Dao De Jing
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Verse One


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2007

Verse One

from Witter Bynner's 1944 The Way of Life

Existence is beyond the power of words To define: Terms may be used
But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder
Existence opens.

Jim Clatfelter


From: simon
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

Just to get the ball rolling, a simple observation:
when I first read the Tao, (before being introduced to Seeing) it seemed mystical, marvelous and unreachable.
Now I would be hard put to find a more simple, matter-of-fact way of describing the obvious, than this first verse.

I love the simplicity and the acceptance of all, no judging or separation...
Now, where is my old Jane English copy to see how they put it?

Happy effortless immensity, One and All
simon


From: headexchange
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

Seeing is essentially non-verbal. Words come up in this capacity - in this ...

I point my finger at the place where others see my face. What do I find here? I find ...

'Wonder' - yes!

Richard


From: Janet
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

hi all,

well, i like the sentence below in the verse:
'If name be needed, wonder names them both'. to me, it is true. because we name it, does it take from it, the wonder that it is (as nothing and everything)? it ought not.

its kinda funny, that some or most of life, can be in search of 'knowing', only to realize 'not knowing' is the wonder of it all, and thats it. makes the wonder of it all more wonderous!

love,
janet


From: quillancamper
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

Das Unergr€ndliche, das man ergr€nden kann, ist nicht das unergr€ndbar Letzte.
The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dar€ber mu€ man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

The conclusion that there is existence which cannot be expressed in words (but you can point to it) comes in many flavours from many cultures but the meaning tastes, subtly, the same. The idea that there might also be a connection between Ludwig Wittgenstein's Logische-Philosophische Abhandlung and the Headless Way as well as the Tao T Ching tickles me.

Can anyone come up with other possible examples of a universal consenus? I don't mind being tickled. I quite like it.


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

Bynner's words point out a duality of core and surface. Douglas called this duality the asymmetry of two-way seeing. One finger points in to the core, while the other finger points out to the surfaces of the ten thousand things. Yet the core and the surfaces are essentially the same. They are not divided from each other. There is no boundary between them. They are two views or aspects of a single presence or life. Tao is the Way, but within it are the two ways of two-way looking.

It's absolutely clear in this version of verse one€and in almost all other versions€that Lao Tzu is talking about Seeing, and not just seeing, but two-way Seeing.

And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.

Most versions use the word desire instead of passion, but they amount to the same thing. There is a place in us where there is no passion or desire. Desires are always pointed outward. But they have their origin in the unseen. I have no doubt that this is pure Douglas, asking us to point and look inward at the place of no passion, no desire, no stress, and at the same time to point and look outward at the fascinating and sometimes disturbing world of appearances. Douglas called these two views exact opposites€not just opposite in position, but opposite in appearance as well.

All of this is beyond the power of words to convey. You have to look. The words aren't the Fact, the Absolute. This is about the Way of Life, life itself. It's about Seeing all there is to see. For me, that's what brings the wonder. The opposites are resolved in Seeing and living them, not in words about them.

Jim Clatfelter


From: Kwan Haeng
Posted: Sun Sep 16, 2007

Hi Jim, Simon, Janet Richard, and Quillan,

Simon! Here is your old Gia Fu Feng and Jane English translation: "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery, Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source, but differ in name: This appears in darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery."

I have read another one somewhere, may be gone now actually, that is a good deal more terse. It is the one that just basically starts, "no description can equal the Tao, for to equal the Tao it would have to be the Tao." So, there you have it, at once simple and mysterious, singular, empty, and fertile, all phenomena also arising.

I have been re-reading The Mu Mun Kwan lately, and it might be construed that Mu Mun was taking some digs at the Taoists of his day in some of his commentaries, but that appears rather more than is bargained for here. Old Tzu will stand on his own two feet quite nicely i think.

I have nothing to add to your comments, all of which i enjoy a lot.

Love,
Chris


From: Bill
Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2007

simon wrote:
Just to get the ball rolling, a simple observation:
when I first read the Tao, (before being introduced to Seeing) it seemed mystical, marvelous and unreachable.
Now I would be hard put to find a more simple, matter-of-fact way of describing the obvious, than this first verse.

I completely agree with this. The text initially seems obscure or poetic or mystical but I'm sure it was Lao Tzu's intention to be as clear and matter-of-fact as possible.

As for this translation, it seems to me that the emphasis is on interpretation rather than translation and that as a result some of the clarity in the original text might be lost. It clearly has some poetic worth though.


From: bdbdg
Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007

How is it possible to be dispassionate about the Core when it is so full of (nameless/indescribable) joy (and wonder)? Is passion then a merely 'human' emotion, and since 'I' am no thing, there is no passion in Reality? When 'I' am without passion (about the Core/Seeing) am 'I' then the I AM (with the illusion of 'me' no longer there)?

Bill


From: Bill
Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007

bdbdg wrote: "How is it possible to be dispassionate about the Core when it is so full of (nameless/indescribable) joy (and wonder)? Is passion then a merely 'human' emotion, and since 'I' am no thing, there is no passion in Reality? When 'I' am without passion (about the Core/Seeing) am 'I' then the I AM (with the illusion of 'me' no longer there)?"

"Dispassion" in this context doesn't mean "without passion". It means not being caught up in passion to the point that Seeing is lost.

Looking a little deeper, is the Core something separate from you who is feeling the passion, an object that you can feel passion towards? Or is the Core on the other side of your passion, right Here, at the heart of your passion?


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007

I find that seeing the core brings about a quiet joy. The first time I saw it, it brought about a big laugh. How could I have missed this? After many years now it still brings about a smile. I'd say it's somewhat sober and dispassionate, but it's still a joy every time. Douglas called it a valley experience€as opposed to a peak experience. That's how it has worked out for me.

Jim Clatfelter


From: Janet
Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007

hi bdbdg,

what a wonderful question! the word dispassion may seem loaded in caparison to passion. it would seem to mean disinterest or something. to me, the "Core" is more like "emptiness", "spaciousness" or "capacity" for all joys and sorrows to appear. Seeing may certainly present a feeling, maybe a settled feeling of "home". its just comfortable. like resting at the ground of Being. i don't find passion or dispassion. yet, out of the ground of Being, everything appears...

just looking, What is at Core?

you don't have to answer to me. the question is just for you, to answer for yourself, if you wish.

thank you.
love,
janet


From: Jerry
Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007

Great initiative, this thread about Tao Te Ching.

In a way, it seems rather contradictory € a discussion about a text which begins by declaring that existence cannot be defined by words. This is a marvelously laconic, self-negating starting point, and it sets the tone for what is to come in the following eighty verses.

As many of you have noted, it€s striking how Lao Tzu is both cryptic and down to earth; deeply mysterious and yet, at the same time, quite matter of fact. Perhaps it€s this combination that also attracts us to Douglas Harding€s exercises in seeing?

The heart of Lao Tzu€s philosophy is directly presented in this first verse: the ground of existence is inneffable, indescribable. Against this background one can identify the tao, the creative source of all phenomena. One might compare this to a ripple in space, causing other ripples and yet more complex ripples. Through the workings of the tao we are part of and interact with these manifestations. It€s interesting to note the central position given to language and names in this process. It is as if the very acts of identification actually give rise to the entities they refer to.

The second part of the verse returns us back to the beginning. By suspending our ego (passion / desire / will) we are able to gain access to that other, indescribable side of existence. Both the "surface and the core" have the same origin, and it's the possibility of this double-sight that is so mysterious. As Paul €luard expressed it: €There is another world € but it is in this one.€


From: janwbol
Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007

I was wondering if any of you have read Byron Katie's "1000 names for Joy" in which she and her husband (a Tao expert) connect the Tao's verses to No-thing, etc?

I must admit that when I read it I loved what BK wrote but found the attempt to 'force' her chapters to the verses rather cumbersome and not always 'logical'.

Any thoughts? JW


From: bdbdg
Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007

Thank you to everyone who responded to the thread of 'dispassion' that was bothering me. This helped enormously, and what I like about Forums. The question indeed came from duality, Bill! I, the little Danielle, has felt indescribable joy about Seeing and the Core (I am hugely new at this), but I fully understand your statement 'not being caught up in passion to the point that Seeing is lost', to not make it an 'other'. On the contrary, I imagine that the immensity of this joy would negate a 'me' - that's how it feels to me - I lose my sense of self, so I do believe that there is no separation when I am Seeing. I agree with Jim that it is a 'quiet joy', but it is immense! And Janet, thank you for your comments, with which I also agree. There is an Emptiness that is joyous, and it contains/holds the sorrows as well (which I no longer believe are real as we humans know them). Core is What Is. Best to all, Danielle


From: Janet
Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007

dear danielle

i came across the following quote, and it seemed to apply to the recent thread of discussion.

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.

- William Blake

thank you.
love,
janet


From: Bill
Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007

This is a beautiful verse, a favourite of mine.

It helps us in our response to the beautiful, to what makes us feel good.

The usual reaction is to want to appropriate it or possess it.

To be able to appreciate it, him or her, without wanting to possess them and allowing them to be as they are is surely the best kind of love.

This is dispassion.


From: headexchange
Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2007

Hi JW. I've not read Katie's book...

I like her question - is it true? That's what strikes me about Seeing - it's true. And I can keep checking that out. This isn't the question, does it make me feel better? The truth is independent of how I feel or what is happening.

Richard


From: bdbdg
Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2007

Hello Everyone,

Hi Janet Thank you so much for your quote - a great one, and in keeping with this verse (and verse 2), claiming and holding on to no thing, being no thing.

And thank you again, Bill: dispassion ... if I understand correctly, love without attachment or a self. Love is such an impossible word; in this 'journey' I have lost all notions and feelings of the 'love' I thought I knew. Yet the emptiness is full of 'Something' - indescribable for the moment (joy & wonder tell a little of it).

Best, Danielle


From: Luc
Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2007

The translation Chris gave is the one I know from my Dutch translations :
Tau, dat gezegd kan worden, is niet het eeuwig Tao. De naam, die genoemd kan worden, is niet de eeuwige Naam.
Tao, that can be said, is not the eternal Tao. The name, that can be named, is not the eternal Name.

It reminds me of the Summer Gathering, where sometimes people get lost in discussions about This and get confused and upset. It is simple to see, but cannot be named. The name always gives rise to interpretations, mental formations, links to what we know.
So we call it Seeing, but it is not seeing. We call it the Void, but it is not the void.
I do one of the experiments and there it is. It is eternal, but when I give It a name, I never can catch it completely. So this name is not eternal, its content will change as my moods and experience and attention changes.

Luc


Headless on Youtube
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