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[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 4

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Legge

 


The Tao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel; and in our 

employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness. How 

deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of 

all things!

We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of 

things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into 

agreement with the obscurity of others. How pure and still the Tao 

is, as if it would ever so continue!

I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before 

God. 

 

Lau

 


The way is empty, yet use will not drain it. 

Deep, it is like the ancestor of the myriad creatures.

Blunt the sharpness; 

Untangle the knots; 

Soften the glare; 

Let your wheels move only along old ruts.

Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there. 

I know not whose son it is. 

It images the forefather of God. 

 

Feng/English

 

4

The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled. 

Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things! 

Blunt the sharpness, 

Untangle the knot, 

Soften the glare, 

Merge with dust. 

Oh, hidden deep but ever present! 

I do not know from whence it comes. 

It is the forefather of the gods.

 

Bill Porter (Red Pine)

 

4

The Tao is so empty

those who use it

never become full again

and so deep

as if it were the ancestor of us all

it dulls our edges

unties our tangles

softens our light

and merges our dust

it's so clear

as if it were present

I wonder whose child it is

it seems it was here before Ti

 

Star

 

4

Tao is empty yet it fills every vessel with an endless supply

Tao is hidden yet it shines in every corner of the universe

With it, the sharp edges become smooth the twisted knots loosen the sun is softened by a cloud the dust settles into place

So deep, so pure, so still

It has been this way forever

You may ask, “Whose child is it?”- but I cannot say

This child was here before the Great Ancestor

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To me, Laozi is reflecting the rising and falling, the perpetual nature of all things - and the vastness of the eternal Tao.

 

Of the five renditions offered above, the FengEnglish comes closest, imo; the others have extraneous ideas added in.

 

More words count less; hold fast to the center. (-:

 

 

.

edit typo

Edited by rene
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Merge with dust? 

 

Interesting that 'dust' is often thought to represent the negative aspects of life... to get beyond the dusty world but LZ says to merge with it.

 

Feng/English say in Ch. 56:

 

Be at one with the dust of the earth.

This is primal union.

 

So I think one can associate dust with Dao or at least Heaven and Earth... but being a primal union, Dao makes the most sense.

 

There is some difference in whether the lines after the first two are then talking about Dao (Porter and Star) or the person (merge with dust).  

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Would say Star's translation makes most sense.

 

Along the lines of chapter 15:

 

"Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?"

 

Of course, there may be variations of this translation too...

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Well, Okay.  Time for me to speak.

 

Henricks' translation

 

 

1.  The Way ...
2. 
3. 
4.  It (the Way of Dao) files down sharp edges;
5.  Unties the tangles;
6.  Softens the glare;
7.  And settles the dust.

 

 

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4. It (the Way of Dao) files down sharp edges;

.

Can a verb have a 'Way' ?

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Well, Okay.  Time for me to speak.

 

Henricks' translation

 

 

1.  The Way ...

2. 

3. 

4.  It (the Way of Dao) files down sharp edges;

5.  Unties the tangles;

6.  Softens the glare;

7.  And settles the dust.

 

That didn't help... go back to your room without dinner  :P

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I like what Ellen Chen said about this chapter in her general comment (included below), which helps me make more sense of and see more connections between these first few chapters.

 

Her translation doesn't seem to differ much:

 

1. Tao is a whirling emptiness, 

Yet in use is inexhaustible.

Fathomless,

It seems to be the ancestor of ten thousand beings.

 

2. It blunts the sharp,

Unties the entangled,

Harmonizes the bright,

Mixes the dust,

Dark,

It seems perhaps to exist.

 

3. I do to know whose child it is,

It is an image of what precedes God (Ti)

 

Her General Comment (followed by a couple pages of Detailed Comments...)

 

"In Chapter 1 we witness the bifurcation of the everlasting Tao and name into the duality of non-being and being. In chapters 2 and 3 we are given the distinction between natural opposites that arise together and complement each other and value or moral opposites that break up the unity of nature and vitiate human life. In this chapter we see how opposites, which issue from Tao, become again identified when they return to Tao. Tao is the dark womb that pours out (1) and receives back (2) all beings. Its unceasing fecundity is due to its unceasing activity, blending and preparing all that have returned to it  for their reemergence into the light of existence.  As this unceasing creativity Tao hardly seems to exist, yet it is prior to God or the Lord on High.

 

(Sorry I left out a number of chinese words she includes in the translation. I could put them in if needed/helpful.)

Edited by cheya
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I like what Ellen Chen said about this chapter in her general comment (included below), which helps me make more see some connections between these first few chapters.

 

Her translation doesn't seem to differ much:

 

1. Tao is a whirling emptiness,

Yet in use is inexhaustible.

Fathomless,

It seems to be the ancestor of ten thousand beings.

 

2. It blunts the sharp,

Unties the entangled,

Harmonizes the bright,

Mixes the dust,

Dark,

It seems perhaps to exist.

 

3. I do to know whose child it is,

It is an image of what precedes God (Ti)

 

Her General Comment (followed by a couple pages of Detailed Comments...)

 

"In Chapter 1 we witness the bifurcation of the everlasting Tao and name into the duality of non-being and being. In chapters 2 and 3 we are given the distinction between natural opposites that arise together and complement each other and value or moral opposites that break up the unity of nature and vitiate human life. In this chapter we see how opposites, which issue from Tao, become again identified when they return to Tao. Tao is the dark womb that pours out (1) and receives back (2) all beings. Its unceasing fecundity is due to its unceasing activity, blending and preparing all that have returned to it for their reemergence into the light of existence. As this unceasing creativity Tao hardly seems to exist, yet it is prior to God or the Lord on High.

 

(Sorry I left out a number of chinese words she includes in the translation. I could put them in if needed/helpful.)

Ohh that's really nice, Cheya, (-: From what book of hers is that? Might try & get it before heading back up tomorrow. Thanks!

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Hi Rene,

Glad you like it! It's from the Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary.

 

She explains a lot that I just never got from other translations. This was back when I was so into it that I got a bunch of translations... but her commentaries really are helpful at putting things together I otherwise miss. 

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I remember this chapter/verse/writings all those years ago and Li Erh saying to me of other translations, " where did they get this from?" (he said this quite a lot actually) This verse is about how incredibly vast and interconnected the Dao is. If you feel you know something about the Dao it will kick you awake and let you know that you actually don't know anything, it is so vast. We go back to Dao xin "look with your heart"  Daoist cultivation techniques known only to very few. "See its form in the glare" ie in some lights we can actually see energy as well as feel it. "Be at one with the dust of the Earth, simplify your nature" Again referring to self cultivation techniques. "Ever present, hidden in the depths of the myriad things" He is telling us where to look again, how we can source and cultivate.

 

Remember I started the thread about the DDJ being a shamanistic treatise, not in the modern sense of what people think of shamanism, but in the sense that the verses are about looking at the world from the heart and seeing the processes that are involved which is all about energy and matter and the inter-relationship between both.

There lies the heart of the Dao.

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Remember I started the thread about the DDJ being a shamanistic treatise, not in the modern sense of what people think of shamanism, but in the sense that the verses are about looking at the world from the heart and seeing the processes that are involved which is all about energy and matter and the inter-relationship between both.

There lies the heart of the Dao.

Yes, very much so.

 

I applaud your efforts, FlowingHands, and it may be that a few will be able to see what lies beneath your, my, and Laozi's words. But please do not be overly concerned if most do not. Their path is theirs and our path is ours...and I wish you the very best on yours.

 

Warm greetings (-:

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The meaning of chapter 4 for me...

 

The Tao is an empty primordial sea of motion and void.

It is the motion of this nothingness that gives birth to all that exists (10,000 things).

 

The steps to realize the Tao are hidden inside us, but always available. Those steps are...

 

Quiet the lower emotions,

Open the heart,

Move beyond the glare of the astral,

Merge (become one with) all, and be able to differentiate even the smallest partical of dust.

 

No one knows where the Tao come from, but knowing it gives birth to the Gods/Immortals.

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IMO Most of Laozi is arranged in explanatory fashion, so one was expected to apprehend rather than learn by osmosis regardless of what Chinese tradition with other texts and subjects may be.

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This chapter talks about the start of immortal,

 

The first view of immortal.

 

The first sentence talks about the first step, the emptiness.

 

The second sentence talks about the second stage of the emptiness, a big hole.

 

The third sentence talks about the changes of the hole.

 

The hole is full of light.

 

at first, the light of the hole has much dust.

 

Then it become clear and pure.

 

Then A immortal show up.

 

At first, it sink and come out.

 

Then it appear like a human.

 

But not a human.

 

This chapter talks about the process of the birth of immortal.

Edited by awaken

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Summary, based on comments:

 

1. Laozi is reflecting the rising and falling, the perpetual nature of all things - and the vastness of the eternal Tao.

 

2. This verse is about how incredibly vast and interconnected the Dao is. If you feel you know something about the Dao it will kick you awake and let you know that you actually don't know anything, it is so vast. We go back to Dao xin "look with your heart"  Daoist cultivation techniques known only to very few. "See its form in the glare" ie in some lights we can actually see energy as well as feel it. "Be at one with the dust of the Earth, simplify your nature" Again referring to self cultivation techniques. "Ever present, hidden in the depths of the myriad things" He is telling us where to look again, how we can source and cultivate.

 

3. The Tao is an empty primordial sea of motion and void. 
It is the motion of this nothingness that gives birth to all that exists (10,000 things).

Quiet the lower emotions, Open the heart,
Move beyond the glare of the astral,

Merge (become one with) all, and be able to differentiate even the smallest partical of dust.

 

4. This chapter talks about the process of the birth of immortal. 

the first step, the emptiness... then the second stage of the emptiness, a big hole… then the changes of the hole.  The hole is full of light. 

at first, the light of the hole has much dust, then it become clear and pure, then an immortal show up. At first, it sink and come out.  Then it appear like a human.   But not a human.
 

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Beware of the big (Super Massive) Black Hole though.  It does things that defy man's understandings of the physical laws of the universe.

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Posted (edited)

Ok, this one is tricky. Very abstract, but this is a fun game. I will contribute something and then read what y'all have put.

 

Firstly, I don't know if I trust Porter as much. Is there any verification that he can actually translate?

 

The meaning (again) to me seems to try and describe Dao and its paradoxical nature, akin to I guess how we practice. Empty yet fulfilled, inexhaustible. Also its nature that it preceded the concept of "God" and things as we know it.

 

The middle section can only mean that its cultivation takes away anything that is overbearing. Sharpness, tight knots and sun all have powerful imagery, and by smoothing sharpness, loosening the knot or adding a bit of cloud to the sun, we meet harmony.

Edited by Rara
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