TEXT

知人者智,自知者明。
胜人者有力,自胜者强。
知足者富,强行者有志,
不失其所者久,死而不亡者寿。


TRANSLATION

To understand others is wise, but to know oneself is radiant.
One who wins victories is powerful, but one who conquers himself is stronger.
The contented are rich.
Those who use force are ambitious
but those endure who do not lose their proper place.
To die without dying is the way to longevity.


COMMENTARY

A brief and incisive manifesto for the spiritual life. The last line is the most difficult to translate and different authorities have made different things of it. I think that my suggestion fits the Chinese and is in accord with the sentiment of the chapter.

The notion of not losing one’s proper place is in accord with much Chinese philosophy, not just Taoist. It is quite close to Dogen’s idea of accepting one’s lot that I have explained in my book on Genjo Koan.

The second line makes the same point as the Dhammapada where in verses 103-5 it says “Though one may conquer a thousand thousand men in battle, yet nobler is he who conquers himself. Self-conquest is far greater than to conquer others. Not even a god, Mara nor Brahma can turn to defeat the victory of one who subdues himself and is always restrained in conduct.”

The question I will then be asked is, how does one do so? The first line tells us that the key is in knowing oneself, which really means, coming to know human nature through noticing one’s own case. Knowing oneself here does not really mean knowing what makes one distinctive, but rather, through honestly observing one’s own case, coming to know the frailties that humankind in general is prey to.

Then one naturally develops compassion and wisdom because one no longer sees oneself as superior or different. One’s ego-centricity dies away. This is the meaning of dying without dying.

When one is literally dying many of the things that have occupied one’s mind throughout life seem completely unimportant. Our lives are complicated by inessentials. At the time of death one has much greater clarity. With the benefit of this clarity one may feel great regret, realising that much of one’s life has been wasted on trivia. Or, alternatively, one may feel great peace looking back on a life well lived. Thus, at the time of death there is some degree of natural awakening. Of course, it would be better to have such an awakening earlier in life and this is what is meant by dying before you die. Enlightenment is thus a kind of death. Also in Genjo Koan, Dogen says that the dead do not come back to life again. He is not talking about reincarnation or anything of the kind. What he means is that those who have experienced this kind of spiritual death do not fall back on the spiritual path.

In some versions of the Chinese text, the last line has some additional characters which change the meaning so that it reads “To die but not be forgotten is true longevity”. This sense can also accord with much Chinese wisdom where ancestor worship has been long practised. Here there is no final clarity about what the original text said, so we must leave that open. However, it seems to me that the choice I have made accords more closely with the general spirit of Lao Tzu's approach which is not about seeking the kind of fame that will live on but about living a life that does not offend the deep spiritual meaning and course of the Tao.

Views: 26

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

MY MEDICAL CONDITION

Posted by David Brazier on June 26, 2019 at 18:04 6 Comments

My medical condition continues to be a mystery. It is clear that I do not have any of the big nasty things - brain tumour, cracked skull, stroke, etc - as these have been ruled out by MRI investigation. Nonetheless I continue to have persistent, continuous head pain that varies in intensity and I become exhausted by the least effort so that I am functioning like an invalid incapable of doing very much. There is always a possibility that the whole syndrome is a…

Continue

Grace.

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on June 2, 2019 at 1:02 4 Comments

“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark Valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us… Continue

Sit

Posted by Geeta Chari on April 26, 2019 at 22:13 3 Comments

This is a short video of a Buddhist monk and his family. 

It raised questions on parenting and Buddhism - does detachment (or perhaps quietism), as practiced here, lead to demotivation and disengagement with the world around one?

His children find the detachment practised by the monk disquieting. They appreciate the irony of detachment, which is supposed to…

Continue

Zero Limits

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2019 at 14:13 0 Comments

 

 

 

I have recently been made aware of a practice known as Ho’ponopono. Ho’ponopono is an ancient Hawaiian healing practice, based on universal forgiveness, that was rediscovered and popularised in the 80s. A man called Joe Vitale(Hawaiian I think)  became enchanted by the practice after his daughter was healed from an…

Continue

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service