Of watched yet not seen, call smooth.
Of listened yet not heard, call rarified.
Of handled yet not held, call minute.
These three are unfathomable, hence blend and serve as One.
Its upper part is not bright, its lowest part is not hazy
Unending, it cannot be named, and again returns to no-thing.
This is called the without of shape form, the without of matter shape,
This is called indistinct suddenly.
Of moving toward it, you will not see its head,
Of following behind it, you will not see its back.
Hold the ancient way in order to manage today.
The ability to know the ancient beginning; this is called the way’s discipline.
Limits: Translations, even the nearly literal one above, lose some of the original meaning due to the cultural context of contemporary words. Studying the numerous synonym-like meanings of the Chinese characters in the Word-for-Word translation mitigates this. (Click graphic at right for on-line Word-for-Word.)
Chapter of the Month
Archive: Characters and past commentary
None this time
These three are unfathomable, hence blend and serve as One. I capitalize One because I think it refers to our notions of God, gods, spirit forces, or whatever ‘higher power’ we credit for creating the reality we find unfathomable. Of course, there is no capitalization in Chinese, and so ( 一 yī) is mostly simply 1. Yet, 一 yī also means: single; alone; same; whole; all; throughout; each; per; every time; also; otherwise; concentrated; wholehearted. I interpret this “one” as whole; all; throughout, which to me turns it into an omnipotent and omnipresent One that we credit for the unfathomable.
This answers a question for which I seldom if ever have heard: Why do people believe in God, gods, or spiritual forces? Clearly, our species needs to have a name for this unfathomable ‘thing’. And I do mean NEED! Once we have a name for it, we hold on to it for dear life. From a Symptoms Point Of View, that tells me we are terrified of the unknown, which causes us to name ‘it’. With this comes the unintended consequence of believing wholeheartedly in what you think.
This is the disease chapter 71 mentions: Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. Clearly, chapter 1’s disclaimer view, The name possible to express runs counter to the constant name, is beyond belief, so to speak. Speaking of belief, see Belief: Are We Just Fooling Ourselves? This also ties into Buddha’s 2nd Truth which states, in part, “the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things”. Belief is just another thing on which to cleave. In doing this we enhance our illusion of self, which leaves us feeling even more disconnected from One — whole; all; throughout.
This is called the without of shape form, the without of matter shape, reminds me of a Zen koan, like that famous, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” I use something similar. I regard reality as what is behind me… literally. In other words, I regard what I see in front of me as deceptive and misleading. I need to be tuned into what I don’t (can’t) see! Does that make any sense? Our sensory bias to favor what we can see, touch, and hear often gets us into trouble.
This is called indistinct suddenly. This has been a bit of an odd ball for me, but today I linked it to an experience I have constantly. Whenever I actually open my eyes and look, I suddenly see something I have not seen before. That applies to my mind’s eye as well. When I let it observe, it sees something new, without fail. Perhaps like the eyes and mind of an infant. Everything is new if you drop the story that tells you what ‘it’ is. Ironically, the major impediment to seeing the world as it is, is language. Words define, and in defining they blind the eye to the Dark and dark again, the multitude of wondrous entrance as chapter 1 puts it.
At least science employs a rigorous discipline on what we think we know. That is a good beginning to making our way back to impartiality. As chapter 16 says…
Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results.
Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial,
Impartial therefore whole, whole therefore natural,
Natural therefore the way.
The way therefore long enduring, nearly rising beyond oneself
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