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Tao Te Ching - Verse 48

An Exloration Inspired By Hu Xuezhi's Translation & Commentary

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Verse forty-eight of Laozi / Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (translated by Hu Xuezhi in Revealing The Tao Te Ching):

The pursuit of learning is to increase knowledge day after day.
The pursuit of Tao is to decrease knowledge day after day.
Persist in reducing the False Heart little by little,
Till all the acquired is dropped.
When taking non-acquired action, nothing is left undone.
The entire world is gained by taking non-acquired action,
To be qualified for achieving all by taking any acquired action is not enough.

Exploring a bit more deeply ...

The Pursuit Of Learning

The pursuit of learning is to increase knowledge day after day.

Hu Xuezhi’s commentary:

”As far as common human beings are concerned, in order to gain and amass knowledge, one should study daily.”

Elizabeth responds:

And “gaining and amassing knowledge” will then result (or so the story goes) in the gaining and amassing of: approval, love, worldly success & opportunities, financial compensation, fame and glory, and ultimate fulfillment of ones life purpose.

Every now and again, this equation seems quite valid. And oftentimes it doesn’t -- which can be rather disappointing, frustrating, confusing ... and, if we’re lucky, a gateway into a whole other way of being, and the possibility of a truly unconditional happiness -- via a recovery of our True Heart.

Which isn’t to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with “gaining and amassing knowledge”(or skills of any kind). When I wanted to learn how to play basketball, there were many skills and much knowledge to be amassed, in order to learn the rules of that game. Same with pretty much any relative-world activity. But to depend upon such things for ultimate peace, joy, wisdom, satisfaction .... is risky business, and -- in Lao Tzu’s view -- not recommended.

~ * ~

Recovering The True Heart

The pursuit of Tao is to decrease knowledge day after day.
Persist in reducing the False Heart little by little,
Till all the acquired is dropped.

Hu Xuezhi’s commentary:

”To achieve Tao, one should gradually get rid of the False Heart until there is none left. Only in such a way can one fully recover the True Heart someday.”

Elizabeth responds:

What is the “False Heart”? It’s also designated as: Acquired Nature, Constitutional Nature, Corporeal Self. It’s the “me” perceived and understood to be an inherently separate (from all other living beings) and permanent “entity” traveling through time and space, from birth to death. The False Heart relies heavily (entirely?) upon conceptual knowledge, to perpetuate the illusion of its (supposed) existence. Elsewhere Hu Xuezhi writes:

”Sometimes, we call the True Heart the “Magical Self,” while the False Heart the “Corporeal Self.” The Magical Self never experiences any birth or death while the Corporeal Self suffers endless births and deaths.”

How do we go about “reducing the False Heart little by little”? By engaging in non-acquired action -- wuwei. (Or, perhaps, all at once via taking the red pill -- the Direct Path?)

~ * ~

Non-Acquired Action: Wuwei

When taking non-acquired action, nothing is left undone.
The entire world is gained by taking non-acquired action,
To be qualified for achieving all by taking any acquired action is not enough.

Hu Xuezhi’s commentary:

”By thoroughly getting rid of all desire and passion, Te can be gained and amassed to become Tao. By possessing the same body with Tao, one can enable all things to be done perfectly without taking any acquired action, just as Tao does.

These lines present the general principle for gaining Tao.”

Elizabeth responds:

”The entire world is gained by taking non-acquired action” because non-acquired action manifests (consciously) only via a re-membering of our interdependence (not-two-ness) with the “entire world.” As such, non-acquired (non-volitional, spontaneous) action is the functioning of our Body of Tao: is Tao dancing via a human bodymind, in the manner of an actor playing a particular role in a play. And, as Wei Wu Wei reminds us:

”An apparent entity is ‘lived’ or ‘dreamed’: his is a role played by an ‘actor.’ The dramatis persona has no volition at his disposal; the apparent volition displayed is a pretence inherent in the part; and the energy via which that part is played is not subject to a volitional act. For the ‘actor’ is not an entity, but Mind-Only.”

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