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  1. https://xingyibaguablog.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/how-i-dao-dao-de-parsons-pt-1/ So here is part of a project I’m doing to make a plain language Dao De Jing for modern Western types to understand the concepts of it. It’s not all flowery mystical language but rather a fairly simple thing but at times it does have very specific references to Daoist meditative practices. I will admit I am inspired by those who have really made efforts to make this understandable to everyone. Ted Slingerland’s conversation with Chris Ryan was very enlightening. Daniele Bolelli’s Taoist Lecture Series was very enjoyable and similar to what I’m trying to convey here. I’ll be doing this in 9 parts of 9 chapters each. Understand, this is really difficult to put together as I’m working from translations, embodied practice of Daoist movement arts, philosophy from all over the world, and a very pragmatic, scientific viewpoint on the mystery of this universe I’ve seen with my own eyes. I’ve read a number of translations of the Tao Te Ching/Dao De Jing over the years and I’ve come to realize this is really deep, multi-layered stuff with roots not only in meditation and Chinese folk religion, but also the everyday life of a Chinese person of the era, as well as logic, algebra, numerology, and geometry. The two texts I’ve mainly consulted have been the Worldwide I-Kwan Tao Headquarters English translation and the compilation of various translations by B. Boisen at Boston University. The WITH.org version because it is already an attempt at plain language from an organization that has been known to be associated with internal martial arts in the past. The B. Boisen compilation because it has a number of translations I can easily compare and glean multiple layers of meaning from. The text I provide in-blog is from the WITH translation and the attempt at a plain language interpretation is underneath. Dao de Parsons – The First 9 Chapters Chapter 1 Tao (The Way) that can be spoken of is not the Constant Tao’ The name that can be named is not a Constant Name. Nameless, is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The named is the Mother of all things. Thus, the constant void enables one to observe the true essence. The constant being enables one to see the outward manifestations. These two come paired from the same origin. But when the essence is manifested, It has a different name. This same origin is called “The Profound Mystery.” As profound the mystery as It can be, It is the Gate to the essence of all life. Once you start talking about it it can’t truly be known. The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club – but everyone does. Once you label a variable it’s not really that thing it’s just labeling a variable, x is not really x but we call it that for convenience. This ineffable thing is the beginning of everything and has polarities as it arises toward and passes away from manifestation. Once you label something it is manifest as that label in your mind and you perceive it that way, affecting your perception of everything else. Better not to label something to truly understand it. While the polarities are arising, adding, and multiplying to generate everything at the same time; the very act of observation, divides and subtracts it into its constituent, manifest parts. The void allows one to create a simulated observation ground. From unity comes polarity. Polarity is the basis of all outward observation and examination. When two objects orbit each other understand that centrifugal force and a centripedal force are really the same thing but centrifugal force is caused by properties of the centripedal. The middle of their relative orbits is kinda hard to find but it’s the place you have to start from to figure out everything else’s relationship to each other in space. Chapter 2 As soon as beauty is known by the world as beautiful, it becomes ugly. As soon as virtue is being known as something good, it becomes evil. Therefore being and non-being give birth to each other. Difficult and easy accomplish each other. Long and short form each other. High and low distinguish each other. Sound and tone harmonize each other Before and after follow each other as a sequence. Realizing this, the saint performs effortlessly according to the natural Way without personal desire, and practices the wordless teaching thru one’s deeds. The saint inspires the vitality of all lives, without holding back. He nurtures all beings with no wish to take possession of. He devotes all his energy but has no intention to hold on to the merit. When success is achieved, he seeks no recognition. Because he does not claim for the credit, hence shall not lose it. Shut off the wordy, desirous, narrative part of your mind so you can see the world without a perceptive filter. Look at what is instead of what you think it is. It’s pretty big and crazy out there and very much a mystery. Still, once you look at it – the principles of the universe – everything else you examine represents it. Difficult and easy accomplish each other – until one puts the work in at a skill it won’t be easy. It’s better to develop a student by building groups of easy tasks in a step-by-step manner to develop into complexity than it is to throw a challenge on a person who is not ready. Still it’s two sides of the same coin. Explore the world around you, climb up high, crawl down low. Listen to the silence and sound the emptiness – like a woman who enters a cave for the first time thinking it is dead but truly there is much happening within that only one who is silent and still herself can perceive. Trek through polarity and its many manifestations from high to low, long and short. Color in those shades of grey. The internal and external are part of the same thing, try to do both and bring them together. If you want to be a decent person let others do whatever the hell it is they want. Let people and other creatures live within their natural way. Don’t be possessive of what is not yours. A lioness needs to feed her cubs, is the sheep any less her food because it roams a field you claim? Work for what you want with all you can and don’t expect reward or praise. If you’re not looking for outside acknowledgement what does it matter what those people think? Everything arises around a good person but that doesn’t mean they want to take it for themselves. Do your work without narrative, you won’t suffer if you don’t tell yourself how hard you are working. If you are not even aware of an accomplishment that skill will stay with you as it just a tool to be used. To teach this stuff is doing nothing, you can’t spout off about not talking. Chapter 3 By not adoring the worthy, people will not fall into dispute. By not valuing the hard to get objects, people will not become robbers. By not seeing the desires of lust, one’s heart will not be confused. Therefore the governing of the saint is to empty one’s mind, substantiate one’s virtue, weaken one’s worldly ambition and strengthen one’s essence. He lets the people to be innocent of worldly knowledge and desire, and keeps the clever ones from making trouble with their wits. Acts naturally without desire, then everything will be accomplished in its natural order. Often people don’t know how good something was until they can look back at it. Those good party times might be seen as miserable a few years down the road, the bad times you think you are going through right now might be good in comparison to the shit storm later. Either way, it’s dependent on your label and perception of the moment, eventually it’s going to change. Given enough time most everything decays or transforms in nature in some way or another. We shouldn’t really be praising people about stuff so much. People won’t be so contentious if everyone just does what they will. Why value things? They pass. No one will rob you if it has no value. These weird desires for things that pass or change isn’t worth it, if you’re not always looking for the next new toy you’ll be much happier with what you have. To live a good life try not to think too much, practice what you preach, do not desire after stupid shit, eat healthy and exercise. If there is a dumbass among you let him continue on that way, don’t strive to educate him that will just make him mad and you more. If there is someone too smart for their own good, try to steer them away from the dummies so he doesn’t fuck with the whole town. Just do what feels right and for the most part things will click into place. Chapter 4 Tao (The Way) can be infused into the nature and put to use without being exhausted. It is so deep and subtle like an abyss that is the origin of all things. It is complete and perfect as a wholeness that can Round off sharp edges; Resolve confusion; Harmonize with the glory; Act in unity with the lowliness. Tao is so profound and yet in invisible, It exists in everywhere and anywhere. I don’t not know whose Son It is, It existed before heaven and earth. There is a constant cycle of arising and passing that is truly infinite. As one being is born and eats its mother – the child’s first meal is the very process of its own origin passing into the world as waste from a once living thing. Thus death and life sustain each other. The principles of the universe can be seen everywhere – it’s an infinite thing underlying all existence. The beginning is like a deep and subtle abyss or an emptiness or black hole that is the origin of all things. The universe and its principles exist in everywhere and anywhere. I don’t know how this thing got here, it was around before we were, and reflects whatever created this. Chapter 5 Nature nurtures all things with the wholeness of complete virtue. It shows the greatest and perfect kindness by giving life to let all things grow and accomplish them with the hastening of harvest. Therefore, according to ancient custom, nature may seem unkind to regard all beings as a traditional straw dog for sacrifice. And likewise with a saint, he may seem unkind to regard people as a traditional straw dog for sacrifice. The space between heaven and earth is like the bellows, it appears empty yet it gives a supply that never fails; The more it moves, the more it brings forth. Many words lead to exhaustion. It is better to center on the true essence within. Basically what this is saying is that we should give no more thought to the value of human life than we do to anything else we would use and discard. So humans are no more special than livestock, we have our place in the world and when we stray from that the universe is no kinder to us and we should not expect a kind place to live. The heart and lungs are great analogs for bellows as both pump fluid, the lungs air and the heart blood. Together these two organs are responsible for a lot of positive and negative emotions in Chinese thought. For the heart/small intestine organ complex we have a primary emotion of joy and for the lungs/large intestine we have the primary emotion of grief. These two things together color almost every single human experience, red and silver respectively. The space between heaven and earth is occupied by man, in the body the middle dantian or heart/mind center is associated with emotion. Basically it’s saying you can have emotions from joy to sadness, from grief to exuberance, from extreme lust to periods of chastity – there’s an infinite supply of emotions available and the more emotional you are, the more emotional you will be. It’s basically saying shut up and calm your tits – meditate while focusing on the center of the body or zhong ding/central channel. Chapter 6 Spirit of the valley is immortal. It is called the mystic nature. The gate of the mystic nature is regarded as the root of the universe. It is everlasting and cannot be consumed. This has to do with very specific points and meditative methods it’s really not accessible until someone has put in the work. Why did the chicken cross the road? Who fucking cares. I believe the Spirit of the Valley has something to do with the occiputal junction or the corpus callosum. I’d have to check into it again, largely useless until one has some meditative training and understanding of Daoist alchemical processes. Chapter 7 Heaven is everlasting and earth is enduring. The reason that they are everlasting is because they do not exist for themselves. Hence, they are long lived. Thus, although the saint puts himself last, finds himself in the lead. Although he is not self-concerned, finds himself accomplished. It is because he is not focused on self-interests and hence can fulfill his true nature. Look at nature, there are things that keep going for a damned long time – and it’s because they don’t exist just for selfish reasons, they do not exist with a self at all. So don’t think about yourself, put your desires down and keep working, it will fit together. It’s talking about some kind of divine yin energy that is inexhaustible. Her gateway being the root of heaven and earth probably refers to the lower dantian as both the Conception and Governing Vessels begin in this general area and there are extant traditions that talking about developing this part of the body. Chapter 8 A person of great virtue is like the flowing water. Water benefits all things and contends not with them. It puts itself in a place that no one wishes to be and thus is closest to Tao. A virtuous person is like water which adapts itself to the perfect place. His mind is like the deep water that is calm and peaceful. His heart is kind like water that benefits all. His words are sincere like the constant flow of water. His governing is natural without desire which is like the softness of water that penetrates through hard rocks. His work is of talent like the free flow of water. His movement is of right timing like water that flows smoothly. A virtuous person never forces his way and hence will not make faults. Try not to be an asshole, try to help everyone and everything you come across, if you can help that is. Flow like water, with enough time it can get to the deepest parts of the earth and becomes closer to stillness. Adapt to what is going on around you. Continuing the water train of thought – let your mind be calm, let your heart flow freely to benefit all, and let every word flowing from your mouth be sincere. If you need to correct someone in your life be soft, try to penetrate through the smaller channels to break hard rock. Let your work flow effortlessly from you – smooth out your movements so you don’t work too hard. Subsume your personal interest and don’t let it be easily seen. Just because one is not obviously selfish does not mean one does not work to one’s own goals. If you don’t compete in the first place no one loses. Chapter 9 Those who overly pride wealth is like the overflowing water which shall cause damages. It is better to restrain early. Those who are not content with fame is like polishing the edge of a knife. The sharper it gets, the easier it is to break. Wealth and treasures are but illusions that one cannot possess. Those who are arrogant of their wealth and fame shall invite blame upon oneself. The nature Tao teaches one to retreat after one’s success and not to hold on to the credit. Those greedy fucks ruin everything around them, better to stamp that shit out early. Those who desire and acquire fame should understand – they are whittling themselves down until they break. Material stuff is illusory and those who are proud of it are shameful. Better to achieve a goal and then move on to something else than be overly proud of accomplishment. Once you make a sword and sharpen its blade it will only get duller with use. If you have so much that you can’t keep track of it all, eventually someone will steal from you. So work to a point, accomplish that, and retire. Retirement is how one develops their spirit, you can’t take your toys with you when you die.
  2. Is there De (Te) without It's virtue?

    Some would like to say that there is no connection between virtue and De (德, often translated as "inner power" or virtue) in the Dao De Jing, and that reading it as such is merely forcing a Christian or Confucian worldview on the text. Other's, such as myself, would like to show that De is very much connected to virtue in the Confucian sense, and even in the Christian sense of the word as "moral virtue," as it is both virtuous, the numinous embodiment of Virtue Itself, and humanity's corresponding quality in nature, of virtue. Perhaps there are also language barriers which lead to such confusion about the virtue (power) of using the word "virtue" to describe De, so below are some definitions (bold mine) of virtue to help show the applicability of the term to De. Please note that the word "virtue" in English also has the synonyms of "moral excellence," "efficacity," and "force or power," as the character 德 De has in Classical Chinese. 1. a. Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness. b. An example or kind of moral excellence: the virtue of patience. 2. Chastity, especially in a woman. 3. A particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial quality; advantage: a plan with the virtue of being practical. 4. Effective force or power: believed in the virtue of prayer. 5. virtues Christianity The fifth of the nine orders of angels in medieval angelology. 6. Obsolete Manly courage; valor. We can look at chapter 51 and see how De is a numinous power, yes, but is there no virtue in this power? Is the power not the macro version of virtue itself? And if one wishes to be in accord with this power, can they do so without "virtue" in the Confucian and/or Christian sense? Chapter 51 (Yutang trans.) Tao gives them birth, Teh (character) fosters them. The material world gives them form. The circumstances of the moment complete them. Therefore all things of the universe worship Tao and exalt Teh. Tao is worshipped and Teh is exalted Without anyone's order but is so of its own accord. Therefore Tao gives them birth, Teh fosters them, Makes them grow, develops them, Gives them a harbor, a place to dwell in peace, Feeds them and shelter them. It gives them birth and does not own them, Acts (helps) and does not appropriate them, Is superior, and does not control them. - This is the Mystic Virtue. So then we have the question, does the Dao De Jing completely separate the power of De and virtuous behaviour? Does one need to behave virtuously in order to have De? It would help to take a look at Chapters 10 and 28, the only Chapters where De appears in the first volume (ch. 1-37): Chapter Ten (Feng/English trans.) Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, Can you avoid separation? Attending fully and becoming supple, Can you be as a newborn babe? Washing and cleansing the primal vision, Can you be without stain? Loving all men and ruling the country, Can you be without cleverness? Opening and closing the gates of heaven, Can you play the role of woman? Understanding and being open to all things, Are you able to do nothing? Giving birth and nourishing, Bearing yet not possessing, Working yet not taking credit, Leading yet not dominating, This is the Primal Virtue. [last line, 是謂玄德, literally, "This is called profound/deep De"] Chapter 28 (Lin Yutang trans.) He who is aware of the Male But keeps to the Female Becomes the ravine of the world. Being the ravine of the world, He has the original character (teh) which is not cut up. And returns again to the (innocence of the) babe. He who is conscious of the white (bright) But keeps to the black (dark) Becomes the model for the world. Being the model for the world, He has the eternal power which never errs, And returns again to the Primordial Nothingness. He who is familiar with honor and glory But keeps to obscurity Becomes the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world, He has an eternal power which always suffices, And returns again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood. Break up this uncarved wood And it is shaped into vessel In the hands of the Sage They become the officials and magistrates. Therefore the great ruler does not cut up. Both of these chapters show that De is related to modesty, not being boastful, and similar qualities. This virtue of modesty and unselfishness is probably the most prevalent instruction throughout the Dao De Jing, and is at the base of virtuous behaviour/unselfish behaviour. As you can see in Chapter 28, this virtue leads to the inherent power of virtue: Virtue. It's also easy enough to see that Chapter 28 is repeating the same message three times using different poetically descriptive means: male vs. female; white vs. black = honour and glory vs. obscurity. Sure there are innumerable things to be learned via these verses, but they also show what sorts of "virtue" one requires to maintain or realize De. This sort of "virtue" is also very prevalent in Confucian teachings, as well as Christian teachings (not to mention every other wisdom teachings passed down by elders of true wisdom). We can see that this is also the same virtuous quality of Sages, in Chapter Seven: Chapter Seven (Yutang trans.) The universe is everlasting. The reason the universe is everlasting Is that it does not life for Self. Therefore it can long endure. Therefore the Sage puts himself last, And finds himself in the foremost place; Regards his body as accidental, And his body is thereby preserved. Is it not because he does not live for Self That his Self is realized? So this way of the universe and that allows it to be everlasting, is that it does not think of itself first. This is exactly the same quality that describes De. We can also see this quality in the teachings of water, as illustrated in Chapter Eight: Chapter Eight (Yutang trans.) The best of men is like water; Water benefits all things And does not compete with them. It dwells in (the lowly) places that all disdain - Wherein it comes near to the Tao. In his dwelling, (the Sage) loves the (lowly) earth; In his heart, he loves what is profound; In his relations with others, he loves kindness; In his words, he loves sincerity; In government, he loves peace; In business affairs, he loves ability; In his actions, he loves choosing the right time. It is because he does not contend That he is without reproach. So if we are to speak about De as the counterpart to Dao as it appears in Chapter 51, can we not reasonably state that this power is all or either a.) virtuous, b.) the ultimate power of Virtue Itself, or c.) the corresponding quality in nature to human virtue? Yes, De fosters creation, but is this fostering of creation not the same selfless propensity to serve others which Confucianism and Christianity would say makes a person virtuous? Does this not mean that De is very much the numinous embodiment of Virtue?
  3. Classic on Dao, and the Way of Virtue

    just wanted to say somewhere, that Dao De Jing would be best anglicized as "Classic on Dao, and the Way of Virtue."
  4. lost in translation

    Just for the record, my literary Chinese is non existent. I can read the dao de jing and understand 60% of the characters in simplified Chinese, so I can not make direct textual citations of that book at present time. That having been said, One of the major issues in understanding Daoism, its philosophy, spirituality, and practice, lies in the difficulty of contextualizing its original meaning in Chinese correctly. Chinese is not only very difficult for foreigners to understand, it is also really quite hard for Chinese to understand deeply. I recently had a conversation with my tea teacher (who I assure you is an absolute genius) that went something like this: teacher He: yes of course we can read the dao de jing together, but you need to know that one's interpretation of it is based on the stages of one's life. When I was in my early twenties reading this book, it was very different than reading it now. Looking back, many of the things which made sense then, I view in a very different way now. Me: oh yeah... I know all about that.... Did that mountain just stand up and walk away? Nope, its still there... ok. But then my Daoism teacher for many years has told me: you need to know that the entire dao de jing is written in code and that if you don't study with a qualified teacher, you can only understand it at a philosophical level and not at the level of practice. It can only benefit your thinking and not directly benefit your person or spirit. The majority of Chinese people who are willing to look at the daodejing seriously (that being quite few, as most view it as spiritually having its head in the clouds and daoists being severely weird) tend to have the same opinion as my tea teacher. Having said that, there are books such as daodejing chanwei (if anyone has a copy, please tell me how you got it!) which explain meditation through the verses of the daodejing. A good example is "real men breathe through their heals," which according to this book means that people who really practice meditation seriously will emphasize the practice of the yinqiao meridian in the legs. I used these several points to illustrate that Daoism, its interpretation, and how people practice is a continuum with many different opinions and ideas centred around a relatively humble piece of work. So when we do things like reading the daodejing, even if we are quite fluent in Chinese, or have people to translate it for us, may miss a considerable amount of the information contained within. Actually may is an understatement, we almost certainly will miss the point. I think that is where practice comes in- because through practice we can realize for ourselves what laozi is getting at in his book- however, we also have to make sure that the people who are presenting our practice to us are verifiable and have credentials which can be trusted. This means that we really must be good at picking our teachers. unfortunately, there are not too many good teachers of daoism in any part of the world right now, so if you really want it, you may have to look for a very long time, at a very serious depth. On the other hand, there are many people in other traditions whose practice leads to the same goal as daoism. So we may be able to approach the daodejing indirectly through vipassana, or kundalini etc... But if you really want to learn the contents of daoism, you should start by learning Chinese, meeting Chinese people who know daoism deeply and correctly, and working hard. there are already many people who have started on this path, so we can also sometimes be lucky enough to meet them and get their advice. now I'm going to amble off to bed. good night.
  5. Dao De Jing Audio in Chinese?

    I've been looking for an audiobook, mp3 file, or anything really, of the Dao De Jing being read in Chinese. It has proven to be surprisingly difficult to find. Does anyone have any ideas?