Hey, welcome to Tao Te Ching Today where we talk about the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching and the Tao from Lao Tzu’s eyes. I’m your host, Sean Webb. So today we’re moving in to Chapter 2 and I’m going to be reading from Robert G Hendricks translation of the Tao Te Ching.
And Chapter 2 starts:
When everyone in the world knows the beautiful as beautiful, ugliness comes in to being. When everyone knows the good as good, then the not good comes to be. The mutual production of being and non being; the mutual completion of difficulty and easy; the mutual formation of long and short; the mutual feeling of high and low; the mutual harmony of tone and voice; the mutual following of front and back—these are all constants. Therefore the Sage dwells in non-active affairs and practices the wordless teaching. The ten thousand things arise, but he doesn’t begin them; He acts upon their behalf, but he doesn’t make them dependent; He accomplishes his tasks, but he doesn’t dwell on them; it is only because he doesn’t dwell on them, that they therefore do not leave him.
And if you’d like to hear one of the alternative translations, this is from John C. H Wu:
When the entire world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness. When all the world recognizes good as good, this in itself is evil. Indeed the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short exhibit each other. High and low set measure to each other. Voice and sound harmonize each other. Back and forth follow each other. Therefore, the Sage manages his affairs without ado. And spreads his teaching without talking. He denies nothing to the teeming things. He rears them, but lays no claim to them. He does his work, but sets no store by it. He accomplishes his task, but does not dwell upon it. And yet it is just because he does not dwell upon it, that no one can ever take it away from him.
So, as we discussed in Chapter 1, in Chapter 2 we continue with the motif that is going be prevalent throughout the entire Tao Te Ching that judging things and thinking about things isn’t a productive use of your time or anyone’s time, because … the first couple of lines is actually a little deeper than that with multiple meanings. Because when you say “When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness” the entire chapter suggest that, okay… if you look at good, you cannot look at good without also acknowledging bad or things that are not good, because there would be no good without the bad that exist in relation to the good so you must also acknowledge the bad as something that’s blessed because without the bad, you wouldn’t understand what good is.
And so, the rest of the chapter drives that home as well–Long and short exhibit each other. High and low set measure to each other. Voice and sound harmonize each other. Back and front follow each other—there is nothing that is measured as good or desirable or preferable without the things that exist that are not good, that are not desirable, that are not preferable because it is those opposites that create your potentially pleasurable existence and thus, [I have my mouth pad here] this Yin Yang is the symbol of Taoism and is basically what Chapter 2 is talking about. In that, you know everybody strives for the Yang in life but the Yin help sets it and helps create the Yang in existence so everything must be appreciated. The downtimes in your life offset the good times, in that they create the relativity that allows you to enjoy the good times as good and so you must cherish them also, the bad times or the lesser than good times and accept them both as reality. And if you can see the world in that way, you can see the bad times also as good times also as the beauty of the entire universe; the beauty of everything, the beauty of your entire existence includes the bad times. But the other meaning inside these first two lines “when all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness” and this is driving home the first point that in Chapter 1 when we discussed about mindfulness and judgment that when you’re seeing beauty as beauty, when you are judging beauty as beauty—this is ugly. This is the mind passing judgment on existence.
The second line, “When all the world recognizes good as good—this in itself is evil”. There’s second meaning to this if you look deeper into it that says: When you are judging good as good, this is evil because you are then ignoring the other than good that allows the good to occur so it’s kind of a catch 22 as many paradoxes exist in spirituality in general, you know, but even if you like Christianity, I mean, Alpha and the Omega, this is recognizing two sides of the coin. Again, going back to the Yin and Yang symbol that both good and bad, tall and short, high and low must exist for all of it to exist. And so, the lesson I think in Chapter 2 that we need to take away to from is again, one of a mindlessness or mind focus on everything is beauty and all parts of existence are as they are. And so in the latter portion of this chapter, therefor the Sage manages his affairs without ado. Therefor the Sage, the person who understands this goes on about his life without having to judge, without having to connect to the ideas, the attachment of ideas that state “these things are good, these things are bad,” everything is as it is and all is beautiful, all is great. All actions and events are wonderful because whether you are judging them or not they both exist in the reality and they allow, even if they’re not as good, they allow the good things to be set apart. And he spreads his teaching without talking, and again this goes to not thinking, not using words, the Tao reality deemed well beyond words and the ability of words to explain but the Sage teaches his lessons without talking, he teaches his lessons through action and through level even field existence.
“He denies nothing to the teeming things. He rears them, but lays no claim to them”, so he assist things that, you know like children or people in need or things that demand attention at the time voicemails, emails, whatever, but he lays no claim to them but he gets his job done, he assist people where he can and he does the things that he needs to do but they don’t become part of him. And he does his work but sets no store by it so he doesn’t make any attachments to the things that he accomplishes. He accomplishes his task but does not dwell upon it and yet it is just because he does not dwell upon it that no one can ever take it away from him. Meaning, the only loss that you will experience in your life is one that exists within your mind. If you have a house that burns down, the only loss that you will experience will be the loss that is generated from within your mind of the memories of the things that you had, of the memories of the things that you possess, of the memories of the things or the yearning of the being able to sit down and watch the TV that is now being melted heap on the ground or somewhere that your house is now burned down. The only loss you will ever exhibit and experience is the one that is generated from your mind. And so, because the Sage does not make the connection within his mind of the things that he does and of the things that he has and of the life that he lives, no one can ever take it away from him. He never experience the loss because his life is one that is lived every moment of everyday and accepts everything that is, as it is, at that very moment.
I hope this gives you better insight in to Chapter 2 and how we might better understand from Lao Tzu’s eyes of Tao Te Ching.
Next week, we’ll talk about implementing Chapter 2 in to our everyday lives. So until next week I hope things are well of course you can get your copy of the Tao Te Ching from our links at taotechingtoday.com. We appreciate you using those links because we get a few pennies if you buy something from Amazon through our links. And you can also get a free audio book at taotechingtoday.com/audible because audible.com is a sponsor and they provide support to us if we provide support to them. They’re a great, awesome resource for getting audiobooks and you wind up paying like ten bucks a book to have the author or professional voice talent read it to you, you can listen to the audio books on your ipad, your iphone, your android phone, your any other type of phone. They have applications for just about everybody. So check them out taotechingtoday.com/audible. Until next week, be well.