“Sages have no mind of their own
their mind is the mind of the people
to the good they are good
to the bad they are good
until they become good
to the true they are true
to the false they are true
until they become true
in the world sages are withdrawn
with the world they merge their mind
people open their ears and eyes
sages cover theirs up”
(Taoteching, verse 49, translation by Red Pine)
SU CH’E says, “Emptiness has no form. It takes on the form of the ten thousand things. If emptiness had its own form it could not form anything else. Thus, sages have no mind of their own. They take on the minds of the people and treat everyone the same.”
HUI-TSUNG says, “Because it is empty, the mind of a sage can receive. Because it is still, it can respond.”
YEN TSUN says, “A mindless mind is the chief of all minds. Sages, therefore, have no mind of their own but embrace the minds of the people. Free of love and hate, they are not the enemy of evil or the friend of the good. They are not the protector of truth or the adversary of falsehood. They support like the earth and cover like the sky. They illuminate like the sun and transform like the spirit.”
WANG P’ANG says, “Good and bad are the result of delusions, and delusions are the result of self-centered minds. Those who open themselves up to the Great Way, although their eyes see good and bad, their minds do not distinguish any differences. They don’t treat the bad with goodness out of pity but because they don’t perceive any difference. Although the ten thousand things are different, their differences are equally real and equally false. To see the real in the false and the false in the real is how the wisdom of sages differs from that of others.”
CONFUCIUS says, “In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right” (Lunyu:4.10).
WANG PI says, “The mind of sages has no point of view, and their thoughts have no direction.”
JEN FA-JUNG says, “Wherever sages go in the world, they act humble and withdrawn and blend in with others. They treat everyone, noble or commoner, rich or poor, with the same kindness and equality. Their mind merges with that of others. Ordinary people concentrate on what they hear and see and concern themselves with their own welfare. The sage’s mind is like that of a newborn baby, pure and impartial.”
HSUAN-TSUNG says, “Sages cover up the tracks of their mind by blending in with others.”
CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “Stop the eyes and the ears, and the others senses will follow.”
And RED PINE adds, “The Chinese word for mind, hsin, also means ‘thoughts,’ ‘goals,’ ‘intentions,’ or ‘will.’ Thus, Lao-tzu is not being philosophical here in saying ‘sages have no mind of their own,’ merely practical.”
Today’s verse continues where Lao-tzu left off yesterday. “Having no mind” is the same as “find nothing to do” from the previous verse, where he contrasted the need to lose, with gaining more knowledge.
Let’s begin with what Red Pine says at the conclusion of the sages’ commentaries. “Sages have no mind of their own,” means sages have no thoughts, no goals, no intentions, no will, of their own.
As Yen Tsun says, “They are free of love and hate, they are not the enemy of evil or the friend of the good. They are not the protector of truth or the adversary of falsehood.
Wang P’ang warns that good and bad are the result of delusions, and delusions are the result of self-centered minds. Those who open themselves up to the Great Way, don’t distinguish any differences between good and bad.”
And, Jen Fa-jung explains how ordinary people perceive with their ears and eyes and so concern themselves only with their own welfare. But sages cover their ears and eyes. They treat everyone, noble or commoner, rich or poor, with the same kindness and equality. Their mind merges with others.
I would rearrange the wording in lines nine and ten. I think it is better understood this way: “Sages are withdrawn in the world, they merge their mind with the world.” By “the world,” here, Lao-tzu means the ten thousand things. But, for our purposes keep in mind, you contain the ten thousand things internally. That is why it is so important to cover your ears and eyes so you won’t be distracted by the delusion of external things.
How else can you be good and true to both the good and the bad, and the true and the false, equally?
Red Pine introduces the following sage with today’s verse:
HUI-TSUNG (R. 1101-1125). Sung dynasty emperor and one of China’s greatest calligraphers and patrons of the arts. His commentary was finished in 1118, shortly before he was taken captive by nomad invaders. Yu-chieh tao-te-chen-ching.