Saturday, March 3, 2007




The world is defined by opposites

Beauty is beauty because ugliness is perceived

Good is good because bad is perceived

Therefore, having and not having produce each other

Difficult and easy complement each other

Long and short create each other

High and low support each other

Sound and silence harmonize with each other

Front and back accompany each other.

The man of understanding is not defined by opposites

He goes about his activities without effort

Teaching without talking.

Though busy he does not turn away

Handling what needs to be done, he does not hold on

Completing, he does not take credit.

Because nothing is possessed, nothing is ever lost.


Commentary: My purpose in doing this exercise is to bring these passages alive in the context of finding usefulness and practicality within their esoteric nature.

First however, there was a translation challenge for me over the words Sheng Jen. Mostly this is translated as the Sage. Stephen Mitchell translates it as the Master. R.L. Wing says Evolved Individuals. I prefer the Man of Understanding. This is a term John-Roger has used in one of his talks and is Chapter 76 of his book The Tao of Spirit:
Anyone can play the game.

As a matter of fact,
almost everyone plays the game
except the man of understanding.

He goes through the routine with you
and laughs
and has a good time,
and you can't understand why he's not serious about this.

It's because he understands that there is nothing to be
serious about,
because the whole divine action of God
is entirely present.

And so this man of understanding is accused of being everything
but understanding.

John-Roger from Tao of Spirit

So I like “Man of Understanding” as it seems more accessible and less aloof than the other terms. It does present another set of problems, however, one of gender. What about the woman of understanding? Mitchell gets around this by alternating between calling the Master a “he” and a “she.” I thought of saying the One of Understanding but that seemed a little too lofty. So I have stuck with the Man of Understanding as it resonates most for me. My hope is that the female readers can make the switch to include themselves.

Now on to the practicality of the passage. The most useful to me is in the last sentence, “Because nothing is possessed, nothing is ever lost.” I think it is a wonderful statement of detachment. In fact throughout the text the Man of Understanding goes about things in a detached state yet still manages to stay very involved, doing nothing but getting things done. One of the keys is the effortlessness that comes from detachment. It reminds me of the Life Design Principle mentioned in a previous post:

There is a simple next step to everything.
And that simple next step can always be taken in a relaxed way.

One of the reasons the Man of Understanding is not understood is that he doesn’t define his life in the same way as the average person. He is not run by others’ opinions and nothing is good or bad or right or wrong. Things are simply what they are and the Man of Understanding is content to leave it that way.