Why the Tao Te Ching (daodeking) Can Never Be Briefly Disscussed.

First day of ENG101 (yes, i am picking on the class again!, but I bring this up again for a reason, as previously mentioned, born in my ASB102 class)
We had a small discussion about Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. One student said that one chapter in particular (Chapter 3: Hushing in Ursula K. LeGuin’s translation, my favorite version) where it says:

  So the wise soul
  governing people
  would empty their minds,
  fill their bellies,
  weaken their wishes,
  strengthen their bones.
 
meant that the wise government would have to keep their people in ignorance. But this idea is completely contradictory to the fundamentals of Taoism. Especially if taken in context, not only with the culture, but with the rest of the text. For example, as i told Rob, my favorite chapter, Taoing says:

  The way you can go
  Isn’t the real way
  The name you can say
  Isn’t the real name.

As LeGuin says:

  “to those who will not admit morality without a deity to validate it, or spirituality of which man is not the measure, the firmness Lao Tzu’s morality and the sweetness of his spiritual council must seem incomprehensible , or illegitimate, or very troubling indeed.”

  So, the very idea that a government would act while keeping ignorance among the people could be understood, especially after reading Chapter 17, it again appears that the ideal leader should be manipulative and keep the people without thinking. But the meaning, once place d in context, is just the opposite.

Once such ideas begin to be understood or discussed there is a tenancy to forget the the original purpose of the Tao Te Ching was not to be a manual for leaders, but a guide to the Tao. literally, the having the Way guide the Way. much like the concept (or non-concept) of Zen.

Back to the point I was trying to make. The Tao cannot, and should not be summarized. It is not responsible, and not beneficial either to the students or to the Tao itself.

By the way, I strongly recommend reading the Tao Te Ching, several times of course. I read a chapter or two every day. I am not a spiritual person, or religious, but I read of the Way and I try to live in the Way. I especially recommend LeGuin’s translation. other translations are very forced, and forcibly translated in order to have political meaning. LeGuin’s version is translated with the poet in heart. Translated for the sake of Tao and beauty, not for classroom politics, and Western obsession with dry ideologies.

Actually I recoment all of LeGuin’s Works, especially The Telling, and Gifts. Both are beautifully writen and, if you really must, have deep meanings and parallels in society today/

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One response to this post.

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