26 May 2014

Greatness is Not About Emptying but Extending says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 13

Lao Zi tells us that man concerns greatly about glory or disgrace because of the existence of his 'self' alone. To rid the worry, then the self must be changed. Most people will think that Lao Zi means 'emptying' the self of one's ego or pride. However, Lao Zi actually means the self needs to be extended from self alone to include everyone in the world! This resonates with Jesus saying of loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).
Dao De Jing Chapter 13 text and translation:
  1. 宠辱若惊, Adoration and contempt are things that shock people
  2. 贵大患若身。The main concern is the disaster falling on one's body.
  3. 何谓宠辱若惊? Why have adoration and contempt such shocking effects?
  4. 宠为上、辱为下, Adoration from others lifts up one's pride and comptempt lowers one's pride.
  5. 得之若惊,失之若惊,Gaining or loosing them creates shocks.
  6. 是谓宠辱若惊。This is why adoration and contempt are shocking.
  7. 何谓贵大患若身? Why is disaster falling on oneself the main concern?
  8. 吾所以有大患者,为吾有身。The reason is because oneself has only one own body.
  9. 及吾无身,吾有何患?If oneself has not one's body only, then how could one be worry?
  10. 故贵以身为天下,若可寄天下;Hence, if one can treasure the world as oneself, then the world can be entrusted to him.
  11. 爱以身为天下,若可托天下。If one can love the world as oneself, then he can be entrusted with the world.
The Twist - The World and I are One.
Verses 1 to 8 talks of the great impact and concern of glory/fame and disgrace/insults on people.
Verse 9 proposed the simple answer - the problem is the existence of one's body.
The twist is in verse 10-11. The proposed solution of removal of a single one's body is not about emptying of one's ego, esteem or pride as most people or some religions would suggest, but rather, extending the lone body of self to include everyone under heaven! Such a person can be entrusted to run the nations. The government can be upon him.

The teaching of Lao Zi's is not about selflessness to emptiness but rather about broad heartedness and mindedness to include all into oneself. Lao Zi speaks much on the love of the Way of Dao.

If we go back to the last verse of DaoDeJing Chapter 7, we find ..,
  • 非以其无私耶!故能成其私。
    Is it not because he has no selfish interests ? And therefore able to achieve self-actualization.
So, self-actualization, the self is still there and is the objective, is about loosing it to gain it back! Jesus said in Mark 8:36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Including everyone into us is too great a concept to grasp. We may fall into the trap best said by the famous Peanuts Cartoon Character Linus: "I love mankind! It's people I can't stand! "

Jesus makes it simpler for all us in "to love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31).

Now that the Big-Self exists, the issue of Honor/Glory/Fame and Dishonor/Shame/Disgrace are concern of everyone and not just a small-self of me alone. Honor and Dishonor are matter of right and wrong, good and evil. We can see that in Mencius' teaching of 4 virtues with knowing shame as the attribute of righteousness.

孟子 “四端”: Mencius Four Unending Virtues

  1. 恻隐之心,仁之端也;compassionate heart is the beginning and ending of love.
  2. 羞恶之心,义之端也;feeling shame and evil is the beginning and ending of righteousness.
  3. 辞让之心,礼之端也;giving way to others is the beginning and ending of good manners/conduct.
  4. 是非之心,智之端也。knowing right and and wrong is the beginning and ending of wisdom.


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