宠辱若惊,贵大患若身。

何谓宠辱若惊?

宠為下。

得之若惊

失之若惊

是谓宠辱若惊。

何谓贵大患若身

吾所以有大患者,

為吾有身,

及吾无身,

吾有何患。

故贵以身為天下,

若可寄天下。

爱以身為天下,

若可托天下。

Favour and disgrace are overwhelming.

Treat them as if a great sufferings to yourself.

What are favour and disgrace except trouble and embarassment?

Favour diminishes and gain is overwhelming.

Loss is overwhelming.

To be called favoured or disgraced is overwhelming.

What is gain except trouble and embarassment?

The domain of the self is a great personal suffering.

To act the self is to have a self.

Self realisation is self abandonment.

The self is the how of suffering.

So the precious thing is to act under Heaven

as one dwells under Heaven,

to love is to act under Heaven

as one serves under Heaven.

COMMENTARY

This passage contrasts the life of self-interest with a life “under Heaven”. When our concern is with self, our attention is upon gain and loss, favour and disgrace. The text is at pains to point out that what we think we want is actually only a source of endless trouble. This is the message of all the great religions.

The line 及吾无身 is very close in meaning to Dogen's famous line “to know the self is to forget the self”. Perhaps this is where he got it from.

There is a contrast in the verse that is hard to convey in English between and both of which mean self. The former suggests the subject or actor and the latter more the embodied being, or the space that one occupies, physically and metaphorically. There is, here, therefore, something of the Taoist notion that in order to act well one must get oneself out of the way. How does one get out of the way? By being a child of Heaven rather than an independent operator.

The domain of self” and “under Heaven” are two contrasting spiritual or psychological domains or modes. One is either in the one or one is in the other. The primary delusion that we suffer from is that of making oneself into a special case, more worthy (or unworthy) than everything else in the cosmos. To act cleanly one needs to shed this illusion. The only way to do so is to put a new attitude in its place. In the Chinese culture one will call this new attitude dwelling under Heaven. Heaven, as the dwelling place of the ancestors, is conceived as both the source of help (grace) and also of direction (omen).

Under Heaven also refers to everything. When we refer to everything under Heaven we imply a sense of equality. Heaven smiles equally upon all. This is like the parable of the Dharma rain in the Lotus Sutra.

Also, Heaven is supreme. Therefore, any worldly gain or favour will be as nothing in comparison. If one identifies as "under Heaven" one does not crave for worldly recognition because it ceases to be of any relative importance. One duty and loyalty are to a higher power.

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Hope you'll do more of these!

Translating Chinese is a slow process, but rather satisfying.

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