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The Path of the Immortal...


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Know the strength of man, 
But keep a woman's care! 
Be the stream of the universe! 
Being the stream of the universe, 
Ever true and unswerving, 
Become as a little child once more. 
Know the white, 
But keep the black! 
Be an example to the world! 
Being an example to the world, 
Ever true and unwavering, 
Return to the infinite. 
Know honor, 
Yet keep humility. 
Be the valley of the universe! 
Being the valley of the universe, 
Ever true and resourceful, 
Return to the state of the uncarved block. 
When the block is carved, it becomes useful. 
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler. 
Thus, "A great tailor cuts little." 

TTC - Chapter 28

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When I first read the TTC, I didn't feel I understood hardly any of it.

But after I read Waysun Liao's version in his book, Nine Nights with the Taoist Master, I began to feel I had a bit of handle on it, and this chapter especially stood out. I wrote all over the book on those pages!

Liao translates the first two lines:

"Always aware that there is the male-like force, yet hold on to the female-like force, as the stream to the world.

Like the stream to the world, then the Te will not depart, and one becomes as if an infant again."

Then in the body of the book Liao expands the meaning by embedding LaoTzu's words in a simple story, so as to clarify the sparse text translation of the chapter.

So: After the energy of the mind and body become as the stream/world, the life energy becomes as if it were the life energy of an infant again.

May not be what LZ actually intended, but has much more meaning for me, and drew me into comparing other versions with Liao's, by giving me some place solid to refer from...  

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On 12/27/2016 at 9:50 AM, Jeff said:

Know the strength of man, 
But keep a woman's care! 
Be the stream of the universe! 
Being the stream of the universe, 
Ever true and unswerving, 
Become as a little child once more. 
Know the white, 
But keep the black! 
Be an example to the world! 
Being an example to the world, 
Ever true and unwavering, 
Return to the infinite. 
Know honor, 
Yet keep humility. 
Be the valley of the universe! 
Being the valley of the universe, 
Ever true and resourceful, 
Return to the state of the uncarved block. 
When the block is carved, it becomes useful. 
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler. 
Thus, "A great tailor cuts little." 

TTC - Chapter 28

I see that as like the romance of the journey. 

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I want to post one more set of lines, so that my fascination with this interpretation, and how it reminds me of Jeff's work, is more obvious. But maybe first I should say something else about Master Liao's version of the Tao Te Ching.  Liao (also the author of The Tai Chi Classics) claims to have been taught the accompanying oral tradition of the TTC by his teachers, so claims to understand more of LZ's original intent.

 

He writes in the foreword, that most written materials about the Tao Te Ching interpret it incorrectly. “They speak as if the text were merely a primer on moral philosophy. The true title conveys that this is a book about the Infinite Power outside, surrounding and penetrating all things—Tao, and the portion of that power that resides in each human being—Te. The full title “Tao Te Ching” implies that the words inside will reveal how to connect Tao and Te, or that part of God within us to the greater whole of Infinity.” Liao’s intention is to make clear the true teaching contained in the oldest written instruction of mysticism—but the true teaching is only fully explained by the accompanying oral tradition.

 

I bolded “How” above for emphasis… Liao says the TTC is actually an instruction manual for how

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Okay, here’s the second couple lines, as Liao’s translation gets more interesting here. Well I guess I should say his interpretation gets more interesting here….So take it or leave it, here's where he goes with the oral tradition. :)
*******

Liao’s translation:

"Ever aware of the bright white, still hold onto the core of the dark, being very humble toward the world.

Being ever humble toward the world, the Te never changing, returns to the state of the infinite."

********

These lines parallel the translation above nicely, and they still don’t mean much to me…. but Liao's narrative expansion on LZ’s words, based on the oral tradition, definitely gets my attention, especially in regards to how Jeff works with us.

Liao offers a candle analogy, the body of the candle is the core substance of dark—the body and Te power, while the flame is the bright white— mind and Te power. So here the bright white flame clings to the dark substance, the candle. The resulting flame, feeding on the candle, illuminates the world, just as the sage broadcasts his message into the world.

So after learning to hold mind and body together “as the stream clings to the earth,” Liao describes the second step, this based on the candle analogy. "While radiating or broadcasting your Te power, although you remain ever aware of the bright white, still hold onto the core of dark. In this way, the power of Te works like a candle ....You must be aware of the radiation of bright white light, and rely on the core substance, the darkness.  Hold onto dark substance and watch the white matter at work.”

“Broadcast with an attitude of being very humble towards the world. Being ever humble toward the world, the Te never changing, returns to the state of the infinite.  If your mind and body maintain the state of being very humble, merciful, weak and low, then the white power, radiated and broadcasted, will return to your body and mind— the dark power—and the unchanged Te power will become infinite……You should master the skill of recycling your broadcast power back to your mind and body, which stays low and humble.”

 

 

 

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Thank you for all of the excellent insights. I find this verse to be particularly meaningful in explaining the steps at the later stages. Here is how I would translate the meaning...

Know the strength of man, But keep a woman's care! 

It must be remembered that this is written from the male perspective, so that for a woman you could invert the statements. But, this defines the realization (and noticing) of the male and female polarities with energy. Classically after one has opened and learned to reside beyond the upper dantien (crown). With it one has begun to "know" that they are not simply a male (or female) human body mind.


Be the stream of the universe! 

"Be" is the key word here. When one opens there "3rd eye", they start noticing and seeing more astral stuff, potentially even higher beings and other worlds/dimensions. But, with this "seeing" there is still the individual person seeing things that are not a part of them (dualistic viewing). With higher levels of the crown open, it is you connecting into the entire universe and like the divine is streaming into you. This simple statement is telling you that you need to "be" it and expand with it, rather than drop back down into your local body mind and just continue to see more astral stuff.


Being the stream of the universe, Ever true and unswerving, Become as a little child once more. 

The shift to being is the creation of the "golden child" or opening of the "light body". But with the shift one needs to let go of mental conceptions. Each conception is an issue or fear that blocks you from further expanding into being the stream of the universe. It is about breaking down the local body mind view of self. Knowing that you are the universe.


Know the white, But keep the black! 

These simple words are the key to going on to becoming an immortal. When one begins to "be" the universe, the energy/light flow are overwhelming. One feels them-self to cease to exist as an individual form. Many traditions describe it as ceasing into God (or the divine). It feels so good and overwhelming that many stop here. This statement is telling you that one must begin to differentiate at this new and higher level of being. It is like learning to differentiate the universe while still being all of it. Similar to knowing your hand as an individual component, but keeping the being all of the body aspect.


Be an example to the world! Being an example to the world, Ever true and unwavering, Return to the infinite. 

This part is saying that one must work in the world and with others to progress and expand (and not hide on some mountaintop). It is through energetic interactions with others that we notice our deep subconscious issues and fears (beyond normal self stuff) that that continue to keep us from expanding to all (infinite). But, in working with others it is often common to get caught up with their issues and fears as they resonate with our own issues that one has not yet cleared. So one must be "ever true and unwavering" to not get caught up in those issues. And if one continues on with this process the expansion becomes infinite.


Know honor, Yet keep humility. Be the valley of the universe! 

These next words are similar to the first on male and female energy separation, but more at the universe level. The two that come from the one are polarities of all creation that lead to the manifestation of the "10,000 things". These two polarities are like infinite transmission and reception. Being the valley of the universe is being the lowest and deepest point of reception with all energy streams flowing through and to you. One must accept all and be humble while still differentiating (and knowing honor). It is effectively saying that one must let go of being a god like being. Keep humble even though you can effect the universe.


Being the valley of the universe, Ever true and resourceful, Return to the state of the uncarved block. 

Being the infinite reception/valley for everything and being resourceful (maintaining existence), one clears away all separation with the universe. Effectively becomes deeper and the background for the universe/all. This now "uncarved block" has infinite potential for helping and changing the universe.


When the block is carved, it becomes useful. When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler. 

When one have become the universe itself, some consider the journey complete and reside in that state. But, some retain the fundamental core of wanting to help others, and hence allow the needs and hopes of universe itself to carve the block and define a new form to operate with the universe (time and space). When the sage uses this form/newly carved block, he becomes a great power unto the universe.


Thus, "A great tailor cuts little." 

This is both a statement reminding one that the process is about "doing little", but also that one who is a ruler, makes very small cuts in the fabric (of the universe) to make the best clothes (shifts in the universe).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Jeff,

I thought I would put my words that Li Erh taught me and we can see the difference!

In knowing a Man's strength,

always keep a Woman's care in your heart.

Be the stream of the Universe, ever true and flowing without preference.

Become simple, yielding and soft as a child.

Being the stream of the Universe, be an example to the world;

approaching life with an open mind and an open heart.

 

Dwell in the infinite

 

Have honour and respect,

but keep humility and be humble.

In simplicity and openness, return to the state of the uncarved block of wood.

For when the block is carved, it becomes useful for Men to manipulate and use.

When the Sage returns to this stage, he becomes the ruler of the Ten Thousand Things.

For he leaves everything to rise and fall naturally without interference.

 

Of course this verse does not speak about Immortality but others do.

 

FH

 

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Hi SFH,

i am a big fan of your version of the TTC, as for me there is much wisdom in your version. Also, I think your version is very similar in meaning in this chapter.  But, I would disagree with you a little, as you state in your version, the sage moves on to become the ruler of 10,000 things, which is an immortal in my book. 

Would you be interested in discussing your version and the meaning sentence by sentence?

Best, Jeff

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Hi Jeff

A sage becomes the ruler of the infinite things by means that he/she realises that the wisdom of allowing things to take there natural path and life to rule and govern itself is deep wisdom. One of course does not have to be an Immortal to do this. As Li Erh says a sage is likened to the Dao and allows things to flow naturally like the stream of the universe.

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Hi SFH,

Part of our difference in understanding may be in the meaning of the "ruler of 10,000 things".  Do you not believe that an immortal has the power to directly affect the 10,000 things (powerless, can only flow naturally)?

Also, your version states... "In simplicity and openness, return to the state of the uncarved block of wood. For when the block is carved, it becomes useful for Men to manipulate and use." What does that statement mean to you in this context as a stage before he becomes the ruler of 10,000 things?

Thanks, Jeff

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Well of course, but the greatest treasure an Immortal has is to leave things to their natural path (wu wei) and so they refuse to interfere with the natural order.

Well in Chuang Tzu there is the story of the carpenter, if you have read this, and the twisted tree. This is a similar example of uselessness in this case becoming usefulness for the tree to live a long life. When something is blank, for it to be useful, it has to be manipulated and shaped for a purpose. Once it has a purpose, it then can be used in all sorts of ways. People tend to manipulate material and people for their own ends. If something is simple and 'useless', it is not 'useful', but this useless simplicity leaves things to go their natural way and is not forced by others to interfere with the way.

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Thank you for sharing your view, I think we just see it slightly differently. While I agree that things are generally left to their natural path, a ruler immortal takes as I described a "form" (or carved wood) to be helpful/useful to mankind.  Like the English/Feng version states Thus, "A great tailor cuts little.", not never cuts or changes at all. I see this chapter describing the steps of becoming a ruler immortal (which is different that a "normal" immortal).

Past ruler immortals have brought new "upgrades" to the world. An example at an earthly level would be things like the stories of ruler immortals bringing the new technology and building irrigation systems for farming.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is a similar description on the deepening levels of a ruler immortal in Buddhism. From the Lankavatara sutra...

....
The Blessed One replied: There are three kinds of such transcendental bodies: First, there is one in which the Bodhisattva attains enjoyment of the Samadhis and Samapattis. Second, there is the one which is assumed by the Tathagatas according to the class of beings to be sustained, and which achieves and perfects spontaneously with no attachment and no effort. Third, there is the one in which the Tathagatas receive their intuition of Dharmakaya.

The transcendental personality that enters into the enjoyment of the Samadhis comes with the third, fourth and fifth stages as the mentations of the mind-system become quieted and waves of consciouness are no more stirred on the face of Universal Mind. In this state, the conscious-mind is still aware, in a measure, of the bliss being experienced by this cessation of the mind's activities.

The second kind of transcendental personality is the kind assumed by Bodhisattvas and Tathagatas as bodies of transformation by which they demostrate their original vows in the work of achieving and perfecting; it comes with the eighth stage of Bodhisattvahood. When the Bodhisattva has a thorough-going penetration into the maya-like nature of things and understands the dharma of imagelessness, he will experience the "turning-about" in his deepest consciousness and will become able to experience the higher Samadhis even to the highest. By entering into these exalted Samadhis he attains a personality that transcends the conscious-mind, by reason of which he obtains supernatural powers of self-mastery and activities because of which he is able to move as he wishes, as quickly as a dream changes as quickly as an image changes in a mirror. This transcendental body is not a product of the elements and yet there is something in it that is analogous to what is so produced; it is furnished with all the differences appertaining to the world of form but without their limitations; possessed of this "mind-vision-body" he is able to be present in all the assemblages in all the Buddha-lands. Just as his thoughts move instantly and without hindrance over walls and rivers and trees and mountains, and just as in memory he recalls and visits the scenes of his past experiences, so, while his mind keeps fuctioning in the body, his thoughts may be a hundred thousand yojanas away. In the same fashion the trasncendental personality that experiences the Samadhi Vajravimbopama will be endowed with supernatural powers and psychic faculties and self-mastery by reason of which he will be able to follow the noble paths that lead to the assemblages of the Buddhas, moving about as freely as he may wish. But his wishes will no longer be self-centered nor tainted by discrimination and attachment, for this transcendental personality is not his old body, but is the transcendental embodiment of his original vows of self-yielding in order to bring all beings to maturity.

The third kind of transcendental personality is so ineffable that it is able to attain intuitions of the Dharmakaya, that is, it attains intuitions of the boundless and inscrutable cognition of Universal Mind. As Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas attain the highest of the stages and become conversant with all the treasures to be realised in Noble Wisdom, they will attain this inconceivable transformation-body which is the true nature of all the Tathagatas past, present and future, and will participate in the blissful peace which pervades the Dharma of all the Buddhas.

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  • 9 months later...

I can describe the path of the immortal in Taoism as told me by a mentor who went by the name of Liu I Ming.  It is presented as concepts of stillness and movement.

 

In the beginning stillness applies to the mind, and movement to the body,  We feel stillness of the mind while moving the body, as in tai chi, which is stillness within movement of the body.  Later we feel the energy moving while we sit in stillness, which is movement within stillness of the body.

 

One must still the mind until enlightenment is achieved, which normally takes five to ten years in a n authentic system, then one must continue to still the mind more and more during daily activities until stillness of the mind is permanently established during day to day activities.  Once this is achieved then thinking can return because it will not distract one out of their mental stillness.  This is movement within stillness of the mind, which is much harder to achieve than movement within stillness of the body.  This is called having clarity.

 

edit to add: Clarity is required for the next step to succeed.

 

The last part of the path is the most difficult, and that is stillness within movement in ethics.  This is the skillful movement through social situations of any kind while maintaining an inner calmness, which is Te, or virtue.  This level of achievement can only be accomplished through interactions with others, and not by sitting alone on a mountain top.  Sometimes described as the master returning to the market.   When all one's energies and motivations are aligned with the ethical then one has no power contrary to the Way.  This is how one becomes "One" with the Way.  Then stillness becomes identity with the Way, and movement is the preserving of the way of the Way.

 

 

Edited by Steve
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On 8/6/2019 at 3:21 PM, Steve said:

The last part of the path is the most difficult, and that is stillness within movement in ethics.  This is the skillful movement through social situations of any kind while maintaining an inner calmness, which is Te, or virtue.  This level of achievement can only be accomplished through interactions with others, and not by sitting alone on a mountain top.  Sometimes described as the master returning to the market.

 

I really like this, Steve. This is perhaps the best explanation of Te that I have ever come across. 

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On 1/18/2017 at 8:54 PM, Jeff said:

Hi SFH,

i am a big fan of your version of the TTC, as for me there is much wisdom in your version. Also, I think your version is very similar in meaning in this chapter.  But, I would disagree with you a little, as you state in your version, the sage moves on to become the ruler of 10,000 things, which is an immortal in my book. 

Would you be interested in discussing your version and the meaning sentence by sentence?

Best, Jeff

Yeah, FH's presentations of the TTC are really good. 

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51 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Agreed, but he seems to be venting a lot on the bums now.

I haven't looked, but I recall that daojiao come to some different conclusions as to the implications of the various interpretations, it is as if these texts mark a divergence point, of  intertwined traditions.

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The cold earth wraps its current around the icy bones of my ankles, these trousers are a little short but after all these miles I would not be without them.
No Moon, and the dark back of the mountain sways from left to right as I approach under a piercing starfield.
It is the quietest time, even the animals are absent, there is something alive around me, unfamiliar and eerie.
Far off I spot two more, moving steadily on a different route, in a different world.
How high can I get, before the Sun is visible, it will late by then and I enter the way.
Rising on the first shoulder, already the air is filling me with the life.  I am alone, but true.
The rounds of beer passed around in the tavern last night, the crowds noisy, brightly coloured clothes and climbing gear, passed around in groups.  A lot of talk about immortality and saving the world.
Where are they then, these people ?
In bed dreaming I suppose, they were dreaming last night in the bar.  Perhaps they will get up and drive home, they already got what they came for.
It is good to be alone.
Ahead and above I see the faint trails cuts back on itself, can I not go straight up?  It's not certain but likely, so I redirect my route straight up, and work my legs as the ground rises to meet me.
A little pressure and I am up and meet the path again, I have earned a break.
But I simply continue, unwinding my legs, around the corner and I see the ground has fallen away already.
 

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On 12/29/2016 at 10:56 AM, Cheya said:

“They speak as if the text were merely a primer on moral philosophy. The true title conveys that this is a book about the Infinite Power outside, surrounding and penetrating all things—Tao, and the portion of that power that resides in each human being—Te. The full title “Tao Te Ching” implies that the words inside will reveal how to connect Tao and Te,

 

I normally think of it as meaning, "the Way of power and ethics," or "the Way of the power of ethics," of some guy named Ching.

Edited by Steve
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