April 21, 2009

DIVISION 15 (第十五)

Of old he who was well versed in the Dào
Were subtle, mysterious, dark, penetrating.
They were deep beyond knowing,
So deep beyond knowing,
We can only describe their appearance:
Hesitant was he! Like someone crossing a river in winter.
And perfectly watchful, as if neighbors threatened.
Reverent, like being guests.
Dissolving, like ice beginning to melt.
Perfectly simple, as if uncarved wood.
Vacant, like a valley.
Murky, like muddy water.
Who can make the muddy water clear?
Who can be at rest and yet, stirring, come to life?
Those who keep this Dào,
Do not want to be filled to the full.
Because they are not full,
That they can be worn and yet newly made.

COMMENTARY by Koeng S. Wan:
shèng rén (sage) appears to be hesitant, perfectly watchful, reverent, dissolving, perfectly simple, vacant, and murky. The shèng rén understands the usefulness of emptiness within things (Division 11), but the Lǎo Zǐ admonishes him to not want to be "filled to the full" so as to not lose the ability to transform himself, i.e. focus into softness to become a newborn again (Division 10).

“Were subtle, mysterious, dark, penetrating” is the appearance of someone who believes nothing can be completely known (Division 1), distrusts words (Division 2), practices the teaching that uses no words (Division 2), refrains from making judgments (Division 7), and believes knowledge promotes social conflict (Division 3).

“Deep beyond knowing” is the depth that is the quality of mind (Division 8), and the understanding of Xuán (Division 1).

“Hesitant... Like someone crossing a river in winter” is appearing prudently cautious as one confronts a natural, known, and dangerous natural impediment on a journey. The image nearly matches the Judgment for hexagram 64 of the Yi Jīng (or I Ching) (易經), The Book of Changes, which is Wèi Jì (未濟 ), variously translated as “not yet complete” or “not yet forded"[1], in which a young fox attempts to cross a half-frozen stream[2]. The Yi Jīng describes the young fox as, “Thinking on with his feet, he tests the ice before he commits his weight, keeping three points on the known and one for new knowledge.”[3]

“And perfectly watchful, as if neighbors threatened” is appearing vigilant and wary of people, associations, nations and states. This is the demeanor of the young fox described in the Wèi Jì hexagram of the Yi Jīng.

“Reverent, like being guests” is appearing humble when in the presence of others (Division 8).

“Dissolving, like ice beginning to melt” is appearing to become more and more selfless (Division 7). However, water in transforming from solid to liquid, reduces the ice and disperses drops of water to the earth. The shèng rén, like ice, a form of water which symbolizes the greatest good (Division 8), gives of himself to benefit others even though it may reduce himself in some manner as Division 42 says, “Thus, a thing is sometimes added to by being diminished and diminished by being added to.”

“Perfectly simple, as if uncarved wood” is appearing plain and unadorned (Division 19), small (Division 32), and desireless (Division 37).

“Vacant like a valley” is appearing receptive to the One, which can fill a valley (Division 39).

“Murky, like muddy water” is appearing unsure or equivocating and, consequently, not smart (Division 20). The shèng rén, of course, understands why he is murky, and so can make the muddy water clear.

"...be at rest and yet, stirring, come to life" is the appearance of someone who is always seeking fulfillment and carefully plans the steps he takes in life in order to achieve fulfillment as the young fox trying to cross the frozen stream in the Wèi Jì hexagram of the Yi Jīng.

[1] Hatcher, Bradford, The Zhouyi and the First Four Wings of the Yijing In Simple, Literal Translation With the Rogue River Commentaries and Miscellaneous Notes, accessed April 27, 2009.
Hexagram 64:
Wèi Jì (未濟), Not Yet Complete

The little fox (is) almost across the (half-frozen) stream
To soak that tail
Is not the direction of merit.

Nearly half way across the half-frozen stream, the wary, young fox is dauntless but careful. He is also not done growing older and wiser, and knows this. He continues to follow his plan. His plan, however, has already crossed, and now relaxes on that far shore in the sun. Such a plan may drown itself many times over, yet come back as lively as ever. The tangible fox is unable to do this and so he wants to keep all of his trouble in theory, and to keep his loose ends together. Thus far from safety, with just as far forward as back, he cannot afford to even dampen his tail. His nearest home or resting place may be all the way at the end. Nothing is granted but givens, as he can find and claim them. The sequences are uncertain, the problems are unknown. And yet he wants certain, not probably, outcomes. Thankfully, only three out of four feet really need to be sure. Thinking on with his feet, he tests the ice before he commits his weight, keeping three points on the known and one for new knowledge. Almost all the tension and stresses increase his chance for success. Thoughts of ice cold water, thoughts of the warm sunny shore: a tension pulls on to the other.
[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.