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 »

There is a wonderful documentary that's (use to be?) on YouTube, about the temple tradition of Daoism specifically. As I recall, in the beginning, it quite rightly pointed out that the scriptures of Daoism (well, actually, only one of them particularly) have a large exposure, the Daoist religion is not often presented alongside its scriptures, at least as it exists as a living tradition in its homelands and in immigrant communities in the West, rather than a historical reconstruction of its roots as a tradition of forest ascetics (I do not mean to say that the tradition as-it-is is currently divorced from those roots at all, though)

I can't for the life of me find it, but if anyone else wants to look for it, on YouTube, I myself have a few minutes, so I will be looking for a link to add to this thread.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Quite a few when I searched for 'Temple Taoism', maybe it is among these:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... ple+taoism
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by chownah »

form wrote:Lao tzu already said in the most important chapter, tao is not for talking about. :mrgreen:
I guess then we should not be talking about lao tzu's ideas about talking about it. :jumping:

On the other hand, lao tzu did say it is for talking about if you don't know. :shrug:
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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 »

Thanks, Will,
Will wrote:Here are three that I found useful, with insightful commentaries: 1) Lin Yutang's
I found this online - https://labcit.ligo.caltech.edu/~mevans ... self%20DEF. It doesn't have any commentary or introduction that I could see, which surprised me. Is there anything extra in the hard-copy original?
2) Man-jan Cheng's lectures with Chinese on facing pages
I didn't find this online but found http://www.clearwhitelight.org/spiritua ... 2intro.htm which mentions it and has an interesting Introduction to the Tao Te Ching (but no translation)
INTRODUCTION: THE TAO TE CHING, LAO TZU, TAOISM AND ZEN

There is frequently some confusion between three practices, each of which is generically termed 'Taoism'. Since this confusion exists, it is important that the prospective student of Taoism can distinguish between them. The three activities, or practices of Taoism are Philosohical or speculative Taoism, Religious or esoteric Taoism, and Alchemical or 'debased' Taoism.
The earliest of these is Philosophical Taoism (Tao-chia), which is believed to have developed between the sixth to the second century before the Christian era, from the earlier 'Yin-Yang' school of philosophy, whose teachings it inherited and integrated into its own 'philosophical system' through the 'I Ching', now (unfortunately) most widely known as a work of 'divination'.

Philosophical Taoism is generally thought to have been based on the 'Tao Te Ching' of the possibly legendary Lao Tzu, and the work of his follower, Chuang Tzu, which is known through the book which bears his name, and is otherwise without title.

The major development and establishment of Religious Taoism (Tao-chiao) took place during the two Han dynasties (from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.), and considered the Tao Te Ching as divine teaching, using specific interpretations of Lao Tzu's work as one of its own primary scriptures. The Religious Taoists deified Lao Tzu, describing him as the 'T'ai Shang Lao-chun'. In later centuries, Religious Taoism was to become a very powerful movement throughout China, where it was widely practiced, at least until the middle of the twentieth century.

The earliest known reference to Alchemy (in Eastern and Western Literature) is in the 'Shi-chi', written about eighty-five B.C., but the 'Chou'-i ts'an t'ung ch'i' of Wei Po-yang (c.200 A.D.) was probably the first major alchemical text to use a Taoist work to this end, some auhorities believeing the treatise to be a derivation of the I Ching. This form of alchemy was referred to by the Philosophical Taoists as 'debased Taoism'. ...
The book is listed on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Lao-Tzu-Words-Un ... 0913028916 with reviews which are ... mixed, let's say.
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.
Found the ebook at https://directorydiesis.top/ebooks/tao- ... r-chm.html

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

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Thought there would be some Print on Demand version of Lin Yutang's, but maybe not. Lots of used copies though. So, yes much commentary based on traditional ones.

Go to Library Genesis for a PDF of the 1948 edition - title is The Wisdom of Lao-Tse

A little from Lin's introduction:
Probably the best approach to Laotse's philosophy is
through Emerson in his important essay on "Circles,"
which is fundamentally Taoist. Emerson uses the apostrophe,
"O circular philosopher." From the philosophy
of "circles," Emerson derives exactly the same consequences
as Laotse. Emerson taught that "every end is a
beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on
mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens."
Huei Shih taught, "When the sun is at its zenith, it is
setting somewhere else," and Chuangtse wrote, "To Tao,
the zenith is not high, nor the nadir low." Emerson taught,
"There are no fixtures in nature"; "There are no fixtures
to men." Consequently, "The new continents are built
out of the ruins of the old planet; the new races fed out of
the decomposition of the foregoing." From the circular
philosophy, Emerson produced Laotsean paradoxes. "The
highest prudence is the lowest prudence," "The virtues of
society are the vices of the saint," "People wish to be
settled; only as far as they are unsettled, is there any hope
for them." For the above Emersonian paradoxes, the
reader will be able to find exact, and sometimes verbal,
parallels in the selections from Chuangste. Emerson's two
essays, "Circles" and "The Over-soul," are completely
Taoist, and one appreciates them better after reading
Laotse.
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

More from Lin's Introduction:
Taoism, as a philosophy, therefore, may be summed up
as follows : It is a philosophy of the essential unity of the
universe (monism), of reversion, polarization (yin and
yang), and eternal cycles, of the leveling of all differences,
the relativity of all standards, and the return of all to the
Primeval One, the divine intelligence, the source of all
things. From this naturally arises the absence of desire
for strife and contention and fighting for advantage.
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

I had forgotten about The Way of Lao Tzu by Wing-tsit Chan, which I have not read (but plan to).

But have read his A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy where he gives his own complete translation with some notes.

Chan's book arrived today; it is an expanded version of his chapter seven in his Sourcebook. Three intros on the philosophy, the man and the text are added. His notes and commentaries are also expanded from the Sourcebook, though it looks like his translation is the same. More direct and simple than Lin's, so I like it a bit more, although Lin has all those Chuang tzu quotes after each verse.
Last edited by Nicholas Weeks on Thu Sep 21, 2017 1:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Coëmgenu »

What do we all think of this, as 'Buddhists'?

One of the more "out there" translations, from DDJ XXV, "Enumerating/Representing the Mystery":

There is a being, wonderful, perfect;
It existed before heaven and earth.
How quiet it is!
How spiritual it is!
It stands alone and it does not change.
It moves around and around, but does not on this account suffer.
All life comes from it.
It wraps everything with its love as in a garment, and yet it claims no honour, it does not demand to be Lord.
I do not know its name, and so I call it Tao, the Way, and I rejoice in its power.
(Gi-ming Shien & Eugene Rose)

One wouldn't know, but it is very difficult to look at the Chinese characters as-is, and see Gi-ming Shien & Eugene Rose's translation there. This is a "dynamic" translation (that alleges to capture to "meaning" rather than the "vocabulary" of what is being translated), and one that is quoted in the opening of Hieromonk Damascene's Christ the Eternal Tao, because it is obviously friendly to theistic interpretation.

Compare this with the rendering by James Legge, where a one-to-one correspondence can be drawn between clauses in the English and Chinese:
有物混成,先天地生。寂兮寥兮,獨立不改,周行而不殆,可以為天下母。
There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger! It may be regarded as the Mother of all things.

吾不知其名,字之曰道,強為之名曰大。
I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Dao. Making an effort to give it a name I call it The Great.

大曰逝,逝曰遠,遠曰反。故道大,天大,地大,王亦大。域中有四大,而王居其一焉。
Great, it passes on. Passing on, it becomes remote. Having become remote, it returns. Therefore the Dao is great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; and the sage is also great. In the universe there are four that are great, and the sage is one of them.

人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。
Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Dao. The law of the Dao is its being what it is.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Coëmgenu »

Coëmgenu wrote:What do you think of this, as Buddhists?

[...] from DDJ XXV, "Enumerating/Representing the Mystery":
For further contextualization, three more translations of DDJ XXV, varying from Shien and Legge's:

There is a Being wondrous and complete. Before heaven and earth, it was. How calm it is! How spiritual! Alone it standeth, and it changeth not; around it moveth, and it suffereth not; yet therefore can it be the world's mother. Its name I know not, but its nature I call Reason. Constrained to give a name, I call it the great. The great I call the departing, and the departing I call the beyond. The beyond I call home. The saying goes: "Reason is great, heaven is great, earth is great, and royalty also is great. [There are four things in the world that are great, and royalty is one of them.] Man's standard is the earth. The earth's standard is heaven. Heaven's standard is Reason. Reason's standard is intrinsic.
(D. T. Suzuki & Paul Carus)

There is Being that is all-inclusive and that existed before Heaven and Earth. Calm, indeed, and incorporeal! It is alone and changeless!
Everywhere it functions unhindered. It thereby becomes the world's mother. I do not know its nature; if I try to characterize it, I will call it Dao. If forced to give it a name, I will call it the Great. The Great is evasive, the evasive is the distant, the distant is ever coming near. Tao is Great. So is Heaven great, and so is Earth and so also is the representative of Heaven and Earth. Man is derived from nature, nature is derived from Heaven, Heaven is derived from Dao. Dao is self-derived.
(Dwight Goddard & Henri Borel)

There was Something undefined and yet complete in itself, born before Heaven-and-Earth. Silent and boundless, standing alone without change, yet pervading all without fail, tt may be regarded as the Mother of the world. I do not know its name; I style it "Tao"; and, in the absence of a better word, call it "The Great." To be great is to go on, to go on is to be far, to be far is to return. Hence, "Tao is great, Heaven is great, Earth is great, King is great." Thus, the king is one of the great four in the Universe. Man follows the ways of the Earth. The Earth follows the ways of Heaven, Heaven follows the ways of Tao, Tao follows its own ways.
(John C.H. Wu)
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:23 pm, edited 4 times in total.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara »

(Replying to both posts)
I think the problematic shift is to characterise "something" as "a being" because that brings with it all sorts of notions about a personality, motivations, etc. which (the consensus seems to be) simply aren't there in the original. And it's very hard for any Westerners, with our monotheist heritage, to see "a being" in this context as anything much different from the creator-ruler-god, which is even further from the original.

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

Post by Coëmgenu »

Related to the above.

Via Chinese Buddhism, we can read the last sentence of DDJ XXV from the perspective of a 'historical' Chinese Buddhist, to a certain extent. That is to say, we can map these ideas and concepts onto Chinese Buddhism through a syncretic lens due to a shared linguistic (and therefore also philosophical) expression:

人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。
Man's dharma is worldly, the world's dharma is heavenly, heaven's dharma is the dao, the dao's dharma is svabhāvata (or "is marked by own-being").


The 'manly' (in the sense of 'human') is identical to the worldly which is identical to the heavenly, identical to the dao: svābhāvatā.

"Wordly" may not have been read with the connotations of "worldling" though, necessarily.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:27 pm, edited 3 times in total.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Coëmgenu »

Kim OHara wrote:(Replying to both posts)
I think the problematic shift is to characterise "something" as "a being" because that brings with it all sorts of notions about a personality, motivations, etc. which (the consensus seems to be) simply aren't there in the original. And it's very hard for any Westerners, with our monotheist heritage, to see "a being" in this context as anything much different from the creator-ruler-god, which is even further from the original.
What do you think of the notion that that "something" (物) was paṭiccasamuppāda, as understood as identical to emptiness?

That was how some Chinese Buddhists, like Ven Śr Zhìyǐ read this passage in the past.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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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 »

Coëmgenu wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:(Replying to both posts)
I think the problematic shift is to characterise "something" as "a being" because that brings with it all sorts of notions about a personality, motivations, etc. which (the consensus seems to be) simply aren't there in the original. And it's very hard for any Westerners, with our monotheist heritage, to see "a being" in this context as anything much different from the creator-ruler-god, which is even further from the original.
What do you think of the notion that that "something" (物) was paṭiccasamuppāda, as understood as identical to emptiness?

That was how some Chinese Buddhists, like Ven Śr Zhìyǐ read this passage in the past.
I don't think it's surprising or unreasonable but I don't think it's really correct.
As I understand it, Indian Buddhism was assimilated to Chinese (Taoist, Confucianist) culture by a process of finding the nearest equivalent concepts and (often) using the same words for them. Something similar happened in our own recent cultural history, when Christians discovered Buddhism in Asia and introduced it to European Christian audiences. Think for a moment about how misleading we now know those early interpretations were ...
The Scripture of the Saviour of the World,
Lord Buddha—Prince Siddārtha styled on earth—
In Earth and Heavens and Hells Incomparable,
All-honoured, Wisest, Best, most Pitiful; 01
The Teacher of Nirvāna and the Law.

Thus came he to be born again for men. 02
Below the highest sphere four Regents 03 sit
Who rule our world; and under them are zones
Nearer, but high, where saintliest spirits dead
Wait thrice ten thousand years, then live again; 04
And on Lord Buddha, waiting in that sky, 05
Came for our sakes the five sure signs of birth 06
So that the Devas 07 knew the signs, and said:
“Buddha will go again to help the World.”
“Yea!” spake He, “now I go to help the World.
This last of many times; for birth and death
End hence for me and those who learn my Law.
I will go down among the Sākyas,
Under the southward snows of Himalay,
Where pious people live and a just King.”
...
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... t-of-Asia/

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

Post by Coëmgenu »

Another passage, DDJ II, with spooky overtones of similarity to how some Buddhist discourses are worded, at the very least:

天下皆知美之為美,斯惡已。
From the heavens descending all know beauty's as the beautiful, dividing the ugly thereafter.

皆知善之為善,斯不善已。
All know skill's as the skillful, dividing the unskillful thereafter.

故有無相生,難易相成,長短相較,
Because of this existence and nonexistence mutually arise, [because of this] difficulty and ease mutually [into each other] transform, [because of this] long and short mutually differentiate,

高下相傾,音聲相和,前後相隨。
[because of this] high and low mutually overflow [into each other], [because of this] music and noise mutually harmonize, [because of this] soon and later mutually follow,

是以聖人處無為之事,行不言之教;
Therefore the sagely man dwells with wú wèi toward things, he acts without speaking[,] this he teaches;

萬物作焉而不辭,生而不有。
With 10,000 things created here[,] as a result he [i.e. the sagely man] does not speculate, they [self-]generate without causality.

為而不恃,功成而弗居。
He acts but without claim [to his actions], the work he accomplishes but there is no dwelling.

夫唯弗居,是以不去。
He only has nondwelling, on account of this he has no departure.


For the sake of contextualization, and possibly self-effacement, here are some more 'professional' translators' take on the passage:

All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done, but how no one can see; 'tis this that makes the power not cease to be.
(James Legge)

When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness. When all the world recognizes good as good, this in itself is evil. Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short exhibit each other. High and low set measure to each other. Voice and sound harmonize each other. Back and front follow each other. Therefore, the sage manages his affairs without ado, and spreads his teaching without talking. He denies nothing to the teeming things. He rears them, but lays no claim to them. He does his work, but sets no store by it. He accomplishes his task, but does not dwell upon it. And yet it is just because he does not dwell on it that nobody can ever take it away from him.
(John C.H. Wu)

Everywhere it is obvious that if beauty makes a display of beauty, it is sheer ugliness. It is obvious that if goodness makes a display of goodness, it is sheer badness. For "to be and not to be are mutually conditioned. The difficult, the easy, are mutually definitioned. The long, the short, are mutually exhibitioned. Above, below, are mutually cognitioned. The sound, the voice, are mutually coalitioned. Before and after are mutually positioned." Therefore the holy man abides by non-assertion in his affairs and conveys by silence his instruction. When the ten thousand things arise, verily, he refuses them not. He quickens but owns not. He acts but claims not. Merit he accomplishes, but he does not dwell on it. "Since he does not dwell on it It will never leave him."
(D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus)

When every one recognizes beauty to be only a masquerade, then it is simply ugliness. In the same way goodness, if it is not sincere, is not goodness. So existence and non-existence are incompatible. The difficult and easy are mutually opposites. Just as the long and the short, the high and the low, the loud and soft, the before and the behind, are all opposites and each reveals the other. Therefore the wise man is not conspicuous in his affairs or given to much talking. Though troubles arise he is not irritated. He produces but does not own; he acts but claims no merit; he builds but does not dwell therein; and because he does not dwell therein he never departs.
(Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel)
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Buddha, from within his seat of samādhi, emitted a great circle of light from his head, casting luminous prajñā towards Mañjuśrī and the eighty-four thousand monks. A sword of wisdom appeared from the top of Mañjuśrī's head, and from his side emerged a golden-haired lion. [...] The Tathāgata spoke:

The supreme path of all Buddhas
is marked by perfect luminosity and eternal dwelling.
Those who enter the dhyāna samādhis together with the Buddhas,
in the same way as they, realize bodhicitta.

(Nihon Daizōkyō Hensankai, Shugendō Shōso 1, Bussetsusanjinjuryōmuhenkyō, excerpts)
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Re: Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching - Book of the way

Post by Kim OHara »

The essence of that chapter, however it's translated, reminds me strongly of Zen - which doesn't surprise me at all, since Chan/Zen, of all the schools, is the one which sits closest to the meeting of Taoism and Indian Buddhism.

Comparing those different translations (thanks for posting them all, btw) makes me think that some translators didn't have a very firm grasp of what the original was saying. I'm sure that the original makes sense, however poetic or mystical that sense may be, and not all the translations manage even that much, let alone achieving any reasonable correspondence with each other.

In my next life I will learn Chinese just so that I can read the original. :smile:

:namaste:
Kim
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