Alice Lin

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Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 12

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五色令人目盲;
五音令人耳聾;
五味令人口爽;
馳騁田獵,令人心發狂;
難得之貨,令人行妨。
是以聖人為腹不為目,故去彼取此。

The five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five tones deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of man;
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.

Therefore the Sage:
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

Five Colors: green, red, yellow, white, black.
Five Tones: 宫 Gong(Do) 商 Shang(Re) 角 jiao(Mi) 徵 Zhi(Sol) 羽 Yu(La), similar to the Western notes (do), (re), (mi), (so), (la), 1 2 3 5 6.

 Image result for 五聲音階相片

The image is from樂理-b

Five Flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, salty.

Image result for image of Five Flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, salty.
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Image result for image of hunting
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
China Porcelain — Canton vase. Qing dynasty. H:t 62,5 cm, 19th Century (2256×3664)161: Chinese Qing dynasty cloisonne moon flask vase, : Lot 161
Images are from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/391672498813823083

Lao Tzu points out that our sensual desires or pursuing of material which is external often brings disastrous consequences to us. Again, he reminds us to rid ourselves of outside pleasure and gain peace within. Just like the saint who only meets the basic survival needs of the belly, rather than chasing the extra desires. In other words, the saint chooses to be simple and quiet, and not to be extravagant.

A Story From a Friend

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This is a story that my friend told me:

Image result for image of Edinburgh, England.

Image from International Studies Abroad

An old couple decided to sell their house to move to Spain to retire after working all of their life in Edinburgh, England. Their house was surrounded by the sea, where the humidity was high, and the couple was susceptible to rheumatism.

The old man fancied a house in Spain but had to make a payment in two weeks, so the Edinburgh housing agency hung up a sign for rush sale.

A young Chinese couple happened to find jobs in the city. They were in a hurry to buy the house for kids to go to school in time. They saw the listing and it seemed to be the house that they were looking for.

The young couple took note of the words “home for rush sale.” They called the agent and asked whether they could get a discount.

The old couple had no choice because they needed to make the payment for the house in Spain. They gave them the discount.
But the young couple still felt that they could get a better deal. A couple of days before closing, they asked for a larger discount, or they would cancel the transaction.

Unexpectedly, the old couple agreed.

The young couple was overjoyed to get such a good deal.

Friends came to help them to move in.

Image result for image of flower on the table

Image from Pinterest

To their surprise, they saw a carpet of green grass, and flowers in bloom. It seemed as if the owners had just left. They were even more shocked when they entered the house.

The house was spotless, with bright windows and clean tables. On the table were some flowers in a vase with a note underneath, which read: ” Welcome to this house that gave us happy and memorable for decades. We wish that you would have the most joyous life here.”

The couple went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to see it full of food and drinks. The refrigerator also contained a note, which said: “We have prepared a week of supplies for you. You can go to the supermarket by taking a left and then another left; it is about 20 minutes away.”

The young couple was puzzled. How do you sell a house for enough money like this?

They went to look at the meter box, where they found another note, which read: “We have paid for you at least one month of electricity, so you have enough time to transfer the utilities.” but in the UK, it is troublesome to handle such procedures.

They were in awe and stood there and could not move.

At that moment, they lost the joy of moving into a new house.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 11

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三十輻,共一轂,當其無,有車之用。
埏埴以為器,當其無,有器之用。
鑿戶牖以為室,當其無,有室之用。故有之以為利,無之以為用。
Thirty spokes are joined in the wheel’s hub.
The hole in the middle makes it useful.
Mold clay into a bowl.
The space inside makes it useful.
Cut out doors and windows for the house.
The holes make it useful.
Therefore, the value comes from what is there,
But the use comes from what is not there.
(Translated by Stefan Stenudd)

Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel.
Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being (in the vessel’s hollow)
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall),
From their not-being (space) arises the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the non-existence of things we are served.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

Image result for images of ancient Chinesewagon wheel with 30 spokes

This image is from https://kknews.cc/news/mnpz49.html

Thirty spokes unite in one nave; but it is inn the space for the axle, that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out from the walls that form an apartment; but it is in the space that their uses depend. Therefore, that which does not have positive existence serves profitable adaptation, and what has not that serves actual usefulness. (http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing)

Using the examples of the wheel, bowl, and house, Lao Tzu stresses the importance of emptiness. Those are our daily use and necessary stuff for our livelihood. From here, we can extend that concept to many more things that are close to us, which are empty and yet hold usage. Indeed, value comes from what is there, but use comes from what is not there.

A Painter’s Invoice

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One lady hired a painter to paint the walls. When the painter walked into the house, he saw that her husband was blind. But the lady’s husband was very cheerful and optimistic, so the painter had a pleasant time working there and he never once mentioned the man’s physical impairment.

After he had finished the job, he gave the lady the invoice. The lady took a look and found a significant discount on their negotiated price. She asked the painter, “Why did you charge so much less?”

The painter replied, “I was very happy to work here in the presence of your husband, and he made me feel that my situation was not the worst. The discount serves as my gratitude to him because he did not make my work a hardship!”

Image result for image of painter to paint the walls with one hand

Image from Franklin Painting, LLC

The painter’s admiration for her husband made her shed tears because…the generous painter had only one hand!

The moral of the story:

Although we can not change our lives, we can change our outlook on life;

Although we can not change our environment, we can change our state of mind;

Although we can not adjust our environments to adapt to our lives, we can instead adjust our attitude to adapt to all environments, so our attitudes will determine our fates!

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 10

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載營魄抱一,能無離乎?
專氣致柔,能嬰兒乎?
滌除玄覽,能無疵乎?
愛民治國,能無知乎?
天門開闔,能為雌乎?
明白四達,能無知乎?
生之、畜之,生而不有,為而不恃,長而不宰,是謂玄德。

In embracing the One with your soul,
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule without interference?
In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
(From a translation by S. Mitchell)

Image is from https://kknews.cc/zh-mo/culture/46emkbv.html

Lao Tzu presented six concepts here to lead us to “Tao”-
Oneness – the body and soul are one and without separation.
Gentleness – gather chi (vital breath) to reach a gentle state, like a child.
Flawlessness – clear your thoughts and look deep within yourself to be flawless.
Fairness – rule the people with love but do not exempt yourself from the natural law.
Quietness – be peaceful and silent when opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven.
Clearness – see everything as they are without relying upon your knowledge.

What is “Tao”-
The “Tao” gives birth to all things and nourishes them;
it produces them and does not claim them as its own;
it does all, and yet does not boast of it;
it presides over all, and yet does not control them.
This is what is called ‘The Mysterious Quality of the Tao.”
To sum up to reach “Tao”-
Do nothing無為.
Hold nothing不恃.
Have nothing不有.
Control nothing不宰.

Note: Gate of Heaven-
There is life, and there is death; there is breath in, and there is breath out; there is no such thing as the appearance for the gate of heaven. The gate of heaven is nothingness, and all thing comes from nothingness.

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