Dao De Jing
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Verse Four


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007

Verse Four

from Jonathan Star's Tao Te Ching, The Definition Edition, 2001

Tao is empty
yet it fills every vessel with an endless supply
Tao is hidden
yet it shines in every corner of the universe

With it, the sharp edges become smooth
the twisted knots loosen
the sun is softened by a cloud
the dust settles into place

So deep, so pure, so still
It has been this way forever
You may ask, "Whose child is it?"€
but I cannot say
This child was here before the Great Ancestor

Verse Four

from Jeff Rasmussen's Spirit of Tao Te Ching, 2000

Tao
boundless container
never empty nor filled
source of all myriad things
pristine quiet everpresent timeless

Tao
blunts the sharp
untangles the knot
softens the glare


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007

Jonathan Star's book contains his version of the text. It also contains a verbatim translation that lists every Chines character used, along with numerous possible translations of each character. He encourages everyone to use this as a resource to write their own personally meaningful translation of the Tao Te Ching. Jeff Rasmussen's book is written in a very simple and concise style. I decided to put my view of this verse in Rasmussen's style using Star's verbatim translation as a guide. Here it is:

Tao
€empty within
€full without
€the design of all life

Seeing
€blunts the sharp
€unties the tangles
€softens the glare
€settles the dust

Tao
€see where it begins
€before all images

This verse shows what seeing (or being aware of the Tao) does. It blunts the sharp by bring back to awareness the place where there are no sharp divisions. It unties the tangles and knots of life by centering us in the place where there is no-thing to get tangled. It tells us how seeing works to soften the glares of the world and soften the dust of all disagreement.

It is about the primary complenents again. We are made whole when we have both sides in our awareness, when we see them as one presence. We aren't totally caught up in the world of affairs. We aren't centered in the world. Instead, we have a center that softens and settles the world. That's how I see this verse at the moment.

Jim Clatfelter


From: Luc
Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007

In the translation I have, it says :

Tao is het lege en kan in gebruik niet worden gevuld.
Tao is empty and can't be filled in use.

Het mindert zijn scherpte
It reduces its sharpness

Het ontwart zijn verwikkeling
It disentangles its entanglement

Tempert zijn schittering
Softens its splendour

En maakt zich gelijk aan het stof
And makes itself equal to the dust

When pointing to this Void, I find it is empty of form, colour, sound, time. And It never can be filled, no matter how many things appear in It.
We look for something special, but it is like the dust, so simple and close and everyday that we don't notice it.

So there are many and sometimes very different interpretations of the ancient Chinese signs.

What strikes me in the first line of this translation is the idea of 'using' the Tao. Can we use it ? I remember Douglas saying that Seeing can't be used to improve your life, but if you stick to it you will find it does make your life better.

Luc


From:Kwan Haeng
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2007

Hi,

Just enjoying the discussion. I concur with the preference for the translation mentioned by Richard & Jim in verse 3, and particularly enjoyed some parts of Luc's comments.

Well, how would the no thing blunt what is too sharp and disentangle what is tangled? (For example) Why is it said not to foster extremes so much, where is the idea coming from that it is regulatory in some way that involves non-doing, as opposed to a lot of effort for example?

The sensory perception of the no thing alone cannot do that. Even completely Seeing there's no thing (no one) here, *alone* cannot do that.

That may cause one to stop taking sides, or defining things 'for and against' and so forth, but will that alone create some kind of clear perception of order where there is a disturbance of some sort?

I don't think generally so, though it may beat 'third man in a fight' where it comes to not aggravating things.

When i read this verse, i am reminded of the view out at different scales. In the phenomenal world, sharp things that are large, like mountains are worn down over time, pebbles don't take so long.

Tangled things that get combed out over time, or crooked things made straight, i can't think of an example in nature, maybe someone else can.

Then, there is another view of what Tao is, and that is, not just a mysterious universal source of some kind, or the no thing alone, but said all encompassing Reality in the human appearing person of a Sage.

For me, that points more to the comprehension of what the Tao Te Ching is on about perhaps, when it talks about Tao, because when Seeing 'falls into the heart', becomes feeling, (as opposed to feelings) that begins to confer the possibility of some actual existential action without (mental or attached) action, action that is not necessarily physical, or at least not necessarily obviously so, and some 'non-doing' that does everything in energy, as an actor, or a force, as well as an observer, which while empty, is not mere quietism or withdrawal into non-existence, but which maintains and fosters a natural order dynamically as well. And remaining empty, "it cannot be filled in use"..

Or something like that.

Anyway,

Love,
Chris


From: Kwan Haeng
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2007

Huh, just read something written here by that Kwan Haeng. Nah, that's all wrong. It's just no thing at all.

">)) ">)) ">))

Love,
Chris


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2007

Hi Chris,

Lately I've been thinking about something Douglas said. He said that with headless seeing there is only one thing to do. Everything else follows from that and takes care of itself. So when life is giving you sharp jabs, return to the place where there is no sharpness. See who you really really are, and let that do the work. Maybe the jabs won't be as painful. Maybe your tangled affairs will work themselves out. Maybe you won't be as anxious about them. It looks to me like Lao Tzu is telling us the same thing that Douglas did. There is only one thing to do. Go back to the place where it all begins, before all images. In that way seeing falls into the heart, as you put it. It's not withdrawal at all. It's a return to your original nature. You still live in the world, but now that world lives in you as well. Again as you say, nature wears down mountains slowly. Seeing in the world works slowly too. It softens the glare. It doesn't eliminate it. It settles the blowing dust. The dust is still there, but now it is fertile and productive soil. It works slowly, and only in the present moment. I think Douglas was saying the same thing about headless seeing. He said that changes will come gradually, and your friends will notice them before you do. Seeing settles in slowly. Call it headless seeing or wei wu wei, it's the one thing to do. Go back to your original nature, to the one you really are.

Jim


From: Jerry
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2007

I find the fourth verse one of the most beautiful, full of ambiguities. Imagery associated with water is presented for the first time. The tao is like an infinitely deep well, never emptied, never filled. Water is forever moving, wearing down rough edges, softening light, mixing with the dust. Like the ocean, the tao is the source of all things, the parent of all, the child of no one.

In both taiji and Seeing I have the feeling of moving through a kind of liquid rather than air. I suspend my conscious will and become both participator and observer in something greater.


From: Jerry
Posted: Sun Sep 30, 2007

This morning I went for an early walk in the park with Spencer (an elderly terrier). It was a crisp Autumn dawn with falling leaves and a white moon. I was doing some taiji when I heard footsteps on the gravel path. Then they stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blind man standing there, his cane poised, listening. I felt he was enjoying the moment as much as I was. The thought struck me that our perceptions of the world were very different, his sense of hearing, smell, touch and so on being far richer than my own, compensating for his lack of sight. A jackdaw flew out of some bushes in a flurry, and Spencer cocked his head thinking it might be a rabbit. I felt a state of euphoria uniting me with everything there, each thing being what it was making the whole be what it was, and that was the mystery.


From: Janet
Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007

hi everyone,

lovely posts. i didn't really know what more to add. but, then, was just reading some thoughts i sent to a friend that came back around in a reply that i re-read. i'll share it, because to me, it expresses the Tao and Seeing, as experiencing the way 'things' soften from perceiving the source of them. so here it is:

some things come up, and i start thinking (who knows what).
then just looking, practicing Seeing.
looking at the things again, i just don't know.
then suddenly, in that, space for everything.
its like giving it all back to the Source.
i mean, really, i have no idea!

so, there, it appeared to me, that everything just softens. the feeling is ease. seeing the source, letting things be as they are, diminishes the perception of strength or sharpness, so to speak.

thank you.
love,
janet


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007

Hi Janet,

"seeing the source, letting things be as they are, diminishes the perception of strength or sharpness"

That's beautifully put. I like this way of looking at it. It tells us that we are creating the sharpness by the way we look at things, by our off-center way of perceiving. Seeing softens the jabs of the world. Not only does it make us whole, it puts us at ease.

I'm learning so much from these discussions, and we've only just begun. My understanding of the verses we have covered is so much deeper than it was before we began. It's wonderful how someone else sees and points out a fundamental meaning of a verse that I hadn't noticed.

Love,
Jim


From: headexchange
Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007

Yes, lovely posts.

Jerry - you and your dog and the blind man in the early morning autumn woods, moon shining... Delightful.

Tao is hidden: No one sees my headlessness but me - everyone else sees my head. I can never show anyone else my headlessness. So now I don't try - don't try to prove it. I have a secret. I am happy to have a secret - this secret.

Yet Tao shines in every corner of the universe - it shines out into every corner. and it is in everyone, shining out. So I can share this secret with 'others' in the sense that when they awaken to it, we can share our responses to it, this which we indivisibly are - as we are doing in these posts. We share a secret, a hidden thing, a hidden no-thing. An open secret.

Tao is hidden. Where is it hidden? It is located in a strange place. Even the Tao doesn't know where it is.

I point out at the stars. Tao is not there. I point down at the earth. Tao is not there. I point at my foot, Tao is not there. I point at my chest, Tao is not there. I point at my face, my no-face, my original face, and Tao is... is it there? If it is there it is everywhere. Then Tao is out there in the stars, in the earth...

Who can find this secret Tao, this hidden Tao?

A blind man listening in the early morning woods fills this hidden emptiness...

Richard


From: Janet
Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2007

headexchange wrote:

Who can find this secret Tao, this hidden Tao?

A blind man listening in the early morning woods fills this hidden emptiness...

Richard

hi jim, richard, all,

jim, yes, its wonderful to discover everyone's input. whereas i feel one sense, someone picks up another. i like that. you said something about off-center in our perception. to me, its like not looking at the whole picture, like only looking in one direction, and overlooking the other direction in two way Seeing. i prefer not to use off-center because i don't think one is, really. just maybe not fully utilizing the capacity present for themselves. besides, saying off-center make me feel dizzy, and lopsided.

richard, i loved your post. it was like a beautiful story! i was fascinated, and at the edge of my seat! )) and then, at the no-end, you tied jerry's lovely post into yours: A blind man listening in the early morning woods fills this hidden emptiness...

beautiful. thank you all.

love,
janet


From: simon
Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2007

Yes to everything here!
There is a beautiful description of Seeing: "that blunts the sharpness, unties the tangles..."

And this "hidden Tao",
everywhere and in no one place...

A secret, yes. But such an open secret!

Thank you everyone, it gives me great 'pleasure' (not really the word, but it will serve) to find so many pointers in the mailbox!

A gentle rain is falling and I have to go outside; now my coat and how much of the universe will my hat cover?
I will go and see!
love to all
simon


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007

Hi Janet,

I agree about off-center not being the right word. That does have a dizzy feeling about it. And that's not how it was for me before seeing. It was more like feeling incomplete. For me it's about recapturing wholeness, not really about centering.

Jim


From: marc
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007

Hi Jim, Chris, Janet, Richard.

Long time, no read. I've spent the last few years living on a river in the Shanendoah Valley and I've found nature to be my teacher in ways I would have never imagined. My surroundings have reminded me of the Tao, or I should say, what I had thought of the Toaist teachings. But when I got Richards announcement about this forum, it dawned on me that I never even read the Tao....so here I am.

I like how it describes the Tao as smoothing over the sharp. Its not only in water that you see this in nature, but everywhere. The Blue Ridge Moutains that I live deep in, are the roundest and smoothest mountains that you will ever see. They resemble the smooth rolling waves of the ocean. The reason they are so smooth in comparison to other mountians of the world is because they are the oldest in the world. Through time, even the Rockies and the Himalayas will be as smooth and round as our mountains.

Same thing goes for leaves, thorns, stingers, they will all smooth out in time.

I wrote before that Buddha Nature or God was hidden in its 'Everywhere-ness', or rather in its all pervasive being. This is what I am hearing in the Tao. An image that comes to my mind is a water painting of a dry desert scene with no water. The water being the Tao and the painting being the 10,000 things. If you look for the water in the contents of the picture, you will never find it, because it is the painting itself that is the water.

The Tao is Everything simultaneously and nothing in particular.

Its breath taking really.


From: Janet
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007

jimclatfelter wrote:
Hi Janet,

I agree about off-center not being the right word. That does have a dizzy feeling about it. And that's not how it was for me before seeing. It was more like feeling incomplete. For me it's about recapturing wholeness, not really about centering.

Jim

hi jim,

yes, that fits what is felt here. feeling 'incomplete' is a good description, when Seeing is not recognised. i like 'recapturing wholeness' too. the sense recognising Seeing has. back to the complementing theme.

also, it can be complementing for the view out. i was just thinking about when one of my kids tells me a trouble they have with another. my son or daughter will tell their 'side'. i listen. and, yet, gently try to reveal to them that there is another 'side' (the other person's) to recognise in the view. it provides a broader perspective with each other. well, i don't know. it just came up, so i shared it. i no longer remember which verse we are on.

love,
janet


From: Janet
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007

marc wrote:

I wrote before that Buddha Nature or God was hidden in its 'Everywhere-ness', or rather in its all pervasive being.

hi marc,

its so lovely to see you here! i love your words "everywhere-ness" and "all pervasive being". wonderful!

well, i agree with you about nature being a great teacher. its nourishes the sense of being -without any ideas. i just love that! happy hiking!

love,
janet


From: jimclatfelter

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2007

Hi marc,

I'm glad you're here. I enjoyed your description of where you are living and the meanings you find in it. That's just what Lao Tzu does. You remind me of when I lived in the Sierra foothills near Placerville. I lived on a ridge, but the Consumnes River was nearby. It was beautiful country.

Jim


From: marc
Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 Thanks Janet and Jim,

I've enjoyed looking back at these threads on Seeing and the Tao.
Two way Seeing is a perfect demonstration of the Tao. Simply Be, and See what arises naturally and effortlessly.

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend. My family is coming down for the weekend and we will climb the Crabtree Falls which looks even more beautiful in all its autumn colors. And this time of the year, you can always find some hay rides and haunted houses for the kids.

Love, marc


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