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The Tâo Teh King (Tâo Te Ching) of Lâo Dze (Lao Tsu)
1. All things are produced by the Tâo, and nourished by its outflowing operation. They receive their forms according to the nature of each, and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition. Therefore all things without exception honour the Tâo, and exalt its outflowing operation.
2. This honouring of the Tâo and exalting of its operation is not the result of any ordination, but always a spontaneous tribute.
3. Thus it is that the Tâo produces (all things), nourishes them, brings them to their full growth, nurses them, completes them, matures them, maintains them, and overspreads them.
4. It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them; it carries them through their processes and does not vaunt its ability in doing so; it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over them;-this is called its mysterious operation.
養德, 'The Operation (of the Tâo) in Nourishing Things.' The subject of the chapter is the quiet passionless operation of the Tâo in nature, in the production and nourishing of things throughout the seasons of the year; a theme dwelt on by Lâo-dze, in II, 4, X, 3, and other places.
The Tâo is the subject of all the predicates in par. 1, and what seem the subjects in all but the first member should be construed adverbially.
On par. 2 Wû Khäng says that the honour of the Son of Heaven is derived from his appointment by God, and that then the nobility of the feudal princes is derived from him; but in the honour given to the Tâo and the nobility ascribed to its operation, we are not to think of any external ordination. There is a strange reading of two of the members of par. 3 in Wang Pî, viz. 亭之毒之for 成之熟之. This is quoted and predicated of 'Heaven,' in the Nestorian Monument of Hsî-an in the eighth century.
1. Men come forth and live; they enter (again) and die.
2. Of every ten three are ministers of life (to themselves); and three are ministers of death.
3. There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live, but whose movements tend to the land (or place) of death. And for what reason? Because of their excessive endeavours to perpetuate life.
4. But I have heard that he who is skilful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger, and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn, nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws, nor the weapon a place to admit its point. And for what reason? Because there is in him no place of death.
貴生, 'The Value set on Life.' The chapter sets forth the Tâo as an antidote against decay and death.
In par. 1 life is presented to us as intermediate between two non-existences. The words will suggest to many readers those in Job i. 21.
In pars. 2 and 3 I translate the characters 十有三 by 'three in ten,' instead of by 'thirteen,' as Julien and other translators have done. The characters are susceptible of either translation according to the tone in which we read the 有. They were construed as I have done by Wang Pî; and many of the best commentators have followed in his wake. 'The ministers of life to themselves' would be those who eschewed all things, both internal and external, tending to injure health; 'the ministers of death,' those who pursued courses likely to cause disease and shorten life; the third three would be those who thought that by mysterious and abnormal courses they could prolong life, but only injured it. Those three classes being thus disposed of, there remains only one in ten rightly using the Tâo, and he is spoken of in the next paragraph.
This par. 4 is easy of translation, and the various readings in it are unimportant, differing in this respect from those in par. 3. But the aim of the author in it is not clear. In ascribing such effects to the possession of the Tâo, is he 'trifling,' as Dr. Chalmers thinks? or indulging the play of his poetical fancy? or simply saying that the Tâoist will keep himself out of danger?
1. The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind.
2. To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good;--and thus (all) get to be good. To those who are sincere (with me), I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere (with me), I am also sincere;--and thus (all) get to be sincere.
3. The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him, and he deals with them all as his children.
任德, 'The Quality of Indulgence.' The chapter shows how that quality enters largely into the dealing of the sage with other men, and exercises over them a transforming influence, dominated as it is in him by the Tâo.
My version of par. 1 is taken from Dr. Chalmers. A good commentary on it was given by the last emperor but one of the earlier of the two great Sung dynasties, in the period A. D. 1111-1117:--'The mind of the sage is free from preoccupation and able to receive; still, and able to respond.'
In par. 2 I adopt the reading of to get 得 ('to get') instead of the more common 德 ('virtue' or 'quality'). There is a passage in Han Ying (IX, 3 b, 4 a), the style of which, most readers will probably agree with me in thinking, was moulded on the text before us, though nothing is said of any connexion between it and the saying of Lâo-dze. I must regard it as a sequel to the conversation between Confucius and some of his disciples about the principle (Lâo's principle) that 'Injury should be recompensed with Kindness,' as recorded in the Con. Ana., XIV, 36. We read:--'Dze-lû said, "When men are good to me, I will also be good to them; when they are not good to me, I will also be not good to them." Dze-kung said, "When men are good to me, I will also be good to them; when they are not good to me, I will simply lead them on, forwards it may be or backwards." Yen Hui said, When men are good to me, I will also be good to them when they are not good to me, I will still be good to them." The views of the three disciples being thus different, they referred the point to the Master, who said, "The words of Dze-lû are such as might be expected among the (wild tribes of) the Man and the Mo; those of Dze-kung, such as might be expected among friends; those of Hui, such as might be expected among relatives and near connexions."' This is all. The Master was still far from Lâo-dze's standpoint, and that of his own favourite disciple, Yen Hui.
1. He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge); he who devotes himself to the Tâo (seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing).
2. He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.
3. He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end). If one take trouble (with that end), he is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven.
忘知, 'Forgetting Knowledge;’ the contrast between Learning and the Tâo. It is only by the Tâo that the world can be won.
Ziâo Hung commences his quotations of commentary on this chapter with the following from Kumâragîva on the second par.:--'He carries on the process of diminishing till there is nothing coarse about him which is not put away. He puts it away till he has forgotten all that was bad in it. He then puts away all that is fine about him. He does so till he has forgotten all that was good in it. But the bad was wrong, and the good is right. Having diminished the wrong, and also diminished the right, the process is carried on till they are both forgotten. Passion and desire are both cut off; and his virtue and the Tâo are in such union that he does nothing; but though he does nothing, he allows all things to do their own doing, and all things are done.' Such is a Buddhistic view of the passage, not very intelligible, and which I do not endorse.
1. Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Tâo of Heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the less he knows.
2. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling; gave their (right) names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
鑒遠, 'Surveying what is Far-off.' The chapter is a lesson to men to judge of things according to their internal conviction of similar things in their own experience. Short as the chapter is, it is somewhat mystical. The phrase, 'The Tâo' or way of Heaven, occurs in it for the first time; and it is difficult to lay down its precise meaning. Lâo-dze would seem to teach that man is a microcosm; and that, if he understand the movements of his own mind, he can understand the movements of all other minds. There are various readings, of which it is not necessary to speak.
I have translated par. 2 in the past tense, and perhaps the first should also be translated so. Most of it is found in Han Ying, preceded by 'formerly' or 'anciently.'
1. When the Tâo prevails in the world, they send back their swift horses to (draw) the dung-carts. When the Tâo is disregarded in the world, the war-horses breed in the border lands.
2. There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented with one's lot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
儉欲, 'The Moderating of Desire or Ambition.' The chapter shows how the practice of the Tâo must conduce to contentment and happiness.
In translating par. 1 I have, after Wû Khäng, admitted a 車 after the 糞, his chief authority for doing so being that it is so found in a poetical piece by Kang Häng (A. D. 78-139). Kû Hsî also adopted this reading (朱子大全, XVIII, 7 a). In par. 2 Han Ying has a tempting variation of 多欲 for 可欲, but I have not adopted it because the same phrase occurs elsewhere.
1. Who thinks his great achievements poor
Shall find his vigour long endure.
Of greatest fulness, deemed a void,
Exhaustion ne'er shall stem the tide.
Do thou what's straight still crooked deem;
Thy greatest art still stupid seem,
And eloquence a stammering scream.
2. Constant action overcomes cold; being still overcomes heat. Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
洪德, 'Great or Overflowing Virtue.' The chapter is another illustration of the working of the Tâo by contraries. According to Wû Khäng, the action which overcomes cold is that of the Yang element in the developing primordial ether; and the stillness which overcomes heat is that of the contrary Yin element. These may have been in Lâo-dze's mind, but the statements are so simple as hardly to need any comment. Wû further says that the purity and stillness are descriptive of the condition of non-action.
1. Or fame or life,
Which do you hold more dear?
Or life or wealth,
To which would you adhere?
Keep life and lose those other things;
Keep them and lose your life:--which brings
Sorrow and pain more near?
2. Thus we may see,
Who cleaves to fame
Rejects what is more great;
Who loves large stores
Gives up the richer state.
3. Who is content
Needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop
Incurs no blame.
From danger free
Long live shall he.
立戒, 'Cautions.' The chapter warns men to let nothing come into competition with the value which they set on the Tâo. The Tâo is not named, indeed, but the idea of it was evidently in the writer's mind.
The whole chapter rhymes after a somewhat peculiar fashion; familiar enough, however, to one who is acquainted with the old rhymes of the Book of Poetry.
1. The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).
2. There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words, and the advantage arising from non-action.
徧用, 'The Universal Use (of the action in weakness of the Tâo).' The chapter takes us back to the lines of ch. 40, that
'Weakness marks the course
Of Tâo's mighty deeds.'
By 'the softest thing in the world' it is agreed that we are to understand 'water,' which will wear away the hardest rocks. 'Dashing against and overcoming' is a metaphor taken from hunting. Ho-shang Kung says that 'what has no existence' is the Tâo; it is better to understand by it the unsubstantial air ( 氣) which penetrates everywhere, we cannot see how.
Compare par. 2 with ch. 2, par. 3.
1. The Tâo produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonised by the Breath of Vacancy.
2. What men dislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as carriages without naves; and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.
3. What other men (thus) teach, I also teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death. I will make this the basis of my teaching.
道化, 'The Transformations of the Tâo.' In par. 2 we have the case of the depreciating epithets given to themselves by kings and princes, which we found before in ch. 39, and a similar lesson is drawn from it. Such depreciation leads to exaltation, and the contrary course of self-exaltation leads to abasement. This latter case is stated emphatically in par. 3, and Lâo-dze says that it was the basis of his teaching. So far therefore we have in this chapter a repetition of the lesson that the movement of the Tâo is by contraries,' and that its weakness is the sure precursor of strength. But the connexion between this lesson and what he says in par. 1 it is difficult to trace. Up to this time at least it has baffled myself. The passage seems to give us a cosmogony. 'The Tâo produced One.' We have already seen that the Tâo is 'The One.' Are we to understand here that the Tâo, and the One were one and the same? In this case what would be the significance of the 生 ('produced')?--that the Tâo which had been previously 'non-existent' now became 'existent,' or capable of being named? This seems to be the view of Sze-mâ Kwang (A.D. 1009-1086).
The most singular form which this view assumes is in one of the treatises on our King, attributed to the Tâoist patriarch Lü (呂祖道德經解), that 'the One is Heaven, which was formed by the congealing of the Tâo.' According to another treatise, also assigned to the same Lü (道德真經合解) the One was 'the primordial ether;' the Two, 'the separation of that into its Yin and Yang constituents;' and the Three, 'the production of heaven, earth, and man by these.' In quoting the paragraph Hwâi-nan dze omits 道生一, and commences with一生二, and his glossarist, Kâo Yû, makes out the One to be the Tâo, the Two to be Spiritual Intelligences (神明), and the Three to be the Harmonising Breath. From the mention of the Yin and Yang that follows, I believe that Lâo-dze intended by the Two these two qualities or elements in the primordial ether, which would be 'the One.' I dare not hazard a guess as to what 'the Three' were.
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