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[TTC Study] Chapter 28 of the Tao Teh Ching

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Chapter 28

 

John Wu

 

 

Know the masculine,

Keep to the feminine,

And be the Brook of the World.

To be the Brook of the World is

To move constantly in the path of Virtue

Without swerving from it,

And to return again to infancy.

Know the white,

Keep to the black,

And be the Pattern of the World.

To be the Pattern of the World is

To move constantly in the path of Virtue

Without erring a single step,

And to return again to the Infinite.

Know the glorious,

Keep to the lowly,

And be the Fountain of the World.

To be the Fountain of the World is

To live the abundant life of Virtue,

And to return again to Primal Simplicity.

When Primal Simplicity diversifies,

It becomes useful vessels,

Which, in the hands of the Sage, become officers.

Hence, "a great tailor does little cutting."

 

 

English/Feng

 

Know the strength of man,

But keep a woman's care!

Be the stream of the universe!

Being the stream of the universe,

Ever true and unswerving,

Become as a little child once more.

Know the white,

But keep the black!

Be an example to the world!

Being an example to the world,

Ever true and unwavering,

Return to the infinite.

Know honor,

Yet keep humility.

Be the valley of the universe!

Being the valley of the universe,

Ever true and resourceful,

Return to the state of the uncarved block.

When the block is carved, it becomes useful.

When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.

Thus, "A great tailor cuts little."

 

 

Robert Henricks

 

When you know the male yet hold on to the female,

You'll be the ravine of the country.

When you're the ravine of the country,

Your constant virtue will not leave.

And when your constant virtue doesn't leave,

You'll return to the state of the infant.

When you know the pure yet hold on to the soiled,

You'll be the valley of the country.

When you're the valley of the country,

Your constant virtue is complete.

And when your constant virtue is complete,

You'll return to the state of uncarved wood.

When you know the white yet hold on to the black,

You'll be the model for the country.

And when you're the model for the country,

Your constant virtue will not go astray.

And when your constant virtue does not go astray,

You'll return to the condition which has no limit.

When uncarved wood is cut up, it's turned into vessels;

When the Sage is used, he becomes the Head of Officials.

Truly, great carving is done without splitting up.

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?

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Nice - on this one, I think it is funny how the final line seems a bit out of place at first (yet isn't necessarily upon further examination):

 

The whole thing suggests nicely to consider everything holistically and that one should act as a decent role model in anything one does. It then goes onto say that one should not forget ones humility. And this is where it can seem a bit out place to suggest that one should be gentle when molding things.

 

At second glance though, I think that the idea of cutting, carving or splitting as little as possible suggests that all we need to do is look to our original nature rather than necessarily try to change (ourselves) according to what we have been taught. I think that is pretty neat.

 

Edit: typo

Edited by devoid

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At second glance though, I think that the idea of cutting, carving or splitting as little as possible suggests that all we need to do is look to our original nature rather than necessarily try to change (ourselves) according to what we have been taught. I think that is pretty neat.

 

 

Yes. This part of it is important to me and I have mentioned it numerous times in various threads here. Once we start cutting up (investigating component parts) we no longer have the whole essence of what we are looking at.

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thanks for that introspective, void. it's a different way to look at that.

 

here's the lin tanslation:

 

Know the masculine, hold to the feminine

Be the watercourse of the world

Being the watercourse of the world

The eternal virtue does not depart

Return to the state of the infant

Know the white, hold to the black

Be the standard of the world

Being the standard of the world

The eternal virtue does not deviate

Return to the state of the boundless

Know the honor, hold to the humility

Be the valley of the world

Being the valley of the world

The eternal virtue shall be sufficient

Return to the state of plain wood

Plain wood splits, then becomes tools

The sages utilize them

And then become leaders

Thus the greater whole is undivided

 

 

i really like the idea of the sage utilizing the tools that are provided naturally...plain wood splits, then becomes tools. that line captivated me when i first read this translation. i apologize if i push this translation so much, but i just love the naturalness of it, and this is one of the chapters that exemplifies that for me. and now, devoid has provided a completely different concept of this...thanks!

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Many thanks for the Lin translation and your perspective, Mr. T. The tools idea is also a nice one. Lin also winds off with the same type of opposite as discussed above: "Thus the greater whole is undivided", again making up a counterpoint to the carving / modelling.

 

I was wondering if anybody would be able to shed some light on the final sentence of this chapter based on the original Chinese text / characters?

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Okay. So I will add to the wonderment of the last line.

 

Wayne Wang translates it as:

 

Thus, the Grand System is not fragmented.

 

And footnotes this with:

 

The Grand system of Tao is supported by the reverting nature of Chi, man as vessels, and the Sage as the leader.

 

Have fun!

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Okay. So I will add to the wonderment of the last line.

 

Wayne Wang translates it as:

 

Thus, the Grand System is not fragmented.

 

And footnotes this with:

 

The Grand system of Tao is supported by the reverting nature of Chi, man as vessels, and the Sage as the leader.

 

Have fun!

 

Nice - also accompanied with some more interpretation. Thanks. :)

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A slightly different twist on the last bit from Hamill's translation:

 

Return to simplicity.

The uncarved block is made useful into tools.

The sage employs these means.

Therefore the enduring master carves,

but never hacks.

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A slightly different twist on the last bit from Hamill's translation:

 

Return to simplicity.

The uncarved block is made useful into tools.

The sage employs these means.

Therefore the enduring master carves,

but never hacks.

 

Yeah, I have seen one similar to that but I don't recall who's translation.

 

A good way of expressing the idea.

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I was wondering if anybody would be able to shed some light on the final sentence of this chapter based on the original Chinese text / characters?

We should look at the last section together, which is preceded by opposites which should be kept together. The preceding sections end with:

 

WU: And return again to Primal Simplicity

English/Feng: Return to the state of the uncarved block.

 

While I often like simplicity, I see using the explicit 'uncarved block' is not just a pun but the literal meaning of the entire section.

 

Final lines after the 'return':

樸 散 則 為 器

Uncarved Block Divided [contrast previous thought] acts tools

聖 人 用 之

Sage Uses

則 為 官 長

[contrast previous thought] acts Head Official

故 大 制 不 割

Thus Great System Not Cut Apart

 

I would read the ending as:

The uncarved block once divided becomes mere tools

Yet in the [original] use by a Sage

He becomes a head official

Thus, great governing systems do not cut (or divide) themselves up.

 

I personally think that what is mis-conveyed by omission is the double contrast. The section just spoke throughout as to NOT divide opposites and return to the "UNCARVED" block.

 

The first CONTRAST: If it is divided, it is just tools.

The second CONTRAST puts it BACK to an UNCARVED state: A Sage uses it in it's original form; Thus governing should be that way.

 

Aside from that meaning, Derek's is next best approach IMO. He, like most, just don't treat the double contrast.

Edited by dawei

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We should look at the last section together, which is preceded by opposites which should be kept together. The preceding sections end with:

 

 

While I often like simplicity, I see using the explicit 'uncarved block' is not just a pun but the literal meaning of the entire section.

 

Final lines after the 'return':

樸 散 則 為 器

Uncarved Block Divided [contrast previous thought] acts tools

聖 人 用 之

Sage Uses

則 為 官 長

[contrast previous thought] acts Head Official

故 大 制 不 割

Thus Great System Not Cut Apart

 

I would read the ending as:

The uncarved block once divided becomes mere tools

Yet in the [original] use by a Sage

He becomes a head official

Thus, great governing systems do not cut (or divide) themselves up.

 

 

the meaning of 器 in old texts is misunderstood. both in DDJ and in confucian literature, it means "talented persons". So, the entire chapter is a HR policy for the government.

 

last line says: if those who come from the uncarved block (produced as per process decribed above)are employed in governing then the resulting system of governing can not be damaged/cut/carved. The logic being that uncarved block is uncarvABLE.

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The logic being that uncarved block is uncarvABLE.

 

Now that is one great concept. Can we remain uncarved?

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Now that is one great concept. Can we remain uncarved?

 

Perhaps we can be both carved and uncarved at the same time.

 

Both: perpetually dynamic, reflecting the reverting nature of tao.

 

Neither 'mere'. <_<

 

 

 

 

****

 

Eric23 - nice.

 

Return to simplicity.

The uncarved block is made useful into tools.

The sage employs these means.

Therefore the enduring master carves,

but never hacks.

 

Master carving could still reflect the uncarved aspect; hacking away might diminish it.

 

 

 

warm regards

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Perhaps we can be both carved and uncarved at the same time.

 

 

Yeah, I try my best to be that way. It is a lot easier now that I am retired. Hehehe.

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the meaning of 器 in old texts is misunderstood. both in DDJ and in confucian literature, it means "talented persons". So, the entire chapter is a HR policy for the government.
Sounds good. Just give an example from the old texts.

 

In a search of Pre-Qin and Han text, I don't find that useage:

http://ctext.org/pre-qin-and-han?searchu=%E5%99%A8

 

 

last line says: if those who come from the uncarved block (produced as per process decribed above)are employed in governing then the resulting system of governing can not be damaged/cut/carved. The logic being that uncarved block is uncarvABLE.

UncarvABLE? I don't agree since Lao Zi already negates that idea with:

樸 散 則 為 器

 

This shows that some will cut (divide) it up.

 

I see it as he means: what is uncarved (nature's way), do not carve up (man's way). Leave it to it's nature (the great way).

Edited by dawei

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散人 a person not harnessed with duties;

散才,散儒 (AC) unconventional scholar.

http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/

I often refer to Lin Yutang's translation and commentary book.

 

In your case, 散 is the first character of an absent compound in the text; yet it follows 樸 (which you evidently don't want to modify) and before 則, which is a contrast clause which it can't modify.

 

I can only surmise you imply 散 to be short-hand for a compound that doesn't exist in the text and you have no Qin or Pre-Han examples of.

 

The earlist commentaries have no comment. The first commentary I find a comment is 200 BC, Heshang Gong says:

"All the myriad things derive from the cutting of the uncarved block, as then you

create utensils with various functions. But if the Way is never cut, it forms a single guiding light, streaming out as the sun and moon, dividing up as the Five Elements."

 

I am not against your very interesting idea IF you could show some usage somewhere other than an online compound reference. I'd just like to see an early usage of the compound.

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I often refer to Lin Yutang's translation and commentary book.

 

In your case, 散 is the first character of an absent compound in the text; yet it follows 樸 (which you evidently don't want to modify) and before 則, which is a contrast clause which it can't modify.

 

I can only surmise you imply 散 to be short-hand for a compound that doesn't exist in the text and you have no Qin or Pre-Han examples of.

 

 

true because it is not a compound and does not have to be. 散 here means scattered, unassociated, unemployed and is predominantly applied to people in pre-Han usage

 

lets first look at 樸. from here http://ctext.org/excavated-texts?searchu=%E6%A8%B8

 

16 老子甲: 我欲不欲而民自樸。 "when i desire to be without desires then the people are becoming simple on their own" its obvious that 樸 is a characteristic of the people/persons.

 

so when those simple and unassociated persons are made tools of the state, comprised into a Grand Government, then such a state can not be hurt.

 

now lets look at usage of 器 tools in DDJ, an explicit example is

 

31 老子乙道... :夫兵者,不祥之器也,....。故兵者非君子之器;兵者不祥□器也

 

者 is unmistakable signifier of persons. so the passage says: warrior persons are not luck-bringing tools/officials. ....That is why warriors are not fit to be officials for the rulers; warriors are not lucky officials.

Edited by Daode

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Daode. I realized later I posed some of my thoughts not as I really wanted but you answered as I wanted. Thanks for the post. I like your points.

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Daode. I realized later I posed some of my thoughts not as I really wanted but you answered as I wanted. Thanks for the post. I like your points.

oh thank you right back, my pleasure. all in all this is by far the most amusing chpt in entire DDJ, both by original ideas and by subsequent miscomprehension

 

 

 

starting from the first line that was originally

 

28 老子乙道... : 知其雄,守其雌,為天下鷄。為天下鷄,

 

"manage the cock keep the hen, then the entire country will be chickens, so De does not depart"

 

uh-ah..wait ..WHAAA? chickens?!!! :rolleyes:

 

and yet it IS the correct version. go figure.

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28 老子乙道... : 知其雄,守其雌,為天下鷄。為天下鷄,

 

"manage the cock keep the hen, then the entire country will be chickens, so De does not depart"

This character for chicken appears to be MWD B only.

 

The characters appear as:

MWD A: 溪 (xi = creek / rivulet)

MWD B: 雞 (fowl / chicken)

Fu Yi, Heshang Gong, Wang Bi: 谿 (xi = creek / rivulet)

 

One can see the same character part throughout.

 

---

 

While support for MWD B is weak given all translations follow "Xi"; The sentence makes no sense as rivers or creek or steams. Thus, the MWD B use of "ji" (chicken) actually makes sense.

 

Once again. THANKS!

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Have intensity, yet keep subtle.


Be what the world naturally goes to and comes from.


In this way, what is naturally human does not seem vanished.


Be as you were born.


Know the brightness but keep being soft and easy.


Be what is compared to not natural.


Being natural, the power of nature doesn't stray.


Know where pride is said to be due, but remain humiliated.


Be what the world returns to;


remaining as you were born, not lacking in anything will be sufficient.


Be unconditioned;


the conditioned are exploited and used.


But the wise ones do not exploit them or use them,


and becomes the light.



So it is best to be as you were born.

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