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Verse Five


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2007

Verse Five

by D.C. Lau, 1963
http://home.pages.at/onkellotus/TTK/English_Lau_TTK.html#Kap05

Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs;
the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.

Is not the space between heaven and earth like a bellows?
It is empty without being exhausted:
The more it works the more comes out.

Much speech leads inevitably to silence.
Better to hold fast to the void.

Verse Five

by Bradford Hatcher, 2005
http://www.hermetica.info/LaoziA.htm

Heaven and earth are not compassionate
Treating the myriad beings as straw dogs
Wise ones are not compassionate
Regarding the hundred families as straw dogs
The space between heaven & earth
How this is like bellows & flutes!
Empty, yet never exhausted
(When) moved then more is produced
Lots of words adds up to exhaustion,
(This is) never as good as holding the center

Verse Five

from A Path and a Practice by William Martin, 2005

Life has no preferences.
Every manifestation has its place
and lives its life under the sun.
Therefore we welcome
everything and everyone
without distinction.

Life continuously breathes
its forms into existence,
never depleting itself,
always replenishing itself.

Clinging to our preferences,
we separate ourselves from life
and suffer exhaustion.
Sitting still and following our breath,
we find renewal.


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2007

Straw Dogs

This is a controversial verse. I've posted three different versions to show some of the interpretations. Most books that comment on the Tao Te Ching go into this verse at some length. Going by most of the more traditional translations, this "straw dogs" verse does not fit very well with the rest of the book. Straw dogs, by the way, were objects used in sacrificial rituals in old China. They were simply discarded after they no longer had a use, much as we discard Christmas trees when the holiday is over.

I think it's clear that the sage is not ruthless, as Lau's translation has it. And the sage does not treat the people as straw dogs. Quite a few translations use the word regard instead of treat. The seer regards the people as straw dogs. Hatcher's version of this verse says that the wise ones are not compassionate. That's a lot better. The seer is dispassionate. Martin's more poetic verse says that life (the Tao and the Seer) has no preferences. This is much better. Neither the Tao nor the Seer plays favorites. This reminds me of Douglas saying that here (at center) I have nothing to shut other people out with. He also said that I can afford to wash my hands of no one. I like Martin's words: "Therefore we welcome everything and everyone without distinction." I think Douglas Harding and William Martin get the spirit of this verse just right.

Lao Tzu likes to refer to everday images. In this verse he brings up images of straw dogs and the action of a bellows. This is so down-to-earth and, in a sense, unspiritual. I find headless seeing to be the same. Douglas called it meditation for the marketplace. I think of Lao Tzu as proposing just that for his day€and ours too, for that matter.


From: Janet
Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2007

hi jim,

i really like the third interpretation you provided, by Martin. i find it gives one the sense of inclusiveness, as in Seeing. nothing here, to keep anything out. spacious, open, to whatever appears. its inexhaustible, and, in wayne dyer's interpretation that i have, it (capacity) increases, the more its used. i think that can be related to 'practicing Seeing'.

i really find no need for the use of the terms compassionate or dispassionate, and those other words to describe heaven and earth, and the sage. but if one was to define his actions, that action must be generous to all, and not exclusive. does that makes sense?

love,
janet


From: Jerry
Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2007

€Meditation for the marketplace€ is an interesting quote, Jim. I never met Douglas, but certainly his experiments, texts and videos contain a refreshing down-to-earthness and lack of jargon.

In verse five it€s again a little shocking to meet Lao Tzu€s indifference. It€s as if he is saying that altruism is as dangerous as selfishness. The laws of nature are impartial and unbiased, and we should be too. Trying to change them or go against them (even in a positive way) will merely cause conflict. It's the kind of advice one might give to law-enforcers: be impartial, neither generous nor cruel.

The image of the bellows introduces another favourite theme € that of air and breath. The tao is endless energy; it continues to act no matter how much it moves. In contrast, wasting our breath with words and speeches will soon cause exhaustion for us. We should still our actions and return to the centre, focusing on the tao instead of trying to enforce our wills on the world.


From: orebor
Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 1:18 pm

Another version of the first few lines, from The way of life Lao Tzu by R. B. Blakney, 1955

Is then the world unkind?
And does it treat all things
Like straw dogs used in magic rites?
The wise man too, is he unkind?
And does he treat the folk
Like straw dogs made to throw away?

The author comments: "I have translated these lines as questions and imagined that they were uttered as sympathetic enquiry, to which the second stanza is an answer. Other interpreters have read this poem as indicating that both the world and the Wise Man are quite impersonal, caring nothing for the individual and dealing only with general situations. This seems to me foreign to the total outlook of the Tao Te Ching."

This way this verse is, to me, a piece of good advice for when I think I have problems. Stop complaining because it's exhausting and doesn't get you anywhere. Return to Seeing there is nothing to complain about.


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2007

Hello Orebor and Everyone,

I like the straw dogs stanza put as a question. Is the world unkind? It can seem to be unkind. Maybe the answer is in the Rolling Stones lyric: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need."

The second stanza in Lau's version is also put as a question.

Is not the space between heaven and earth like a bellows?
It is empty without being exhausted:
The more it works the more comes out.

I think of heaven and earth as representing essence and appearance, the two primary complements Lao Tzu refers to in the first two verses as the nameless and the named, non-being and being. The space between the two is our own spaciousness or presence. The more we live as this spaciousness, the more benefit and satisfaction we get from it, because we are living our whole being and our whole non-being. This is two-way Seeing to me.

Jim


From: Luc
Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2007

Well, I don't agree that ruthless is a bad or wrong translation.
I have three examples of this ruthlessness.

1. Nisargadatta once had a visitor who asked him : Does life have a meaning ?' He answered : 'No. Next question.' Since we all somehow believe our life has a meaning and a purpose, this must have been a ruthless answer for that visitor.

2. In Buddhism, the core teaching is the four Noble Thruths : there is suffering, suffering has a cause, suffering can be ended and there is a Path to end suffering. Yet, if you read the Heart Suttra, one of the most important Suttras, it says : no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no path. This implies that our suffering is non-existent, it's the suffering of the little one and belongs to the story he believes. Also quite ruthless to say to people who are really suffering..

3. If you read some of the dialogues in Byron Katie's books, you will find the final step in the Work is also quite ruthless : you have judged your fellowman, now you turn your judgement around. If you said : 'He is no good' it will become : he is good, or : I'm no good. She leads people to this phase quite gentle and they can take these turned-around judgements in and find them just as true as their original one. Still it is ruthless !

I remember years ago looking through the window. I noticed a small spider making its web on the outside of the glass. It struck me how futile this effort was : such a small creature, vulnerable, making this effort to create a web that might be destroyed soon after, by the wind or the rain or by my careless hand. I saw the uselessness of this little life and immediatly realised that my life was just as useless. I can strive, as we all do, but who will remember me in fifty years ? In fivehundred years ? In fivethousand years ? Don't they say that one blink of Brahma's eyes takes 69.000 years ? How futile are we in such a perspective ?

So yes, heaven and earth are ruthless : life doesn't stop when ours is crushed by some event. We all know that not the slightest bit will change when we die. And so the Sage is also ruthless. He/she can be kind to you when you are distressed, but he/she also knows that your pain is passing, will disappear into nothing and leave no trace. And he will tell you that if he finds you ready to accept it.
Maybe that's why much speech leads inevitably to silence ?

And as for the Headless way : Douglas always stated : 'All things perish.' And there is a beautiful experiment, I think it is called the magic warehouse. There you can experience that all comes out of the Void. And even if you love it, if you want to keep it with you forever, it disappears again into the Void. Ruthlessly, regardless of your feelings or emotions.
And look : whatever comes out of the Void, how many things, it never changes, it is never exhausted.

Luc


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2007

Hi Luc,

I certainly agree that the sage or seer is honest € as in the examples you gave. That can be interpreted as being ruthless, but being truthful doesn't have to mean being without empathy. I can see that heaven and earth can seem to be without empathy. But somehow I'm not even sure of that. Somehow I feel that nature is on the side of life. Maybe my life has been too easy. I've had difficulties, but I've never considered that nature or people have treated me ruthlessly.

I've never read Byron Katie. I didn't know she wrote about the Tao verses. I will order the book and read it.

The actual words in Verse Five are "not jen" € not humane in the Confucian sense. Heaven and earth and the sage don't go by the rules of the human order. They follow a natural order rather than human convention. That's what I take it to mean. I can see how this can be interpreted as ruthlessness, but to me it's just truthfulness, even when it comes as a shock to other people.

I understand what you are saying about heaven and earth being indifferent and therefore possibly ruthless. I still can't shake the feeling that the Tao, Void, Nature, Life is on my side, even with all the difficulties that come up. It's given me what I need to make my way, and that includes this vision of wholeness that Lao Tzu and Douglas shared with us.

Jim


From: orebor
Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2007

Hello Luc,
Quote:
Well, I don't agree that ruthless is a bad or wrong translation

I don't think it is an incorrect translation. To me the verse seems to say that it only feels or seems ruthless because of not Seeing reality. Or better: while not Seeing reality.

Quote:
...Does life have a meaning ?' ...'No. Next question.' Since we all somehow believe our life has a meaning and a purpose, this must have been a ruthless answer for that visitor.

While Seeing (and not thinking much), life is a beautiful mystery, without any distinction between my life and life. While thinking from the well known mistaken identity (not seeing much) questions about meaning and purpose and ruthlessness come up. I guess.

Quote:
If you read some of the dialogues in Byron Katie's books, you will find the final step in the Work is also quite ruthless

I've heard Byron Katie say she'd be enjoying the way the sunshine reflected off the thrown hand grenade while she watched it flying her way, because that's what is ... This sounds like Seeing to me. I think she meant that she would not experience this situation as, for instance, ruthless, because she does not oppose what is.

Quote:
I can strive, as we all do, but who will remember me in fifty years ? In fivehundred years ? In fivethousand years ?

Try the experiment with the watch

Quote:
How futile are we in such a perspective ?

I agree, futillity and ruthlessness seem to be a matter of perspective. From which perspective is one Seeing / seeing oneself and (ones) life? 1 meter or 0 meters? With the first stanza put as questions this is what this verse seems to say, to me.

Quote:
And even if you love it, if you want to keep it with you forever, it disappears again into the Void. Ruthlessly, regardless of your feelings or emotions.

Yes. Love that wants to keep forever is very hard on a person. Unless it is for something that lasts forever. Or lives in a place without time.

Orestes

God's Final Message to His Creation: "We apologise for the inconvenience", written in letters of fire on the side of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains, Sevorbeupstry, on planet Preliumtarn, Galactic Sector QQ7 Active J Gamma.


From: marc
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 7:15 am

"Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs. "

Nature seems to be described as ruthless because everything is, in essence, impermanent. Sage's are wise for recognizing the impermant nature of everything.

This impersonal or even "ruthless" truth needn't be looked at us uncaring or unloving. In fact, it is the truth of impermanence that enriches the love I have for my wife, daughter, pugs, cats etc.. I am completely honest with my self about just how much our whole family is merely a "straw family", and thats what makes everyday that the frail unit is still found to be in tact, an honest blessing.

Also, you must take that phrase in context with the next phrase in the verse which is that out of this emptiness, comes something. Although everything is empty in nature, the movement within the emptiness (10,00 things), does produce something. This sounds very much like an evolutionary reality as Sri Aurobindo describes. I like it a lot. Evolution working in a leap frog manner.

Even though its not written in the Tao, I would say that what comes out of the "movement in emptiness" is learning. That falls into my idea that Reality is about one thing (Awareness) expressed as a trinity (The base being Life, the Path being Learning and the Fruit being Love). Seeing the verse this way makes the "ruthlessness" understandable. Each myriad of exisistence rising and falling in rapid succession seems pretty brutal until you stop to consider what comes out of this whole dance of life and "That" which is having all these experiences.

But of course, you could never explain this brutal truth to someone who hasnt gone very deeply into the fact of our inherent impermanance. So, you find your self exhausted into silent attention as the final stanza describes...

"Lots of words adds up to exhaustion, (This is) never as good as holding the center "


Janet
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007

marc wrote:
This impersonal or even "ruthless" truth needn't be looked at us uncaring or unloving. In fact, it is the truth of impermanence that enriches the love I have for my wife, daughter, pugs, cats etc.. I am completely honest with my self about just how much our whole family is merely a "straw family", and thats what makes everyday that the frail unit is still found to be in tact, an honest blessing.

Marc, and everyone,

enjoying the responses! (to what may appear as a delicate verse to interpret)

anyway, i like how you interpret it marc. i guess the idea of the sage and life being impersonal and impartial does sound ruthless. looking at the impermanence of things, one sees that things appear and disappear, and are changing. i suppose the wisdom is non-attachment, by knowing and understanding this. but, also, my feeling is that everything is precious in its own right. each thing in the overall view. the spider, the bird, the child, the husband, the wife. they all fit, and in the boundless sense are perfect, just as they are. but that just my feeling as i see it.

thank you all!

love,
janet


From: orebor
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007

Marc wrote:
I am completely honest with my self about just how much our whole family is merely a "straw family", and thats what makes everyday that the frail unit is still found to be in tact, an honest blessing.

And Janet wrote:
my feeling is that everything is precious in its own right. each thing in the overall view

Your two views somehow tie in with what Douglas Harding wrote in "The little book of life and death", about people who know their death is imminent and say they have never felt so alive and able to enjoy every moment.

My thought is that this realisation of impermanence is not a necessary ingredient to appreciate the preciousness of everything, or is what makes anything precious. This realisation is maybe a way to get "shocked" into being here now and Seeing reality. Really Seeing things, life or loved ones because the emotions that accompany this realisation clear and focus the mind immensely, so nothing is in the way of Seeing what's there. The awareness or experience of preciousness is inherent to this Seeing.

I like seeing it this way, because it means that the impermanence of the myriad of things (Eckhart Tolle would say "forms" I think) does not force impermanence of love or peace and that the quiet and completely fulfilling enjoyment of life is not dependent on a sense of impending or possible loss. There is a much more direct route availlable. In fact, it is immediate, every time it happens, and as long as it lasts. This is what two-way Seeing means to me, at the moment.

Orestes


From: Luc
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007

orebor wrote:
My thought is that this realisation of impermanence is not a necessary ingredient to appreciate the preciousness of everything, or is what makes anything precious. Orestes

Yes, I can agree with that. Yet for me, realising my own limited time (as the little one) takes a lot of stress out of my life. And so there is time to enjoy, to see the preciousness of everything, as you put it. 'All things perish', Douglas said, and being the One I love them more because of their perishable nature, somehow...

Luc


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007

Holmes Welch in his 1957 book Taoism, The Parting of the Way paraphrases Verse Five as follows:

Quote:
The universe is not moral, not 'our kind,' not kind the way the Rites requires. The universe regards the things in it as straw dogs. The Sage is not moral, not 'our kind,' not kind the way the Rites requires. He regards men€including himself€as straw dogs. But the universe, amoral as it is, supports us. If we call on its orderliness, it never fails us€any more than the law of gravity will fail us. Try to call on morality the same way, and you will quickly exhaust its support. Forget morality; follow your inner nature.

If we call on the 'orderliness' of Seeing, it always supports us. It always brings wholeness to our situation, though it may not always immediately bring the quiet joy that we talked about earlier. It certainly isn't anything like ruthless in this way. It's quite dependable and, as Douglas would say, always available.

I still have the very first Tao Te Ching I ever read, Witter Bynner's The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu. In most ways it's still my favorite. It was written in 1944. My copy was printed in 1962, but I think I got it closer to 1965. It cost 95 cents. Anyway, I like the way it lays out this verse.

Nature, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs,
Faces the decay of its fruits.
A sound man, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs,
Faces the passing of human generations.
The universe, like a bellows,
Is always emptying, always full:
The more it yields, the more it holds.
Men come to their wits end arguing about it
And had better meet it at the marrow.

"The passing of human generations" reminds me of marc's "straw family." We are all fragile and perishable, much like straw dogs. But we can hold fast to the void or the center or the marrow, where we aren't fragile and vulnerable.

I never thought of these first five verses as being so closely connected as I do now. I probably have a strange way of looking at it, but I see these verses as beginning with showing us the primary complements of being and non-being, then the secondary complements with which we judge and measure the world. Following that we are introduced to wu wei (actionless activity) and its practice in wei wu wei (doing actionless activity or seeing). Finally, at the end of Verse Five we are brought back to the opening words when it says that "lots of words adds up to exhaustion." This echos the first words that say that "existence is beyond the power of words to define." Maybe that's a little to neat, but I seem to remember the expression "neatness counts." I think it counts for something anyway, even if it's just as a memory jogger.

All for now,
Jim


headexchange
Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2007

It is empty without being exhausted -

How amazing this mystery that we are, is. Always coming up with something. Here it is again, producing this. Totally reliable - to produce something. I look now to see what it is doing. What it is creating is fresh.

Today someone I haven't met before came to my home to buy Seeing books. He had found the website, read a book. He was visiting England from Austria. He was so clear about Seeing. He said he couldn't understand why such a simple, direct way was not spreading like wildfire. I agreed! How delightful for such a person to appear spontaneously out of the mystery. This mystery is so resourceful, so surprising - endlessly so.

Richard


From: marc
Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2007

Very insightful comments everyone, thanks. I liked how everyone pointed out that, with Seeing, the truth of impermanence is not a necessary ingredient for enjoyment or appreciation. I think that with each verse, or each truth, you will find that each of them are ultimately, unecessary when Seeing.

I can think of nothing more amazing than the fact that something as simple as Seeing is always the bottom line. Perhaps, one of the verses will say just that. We'll see............

Thanks, marc


From: orebor

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007

A thought occured: sense of impermanence and fragility, ruthlessnenss and futility are of the realm of secondary complements. On the level of the primary there is only wonder. No sense of impermanence nor fragility for no time.

Make any sense?

Orestes


From: Janet
Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007

orebor wrote:
A thought occured: sense of impermanence and fragility, ruthlessnenss and futility are of the realm of secondary complements. On the level of the primary there is only wonder. No sense of impermanence nor fragility for no time.

Make any sense?

Orestes

hi orebor/orestes,

that does make sense to me. i was thinking the same thing. i like that jim broke it down to primary and secondary complements, because it just flows like that, and is always present from this view, now. i had a sense, but jim gave us words to describe what we see in that regard, and now we can easily share and understand the expressions we use.

thank you.

love,
janet


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007

Hello Orestes and Janet,

I see it that way too. The world out there has its ups and downs, good and bad, and all the other cycles and rhythms of life. But there is a place where these don't apply. No cycles, no changes, always the same. Wonder and satisfaction only, or as we called it earlier - quiet joy.

Jim


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