The Tao (Suzuki & Carus)

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There are three negatives in Chinese: pu, "not," the simple negation; wu, "lacking in, non-existent, without"; and fei, "by no means." Though we can not lay down a general rule about their distinctions, there are different shades of meaning according to the context which we have tried to bring out in our English version. Sometimes the meaning of the negated word, or the ironic sense in which it is used, influences the negative. In Chapter 49 pu shan, "ungoodness", means "evil," but in Chapter 38, pu teh, "unvirtue," means that higher virtue which makes no show and does not even assume the name. In Chapter 57 wu shi, "non-diplomacy," is that higher mode of statesmanship with which a good ruler will unostentatiously govern the empire. On the other hand Lao-tze speaks of both fei tao, i. e., "lack of reason" or "anti-reason" (Chapter 53) and pu tao (Chapters 30 and 55) "unreason," which soon ceases, while "the reason that can be reasoned" (tao ko tao) is declared to be "by no means the eternal Reason (fei ch‘ang tao)."

The term wu, "non-existence" (Chapter 40), is not annihilation but denotes absence of concrete particularity or of materiality. It is intended to describe what we would call the purely formal, including purely formal thought, viz., the prototypes of things as well as ideals. Materiality makes things real but non-materiality, as set forth in Chapter 11, while giving shape to things by cutting away certain portions, renders them useful.

Lao-tze's appreciation of oneness is to be expected of a philosopher of the Tao, of Divine Reason. He speaks of oneness 15 as giving character to things that are units (Chapter 39) and unity cannot be disintegrated (Chapter 10).

Lao-tze's reference to trinity as begetting all things (Chapter 42) is, to say the least. curious, perhaps profound, and Christians will also be interested in the idea that the Son of Heaven as the High Priest of the people must bear the sins of mankind (Chapter 78).

Lao-tze's style is characterized by paradox as in "do without ado" (commonly translated "act with non-assertion" as in Chapters 2, 3, 10, etc.); "know the unknowable," "be sick of sickness" (Chapter 71); "practice non-practice," "taste the tasteless" (Chapter 63); "marching without marching" (Chapter 69). Similarly the phrases "the form of the formless" and "the image of the imageless" (Chapter 14) etc. are used to describe what Kant calls "pure form," i. e., non-material or ideal forms such as geometrical figures, and which corresponds to the Buddhist term arupo, "the formless," in the sense of "the bodiless."

Undoubtedly the best sayings of Lao-tze are: "Requite hatred with goodness" (Chapter 63); and "The good I meet with goodness; the bad I also meet with goodness . . . . The faithful I meet with faith, the faithless I also meet with faith" (Chapter 49).

Other remarkable ideas of Lao-tze are his preference for simplicity (Chapters 17, 28, 37, 57), for purity (Chapter 45), for emptiness (Chapters 3, 4, 5), for rest and peace (Chapter 31), for silence (Chapters 2, 23, 43, 56), for tenderness (Chapters 52, 76, 78), especially the tenderness of water (Chapter 78), for weakness (Chapters 36, 40) for compassion (Chapter 67), for lowliness or humility (Chapter 61), for thrift (Chapter 59), for returning home to the Tao (Chapters 25, 40), for spontaneity or lack of effort (Chapter 6), etc.

He is against restrictions and prohibitions as producing disorder (Chapter 57), against ostentation (Chapter 58), against learnedness as unwisdom (Chapter 81). He believes that the Tao when sought is found (Chapter 62), and he praises the state of a little child (Chapters 10, 28, 55). He compares himself to a babe (Chapter 20) and calls himself the child or son of the Tao and the Tao his mother (Chapter 52); on the other hand the sage looks upon the people as children (Chapter 49).

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