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Verse Eighteen : The Great Pretense


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008

Verse Eighteen
Witter Bynner, 1944

When people lost sight of the way to live
Came codes of love and honesty,
Learning came, charity came,
Hypocrisy took charge;
When differences weakened family ties
Came benevolent fathers and dutiful sons;
And when lands were disrupted and misgoverned
Came ministers commended as loyal.

Verse Eighteen
Herrymon Maurer, 1985

When Tao is cast aside,
Duty and humanity abide.
When prudence and wit appear,
Great hypocrites are here.
When the six relations have no point,
Filial piety and paternal love are taught.
When the countryside is out of joint,
Loyalty and allegiance are man's lot.

Verse Eighteen
Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.
When there is no peace within the family,
Filial piety and devotion arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos,
Loyal ministers appear.

Verse Eighteen
Jonathan Star, 2001

When the greatness of Tao is present
action arises from one€s own heart
When the greatness of Tao is absent
action comes from the rules
of "kindness" and "justice"
If you need rules to be kind and just,
if you act virtuous,
this is a sure sign that virtue is absent
Thus we see the great hypocrisy

Only when the family loses its harmony
do we hear of "dutiful sons"
Only when the state is in chaos
do we hear of "loyal ministers"


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008

http://www.daoisopen.com/Chapter18.html

This is a link to Nina Correa's translation and commentary on this chapter. She calls it Putting on a False Face. Of course, any face here is a false face. Truth appears only from the absence of a face. The natural face is no face at all. The False Face is what Jane English in her translation calls The Great Pretense.

I like what Nina has to say about the False Face. She is talking about values rather than vision, but it seems to me they go together. Seeing the True Face amounts to letting go of the False Face and the values that go with it. What do you think?

Jim


From: simon
Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2008

Yes, reminds me of one of Shakespeare's characters who said (if memory serves)
"God hath given you one face and you would make another..."
which struck me the other day...
Funny how seeing appears so new and modern, yet has been seen for ages!
Well, that's the present for you - outside of 'time'!

With seeing comes a natural compassion where -it seems to me - violence is almost impossible.
Without that natural, 'caring for all as if it were part of one's body' of course, some kind of rule is required to avoid the result of untamed desire...

Separation breeds frustration and greed, seeing one is the (be)holder of All makes greed and any form of 'me-mine' , well, I don't know what it makes them as they seem to dissolve like snow on the water...

This verse reads like a reassurance that all we need is already in the heart, not like a criticism of rules, justice, loyalty etc...

I recognise the 'pretence' though, it reminds me of long ago when the face muscles used to work overtime...
As you put it neatly,
Quote:
The natural face is no face at all

Simon


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2008

Hi Simon,

I like that Shakespeare quote. I hadn't heard it before, but it's so fitting. I googled it and found that it was said by Hamlet.

You say that with "seeing comes a natural compassion" and that "separation breeds frustration and greed." I think that is so right. Vision and values go hand in hand. Get vision right, and values also come 'round right. And having the values right must make the vision come easier.

You say what's needed is already in the heart. That word heart is a good one. We see our heart when we see our no-face (natural face), the place where we are "pure in heart." It also refers to values of the heart, to what you call a "natural compassion." You can't be sincerely compassionate because the rules say you ought to be.

I get the idea that Laozi isn't telling us what to do about anything. He's just telling us how things are. "When people lost sight of the way to live" could refer to losing sight of our natural design and of our no-face and replacing them with a false face and with artificial rules. It seems there are clues everywhere in the various translations of this old text. Everybody sees their no-face even if they don't recognize it. No wonder they let it slip sometimes.

Jim


From: Luc
Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008

With seeing comes a natural compassion ... that is what I always felt but couldn't explain until I lost my head.

I have a text in Dutch and the title is : 'It can't be otherwise'. The author describes that kindness or love or compassion are no values, consciously pursued by the Seer. They are a natural consequence of his Seeing.

And it is for me beautifully expressed in one of the teachings of Shunruy Suzuki. He says : 'If you try to observe the rules, you don't really observe the rules. When you observe the rules without trying to observe the rules, then you really observe the rules.' So the rules - or the love or whatever - flows out of Seeing one's true nature. But simply observing the rules doesn't mean you will see your true nature.
That's what I love : it is not only beautiful and loving, but it is beautiful and loving without effort.

Luc


From: simon
Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008

Yes indeed!
Thank you for
Quote:
the place where we are "pure in heart."

Jim: I hadn't made the connection with the Beatitudes, but it is 'There'!

And thank you Luc,
Quote:
When you observe the rules without trying to observe the rules, then you really observe the rules.

As, of course, observe - as a verb - is very close to "see".

The 'effortless' quality is very satisfying - it all happens of its own accord...

Crisp, cold, sunshine... off for a walk!

Simon


From:
Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2008

hi jim, simon and luc (btw, luc, nice to see you here again)

just a couple of comments:

natural compassion, to me, comes from seeing everyone as yourself. for me, that was already, before seeing. that is why it is 'natural'. i think we go 'searching' further for something more or to know more. there is nothing more than what is -already.

the great pretense, to me, is identifying with anything. do i see myself (face) as compassion, where another (face) is not? no. that would be the 'great pretense' that i see. there are many that appear out of the one. even those who seemingly appear to be uncaring, unkind. judging those as separate, different, distant from this one is the 'great pretense'. no face here for ALL to appear. naturally, compassion comes from seeing everyone as yourself, and no others.

love,
janet


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