lacks credibility. Well, I'm American after all. All I know is that the first time I read it, I heard and felt a "ding" of recognition. The TTC has various different types of lesson to teach:

    • Ontological - I find the concept of the Tao, which can't really be conceptualized, a very useful way of looking at reality. Very scientific.
    • Psychological - How we see things. How we act. How we can change.
    • Ethical - How a person should behave. How a sage behaves. I guess the quoted text comes under this.
    • Civic - How a leader should behave.

    As for the quoted text - I find some of Lao Tzu's ethical verses a bit contradictory. Elsewhere he talks about non-action, about accepting things and people as they are. Here he talks about good and bad men and a good man's role in changing the bad one. I guess in that context, I don't find Mitchell's commentary for this verse very convincing.
  • frank
    1.4k
    I also got a 'ding' from Mitchell's translation, but my first exposure, beyond the random verse, was Ursula Le Guin's. I always come back to that translation.

    Have you ever been around a person who was like a light in the darkness? I had that experience once. I learned something from him even though I dont think he was aware of my existence. And he definitely wasn't some recognized holyman. He was just a regular guy.
  • Pattern-chaser
    370
    my first exposure [...] was Ursula Le Guin's. I always come back to that translation.frank

    Me too! She was, until recently :cry:, our greatest living author, in my not-very-humble opinion. I describe myself, in religious terms, as a Gaian Daoist. The Daoist bit stems from my admiration for Daoism, the TTC, and (if I'm honest) Ursula LeGuin's wonderful comments and commentary in her translation.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I also got a 'ding' from Mitchell's translation, but my first exposure, beyond the random verse, was Ursula Le Guin's. I always come back to that translation.frank

    I never knew Le Guin had a translation. I've been reading science fiction for 55 years, but I never read much of hers. Too gentle and lyrical for me. That might be just right for TTC. I'll put it on my list.

    Have you ever been around a person who was like a light in the darkness? I had that experience once. I learned something from him even though I dont think he was aware of my existence. And he definitely wasn't some recognized holyman. He was just a regular guy.frank

    No, I've never really had someone I looked up to spiritually. I do have two friends whose way of looking at things is so different from mine, so wise, that I've learned a lot from them.
  • 0 thru 9
    671
    Hey everyone! Love the Tao Te Ching :hearts: , especially Ursula’s translation. Anyone heard her audio version of it? The combination of her wonderfully expressive and quirky voice and the background Chinese Instruments is perfect. I have the tape in my car, and play it to keep calm and focused while driving. I just checked, unfortunately it is NOT in iBooks as an audiobook, though there are other TTC audios available. Kindle seems to have it only as text. Also love Jacob Needleman’s narration of the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. Stephen Mitchell brings a modern feel to his translation and reading, which i also like. Something about me hearing it, rather than reading it, just makes it more powerful, meditative, and immediate.
  • frank
    1.4k
    Favorite passage(s)?
  • Ying
    179
    As for the quoted text - I find some of Lao Tzu's ethical verses a bit contradictory. Elsewhere he talks about non-action, about accepting things and people as they are. Here he talks about good and bad men and a good man's role in changing the bad one. I guess in that context, I don't find Mitchell's commentary for this verse very convincing.T Clark

    Laozi is talking about the duty of what's called a "ren":
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren_(Confucianism)

    It's not specifically a confucian term since the distinction between a "high minded man" and a "low minded man" can already be found in the "I Ching".

    Anyway, a better translation would be:

    "What is a high minded man but a low minded man’s teacher? What is a low minded man but a high minded man’s job?"

    The problem with defining daoism in terms of "good" and "bad" is that daoists don't make such a distinction at all. It's just not part of the cosmology and as such a non-issue. Not being familiar with said cosmology makes daoism a tough nut to crack, though. What Laozi actually is talking about is how the relationship between a high minded man and a low minded man is like the relationship between "Ch'ien" and "K'un":

    "Heaven is lofty and honourable; earth is low. Ch'ien and K'un were determined in accordance with this. Things low and high appear displayed in a similar relation; the noble and the mean had their places assigned accordingly. Movement and rest are the regular qualities of their respective subjects. Hence comes the definite distinction of the lines as the strong and the weak.
    Affairs are arranged together according to their tendencies, and things are divided according to their classes. Hence were produced what is good and what is evil.
    In the heavens there are the figures there completed, and on the earth there are the bodies there formed. Corresponding to them were the changes and transformations exhibited in the "I Ching".
    "
    -"Ta Chuan", section 1, ch. 1.


    Regarding the Stephen Mitchell comment:

    "The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. Unencumbered by any concept of sin, the Master doesn’t see evil as a force to resist, but simply as an opaqueness, a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process,"

    It's funny how he first states that daoism is "unencumbered by any concept of sin", but then goes on to talk about how "the master doesn't see evil...", casting his analysis right back into a western paradigm again. Acting "good" or "not acting bad" isn't the point. Neither is acting in accord with the dao or not.

    "Heaven and earth do not act from (the impulse of) any wish to be benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt with. The sages do not act from (any wish to be) benevolent; they deal with the people as the dogs of grass are dealt with.

    May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows?'Tis emptied, yet it loses not its power; 'Tis moved again, and sends forth air the more.
    Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see;
    Your inner being guard, and keep it free.
    "
    -"Daodejing", ch. 5, Legge translation.

    So, what is the point? Well:

    "Ch'ien, heaven is above; Chên, movement, is below. The lower trigram Chên is under the influence of the strong line it has received form above, from heaven. When, in accord with this, movement follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile. His mind is natural and true, unshadowed by reflection or ulterior designs. For wherever conscious purpose is to be seen, there the truth and innocence of nature have been lost.
    Nature that is not directed by the spirit is not true but degenerate nature. Starting out with the idea of the natural, the train of thought in part goes somewhat further and thus the hexagram includes also the idea of the fundamental or unexpected.
    "
    -"I Ching" Wilhelm translation, hexagram 25.
  • frank
    1.4k
    When, in accord with this, movement follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile. His mind is natural and true, unshadowed by reflection or ulterior designs.Ying

    Cool. This isn't really an anti-western outlook, though. It's Neoplatonic, and so built into the foundation of Christianity. Is this insight any less covered over in China than it is in Italy?
  • frank
    1.4k
    Chapter 1:

    The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
    The unnamable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin of all particular things.


    Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
    Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.
    This source is called darkness.
    Darkness within darkness.
    The gateway to all understanding.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Something about me hearing it, rather than reading it, just makes it more powerful, meditative, and immediate.0 thru 9

    There is a free recorded version of the Tao Te Ching on Librivox.org . They have thousands of free recorded books. I'm listening to William James "Pragmatism" now. The TTC is the Legge translation. The reader is not a professional, but he has a clear, expressive voice. I haven't listened to much of it yet.
  • 0 thru 9
    671

    It is a 81-place tie for which is my fav chapter. Just kidding! :wink: it depends on the day and season, the situation, the mood.

    Like a well-stocked toolbox, each chapter and verse perform a useful function. Some more or less specific, but all clear and brilliant yet mysterious. Mysterious and deep, but one senses the desire to share deep truths as directly as possible. So concise but still poetic, not a word wasted. It is a recipe book for life. Any fault in my actions results from a failure to understand or follow the Tao. But thankfully, it forgives and is ready with a helping hand.

    Chapter 13 as translated by Mitchell is a favorite. It addresses the existential questions. Who am I? What is not I? What is good for this being called I?

    Success is as dangerous as failure.
    Hope is as hollow as fear.

    What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
    Whether you go up the ladder or down it, your position is shaky.
    When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
    you will always keep your balance.

    What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
    Hope and fear are both phantoms
    that arise from thinking of the self.
    When we don't see the self as self,
    what do we have to fear?

    See the world as your self.
    Have faith in the way things are.
    Love the world as your self;
    then you can care for all things.
  • 0 thru 9
    671

    :up: Wow, thanks! Hadn’t heard of that site. And free is good. Bookmarked. :smile:

    Sometimes I think listening to spoken words, be it poetry, stories, or history, taps into something primal within us. The million years of humanity being an oral culture before the invention of writing. Stories of the world and the gods told around a fire. Movies, for better or worse, may serve that function for us now. :fire:
  • T Clark
    3k
    The problem with defining daoism in terms of "good" and "bad" is that daoists don't make such a distinction at all. It's just not part of the cosmology and as such a non-issue.Ying

    I think that's what I was talking about when I said there was a contradiction.

    What is the relationship between the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching?
  • T Clark
    3k
    The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
    The unnamable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin of all particular things.
    frank

    After I'd read it a few times, this became my favorite verse. I think it summarizes everything, especially, for me, the ontological aspect. Where Mitchell says "all particular things" other versions say "the 10,000 things," which I love.

    I always say about Eastern philosophies - it's all a joke. Enlightenment means getting the joke. I use this verse as an example. I think Mitchell even says it - 81 verses telling about something that can't be told.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Success is as dangerous as failure.
    Hope is as hollow as fear.
    0 thru 9

    Another of my favorites, and exactly, completely right. It has meant a lot to me personally. Getting older, it means more and more as years pass. I'm much better getting rid of the hopes than fears.
  • T Clark
    3k
    My favorite:

    If you want to shrink something,
    you must first allow it to expand.
    If you want to get rid of something,
    you must first allow it to flourish.
    If you want to take something,
    you must first allow it to be given.


    This is a verse that dinged loudly for me the first time I read it. When I'm dealing with something difficult personally - fear, hurt, anger, resentment - I come back to it over and over. It makes me think of another of my favorite aphorisms. Source unknown.

    You can get anything you want. You just have to stop wanting it.
  • frank
    1.4k
    If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish.T Clark
    That's so true. If you're starting an aquarium you have to let the bacteria and algae bloom. The populations will collapse on their own into a living balance. People who try to fight the blooms inevitably set the stage for new blooms over and over.
  • frank
    1.4k
    Have faith in the way things are.0 thru 9

    :up:
  • Ying
    179
    I think that's what I was talking about when I said there was a contradiction.

    What is the relationship between the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching?
    T Clark
    It and the "Shangshu" are fundamental texts in classical Chinese philosophy. Many treatises in classical Chinese thought assume a familiarity with them; they dictated the vocabulary of the time, at least, in literary circles.
  • frank
    1.4k
    "If you drop your keys in the lava, let them go. Because they're gone."

    -Deep Thoughts about Hawaii
  • MiloL
    23
    Chronicles of Tao...don't recall the author
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Well, thanks to this thread I listened to the Tao te Ching -- it was my first exposure to it. There was a reasonably decent reading on youtube, and the speaker also gives a preface.

    I never really had the inclination before and I don't know why. I really enjoyed it.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I never really had the inclination before and I don't know why. I really enjoyed it.Moliere

    Although, as I said in a previous post, I have downloaded a spoken word version, I've never actually heard the Tao te Ching anywhere but in my head. I guess it's about time.
  • T Clark
    3k
    We don't need to get too deeply into this, but it's something that's had a big effect on my understanding of the way things work. I've discussed it elsewhere on the forum.

    The thing that has struck me the most in the TTC is the concept of the Tao (yes, yes, I know) as an alternative to the concept of objective reality. It has lead me to believe that thinking of reality as a seamless interaction between what's inside me and what's outside me is the most enlightening, least misleading way of seeing things. And by "seamless interaction" I mean they are one thing, completely inseparable.
  • frank
    1.4k
    Interesting view.
  • 0 thru 9
    671
    Well, thanks to this thread I listened to the Tao te Ching -- it was my first exposure to it. There was a reasonably decent reading on youtube, and the speaker also gives a preface.

    I never really had the inclination before and I don't know why. I really enjoyed it.
    Moliere

    Wow, that’s great to hear! :smile: :hearts: Whenever I mention the TTC here or elsewhere, I always hope it will make someone curious about it, or remind them if they haven’t read it in a while. All while trying to avoid annoying the heck out of people by knocking on their door and handing out pamphlets about the Tao. :blush:
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Oh, I don't know if it's better that way or whatever. After work I find it hard to concentrate, so it was nice to have it read to me. Plus the translation used in the video I linked had a lyrical quality to it which did make it nice to hear out loud.

    Haha. Well, to be fair I don't think I would have liked it at another point in my life. Like a lot of spiritual literature you have to already sort of be in the right frame of mind or at least thirsty for it before it can work its magic. There was one verse that described me well --

    When a superior man hears of the Tao,
    he immediately begins to embody it.
    When an average man hears of the Tao,
    he half believes it, half doubts it.
    When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
    he laughs out loud.

    Immediately upon hearing it I was like "Well, I was a foolish man, and now I'd say I'm an average man"
  • T Clark
    3k
    Oh, I don't know if it's better that way or whatever. After work I find it hard to concentrate, so it was nice to have it read to me. Plus the translation used in the video I linked had a lyrical quality to it which did make it nice to hear out loud.Moliere

    As I said, I am listening to "Pragmatism" right now. I thought it might be difficult to really dig in, but I've been surprised how how natural it is.
  • T Clark
    3k
    "Well, I was a foolish man, and now I'd say I'm an average man"Moliere

    Well, I'd like to say I am a superior man, but it's clear I'll never get above average.
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