Dao De Jing
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This and That


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2009

"Emptiness is a favourite synonym for the Tao,which is like the space enclosed by a pot and without which it is useless, and like the still hub without which a wheel cannot turn. Taoists also describe it as the Void, the Valley, the inexhaustible and bottomless and formless Origin of all forms, the Always-so, the Primal Simplicity, the Quietness, Darker than ant Mystery. Most significant of all, it is This and not That. In other words, it is right here. It is What one really is, one's own True Nature as well as the Nature of Things."

Douglas Harding, Religions of the World, 1966, pages 57-58

"Lao Zi repeatedly gives the departure point for his insights, or more adequately put, his views. For example, in section 21 he speaks of DAO and in section 54 of DE, of Life. In both instances he concludes with the question: 'Whence do I know that this is so?' € that is, what has just been claimed about DAO and DE. The question is followed by an answer that seems rather strange: 'Just through this.' In each case, the prominent position given to these words compels us to attribute a meaning to them which goes beyond the merely tautological. It is clear from the context in both sections that the insight is founded upon a general principle € which is also, however, present in the reflecting individual. It is precisely through this participation of the individual in the general principle of truth that these insights are assured of the source of all certainty: evidence.

"If we now turn to a more practical consideration of Lao Zi's metaphysics, we notice that the following sentences occur three times: '"The Man of Calling" puts away the other and adheres to to this' (sections 12, 38, 72). In time, every principle that has been derived from external experience will be disproved and become obsolete. For as mankind progresses man's knowledge of the world changes; and, in the end, the known world is the only existing 'world'. On the other hand, whatever is known from a central experience ('out of the inner light', as the mystics put it) will remain irrefutable, provided that it has been seen purely and truly."

Richard Wilhelm, Dao De Jing, 1910, pages 14-15

These are the only two places in my readings about the Dao that I have come across the distinction between this and that. This is obviously important to Laozi. He repeats it five times.

The this/that pair are comparable to two other pairs used in the Dao De Jing. The pair of wu/you is found in the first verse and several others. It has been translated as non-presence/presence and, even more to the point, as unseen/seen. The most familiar pair is yin/yang. These umbrella terms from Chinese have become English words as well. They contrast the receptive yin with the active yang, in other words: awareness and appearance. This pair occurs only in verse 42. In this verse Lao Zi goes to the heart of the matter. He tells us where to look for yin and yang, this and that, the unseen and the seen. Yin is on my shoulders. Yang is in my arms. Capacity on my shoulders (instead of a head). Manifestation in my embrace. You all know the experiment that proves Lao Zi's assertion.

Jim


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