Friday, May 29, 2009

Contemplating the Tao ...

A friend the other day Twittered: "i used to fancy myself a bit of a Taoist. this might explain why I have difficulty coming up with tweets." (dwmdc), in one of those strange synchronicities, I'd been thinking about the Tao myself recently.

At one time I too fancied myself a bit of a Taoist, but took a sharp turn towards the Vedas and the Gita, some diversions into the I Ching via Carl Jung, swerved back to Christian mysticism but seem to be settling into a comfortable sloping into Buddhism ... but still ... still Lao Tzu his Tao te ching ... the Tao is a fantastic, concise summary of The Way, or, as my favorite Beatle, George Harrison rephrased it (Chapter 47):

Without going out of my door,
I can know all things on earth
without looking out of my window,
I can know the ways of heaven.

The farther one travels
the less one knows
the less one really knows.

(Inner Light)

Here's a section, Chapter 17, that I've been thinking about lately (from my battered, dogeared, marked up Penguin translation by D.C. Lau):

The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.
Next comes the ruler they love and praise;
Next comes one they fear;
Next comes one with whom they take liberties.
When there is not enough faith, there is lack of good faith.
Hesitant, he does not utter words lightly.
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The People all say, "It happened to us naturally."

Two more translations (available online):

Translation by S. Mitchell:

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"

Alternate translation (J. Legge):

In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there
were (their rulers). In the next age they loved them and praised
them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them.
Thus it was that when faith (in the Tao) was deficient (in the rulers)
a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).

How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing (by
their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the
people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!'

1 comment:

giltay said...

I would think the forced concise nature of tweets would be Tao-like in their simplicity. Am I missing something?

Anyhow, my own musical (vs. spiritual) journey over the years went from pop Paul, to angry John, and now I favor contemplative George, too. What really won me over was the lovely "Concert for George" tribute DVD set that came out awhile back. This puts me in the mood to listen to it this weekend....