Five Good Things

“Good walking leaves no tracks
good talking contains no flaws
good counting counts no beads
good closing locks no locks
and yet it count be opened
good tying ties no knots
and yet it can’t be undone
sages are good at saving others
therefore they abandon no one
nor anything of use
this is called cloaking the light
thus the good instruct the bad
and the bad learn from the good
not honoring their teachers
or cherishing their students
the wise alone are perfectly blind
this is called peering into the distance”

(Taoteching, verse 27, translation by Red Pine)

LU TUNG-PIN says, “‘Good’ refers to our original nature before our parents were born. Before anything develops within us, we possess this goodness. ‘Good’ means natural.”

HO-SHANG KUNG says, “Those who are good at walking find the Way within themselves, not somewhere outside. When they talk, they choose their words. When they count, they don’t go beyond one. When they close, they close themselves to desire and protect their spirit. When they tie, they secure their mind.”

TE-CH’ING says, “Sages move through the world with an em[ty self and accept the way things are. Hence, they leave no tracks. They do not insist that their own ideas are right and accept the words of others. Hence, they reveal no flaws. They do not care about life and death, much less profit and loss. Hence, they count no beads. They do not set traps, yet nothng escapes them. Hence, they use no locks. They are no kind, yet everyone flocks to them. Hence, they tie no knots.”

WANG PI says, “These five tell us to refrain from acting and to govern things by relying on their nature rather than on their form.”

WU CH’ENG says, “The salvation of sages does not involve salvation, for if someone is saved, someone is abandoned. Hence, sages do not save anyone at all. And because they do not save anyone, they do not abandon anyone. To ‘cloak’ means to use an outer garment to cover an inner garment. If the work of salvation becomes apparent, and people see it, it cannot be called good. Only when it is hidden is it good.”

CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “The good always cloak their light.”

HSUAN-TSUNG says, “The good are like water. Free of impurity and without effort on their part, they show people their true likeness. Thus, they instruct the bad. But unless students can forget the teacher, their vision will be obscured.”

SU CH’E says, “Sages do not care about teaching. Hence, they do not love their students. And the world does not care about learning. Hence, people do not honor their teachers. Sages not only forget the world, they make the world forget them.”

And, RED PINE adds, “Lao-tzu apparently took his own advice regarding teachers and students, all of whom remain nameless.”

Lao-tzu has talked about things which are simply bad, before. Today he talks about five good things. Of course, since the things which are simply bad are doing things which are unnatural, the things which are good are doing things according to our nature. The good instruct the bad and the bad learn from the good; but, what is this about not honoring their teachers, nor cherishing their students? Lao-tzu has explained this before, as well. The idea, here, is that our actions shouldn’t be forced, in other words, unnatural. It is when our honoring and cherishing is done out of pretense. Remember, we need to get rid of all pretense. Hence, it is the wise, alone, who are perfectly blind. They don’t make distinctions. Thus, through cloaking their light, they peer into the distance.

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