Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Coëmgenu » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:55 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Fun fact about the Dàodéjīng:

It is VERY minimal and sparse. It makes the Chinese āgamaḥ look like Hegel in comparison.

The opening stanza is only 9 words.

The entire opening chapter has only 50 words. Compare this with some of the very verbose translations of it in Engish!
I spent quite a bit of time in Barnes and Noble comparing translations one time. It seemed to me the best translation is John C.H. Wu. But then again, that determination wasn't based on a knowledge of Chinese, so I'd be curious your evaluation of that translation.
I found it here, I believe. Its pretty good, and keeps "additions" to a minimal level.

Compare his rendition of the opening to Dwight Goddard's:
The Dao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Dao, just as an idea that can be expressed in words cannot be the infinite idea.

And yet this ineffable Dao was the source of all spirit and matter, and being expressed was the mother of all created things.

Therefore not to desire the things of sense is to know the freedom of spirituality; and to desire is to learn the limitation of matter.

These two things spirit and matter, so different in nature, have the same origin. This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries, but it is the gateway to spirituality.
A lot of "interpretation" there, its almost a "commentary" on the text rather than a translation. At the very least he could have put his own commentarial additions in footnotes or differentiated from elements found in the source text.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.

吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:01 pm

I still like Palmer et al:
The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
Everything in the universe comes out of Nothing.

Nothing - the nameless
is the beginning;
While Heaven, the mother,
is the creatrix of all things.

Follow the nothingness of the Tao,
and you can be like it, not needing anything, [etc]
"creatrix" is a bit silly, IMO - "creator" is not masculine, so you don't need a contrived feminine version of it - but the rest is okay.

:reading:
Kim

Garrib
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Garrib » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:16 pm

is the " heaven" there "ch'ien"? I am not well versed in ancient Chinese anything, but from what I know of the i ching, the "ch'ien" is the creative principle; its trigram is made of three solid yang lines. Wouldn't it normally then be conceived of as more masculine than feminine? I know the yin/yang duality is not absolute and does not always correspond to masculine/feminine...sorry for my ignorance, I'm out of my element here.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:23 pm

form wrote:... And only the front chapters work. Those chapters at the back I suspect were added in later.
The Introduction to my edition says you're right. :smile:
It views the text as an anthology of mostly self-contained chapters, most of which (in turn) are made up of a wisdom saying and a commentary on it.
It makes connections to the very old shamanic traditions of divination/oracles and the ruler/sage/shaman who stands between the spirit world and the physical world ... all very interesting and quite plausible.

At the larger scale, it says, the collection originally ended with chapter 70 and the last dozen chapters are a centuries-later addition which add little to the value of the older text and sometimes contradict it.

:reading:
Kim

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:32 pm

Garrib wrote:is the " heaven" there "ch'ien"? I am not well versed in ancient Chinese anything, but from what I know of the i ching, the "ch'ien" is the creative principle; its trigram is made of three solid yang lines. Wouldn't it normally then be conceived of as more masculine than feminine? I know the yin/yang duality is not absolute and does not always correspond to masculine/feminine...sorry for my ignorance, I'm out of my element here.
I'm rapidly getting out of my depth here, too, but ...
(1) I have a feeling that in Taoism male and female emerge from an ultimate source that is neither male nor female.
(2) The Wu translation also has a female heaven:
"As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless:
As "the Mother" of all things, it is nameable."

Coemgenu?

:namaste:
Kim

form
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by form » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:34 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
form wrote:... And only the front chapters work. Those chapters at the back I suspect were added in later.
The Introduction to my edition says you're right. :smile:
It views the text as an anthology of mostly self-contained chapters, most of which (in turn) are made up of a wisdom saying and a commentary on it.
It makes connections to the very old shamanic traditions of divination/oracles and the ruler/sage/shaman who stands between the spirit world and the physical world ... all very interesting and quite plausible.

At the larger scale, it says, the collection originally ended with chapter 70 and the last dozen chapters are a centuries-later addition which add little to the value of the older text and sometimes contradict it.

:reading:
Kim
I often wonder about this after i meditate and reflect on it after a while. For a very high level person, think he should not wonder about how to rule a country. But a country in the Taoist alchemy context could mean consciousness as well. It is about conquering oneself.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:22 am

Garrib wrote:is the " heaven" there "ch'ien"? I am not well versed in ancient Chinese anything, but from what I know of the i ching, the "ch'ien" is the creative principle; its trigram is made of three solid yang lines. Wouldn't it normally then be conceived of as more masculine than feminine? I know the yin/yang duality is not absolute and does not always correspond to masculine/feminine...sorry for my ignorance, I'm out of my element here.
You can draw an almost direct character-for-word correspondence between the Chinese and English in the section you are commenting on:

無名天地之始;
Without name heaven [and] earth's origination

有名萬物之母。
Having name 10,000 things' mother

The 之 here forms possessives.

I won't pretend to be an expert on Daoism, but looking at the language, it looks like we are being presented with emanating binary pairs from a single 道 when it is not under the condition of being "named". We have 天 (heaven, the tiān/ch'ien you spoke of) and 地 (earth) when 道 (the Dao) is 無 (without) 名 (name).

Having (有) a name (名) it is 10,000 things' (萬物) (or 10,000 species' using species in the sense of "types" or "archetypes" in addition to "things", think species counterpoint, similar to Buddhist dhātu, "element") mother (母).

10, 000 (萬) here means "all", it is a "large number" standing in for "all X".

In addition to this, the compound 天地 (heaven [and] earth), in its way, can stand for "all things" as well. Just in a "different way".

Is 地 (earth) female in I Ching? That would make the complementary binary pair "balanced" in yin-yang cosmology, maybe?

It is also possible that the Dàodéjīng and I Ching contradict eachother :stirthepot: :sage: :anjali:
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Sep 16, 2017 12:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.

吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

Garrib
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Garrib » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:35 am

Thanks for that!

In the I Ching the passive/feminine principal is "K'un", represented by three yin lines; it also has the symbolic meaning of "earth" - I always thought there was a connection between the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, but yes, there might be meaningful differences in how they interpret yin and yang.

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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by form » Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:47 am

I won't pretend to be an expert on Daoism
An expert is not an expert. A not expert is an expert. :mrgreen:

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:22 am

form wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:
form wrote:... And only the front chapters work. Those chapters at the back I suspect were added in later.
The Introduction to my edition says you're right. :smile:
It views the text as an anthology of mostly self-contained chapters, most of which (in turn) are made up of a wisdom saying and a commentary on it.
It makes connections to the very old shamanic traditions of divination/oracles and the ruler/sage/shaman who stands between the spirit world and the physical world ... all very interesting and quite plausible.

At the larger scale, it says, the collection originally ended with chapter 70 and the last dozen chapters are a centuries-later addition which add little to the value of the older text and sometimes contradict it.

:reading:
Kim
I often wonder about this after i meditate and reflect on it after a while. For a very high level person, think he should not wonder about how to rule a country. But a country in the Taoist alchemy context could mean consciousness as well. It is about conquering oneself.
Your idea that 'a country could mean consciousness,' so that 'ruling' is about 'conquering oneself' is ingenious but doesn't makes sense in the original - very early - context of the I Ching and Tao Te Ching.
Think 500 to 1000 BC, think tribal groups beginning to form settled communities, city-states at most, and a gradual transition from the shaman advising the chief to the priest advising, or speaking for, the local lord. The literal meaning makes perfect sense and would have been important to people developing new ways of governing for the benefit of the whole community.
And alchemy came centuries later.

:namaste:
Kim

form
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by form » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:15 am

Kim OHara wrote:
form wrote:... And only the front chapters work. Those chapters at the back I suspect were added in later.
The Introduction to my edition says you're right. :smile:
It views the text as an anthology of mostly self-contained chapters, most of which (in turn) are made up of a wisdom saying and a commentary on it.
It makes connections to the very old shamanic traditions of divination/oracles and the ruler/sage/shaman who stands between the spirit world and the physical world ... all very interesting and quite plausible.

At the larger scale, it says, the collection originally ended with chapter 70 and the last dozen chapters are a centuries-later addition which add little to the value of the older text and sometimes contradict it.

:reading:
Kim
Your idea that 'a country could mean consciousness,' so that 'ruling' is about 'conquering oneself' is ingenious but doesn't makes sense in the original - very early - context of the I Ching and Tao Te Ching.
Think 500 to 1000 BC, think tribal groups beginning to form settled communities, city-states at most, and a gradual transition from the shaman advising the chief to the priest advising, or speaking for, the local lord. The literal meaning makes perfect sense and would have been important to people developing new ways of governing for the benefit of the whole community.
And alchemy came centuries later.

:namaste:
Kim[/quote]

Yes. I get that idea from certain alchemy interpretation.

I do not think of tao de jing has anything to do with Shamanism directly. It seems more of a book of returning to nature as I do not think the later half roughly came from the same author. If according to legend, the old wise man sitting on a black ox, is moving west to seclusion, quite unlikely he will write that much. And why would he still care about best way to rule a country. The part on no weapons, and let nature take its course certainly do not work at least in a modern world.

I know nothing about iching, I assume it came from trying to predict things from fixed pattern. Iching based on my limited knowledge is more of a confucius school speciality. I also think it started from trying to predict weather for successful agriculture.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:14 am

form wrote:... I know nothing about iching, I assume it came from trying to predict things from fixed pattern. Iching based on my limited knowledge is more of a confucius school speciality. I also think it started from trying to predict weather for successful agriculture.
It's worth finding and reading, then, if you want to understand the Tao Te Ching. The Wilhelm translation was the standard one for years but the Blofeld one - http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books ... 140193350/ - is more approachable.

Both texts emerged from ancient (even by Chinese standards!) oral traditions, both were shaped by Taoism and Confucianism as these traditions evolved, both call on similar ways of understanding nature and society.
The I Ching was a book of divination which accumulated some fairly deep philosophical commentary. The Tao Te Ching was a book of wisdom sayings and commentaries which acquired a magical reputation. You can't understand either of them without at least some knowledge of the other.

:reading:
Kim

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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by form » Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:42 am

Kim OHara wrote:
form wrote:... I know nothing about iching, I assume it came from trying to predict things from fixed pattern. Iching based on my limited knowledge is more of a confucius school speciality. I also think it started from trying to predict weather for successful agriculture.
It's worth finding and reading, then, if you want to understand the Tao Te Ching. The Wilhelm translation was the standard one for years but the Blofeld one - http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books ... 140193350/ - is more approachable.

Both texts emerged from ancient (even by Chinese standards!) oral traditions, both were shaped by Taoism and Confucianism as these traditions evolved, both call on similar ways of understanding nature and society.
The I Ching was a book of divination which accumulated some fairly deep philosophical commentary. The Tao Te Ching was a book of wisdom sayings and commentaries which acquired a magical reputation. You can't understand either of them without at least some knowledge of the other.

:reading:
Kim
I use it as a meditation text. Others use it as a political guide. I use it based on duality without iching knowledge. I do not have affinity with iching, so I pass it. So far I do not know anyone that use it the same way as me. I see parallels between it and dharma, but other dun. :mrgreen:

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Will
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Will » Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:16 pm

Here are three that I found useful, with insightful commentaries: 1) Lin Yutang's
2) Man-jan Cheng's lectures with Chinese on facing pages and
3) Victor Mair's which is based on newly discovered much older MSS of Ma-wang-tui. In this latter case Mair gives notes, not a direct commentary.
Whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. -- MN 19

form
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by form » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:29 pm

Lao tzu already said in the most important chapter, tao is not for talking about. :mrgreen:

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