Chapter of the Week: #77

[cite]Posted By: Carl[/cite]
Gee Winn, I don't know about "fun". Sobering and serious is more the fare here.
But, there is a lighter side thanks to my sons:

No worries Carl. I'll learn some stuff. It'll be fun either way. :-)


  • edited August 2008
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. 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 77
    Is not the way of heaven like the stretching of a bow?
    The high it presses down,
    The low it lifts up;
    The excessive it takes from,
    The deficient it gives to.

    It is the way of heaven to take from what has in excess in order to make good
    what is deficient. The way of man is otherwise. It takes from those who are in
    want in order to offer this to those who already have more than enough. Who is
    there that can take what he himself has in excess and offer this to the empire?
    Only he who has the way.

    Therefore the sage benefits them yet exacts no gratitude,
    Accomplishes his task yet lays claim to no merit.

    Is this not because he does not wish to be considered a better man than others?

    Read commentary previously posted for this chapter.
    Read notes on translations
    Now, do it too at Wengu!
  • edited December 1969
    [Note: I italicize phrases I borrow from the chapter, and link to phrases I borrow from other chapters to help tie chapters together. While making it more tedious to read, :? the Tao Te Ching is best pondered in the context of the whole.]

    I prefer the vagueness of the literal compared with D.C. Lau’s, ‘Who is there that can take what he himself has in excess and offer this to the empire? Only he who has the way’, which is out of sync with what I see. Rather, this ideal is a deeply seated wish originating in humanity’s egalitarian social instinct. It matches Christ’s, “He that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none and he that hath meat let him do likewise”. But, as with many perceptions arising out of instinct, it is ‘self serving’. Self serving in an egalitarian [chref=78]paradoxical[/chref] way, of course.

    When we feel we actually already have more than enough, we can’t help but get rid of the surplus we feel we have. How we feel is the key. As an outsider judging another’s life, it is easy to say someone has more than enough. Yet, from a symptomatic point of view, we each acquire and cling to what we feel we need to feel balanced. The more impoverished we feel, the more we will hunger for more. On the other hand, [chref=33]he who knows contentment is rich[/chref] regardless of how much he has. In other words, [chref=46]in being content, one will always have enough.[/chref]

    Henry David Thoreau put it this way, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” Thus, in reality, the more you need to have, the poorer you are; the need to have is a symptom of feeling inadequate (i.e., [chref=16]emptiness[/chref]). Having great excess is a symptom of poverty. On the other hand, poverty is not a symptom of great excess. Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. The only true poverty is biologically based, like physical starvation or emotional ‘starvation’ (social disconnection, isolation, loneliness) (1). Ironically, the wealthier we become, the more susceptible we are to emotional ‘starvation’. As Christ put it, “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

    The less head scratching translation:
    The way of nature is like a stretching bow.
    The high restrains, the lower lifts.
    The surplus decreases, the insufficient benefits.
    The way of nature decreases surplus yet benefits the insufficient.
    The way of man, as a rule however, decreases the insufficient so as to give to the surplus.
    Who can have a surplus so as to give to nature's lows?
    Only those who have the way.
    The holy people use this to serve, yet do not rely on,
    Meritorious deeds result, yet not dwelled within.
    They don't desire to appear able and virtuous - how odd!

    The more head scratching literal:
    of sky (heaven; nature) way (road, principle) its (it, that; such) just as (like) open (spread; stretch) bow-shaped give (help; together with).
    tall (high; of a high level or degree) of restrain (repress) below ( lower; inferior) of lift (raise; hold up; act; deed; move).
    have (there is; exist) surplus (spare; beyond) of decrease (lose),
    no (not) foot (leg; enough; full) of repair (fill; supply> benefit; use).
    of sky (heaven; nature) way (road, principle),
    decrease (lose) have (there is; exist) surplus (spare; beyond) yet repair (fill; supply> benefit; use) not foot (leg; enough; full).
    human being (man; people) of way (road, principle), standard (norm; rule> imitate; follow) not right (correct; so> but; however),
    decrease (lose) not foot (leg; enough; full) use (take; because of; so as to) give (esteem; believe in) have (there is; exist) surplus (spare; beyond).
    who ability (energy; can) have (exist) surplus (beyond) use (take; because of; so as to) give (believe in) sky (heaven; nature) below (lower),
    only (alone) have (there is; exist) way (road, principle).
    this (that) use (take; because of; so as to) sage (saint; holy) human being (man; people) do (act; serve as; be) yet not rely on (depend on),
    meritorious deed (skill; work) accomplish (succeed; become) yet not place (dwell, live).
    he (she, it, they, that; such) not desire see (appear) able and virtuous heretical (irregular)!

    (1) Another name for emotional ‘starvation’ would be spiritual ‘starvation’.)
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