Chapter 10

载营魄抱一,能毌離乎   
專氣至柔    嬰兒乎   
脩除玄監    能毌有疵乎    
民栝國   毌以知乎   
天門啟闔   能為雌乎   
明白四達   能毌以知乎 

  

生之畜之   

生而弗有   

畜而弗宰也

是胃玄德   


 

Unite body and soul – can you, without being dispersed?

Master the breath and be supple – can you, just as a child?

Cleanse the (inner) mirror - can you, free of all blemish?

Love the land and people as your own – can you, without putting on airs?

As the gates of heaven open and close, can you take the female part?

Make to shine the four attainments – can you, without affectation?

It gives birth and nurtures

Gives birth, yet without possessiveness

Nurtures, yet without oppression

A mysterious belly of kindness

COMMENTARY

This chapter lists four attainments that are goals of Taoist practice. They are as follows.

Firstly, to unite body and soul. This is essentially the same as the idea that we are both angels and beasts. Our animal nature involves us in instinctive behaviours and this is how we have our being within this material world. At the same time we also have intuitions of spiritual life that manifest at least as ideals. However, there is generally quite a gap between the ideal and the actual. This is a cause of inner tension. In the poem Sandokai, it says “With the ideal comes the actual, like a box all with its lid.” The encounter with reality often does “put the lid on” our ideals. The goal, therefore, is to arrive at a harmony between these sometimes seemingly irreconcilable dimensions. We could say, to find inner peace.

Secondly, to become supple as a child through mastery of the breath. It seems that yogic practices have been part of Taoism from an early date. We admire the carefreeness of the child. The child falls, cries for two minutes, and is then once again playing and climbing up the same branch that it fell from, with mother, heart-in-mouth, watching from a distance. The child has the capacity to bounce back where the adult tends to harbour hurts and defeats and make a much biggr meal of them. Of course, some of this is simply physical. Old bones are more brittle. The Taoists, however, believe that the suppleness of the child can be extended by living in accord with the Tao and one method for this is through attention to the breath.

Thirdly, cleansing the mirror. The “mirror” basically refers to what we might call the unconscious mind. There is, here, an ideal of emptiness. The notion of the mirror mind is of one that has no prejudice, no prior judgement nor hidden agenda. Generally, when we encounter something, we immediately fit it in to our pre-existing schema and so do not really stop, look and listen. The things that blemish our mirror are bitterness, greed, self-centredness, neuroses – our own personal madness. Can we let it go? Can one arrive at open-mindedness, open-heartedness? Without losing the fruits of experience, can there yet be a freshness to each perception, so that each new day is indeed new? each new encounter with an old friend a new discovery? with an old enemy a new beginning?

Fourthly, to love the land and people as one's own. We all love some things and some people, but universal love is another matter. We might hold it as an ideal, but that is likely only to lead to us putting on airs. The politician says how he deeply cares about the people, even if the only thing he cares about is getting their vote. We are all socialised into many ways of appearing to care even when we are bored or disinterested. Generally we care about the things we own or are associated with and not far beyond that. The ideal Taoist lives a simple life and, as he has little or nothing to defend “the world is his oyster.” The sage is kindly disposed to whoever comes along.

All this is called “taking the female part”. This is the yin part in the dance of yin and yang. The female part is to receive and to nurture. The yang, masculine, part is left to Heaven. Heaven's doors swing open and closed unpredictably. Good fortune comes. Bad fortune comes. Who knows what next? The person before you may be a saint or a villain – the heart is hidden. We undertake things and sometimes it brings success, sometimes failure, but, as often as not, some completely unexpected result that was not on our original list of possibilities. We discover there was what we expected, what we feared, but also other things that had not entered out imagination. Heaven is like that and we do best to receive and nurture what comes our way without chasing the water that is now gone under the bridge.

So, the text asks, can we manifest these four attainments – can we take the yin part – without pretending. As soon as we are given a goal, even a Taoist goal, we are likely to start scheming how to make it appear that we are closer to the goal than others. We pose and put on airs. Humans have a greater capacity for dissemblance than any other creature. The ideal Taoist employs this dissemblance the other way: he presents him or herself as further from the goal than is actually the case. In the sage, the four attainments are manifest, but only to those who look carefully and who know how to look.

The second part of the chapter describes the Tao and so, by implication, also the sage. It is a picture of generous fertility: to generate without possessiveness, to nurture without becoming authoritarian. Nature gives rise to huge diversity and each goes its way. This is like the parable of the Dharma rain in the Lotus Sutra: the rain germinates and nurtures all manner of plants, big and small, each with its own inherent characteristics. The rain enables each to thrive in its own way without seeking to control or make them all fit into a standard form. The sage is like this, wishing only that all beings may thrive, each on its particular path. The sage is a mysterious belly of kindness.

So loosely

Can you be at peace?

Can you have the resiliance of a child?

Are you free of bitterness?

Do you really care for all beings?

No matter what comes along, can you receive it graciously?

Is your real nature exemplary?

Generate and nurture

Generate but don't dominate

Nurture and set free

Be a mysterious belly of kindness.

Views: 47

Replies to This Discussion

It is difficult to read this chapter without suspecting some Buddhist influence. The earliest extant manuscript in which this passage is found dates to around 200BC. More fragmentary texts from around 300BC do not include it. This does not prove that it did not exist at the earlier date, but it leaves the possibility open. If this chapter was actually composed between 300 and 200BC, then it is conceivable that Buddhist ideas had arrived in China by then, though this is a long time before current scholarship generally dates the arrival of Buddhism in China, which is usually much closer to the beginning of the common era. However, Buddhism was a missionary religion from the outset, so it is not impossible for its ideas to have arrived in China during the third century BCE and become incorporated into Taoist practices for extending longevity, much as methods rooted in Buddhism are getting into our own culture and being used within popular psychology.

RSS

Events

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

Sagesse féline...

Posted by Tamuly Annette on September 29, 2019 at 12:00 1 Comment

En l'absence de Darmavidya, j'ai - en ma qualité de voisine et d'amie - le privilège de m'occuper (un peu) de Tara, la petite chatte. C'est un bonheur  de la voir me faire la fête chaque fois que je me rends à Eleusis: elle s'étire, se roule sur le dos au soleil ou saute sur mes genoux. J'ignore si elle a profité de l'enseignement du maître des lieux, mais j'ai comme l'impression qu'elle me donne une belle leçon de sagesse: elle…

Continue

WEEP FOR OUR WORLD

Posted by David Brazier on August 20, 2019 at 21:38 2 Comments



At the moment I am feeling very sad for the state of the planet. As I write the great forests are being consumed by fire, both the tropical forest in Brazil and the tundra forest in Russia. The great forests are the lungs of the earth. I myself have lung problems. When there are parts of the lungs that don’t work anymore one can run out of energy. It can strike suddenly. We will probably not do anything serious about climate change or wildlife extinction…

Continue

MY MEDICAL CONDITION

Posted by David Brazier on June 26, 2019 at 18:04 10 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

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service