Cut off learning and be without worry,
Of ‘yea’ and pandering, both differ by how much?
Of good and evil, both differ how then?
Of man’s actual fear, one cannot not fear.
Neglect of such has no end!
Crowds of people bustle about
Like enjoying excessive sacrifice,
Like ascending a springtime terrace,
I alone am anchored without anticipation,
Like an infant, not a child;
Lazy, as if without a place to go back to.
Crowds of people all have more than enough,
I alone seem left behind.
I am foolish of human mind also?
Innocent conventional people are clear.
I alone am drowsy;
Normal people discern difference,
I alone am subdued.
Crowds of people all have appointments to keep,
I alone am dense and vulgar.
I alone am different from people,
And value feeding the mother.
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
None this time
First, this whole chapter addresses two sides of our nature that each and every last one of us experience: the worldly one and the deeper other worldly ‘spiritual’ one, so to speak. The later one perhaps paralleling Christ’s “The meek shall inherit the earth”. That we have such very distinct and dissimilar (poles apart) sides to our nature has a lot to do with trading in the egalitarian ‘old way’ of our ancestors for the more efficient hierarchical social dynamics of civilization. I say efficient, for in bees and ants for example, hierarchical dynamics is efficient. However, the strongly hierarchical dynamics that comes with civilization is a worldly vs. other worldly tradeoff. The increased efficiency comes with a steep price.
Let us count off the hallmarks of civilization pointed out here: (1) ascending a springtime terrace; (2) enjoying excessive sacrifice; (3) Crowds of people bustle about; (4) Innocent conventional people are clear; (5) Normal people discern difference; (6) Crowds of people all have appointments to keep.
From a Symptoms Point Of View, all these behaviors appear to stem from our inability to feel at home with the other side — our other worldly nature. We can’t feel at home with this weak yielding side because we feel compelled to find a strong firm niche in the hierarchy — to be someone.
Now, let’s count off the softer side of our nature — who we truly are: (1) I alone am anchored without anticipation; (2) Like an infant, not a child; (3) Lazy, as if without a place to go back to; (4) I alone seem left behind; (5) I am foolish of human mind also; (6) I alone am drowsy; (7) I alone am subdued; (8) I alone am dense and vulgar; (9) I alone am different from people.
There are no supermen. Like all living things, we are essentially fragile creatures. The egalitarian bond that hunter-gatherers shared counterbalanced this inherent vulnerability. The overall loss of that ‘security blanket’ leaves us in a ‘dog eat dog’ quest for life meaning, strength, control, power. The pursuit of our niche promises us the sense of secure connection that the social connection of our ancestral ‘old way’ used to provide. And so we bustle about, with out appointments to keep and clear in our discernment of difference. No profound sameness for us, for that goes against the hierarchical paradigm of civilization. Discernment of difference is the bedrock of civilization; the fulcrum over which it operates.
In my youth, I always felt comforted by the “I alone am…” lines in this chapter. At the time, I didn’t realize that everyone feels that inner weakness, the yin of their true self… and that all the clarity, discerning of difference, bustling about, and so on, was their (and my) attempt to be someone — to win the race to the top in my hierarchal niche. One value of aging has been living life long enough to realize this game is a dead end—literally. 😉 Feeding the mother is all I need do.
Living life moment-to-moment as honestly as possible is an act of giving to each moment, watching the flowing stillness of time. If the mother is time, feeding the mother is simply being present each moment, without anticipation and drowsy (about the future), lazy as if without a place to go back to, like and infant left behind.
This is about where I put my treasure, or rather what I treasure. When I treasure time, I hold its moment, so to speak. Christ put it well, even though he left out the emotional ‘treasures’ that trap. Of course, in his day, these would have been less of an issue compared to material treasures.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Meditation is simply giving your mind to the moment — watching. Regard formal meditation as a warm-up for a moment-to-moment watchfulness throughout the day.
The ‘stuff of life’— success, goals, ambitions, objectives, aims — are all the offspring of the mother. Without mother time these offspring wouldn’t exist. Chasing this ‘stuff of life’ is not feeding the mother; instead, it is perhaps wanting to be feed by the mother. Here, we rush to get ‘it done’, and move on to the next objective. Conversely, feeding the mother is more akin to patience, attentiveness, watchful care.
What do you feel is your core purpose in life?
My wife recently asked me this question, and the first thing that came to mind was what Buddha said on his death bed as he addressed his disciples’ pleas for advice: “All created things must pass… strive on diligently”.
Put another way:
vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādetha
All compounded things, all experiences (mental and physical), all phenomena by their very nature decay and die, and are disappointing. It is through being not-blind-drunk on, obsessed by, or infatuated with, the objects of the senses that you succeed in awakening, or obtain liberation.
And more succinctly:
All things are disappointing, [it is] through vigilance [that] you succeed.
And even more succinctly:
The Story Sets the Stage
In civilization, we need to cleave tightly to our cultural / personal story to compensate for the missing egalitarian connection that our hunter-gatherers ancestors experienced. That we are our story is yet another facet of Buddha’s observation, “the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things”. Cleaving to a personal story imparts a sense of connection. It also sets us up for massive failure. Fortunately, at least it is possible to edit one’s story to better conform to reality. Is not ‘Taoist thought’ just that? Heck, even Buddha’s comment above, “All things are disappointing, [it is] through vigilance [that] you succeed” is a ‘short story’ that helps counterbalance the multilayered illusions to which we cling.
Anyway, this short report shows how it is never too late to begin the rewrite. When Death Rocks Your World, Maybe You Jump Out Of A Plane.