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Go Back   Spiritual Forums > Religions & Faiths > Taoism

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  #41  
Old 22-06-2021, 07:21 PM
ayar415 ayar415 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Still_Waters
4 (ending):

Something is there, hidden in the deep!
But I do not know whose child it is ---
It came even before God.

Let me clear up a few things first.

Please understand that a direct word for word translation is unintelligible because oftentimes there is no equivalent word in English. Moreover, a Chinese character has more than one meaning depending on how it sits within a phrase. There is more than one version of the Tao Te Ching. The stanzas in the (various) original texts have no punctuation marks. Scholars reconstructed the scripture in accordance with their own assessments of how it should read. Placing a coma in a different place gives a stanza a different meaning.

Above all, in the western tradition, the written word is a code yielding information, in the word, to the reader (decoder); whereas, the Chinese character is a symbol that invokes a meaning stored within the reader's mind. Consequently, everyone who understands English (or German, etc.) gets the same knowledge contained in a book. In the case of the Tao Te Ching, it all depends on what is in the reader's head. An ability to read classical Chinese gives you access only to the contents in your own head, not Lao Tsu's head.

So, our study of the Chinese Tao Te Ching is a project in self-inquiry. I will attempt to replace the Chinese characters with English words, and you tell me what you see in your head. The stuff in my head is not going to be mind-blowing since I am an American. I will throw it in the pot, if you want, to see what we can cook up between us.

With regard to the last two lines of Chapter 4, the word "child" and "God" are misleading. Also, the preferred way is to read the whole chapter to get the context of the meaning of the lines. It's like divining the meaning in a line within a hexagram of the I Ching. So, let me set out below my reading of Chapter 4 in English and you tell me what you think.

The Way gushes forth, its beneficence unremitting
Immense, it is the origin of the ten thousand things
Dull the darkness
Diffuse the chaos
Cut the glare
Be like dust
Deep within, yet ever-present
I don't know what gave rise to it
It came before the (image of Emperor)

Words within parenthesis in the last line are a direct translation of the Chinese characters.
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  #42  
Old 23-06-2021, 12:40 AM
Still_Waters Still_Waters is offline
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QUOTE 41 EXCERPT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ayar415

Please understand that a direct word for word translation is unintelligible because oftentimes there is no equivalent word in English. Moreover, a Chinese character has more than one meaning depending on how it sits within a phrase.
.
.
.

Deep within, yet ever-present
I don't know what gave rise to it
It came before the (image of Emperor)

Words within parenthesis in the last line are a direct translation of the Chinese characters.

Although I don't know Chinese with its innumerable characters, I can appreciate the translation difficulties that you addressed in the beginning of your post. (In high school, I used to participate in sight translation contests in NYC with Latin being the language being translated. Translating Latin was difficult enough, but my sense is that translating Latin is a LOT easier than translating Chinese. )

On this site, we are requested to limit the amount of text that we quote both in posts of members as well as quotes (from the Tao , for example) that we choose. Hence, I am mindful of that when posting. Otherwise, I would have quoted more of what you wrote as well as more from the Tao.

The part of this Tao Chapter that commanded my attention most was the last 3 lines and I can relate quite well to your translation.

The "Deep within, yet ever-present" passage resonated well with me and, from a personal perspective, does seem to be a very powerful meaningful translation.

The "I don't know what gave rise to it" translation seems to be more eastern and probably more in keeping with the Taoist mindset than the translation I have which references the "child". (As we know, Christianity employs such terminology as in the "Father" and the "Son" where the word "child" is appropriately non-gendered as opposed to the masculine "son". Translations can sometimes be tailored to fit the mindset of the audience as in this case.) The "I don't know" translation seems to be very appropriate as "not knowing" is terminology used in Zen (Bodhidharma for example) and other eastern traditions as well as in the Christian classic, "The Cloud of Unknowing".

Your last line "It came before the (image of Emperor)" makes sense from an eastern perspective because, if I recall correctly, the Chinese Emperor was a "Son of Heaven" or , in other words, a "God" to the Chinese population. Hence, I can understand the translation that I have using the word "God" instead of the (image of the emperor) as westerners might not relate well to the (picture of the Emperor).

I love what you have done with the translation and actually prefer your first two lines to my own translation .... and, while I culturally prefer the third line in my translation to yours, I think that your translation is probably more accurate considering the Chinese culture of that day and the Chinese view of their Emperor.

Well done ! Thank you.
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  #43  
Old 23-06-2021, 12:49 AM
Still_Waters Still_Waters is offline
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Having read your last post, there is another passage (with which I agree) and would love to hear your translation.

19 (beginning):

"Give up religiosity and knowledge, and people will benefit a hundredfold.
Discard morality and righteousness, and people will return to natural love."
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  #44  
Old 23-06-2021, 07:26 PM
ayar415 ayar415 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Still_Waters
Your last line "It came before the (image of Emperor)" makes sense from an eastern perspective because, if I recall correctly, the Chinese Emperor was a "Son of Heaven" or , in other words, a "God" to the Chinese population.

No, no God. The Chinese Classics embrace a system of thought that predated Confucius. They don't speak to the spirituality of the common man.

Matteo Ricci tried to spread Christianity to the Mandarins who viewed all religions, including Buddhism, as superstitions (i.e. pre-occupations of lay people).

"Son of Heaven" conveys the same misconception I tried to prevent in my translation of that last line of Chapter 4.

What is your understanding of Chapter 4?

Last edited by ayar415 : 24-06-2021 at 03:23 PM.
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  #45  
Old 24-06-2021, 12:04 PM
Still_Waters Still_Waters is offline
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QUOTE 44 EXCERPT:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ayar415

"Son of Heaven" conveys the same misconception I tried to prevent in my translation of that last line of Chapter 4.


By including the "image of the emperor" in the last line, you leave the passage open to interpretation ... open ended ... almost koan-like ... and that is good.

It's almost like the Zen Koan asking what your face was before your parents were born. It alludes to the not-knowing as per "I don't know what gave rise to it" where "it" could encompass anything and everything in the ephemeral manifestation. That which "gave rise to it" is indeed "Deep within, yet ever-present".
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  #46  
Old 24-06-2021, 04:09 PM
ayar415 ayar415 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Still_Waters
By including the "image of the emperor" in the last line, you leave the passage open to interpretation ... open ended ... almost koan-like ... and that is good.

Yes, it is good only if you stop right there at the very instant when the koan invokes an awareness, that feeling of having "grasped it". If you don't, then the selfish, greedy, mind seizes it and make a superstition out of it. Then, what you have is Taoism, founded on a Tao that can be told and expounded on by you, the Taoist master.

The western mind is acquisitive of knowledge, be it practical or spiritual. So is the Chinese mind these days. It is a tool used to gather information for self-preservation. This compulsiveness is the fundamental human problem. And I think this is what the Tao Te Ching was speaking to in those two lines below:

"19 (beginning):

"Give up religiosity and knowledge, and people will benefit a hundredfold.
Discard morality and righteousness, and people will return to natural love."


I could be barking up the wrong tree. What do you see, my friend?
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  #47  
Old 24-06-2021, 10:10 PM
Molearner Molearner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Still_Waters

Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.

(That Taoist master whom I met in Chengdu China in the 1980s did NOT talk and yet he communicated a lot. That reference in my previous post triggered this dialogue. )

Late to the party so feel free to ignore….:)

The one that does not talk loves you more than you can understand…..he is allowing your seeking to bear fruit….truth in its purest form must be personal….everything else is just knowledge
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  #48  
Old 25-06-2021, 12:11 PM
Still_Waters Still_Waters is offline
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QUOTE 47 EXCERPT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Molearner
The one that does not talk loves you more than you can understand…..he is allowing your seeking to bear fruit….truth in its purest form must be personal….everything else is just knowledge

Nisargadatta Maharaj echoed a similar sentiment when he said that "self-realized beings are generally very very quiet". They do, however, ask penetrating questions thus "allowing your seeking to bear fruit... truth in its purest form must be personal".
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  #49  
Old 25-06-2021, 12:15 PM
Still_Waters Still_Waters is offline
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QUOTE 46 EXCERPT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ayar415
Yes, it is good only if you stop right there at the very instant when the koan invokes an awareness, that feeling of having "grasped it".

Yes! When that koan "invokes an awareness, that feeling of having 'grasped it' " (the AHA moment), that's the point at which to stop. Amen.
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  #50  
Old 25-06-2021, 02:51 PM
ayar415 ayar415 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Molearner
Late to the party so feel free to ignore….:)

The one that does not talk loves you more than you can understand…..he is allowing your seeking to bear fruit….truth in its purest form must be personal….everything else is just knowledge

This sounds pompous. Allowing your seeking to bear fruit?

So, you've got your cookie, and stepping aside to let me get the cookie, with my name on it. If I can find the cookie jar.

Truth, that is personal, is like a bespoke suit replete with monogram (HRH Ayar); unique and made for only me.
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