Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tao Te Ching x 3

After the Bible, it is the most frequently translated text (though I expect the Bible wins hands down for multiplicity of languages) and I have three copies by my bedside.

I find I read a chapter a night, the same chapter in all three. I have two translations and a version. The translations are by Red Pine (that feels 'alien' confronting you with the idiomatic Chinese, complete with excerpts from traditional commentaries) and that of Gia-Fu Fend and Jane English (which is pithy, concise, and spiritual in a way that bends to a Western ear). The version is by Ursula Le Guin (as she knows no Chinese) using a prior translation/transliteration to evoke a text that helps fashion her own world view (and seeps into her fiction) and yet strikes you as the deeply authentic hearing of a text pondered long.

It is a delight to drift to sleep with resonances of this sage permeating one's last lingering thoughts.

Two strands recur to mind.

The first is the groundlessness at the heart of things. We live in a way that is verb: a becoming that arises, patterned, unfolding. That at the heart of life is a navigation, a continuous adjustment to truth's prescensing, born out of an awareness that is still, mindful.

The second is that we betray this unfolding by always attempting to fix 'truth'. Our labeling of reality, creating it as a noun, betraying the verb, is the sourcing of our ignorance.

The text continually invites you to step out of certainty and enterprise after a way of becoming, and because we become together, a shared way-ing, when we flow in this way, virtue arises.

The texts amplify and reflect on each other - each one adding a perspective. It is an exercise in meditative reading, and glimpsed liberation.

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