March 30, 2009

DIVISION 14 (第十四)

Looked at but never seen,
It takes the name invisible.
Listened to but never heard,
It takes the name ethereal.
Held tight but never felt,
It takes the name gossamer.
You can't unravel these three,
Blurred so utterly they've become one.

“One” – there is nothing more encompassing above it,
And nothing smaller below it.
Boundless, formless! It cannot be named,
Again it reverts to nothing.
This is called the Formless Form,
The image that is without substance.
Therefore, it is said to be elusive and evasive.
Come toward it, one does not see its head.
Follow behind it, one does not see its rear.
Abiding in the ancient Dào
To master what now has come to be
And fathom its ancient source:
It is to know the thread of Dào.

COMMENTARY by Koeng S. Wan:
The One is a creation of the Dào (Division 42) that is gazed at but can't be seen, listened to but can't be heard, and is held on to but not felt, and so is perceived as a singularity which is an image called the Formless Form. The One is "elusive and evasive" yet it can be approached, embraced (Division 10), and possessed (Division 39). Abiding by the Dào is "To master now what has come to be" which is understanding of the nature of all things, an understanding needed for one to become enlightened (Division 16).

Among the source translations of the Lǎo Zǐ, only the Mǎ Wáng Duī texts identify the three named things as the "One"[1]. As Henricks points out the designation seems appropriate since the text immediately after designation of the "One" seems to appropriately describe it as "there is nothing more encompassing above it / And nothing smaller below it."

The One is presented as a great mystery. This division in combination with Divisions 10, 14, 39, and 42 provides clues to this great puzzle though its characterization within the Lǎo Zǐ seems sometimes to be indistinguishable from the Dào. To this point in the Lǎo Zǐ, it should be noted that the One is not the same thing as the Dào since Division 42 says that the Dào gave birth to it.

[1] Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, translated by Robert G. Henricks, The Modern Library, New York, NY, 1993, 221pp.

[2] Ibid.