“Those who know don’t talk
those who talk don’t know
seal the opening
close the gate
dull the edge
untie the tangle
soften the light
and join the dust
this is called the Dark Union
it can’t be embraced
it can’t be abandoned
it can’t be helped
it can’t be harmed
it can’t be exalted
it can’t be debased
thus does the world exalt it”
(Taoteching, verse 56, translation by Red Pine)
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “”Those who know, value deeds not words. A team of horses can’t overtake the tongue. More talk means more problems.”
TS’AO TAO-CH’UNG says, “Those who grasp the truth forget about words. Those who don’t practice what they talk about are no different from those who don’t know.”
SU CH’E says, “The Tao isn’t talk, but it doesn’t exclude talk. Those who know don’t necessarily talk. Those who talk don’t necessarily know.”
HUANG YUAN-CHI says, “We seal the opening and close the gate to nourish the breath. We dull the edge and untie the tangle to still the spirit. We soften the light and join the dust to adapt to the times and get along with the world.”
LI HSI-CHAI says, “By sealing the opening, we guard the exit. By closing the gate, we bar the entrance. By dulling the edge, we adjust the inside. By untying the tangle, we straighten the outside. By softening the light, we focus on ourselves. By joining the dust, we adapt to others. What is devoid of exit and entrance, inside and outside, self and other, we call the Dark Union.”
WANG TAO says, “The Dark Union unites all things but leaves no visible trace.”
WANG PI says, “If something can be embraced, it can be abandoned. If something can be helped, it can be harmed. If something can be exalted, it can be debased.”
TE-CH’ING says, “Those who know transcend the mundane and the superficial, hence they cannot be embraced. Their utter honesty enables others to see. Hence, they cannot be abandoned. They are content and free of desires. Hence, they cannot be helped. They dwell beyond life and death. Hence, they cannot be harmed. They view high position as so much dust. Hence, they cannot be exalted. Beneath their rags they harbor jade. Hence, they cannot be debased. Those who know walk in the world, yet their minds transcend the material realm. Hence, they are exalted by the world.”
WEI YUAN says, “Those who seal the opening and close the gate neither love nor hate. Hence, they don’t embrace or abandon anything. Those who dull the edge and untie the tangle don’t seek help. Thus, they suffer no harm. Those who soften the light and join the dust don’t exalt themselves. Thus, they aren’t debased by others. Forgetting self and other, they experience Dark Union with the Tao. Those who have not yet experienced this Dark Union unite with ‘this’ and separate from ‘that.’ To unite means to embrace, to help, and to exalt. To separate means to abandon, to harm, and to debase. Those who experience Dark Union unite with nothing. From what, then, could they separate?”
And RED PINE adds, “Knowing comes before talking. And the Dark Union comes before knowing. It’s called the Dark Union because it precedes the division into subject and object.”
I said yesterday that these verses are something of a challenge for me to add any commentary. To talk about them, or not to talk about them? And, what does he mean by balanced?
I have said it before, and it bears repeating: You can’t force this virtue. But we try, how we try. I just know that if I can get this perfect balance between yin and yang, all will be right in my world.
But, in yesterday’s verse he uses the metaphor of a newborn child, who can’t do a thing to be virtuous, to exemplify those with an abundance of virtue. And, in today’s verse, he makes it even plainer (if I am understanding him at all).
Perfect balance is the result of what he calls the Dark Union. Dark means it is hidden, unseen. As Wang Tao says, “The Dark Union unites all things but leaves no visible trace.”
And, then the rest of the commentators, today, beginning with Wang Pi, explain the problem with our trying to be balanced, and how to transcend the problem.
Wang Pi says anything that can be embraced, can be abandoned. Anything that can be helped, can be harmed. And anything that can be exalted, can be debased.
But the Dark Union transcends this, since it can’t be embraced or abandoned, it can’t be helped or harmed, and it can’t be exalted or debased.
Te-ch’ing says that those who know transcend the mundane and the superficial. Though they walk in the world, and interact with the world, their minds transcend the material realm.
Wei Yuan says, and this is important, that they neither love nor hate, they neither help nor harm, and because they don’t exalt themselves, they can’t be debased by others.
Red Pine says this Dark Union precedes the division into subject and object. There is the difficulty. We can’t very well go back to being newborns again.
As Wei Yuan continues, forget self and other, and you will experience Dark Union with the Tao. As long as we divide things into “this” and “that” we will want to unite with “this” and try to separate ourselves from “that.” But unite means to embrace, help, and exalt; and separate means to abandon, harm, and debase. To experience Dark Union is to unite with nothing, and therefore separate from nothing.
So, what does it mean to be balanced? Instead of thinking of it as just the right amounts of yin and yang, think about it as neither yin nor yang.