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more along the ‘way’

Further to yesterday’s post. In addition to the many scholarly translations from ancient Chinese are versions that reflect someone’s personal worldview. Ursula K. LeGuin, author of more than 58 books of fiction, poetry, and essays, explain that the first Tao te Ching she ever read belonged to her father and had been published in 1898. With her own version she wanted “a book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, … not seeking esoteric secret, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul” (p. x). Here’s a chapter on what may well be about meditation techniques:

Can you keep your soul in its body,
hold fast to the one,
and so learn to be whole?
Can you enter your energy,
be soft, tender, and so learn to be a baby?

What sweet instructions, especially to some of my earnest friends, sitting “hard” and saying they wished they could do “better.” Soft, tender, as a baby!

Can you keep the deep water still and clear,
so it reflects without blurring?
Can you love people and run things,
and do so by not doing?

Do by not doing, a theme that runs throughout the Lao Tzu’s verses, what’s termed wei wu wei in Chinese: Act without acting. You do nothing yet it gets done. How difficult, as impossible this seems for me (as Westerner, German-born, male, ageing codger), to let things be to the point of non-doing. A life time of being trained to get things done, to assert myself, not to be lazy.

To give birth, to nourish,
to bear and not to own,
to act and not to lay claim,
to lead and not to rule:
this is mysterious power.

To have and to let go, to be and not to try being, to allow what is to reveal itself on its own time. Seemingly impossible yet possible. Yet there are moments of ecstasy, such as a lover’s embrace, a runner’s high, a perfect sunshine: can you recall such instance? And to act and not to claim speaks to me of utter selflessness and compassion. No gain, no credit, no achievement.

source: Lao Tzu: Tao te Ching: a book about the way and the power of the way. New English version. LeGuin, U.K., with Seaton, J.P. (1997). Boston, Shambhala, p. 13. image:


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