21 November 2016

Pretend Not and You don't have to Act - DaoDeJing 38

If we pretend not then we don't have the stressful work putting up a show all the time. When we lose our virtues, we set up various rules to show that we are virtues! We need to fix the root issue and not cover up with more and more layers of paints says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 38
DaoDeJing Chapter 38 Text & Translation:

上德不德,是以有德。
The highly virtuous one does not think he has virtues (and so continues to develop them) and hence he is possessing them.

下德不失德,是以无德。
The lowly virtuous only wants to look like having virtues and hence possesses no virtues at all.

上德,无为而无以为;
The highly virtuous pretends not hence don't have to act as if.

下德,为之而有以为;
The lowly virtuous pretends and so have to put up a show.

上仁为之而无以为。
The truly charitable one gives freely without thinking that he is doing charity.

上义为之而有以为。
The truly righteous one does the righteous things after consideration of what is right.

上礼为之而莫之应,则攘臂而扔之。
The top ritualistic one does them but getting no support, stretches the arms to force people to follow them.

故失道而后德,
Hence, when the Way of Dao is lost, comes virtues

失德而后仁,
When virtues are lost, comes charity.

失仁而后义,
When charity is lost, come righteousness.

失义而后礼;
When righteousness is lost, comes rituals.

夫礼者,忠信之薄,而乱之首。
These rituals, they are results of lack of loyalty and trust (integrity). They lead to chaos.

前识者,道之华,而愚之始。
Those that have foresight, but focusing on the outward forms of Dao, are actually the beginning of foolishness.

是以大丈夫处其厚,不居其薄,
Hence, the wise men build on the strong , not on the thin foundation

处其实,不居其华,故去彼取此。
Stay on the solid content and not on the beautiful shell. Give out that to gain this.

Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Being Yourself and Pretending to be Someone You are not
When we know someone is putting up a show, we know immediately that he is not genuine. Lao Zi tells us that if someone is trying to show his kindness, then he does not have kindness but rather showmanship. We cannot and should not judge a person on the surface.

The Process of Degradation
Lao Zi lists down the progression of degradation. First is the loss of Dao, then of Virtues, then of Charity, of Righteousness, of rituals or rules. Rules or legal laws is the greatest hypocrisy and the cause of confusion. As an example, consider abortion. Abortion is the killing of unborn lives. It is sin according to any religions. But we can set up laws to legalize it. In such a case, abortion is no longer perceived as sinful but as a legally ok thing to do. By reading this chapter, we can understand the rise of the Pharisees recorded in the Bible who were condemned by Jesus. See Matthew Chapter 23.

Why the Ten Commandments were Given
Lao Zi tells us because we lose the Dao, we don't know right and wrong and so we set up laws to show people what is loving, right, and proper conduct. It is not as good but serves as a compromise and is subjected to misuse and abuse as pointed out earlier. The Bible also explains why the Laws of Moses are given. Here are some quotes from the Bible:
  • Romans 3:20b through the law we become conscious of our sin
  • Galatians 3:19a Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
  • Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Let's Go back to the Basic
We must go back to the very basic of developing and cultivating Dao within us. External laws cannot force us to be that. A good example is about my own fellow citizens, the Singaporeans. Singapore is known for its cleanliness. But it is clean by enforcement of laws. When we cannot be fined, we will revert back to throwing garbage in the public park or streets. In a typical public event, cleaners have to be sent in clean up the garbage thrown by the audiences. True cleanliness is internal. We keep the public spaces clean without being told to or being enforced by laws. It is because we want to be clean.

Lim Liat (c) 21 Nov 2016
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