Chapter of the Week: #39 [Archive]

By embracing the solitary, desolate and hapless nature of my 'bio-prison', my life is thus added to by being diminished. Ironically, I feel more deeply connected than when I thought I was in charge (i.e., free will / choice). Knowing that self, will, choice, etc. are figments of imagination frees me from much of the emotional chaos I used to get caught up in. Let me explain...

:idea: Animals, our species included, are never naturally content. This insatiable state of rising desire is a biological imperative. Natural circumstances provide a counter balancing pull which maintains the natural balance in wild animals (by and large). Our hominid cleverness has steadily enabled us to manipulate nature ? to insulate ourselves from its harsher aspects ? so that we can increase our level of comfort and security to match our ever rising expectations. We've succeeded beyond our cave dwelling ancestors' wildest dreams. Heck, we've succeeded beyond the 19th century's wildest dreams. This has, over the millennia, had deep unintended consequences. It is this, and not some devil, that is the source of humanities 'original sin' / 'evil' side :twisted:

Can I (we) resolve this quandary? No... and... yes. Biologically no..., but continually realizing this 'prison reality' helps me pace my expectations and to [chref=64]desire not to desire[/chref] This pulls me back to greater balance. Knowing I'm a prisoner of my biology liberates me to a large extent. A similar peace come from deeply accepting Buddha's First Noble Truth (and the three other truths also, of course).


  • edited May 2006
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 39 was originally featured on the 2nd week in October, 2004.

    Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 39
    Of old, these came to be in the possession of the One:
    Heaven in virute of the One is limpid;
    Earth in virtue of the One is settled;
    Gods in virtue of the One have their potencies;
    The valley in virtue of the One is full;
    The myriad creatures in virtue of the One are alive;
    Lords and princes in virtue of the One become leaders in the empire.
    It is the One that makes these what they are.

    Without what makes it limpid heaven might split;
    Without what makes it settled earth might sink;
    Without what gives them their potencies gods might spend themselves;
    Without what makes it full the valley might run dry;
    Without what keeps them alive the myriad creatures might perish;
    Without what makes them leaders lords and princes might fall.

    Hence the superior must have the inferior as root; the high must have the low as a base.

    Thus lords and princes refer to themselves as 'solitary', 'desolate', and
    'hapless'. This is taking the inferior as root, is it not?

    Hence the highest renown is without renown,
    Not wishing to be one among many like jade
    Nor to be aloof like stone.
  • edited December 1969
    It is the One that makes these what they are; points to what the myriad things have in common. Because I'm so instinctively driven to notice differences more than similarities, the common ground easily goes unnoticed. This is made all the more so because the One is not 'something' separate which I can name, beyond that [chref=25]makeshift name [/chref] which I'm now calling the One. The problem with makeshift names is that it is easy to forget that is what they are... and bingo, a word like the One (or any word for that matter) gets in the way of the reality it symbolizes and take on a life of its own. Oh well.

    One way I ponder the One is to imagine the merging of yin and yang. That's too abstract for me, so instead I merge familiar opposites to which yin and yang correlate, e.g., [chref=20] good and evil[/chref], beautiful and ugly or any other pair of opposites which correlate . Really chewing on the co-generative nature of such opposites helps me know the One more deeply and realize the truly makeshift nature of all names. After all, [chref=32]Only when it is cut are there names.[/chref]

    I'm biologically driven to value the superior. I reckon that this instinct is the root of the social/hierarchal/tribal instinct. I can't help but seek to maintain or increase my social standing (at least in my own mind). This sense of superiority is, in turn, driven by an underlying sense (and fear) of inferiority. So, I scramble around to reach renown. . . to 'be all I can be'. The more inferior I feel, the more superiority will be important to me. Ha, what irony the ego!

    Now, this would appear to be a futile and endless game. Curiously, when I honestly face and accept my inferiority, I'm able to diffuse this reactive situation... at least enough to feel peaceful. Realizing that I truly am an animal, not really different from an ant, for example, gives me a base upon which to root my life... of course, such 'realizing' must be a continuous, moment to moment, feeling... for as soon as I forget my base, I'm thrust back into the 'game'.
  • JoeJoe
    edited December 1969
    I think of the One as underlying every situation I?m in throughout my day. Whatever the struggles are, when I can take a step back and remember that the One is present in everything, everyone, which includes anybody I may be having difficulty with. We all have this common ?Root?. I can also see that everything in life manifests from this One, that whatever desires I?m experiencing originate from this commonality. Which helps put the reins on trying to satisfy whatever desire is current. It?s easy to mistakenly pursue desire, as if getting what I think I want will return me to the One, to some contentment. Which of course has the opposite effect.

    These days the true nature of desire is in the forefront of my thoughts. Seeing desires as causing suffering in life makes it hard to ?attach? to anything, to invest my energy in pursuing goals, or whatever I might think desireable. I relate to the feeling of ?solitary, desolate, hapless?. Not being so attached to desire, seeing it as illusory, can give rise to feeling different from much of what I see in the culture I?m part of. Embracing the Tao feels like being everywhere and nowhere, instead of focused on some concrete aspect of life. Taking the inferior as root is so grounding, and yet seems so easily uprooted, flying away into yet another pursuit of some desire.
  • edited December 1969
    Greetings all

    I just discovered this website. I haven't explored it all yet, but, a little at a time! This chapter deals with something I have been working on for months now. It has to do with what I am tentatively calling a "vertical dualism" which is contrasted with a "horizontal dualism." There is a vertical dualism, where one of the dyads is the foundation of the other, and a horizontal dualism where both are equal and require each other. I see a lot of vertical dualism in Laozi's way, as well as horizontal.

    If one wishes to be taken seriously by others and to be respected, this occurs not from boasting about how smart, wise, attractive or worthy of respect one is, but rather by doing the opposite: being simple and humble about oneself, speaking sincerely and behaving/acting effectively. As stated in this chapter, ?the superior must have the inferior as root; the high must have the low as a base.? "Base" is interesting, as it can mean "basis and foundation" as well as "Inferior in value or quality," both of which are implied here.

    All endeavours start small and are built upon a foundation. Attention to the foundation is the most important. The Daoist ?abides in the fruit and not in the flower? (Laozi 38 ). The Dao, the One, (and often in the Zhuangzi, Tian-Heaven), is the fundamental source and foundation of all the myriad things. In the Laozi/Daodejing, we can see alot of what Wang Bi called, "honouring the root? (Chong Ben 崇本). The branches are of secondary importance.

    Happiness and Harmony,
    Bao Pu
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