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[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 3

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3

Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves;

Not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves;

Not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.

Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.

He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it).

When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal. 

 

 

Lau

 

3

Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention; 
Not to value goods which are hard to come by will keep them from theft; 
Not to display what is desirable will keep them from being unsettled of mind.

Therefore in governing the people, the sage empties their minds but fills their bellies, weakens their wills but strengthens their bones. 
He always keeps them innocent of knowledge and free from desire, and ensures that the clever never dare to act.

Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail. 

 

Feng/English

 

3

Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling. 
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing. 
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.

The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones. 
If men lack knowledge and desire, then clever people will not try to interfere. 
If nothing is done, then all will be well.

 

Bill Porter (Red Pine)

 

Bestowing no honors keeps people from fighting 

prizing no treasures keeps people from stealing 

displaying no attractions keeps people from making trouble

thus the rule of the sage empties the mind but fills the stomach

weakens the will  but strengthens the bones

by keeping the people from knowing or wanting 

and those who know from daring to act

the sage governs them all

 

 

Jonathan Star

 

3

Putting a value on status will cause people to compete
Hoarding treasure will turn them into thieves
Showing off possessions will disturb their daily lives.
Thus the Sage rules by stilling minds and opening hearts by filling bellies and strengthening bones
He shows people how to be simple and live without desires
To be content and not look for other ways
With the people so pure
Who could trick them?
What clever ideas could lead them astray?
When action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place

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I used to read it as "Empty your mind and fill your belly", as if it was referring to me, the reader. A simple bit of advice from a self-help book. But I was (bizarrely) ignoring very clear terms like "governing the people".

 

Foremost it's (explicitly) referring to the people, the masses. Keep the people stupid, ignorant, unambitious, and they won't cause trouble. Everyone/everything will be peaceful.

 

Good advice. Until widespread democracy and the internet. Now the people are ignorant and think we're capable of making sensible political decisions.

Edited by dust
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I always like to see Daodejing discussion on Dao Bums. As far as I’m concerned, reading any version of the Daodejing is better than not reading it all. It’s something to be encouraged. 

 

Hence I’m happy for this discussion to be predominately a general one about each verse, rather than focusing on the differences in the cited translations as was the stated intention. Certainly, some differences are worthy of mention, but these are few in comparison to the similarities. For this verse all the above translations read much the same to me.  (However, I suspect there will be some significant differences in future verses.)   

 

To add some mild polemic, I could argue that Jonathan Star takes the most liberties with insertions such as “opening hearts,” and by watering down the key idea of “keeping the people from knowing”. But such interpretations with their tinge of Christian- Humanist influences, obviously have strong contemporary appeal. They give the Daodejing wider appeal, and that certainly is not without merit. If the words inspire a spark of interest, then surely they’ve served a worthwhile function. The living Dao can never be expressed in words anyway, hence the words we use to evoke it must be allowed a measure of fluidity; must be allowed to move with the times. Those inspired by the Daodejing who seek more knowledge of classical Daoism will look deeper than just reading one translation.  

 

I feel drawn to much of classical Daoism with its non-patriarchal and less anthropocentric worldview, but the reality is that the Daoist vision of a simple, agrarian utopia has not eventuated.  It has proved a Daoist error to impose this very human intent onto the actual processes of the eternal Dao in the world. For me, that’s paradoxical because it is precisely the strand of Daoism that advocates the letting go of all such intents that so appeals to me about the Daoism of the Daodejing and especially the Zhuangzi.   

 

 

On a more technical level. for his translation of this verse Red Pine notes…….

 

Between the penultimate and final lines, the Fuyi edition and Tunhuang copy S.477 insert wei-wu-wei, "they act by not acting:' while Mawangtui B has wu-wei-er-yi, "by simply not acting." Commentators who accept such versions often quote Confucius: "To govern without effort, that was Shun. And what did he do? He simply faced south and bowed" (Lunyu: 15-4). But such an emendation, however Taoist, is superfluous here, and was probably interpolated from elsewhere in the text. This verse is absent in the Kuotien texts.
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Hence I’m happy for this discussion to be predominately a general one about each verse, rather than focusing on the differences in the cited translations as was the stated intention. Certainly, some differences are worthy of mention, but these are few in comparison to the similarities. For this verse all the above translations read much the same to me.  (However, I suspect there will be some significant differences in future verses.)

 

 

I missed something along the way...! Wasn't aware what the stated intention of these threads was -- based on responses, assumed that it was just a fresh go at discussing the text chapter by chapter.

 

But yes, even now I'm aware that the idea is to seek differences between translations (something my pedantic and argumentative nature usually jumps to!), I don't have much to say. The primary/explicit meaning is pretty clear. Though I'm sure some bums have some neigong-based and other esoteric interpretations. And Marblehead's version, applying the advice to oneself, also works as decent advice, perhaps.

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Notice that Lao would fill bellies, and provide light handed guidance ,,this satiation being enough to let them be naturally good.Whereas Shun,(and Confucius) say sit around and do nothing for their people as ruling figureheads.

If one applies this advice on the personal scale, youd be getting told to either take care of your basic needs by Lao (and Chuang) ,but by Confucius and Shun, youre directed to sit aound and do nothing hoping for magic.

Personally, I think rather poorly of Shun and Confucius plan which makes for useless rulers ,starving public .

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I missed something along the way...! Wasn't aware what the stated intention of these threads was -- based on responses, assumed that it was just a fresh go at discussing the text chapter by chapter.

 

Yeah, the way this discussion is being shaped over different threads means it’s a little disjointed. Hence, I’ll add this comment from Flowing Hands as an important juxtaposition to my above post.  To my mind, these are not contrary positions but a yin / yang pair. 

 

The main reason why I wanted to start this thread is to highlight that there is enormous difficulty in firstly the varying translations, the translators background and their own perspectives and of course our own understanding of those words.

 

This is very important. We must remember that Lao Tzu was on his 'Xian Dao' path; his understanding was that of an enlightened person. He said many things from his own perspective and this perspective was from his understanding of Dao xin and the processes involved. If a translation does not come from this very special perspective and that the characters/pictograms are not the same as the original or shortened by copyists, we already have a massive misunderstanding conveyed to be misunderstood by others who then read them.

 

This is a great problem which I aimed to relieve to some extent. 

 

 

 

Edited by Yueya
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I agree that this is pretty basic...

 

Drop desires and simply live you life (fill your belly).

 

I would agree that it would be more interesting to discuss (and potentially disagree) with the deeper meaning interpreting the TTC, than debating the actual words of the various translations. I think all of us bring unique insights based upon experience that add color and depth.

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I agree that this is pretty basic...

Drop desires and simply live you life (fill your belly).

I would agree that it would be more interesting to discuss (and potentially disagree) with the deeper meaning interpreting the TTC, than debating the actual words of the various translations. I think all of us bring unique insights based upon experience that add color and depth.

Agree that..

 

Drop desires and simply live you life

 

But ...

 

Can anyone reach it?

 

Drop all the desires?

 

When we have the desires, can we drop them ?

 

I know I can't.

 

How about you?

 

 

 

When I have "I", I have desires.

 

I know my desires always there.

 

When I have no "I", then desires disappear.

 

The desires follow the exist of ego.

 

The existence of ego produce the desires.

 

So the next chapter, ch 4, talk about the Xiuan Guan again.

Edited by awaken
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So Awaken, I see you suggesting that ego drives desires.  I would agree if you are referring to an ego that has expanded beyond reality (whether spiritual or physical).

 

This would bring us back to the need to keep our ego in check, making sure that it is reflecting reality.

 

You know, I would love to have a new BMW.  That would boost my ego.  But I have enough money for only a broke-down, beat-up Ford.

 

So which do I buy?  The Ford or the BMW?

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So Awaken, I see you suggesting that ego drives desires. I would agree if you are referring to an ego that has expanded beyond reality (whether spiritual or physical).

 

This would bring us back to the need to keep our ego in check, making sure that it is reflecting reality.

 

You know, I would love to have a new BMW. That would boost my ego. But I have enough money for only a broke-down, beat-up Ford.

 

So which do I buy? The Ford or the BMW?

I don't know.

 

But I receive your qi. Very strong. This qi make me unconsentrate. In lower Dan tian and legs.

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I don't know.

 

But I receive your qi. Very strong. This qi make me unconsentrate. In lower Dan tian and legs.

 

Yeah, I effect a lot of women that way, even now in my old age.

 

I will try redirecting my Chi.  I have a physical problem I need to attend to.  I haven't do so yet as I don't know if I need dominant Yin or dominant Yang energy.  Something I need to work on.

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To add some mild polemic, I could argue that Jonathan Star takes the most liberties with insertions such as “opening hearts,” and by watering down the key idea of “keeping the people from knowing”. But such interpretations with their tinge of Christian- Humanist influences, obviously have strong contemporary appeal. They give the Daodejing wider appeal, and that certainly is not without merit. If the words inspire a spark of interest, then surely they’ve served a worthwhile function. The living Dao can never be expressed in words anyway, hence the words we use to evoke it must be allowed a measure of fluidity; must be allowed to move with the times. Those inspired by the Daodejing who seek more knowledge of classical Daoism will look deeper than just reading one translation.  

 

His insertion of 'opening hearts' is a bit curious... the line is split among translators as either emptying the mind vs emptying the heart because the chinese character is XIN, heart-mind.    I find it mildly insightful, if his suggestion is that as you empty your mind your heart will open.

 

I'm not sure if Flowing Hands sees this playing into his common usage of having a heart of Dao, Dao Xin. (?)

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I would agree that it would be more interesting to discuss (and potentially disagree) with the deeper meaning interpreting the TTC, than debating the actual words of the various translations. I think all of us bring unique insights based upon experience that add color and depth.

 

Likely we'll never get away from talking some actual words as long as I'm sticking my nose in the verse  :D

 

But to the 'deeper meaning' idea, it would be interesting to maybe discuss Dust's [negative] criticism, which might be stated as:  

What good is it to really dump down the populous ?  

 

Is it just for an orderly mass of inept folks who are too stupid to know what to act on or how to act?

 

BTW:  This is taking some liberty and continuing Dust's comments, I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but the criticism seems to be the deeper issue to get our arms around.

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Likely we'll never get away from talking some actual words as long as I'm sticking my nose in the verse  :D

 

But to the 'deeper meaning' idea, it would be interesting to maybe discuss Dust's [negative] criticism, which might be stated as:  

What good is it to really dump down the populous ?  

 

Is it just for an orderly mass of inept folks who are too stupid to know what to act on or how to act?

 

BTW:  This is taking some liberty and continuing Dust's comments, I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but the criticism seems to be the deeper issue to get our arms around.

 

 

I don't quite see it that way.  More like treat everyone fair and equally at a society level.  If you make some people more important than others, people become jealous. If you set up a class structure, people will get caught up in it and there will never be peace.

 

It is more stating that "When action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place" and that a sage can help teach and lead by example.

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Likely we'll never get away from talking some actual words as long as I'm sticking my nose in the verse  :D

 

But to the 'deeper meaning' idea, it would be interesting to maybe discuss Dust's [negative] criticism, which might be stated as:  

What good is it to really dump down the populous ?  

 

Is it just for an orderly mass of inept folks who are too stupid to know what to act on or how to act?

 

BTW:  This is taking some liberty and continuing Dust's comments, I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but the criticism seems to be the deeper issue to get our arms around.

One can certainly spin the text to read from a negative polemic , words like inept and stupid generally connote as being 'bad' , but !  from a non-bad-declaring position ,,, that spin isn't in play.  

 

For instance , using myself so as not to inadvertently be insulting ,,, I am muddling through life , not knowing really what is best , guessing on who to vote for , taking uninformed chances with every step.

I never expected to be here , to live this day , nor do I know the next moment truly till I get to it.

I'm filled with subconscious ideas biases and predispositions and a legacy from a crappy childhood socialization done by parents who really had no business raising a child.

So If that identifies me as stupid and ignorant and ego-driven ,, well, I gotta admit its true, or I could lie , knowing that its actually true ( a more intolerable stance IMO ) . 

 

But , , if someone felt merciful they might agree that this is the basic human circumstance and so its not really especially fair to slap on the negative connotations that I ALone am especially stupid etc. 

Or , it could be spun as innocence or something, and again be seen as true. 

Thusly the connotation of these terms is in the eye of the beholder , though the truth of it without the spin is objectively true,

 

and personally ,, since I can admit this stuff is true without melting , falling down on my face in shame , or denting my already tarnished rep .. its really not a big deal though I' would defend a bit if accusations were thrust at me with hostility over it.

Edited by Stosh
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Summary, based on comments:

 

1. So empty your mind and fill your belly.  You will be physically content and without worry.
2. Lao would fill bellies, and provide light handed guidance ,,this satiation being enough to let them be naturally good.
3. Drop desires and simply live you life (fill your belly).
4. Drop desires and simply live you life
5. More like treat everyone fair and equally at a society level.  If you make some people more important than others, people become jealous. If you set up a class structure, people will get caught up in it and there will never be peace.  It is more stating that "When action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place" and that a sage can help teach and lead by example.
 
I feel there was a valid criticism of the normal interpretation that was:
 

What good is it to really dumb down the populous ?  

 

Is it just for an orderly mass of inept folks who are too stupid to know what to act on or how to act?

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I'm not going to just quote Lau, as per the previous two chapters as it has been useful reading across all these translations :)

 

But yes, like most have said, it appears to be presenting idea of keeping people at ease and making them strong with the lack of desirable things on display.

 

The first thing I think of is Christmas haha. Using more modern analogies, also things like; showing of material worth, high status within an organisation and so forth. The reason being is that this leads to damaging emotions such as jealousy, spite, theft, and various other retaliations.

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  • Verse Three

 

Not holding good things in high esteem

Is how to keep people from arguing.

Not to go to the trouble of acquiring expensive goods

Is how to keep people from turning to thievery.

 

Don’t have a plan for how to control events

And people won’t get the idea of chaos and disorder.

It won’t occur to them to throw a monkey wrench into your works

Or commit sabotage.

 

When the right person is in charge of anything

people  don’t feel the need to worry. 

 

Put the truth in their bellies

And people won’t need anything.

 

Strengthen their bones

And people won’t want anything.

 

So called grown-ups representing someone else’s authority

And with their own wisdom

Won’t have any changes to make.

 

Do by not doing

Do nothing, don’t use authority.

Lead without leading.

 

 

 

If I brag at the bar, someone’s going to take it up and argue with me.

If I just have to have expensive things, 

My house is more of a target for burglars

And I have more reason to watch out for pickpockets 

And con men.

 

My big complicated get rich scheme

Might get copycats, competitors, even unwanted attention from the authorities

Don’t build the works, nobody can throw a monkey wrench into them.

 

If I’m in charge of something,

You don’t have to give it another thought

Don’t worry about it.

 

If I’m cooking a meal,

 Don’t even think about it.

it’ll be delicious and healthy,

You’ll be satisfied.

You won’t go hungry

I might ask you to clear the table afterwards.

 

I like to handle things in such a way that

Nobody shows up and drags me away

Or otherwise interferes.

 

In Hamlet, it’s the authorities “next kingdom over” 

Who intervene at the end of the play.

I try to keep my relationship with the authorities 

At this kind of distance.

Nothing going on here, officer.

I’m not bothering anybody, so nobody bothers me.

If more people followed my example

The world would be a better place

But it would be unhelpful 

For me to go around saying so.

I just try to keep out of everyone else's 

Way, to make a space for them.

 

In years gone by

I had noted that language

Left to churn along by its own logic alone

Always seems to have the tendency to wind downward,

To become more uselessly pessimistic

As it goes along.   You have to keep putting the inspiration, 

The music back in.



middle.jpg

 

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE

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