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Switch to Forum Live View Reading Tao Te Ching For the First Time
9 years ago  ::  Nov 15, 2008 - 8:20AM #1
alyosha77
Posts: 148
EyesoftheWorld,

I thought I'd create this new thread, so other Taoist Forum friends can jump into the discussion. As you know, you challenged me to the Lao Tze text ("holy book"? "Scriptures"? what do you call it?).

First off, I read 1-10 (Victor Mair translation) this morning. Before I begin to share with you my impressions, let me ask you a question? Why do different translations order the chapters differently? I found this out when I compared the version I took out from the library and the version I brought from a used book store. I suppose it doesn't matter because each chapter stands on its own. However, this may hinder our open discussion because others may want to refer to the text I talking about. I'll just have to quote the passages i refer to:

"The person of integrity does not insist upon his integrity. For this reason he has integrity. The person of inferior integrity never lose sight of his integrity. For this reason, he lacks integrity"

I've long recognized the irony of pride/humility and other areas. However, I never thought of this in terms of "integrity." The lyrics of one of my favorite songs "Trap Door" by T Bone Burnett came to mind (I reason it is a favorite is I find it very true):

It's a funny thing about humility
As soon as you know you're being humble
You're no longer humble
It's a funny thing about life
You've got to give up your life
To be alive
You've got to suffer to know compassion
You can't want nothing if you want satisfaction

Tonight the world looks like a different place
Tonight the moon is turning in its place
Tonight we find ourselves alone at last
Watch out for the trap door
Watch out for the trap door

It's a funny thing about love
The harder you try to be loved
The less loveable you are
It's a funny thing about pride
When you're being proud
You should be ashamed

You find only pain if you seek after pleasure
You work like a slave if you seek out the leisure

Later...








First impression:
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 15, 2008 - 12:39PM #2
EyesoftheWorld
Posts: 1,708
Hi Alyosha! I'm really happy you're reading the TTC. In my opinion, it's one of the greatest books ever written, and for me is easily the clearest articulation ot what I feel Taoism to be about. Of course I have not read everything out there and the translation does have a huge impact, as I have said.

I don't know much at all about Chinese, but translating it is obvioulsly not as simple as, say, a Romance language.

MengTzu I think will have an informed answer for you about that...

That song you cited sounds Taoist... the writer may have been influenced by Taoism or simply realized the basic truths that Taoists had realized a long time ago... and I don't mean to say he couldn't have been influenced by a non-Taoist source, btw.

The concept you highlighted reminds me of a dog or cat chasing it's tail... the harder you push for something, the more resistance you'll feel; combine that with the notion that a tree which does not bend will break.

the underlying message I feel is about trying. Just being simply you will manifest all the integrity that is natural for you. to think much about it and to consciously attempt to embody some concept of "integrity" is artifice.

The uncarved block, doing-without-doing is central, I think.

It doesn't mean to sit like a rock and never do anything. I just means be natural and don't think too much.

I feel there's a kinship of Taoism with Zen, which is about being in the moment.
Here's a Zen quote which I actually thought of first when I started reading your post:
"Talking about Zen is like looking for fish-tracks in a dry riverbed."
Once self-consciousness kicks in, you're no longer in-the-moment and thus are not natural. The unself-consciousness of most animals, to me, greatly embodies Zen.
Our brains, b/c they're such hot-rods, so to speak, enable such self-consciousness that it can lead to neurosis and inhibition....

By the way, Alyosha, was your post complete? it ends with "First Impression:"... did you mean to have that at the top of your post or did something get left out?

Again, I'm really happy for you, Alyosha. As I said, I started to feel that I could end up confusing you and the last thing I wanted was for you to come to this forum and get the impression that it could be a substitute for reading the TTC or those other great books...
My personal experience and opinion obviously informs what I say and you're obviously intelligent enough to understand I'm not any "authority". Here's another great line from the TTC, which I'll end with:

""Those who know don't speak.
Those who speak don't know."
What Fatal Flowers of Darkness Bloom from Seeds of Light!
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 16, 2008 - 6:41PM #3
MengTzu
Posts: 110
Hi Alyosha77,

    I hope the reading of the Dao De Jing will lead you to a great journey of self-discovery.

[QUOTE=alyosha77;897113]I'll just have to quote the passages i refer to:

"The person of integrity does not insist upon his integrity. For this reason he has integrity. The person of inferior integrity never lose sight of his integrity. For this reason, he lacks integrity"



A word-for-word translation of the relevant portion:

"High, De, not, De, is, thus, has, De, low, De, not, lose, De, is, thus, no, De."

So a grammatically sensible English translation would be something like:

"High (superior) De(n) does not De(v), and therefore has De(n);
Low (inferior) De(n) does not lose De(v), and therefore has no De(n)."

Notice that De can be both a noun and a verb.  So in the above, when De is followed by "n" in the parenthesis, it is used as a noun.  If followed by (v), it is used as a verb.  What is even more complicating is that "high De" may also mean "a person of high De," and "low De" may also mean "a person of low De."

We have discussed what "De" means in another thread.  It has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways, but perhaps the most original meaning might be "to walk", i.e. to walk along the Way.  It may be a verb (to walk), as explained, but also a noun (the quality and disposition in walking along the Way).

I've long recognized the irony of pride/humility and other areas. However, I never thought of this in terms of "integrity."



The text appears to point to something more than pride and humility, though these are also a partyof what the text is concerned with here.  A basic dilemma suggested by the DDJ is the problem of "acting with purpose and/or intention," which is, I believe, a main issue of this chapter.  The text appears to suggest that, by merely wanting to follow the Way, one has not achieved the "highest" level of such following -- thus he has "no De."  It sounds a bit exaggerating to say that one who lives in perfect harmony with the Way shouldn't be said to have no De at all, as if merely having such purpose would negate his cultivation entirely, so I believe Lao Tzu is using a hyperbole here.  I believe you have aptly noted that "pride" might be a reason that one would follow the Way purposefully, rather than out of some kind of "natural spontaneity."  In fact, humility too may lead one to such "purposeful following."

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9 years ago  ::  Nov 16, 2008 - 6:41PM #4
MengTzu
Posts: 110
Hi Alyosha77,

    I hope the reading of the Dao De Jing will lead you to a great journey of self-discovery.

[QUOTE=alyosha77;897113]I'll just have to quote the passages i refer to:

"The person of integrity does not insist upon his integrity. For this reason he has integrity. The person of inferior integrity never lose sight of his integrity. For this reason, he lacks integrity"



A word-for-word translation of the relevant portion:

"High, De, not, De, is, thus, has, De, low, De, not, lose, De, is, thus, no, De."

So a grammatically sensible English translation would be something like:

"High (superior) De(n) does not De(v), and therefore has De(n);
Low (inferior) De(n) does not lose De(v), and therefore has no De(n)."

Notice that De can be both a noun and a verb.  So in the above, when De is followed by "n" in the parenthesis, it is used as a noun.  If followed by (v), it is used as a verb.  What is even more complicating is that "high De" may also mean "a person of high De," and "low De" may also mean "a person of low De."

We have discussed what "De" means in another thread.  It has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways, but perhaps the most original meaning might be "to walk", i.e. to walk along the Way.  It may be a verb (to walk), as explained, but also a noun (the quality and disposition in walking along the Way).

I've long recognized the irony of pride/humility and other areas. However, I never thought of this in terms of "integrity."



The text appears to point to something more than pride and humility, though these are also a partyof what the text is concerned with here.  A basic dilemma suggested by the DDJ is the problem of "acting with purpose and/or intention," which is, I believe, a main issue of this chapter.  The text appears to suggest that, by merely wanting to follow the Way, one has not achieved the "highest" level of such following -- thus he has "no De."  It sounds a bit exaggerating to say that one who lives in perfect harmony with the Way shouldn't be said to have no De at all, as if merely having such purpose would negate his cultivation entirely, so I believe Lao Tzu is using a hyperbole here.  I believe you have aptly noted that "pride" might be a reason that one would follow the Way purposefully, rather than out of some kind of "natural spontaneity."  In fact, humility too may lead one to such "purposeful following."

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9 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 9:09AM #5
alyosha77
Posts: 148
[QUOTE=MengTzu;900084]Hi Alyosha77,

It sounds a bit exaggerating to say that one who lives in perfect harmony with the Way shouldn't be said to have no De at all, as if merely having such purpose would negate his cultivation entirely, so I believe Lao Tzu is using a hyperbole here.  I believe you have aptly noted that "pride" might be a reason that one would follow the Way purposefully, rather than out of some kind of "natural spontaneity."  In fact, humility too may lead one to such "purposeful following."[/QUOTE]

Lao Tzu seems to use a lot of hyperbole which I believe is the key the genre. The Bible uses it extensively as well. I've noticed evangelicals often run into problems reading the Bible literally especially when reading books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, and the words Jesus like Matthew 5:30 (“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away”). (Thanks for the language analysis, by the way). Forgive me for lack of ability to get a handle on what you are saying. What is meant by "purposeful following'? Is that anything like the word "contrived" or the expressions "trying too hard" or "too self-consciousness."  Does it mean when we are hyper-conscious of what we doing we actually shoot our selves in the foot. Example: When you say too yourself when you are giving a speech, you tell yourself "I am getting a speech" and you end getting too nervous and self-conscious and you bomb the speech? I am off track here? Everyday examples would helpful here.
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 9:39AM #6
alyosha77
Posts: 148
[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640]Hi Alyosha! I'm really happy you're reading the TTC. In my opinion, it's one of the greatest books ever written, and for me is easily the clearest articulation ot what I feel Taoism to be about. Of course I have not read everything out there and the translation does have a huge impact, as I have said. [/QUOTE]

Coincidentally, "TTC" was where I used to work (Transmission Technologies Corporation). I've noticed the same principles in the Bible. (Consider  I Cor. 1:20: Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? Consider God's plan: Jesus, the King  ("The Way" being born in humble circumstances--a stable--or, most provocatively, executed as common criminal! )

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640] I don't know much at all about Chinese, but translating it is obvioulsly not as simple as, say, a Romance language.  [/QUOTE]

MengTzu I think will have an informed answer for you about that...

That song you cited sounds Taoist... the writer may have been influenced by Taoism or simply realized the basic truths that Taoists had realized a long time ago... and I don't mean to say he couldn't have been influenced by a non-Taoist source, btw.  [/QUOTE]

T-Born Burnett claims to a Christian. I think the song does fit Christianity.

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640]The concept you highlighted reminds me of a dog or cat chasing it's tail... the harder you push for something, the more resistance you'll feel; combine that with the notion that a tree which does not bend will break.  [/QUOTE]

Is that like, when a young man asks a girl on a date and he is too self-conscious. He says something stupid as result and ends up blowing his opportunity? Can you give examples? I thhink that would help me.

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640] the underlying message I feel is about trying. Just being simply you will manifest all the integrity that is natural for you. to think much about it and to consciously attempt to embody some concept of "integrity" is artifice.  [/QUOTE]

I think I understand this notion of "going with the flow" of reality and nature. This idea of "not trying" is hard to grasp. Don't we have exert ourselves just to feed ourselves?

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640] The uncarved block, doing-without-doing is central, I think.

It doesn't mean to sit like a rock and never do anything. I just means be natural and don't think too much. [/QUOTE]

So you are not saying LITERAL non-activity but, again, "going with the flow" of life with being too self-conscious. Come to think of it, I've nev er being too conscious about eating.

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640]  I feel there's a kinship of Taoism with Zen, which is about being in the moment.
Here's a Zen quote which I actually thought of first when I started reading your post:
"Talking about Zen is like looking for fish-tracks in a dry riverbed."
Once self-consciousness kicks in, you're no longer in-the-moment and thus are not natural. The unself-consciousness of most animals, to me, greatly embodies Zen.
Our brains, b/c they're such hot-rods, so to speak, enable such self-consciousness that it can lead to neurosis and inhibition.... [/QUOTE]

The late world religion expert Huston Smith is (was)  convinced  there is a historical connection between Zen and Taoism.

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640]  By the way, Alyosha, was your post complete? it ends with "First Impression:"... did you mean to have that at the top of your post or did something get left out? [/QUOTE]

That was nothing. I just started to say something but never completed the thought

[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;897640]  Again, I'm really happy for you, Alyosha. As I said, I started to feel that I could end up confusing you and the last thing I wanted was for you to come to this forum and get the impression that it could be a substitute for reading the TTC or those other great books...
My personal experience and opinion obviously informs what I say and you're obviously intelligent enough to understand I'm not any "authority". Here's another great line from the TTC, which I'll end with:

""Those who know don't speak.
Those who speak don't know."[/QUOTE]

Thank you, I appreciate the dialogue. I hope you have had a great Thanksgiving!
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 6:40PM #7
MengTzu
Posts: 110
Hi alyosha77,

When one exercises high De, one does not follow Dao purposefully.  To illustrate with an analogy: distinguish a person who is just doing his job and ends up getting a promotion from a person who tries very hard at work with the purpose of getting promotion.  The end result might be the same, but under the DDJ analysis here, the internal discourse (not the end result) is significant.

So if one tells himself, "I'm aiming for the goal of living according to Dao," and he tries to accomplish this without any conscious act (for the distinction between "no purpose", or wu yi wei, and "no conscious act," or wu wei, see below), he is having what chapter 38 calls "low De."  Note that one shouldn't place too much "moralistic" emphasis on "high" or "low" De.  It appears that these are different levels of cultivation -- though Lao Tzu didn't talk about cultivation here, he seems to be more concerned with a more organic progression to better living rather than a moralistic hierarchy that places some as morally superior to others or that asserts right from wrong.

Besides "non-purposeful living," there's also wu wei, or as I understand it, "non-conscious act."  (I'm avoiding using the word "unconscious" as some might take it to mean that one is acting after having passed out, which is of course not the point of the DDJ.)  A further examination of chapter 38 gives you a bigger picture:
The highest point of progression is high De, where one has no purpose (wu yi wei), and does not consciously do anything (wu wei).
The next point is low De, where one has a purpose (of following Dao), but does nothing consciously.
The next point is Ren, or "compassion," where one has no purpose, but does things consciously.
The next point is Yi, or "righteousness," where one has a purpose of doing what is right, and does it consciously.
The lowest point is Li, or "propriety."  Lao Tzu doesn't discuss one's awareness of purpose and consciousness here, but merely say (somewhat hyperbolically) that one who lives according to Li acts properly with the expectation that others follow the same, and would twist their arms to follow the same when they do not reciprocate.
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 12:59PM #8
EyesoftheWorld
Posts: 1,708
I have read, I believe, that any one Te is a particular manifestation of Tao.
What Fatal Flowers of Darkness Bloom from Seeds of Light!
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9 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 1:53PM #9
MengTzu
Posts: 110
[QUOTE=EyesoftheWorld;925552]I have read, I believe, that any one Te is a particular manifestation of Tao.[/QUOTE]

Everything is a manifestation of Dao.
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9 years ago  ::  Dec 06, 2008 - 10:13AM #10
alyosha77
Posts: 148
[QUOTE=MengTzu;925680]Everything is a manifestation of Dao.[/QUOTE]

Help me here. When you guys have to time to write, I would be interested to know how you apply this stuff to your everyday life. I mean, think of particular situations in life where you found yourself acting on your understanding of the Tao. I'm still very mystified by the notions of nonactivity and not being unconscious. Pardon me for my ignorance, seems me, in most of life's activities is all about being conscious and deliberate in thought, except when you sleep and daydream. This is very foreign to me.
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