Introduction

From Derek Lin’s book comments…If we imagine the Tao, we manifest serenity. But – serenity must be consistent. If serenity is consistent, human nature gravitates. If we as humans waffle in our consistent presentation of serenity, human nature levitates. DL’s Comment 1 seems to conflict with Comment 2. One can draw attention to oneself by manifesting the Tao, but the Tao attracts no attention to itself. Can it be so? Comment 3 summarizes this chapter 35. One perspective might be that of quantity and quality. While sensory stimulation holds anticipation, satiation, and memory for moments in time, the great image fortifies the self for all time and its components: future and present and past.

From Derek Lin’s Terebess comments…DL says nothing about consistency in this early commentary. It could be taken that when we hold the image, we attract the flock, when we let them down we incur their mock.

Wayne Dyer’s “translation” appropriates the work of five of the ten usual suspects listed in his book’s acknowledgements. Wayne’s commentary dotes on the term transcend, spritzing permutations of it into verb, noun, present participle, third person present tense and adjective throughout his commentary. He transfers into this mode by stating in paragraph two that, “your pleasure is in being at one with what (The Tao) allows it (pleasure, desire, addiction…the good stuff) all to transpire”.

Ancient scholar and neo-Taoist Wang Bi emphasizes that this chapter, in fact all Tao Te Ching chapters, address the ruler exclusively. He likes to refer to The Tao as The Great Image and mother. WB implores the ruler to mimic The Great Image: being less invasive and, therefore, more persuasive. Wang Bi goes on to ponder that if the ruler put his preferences in suspension and tolerated the preferences of his charge, what a wonderful world it would be. I personally thought the last several lines of chapter 35 better fit into the beginning of chapter 36 (i.e. consider in chapter 35 the three declarative “it can not be” and the four directive “one must first” in chapter 36. However, neither scholars nor translators even hint at this reassignment in their work. Also, I have similar feelings about the last lines of the prior chapter, 34, interlocking with the first line of 35 (i.e. see “great” in lines 9,10, 11 in C34 and line 1 of C35).

Comparing Derek Lin and Wang Bi translations, the couplets that got my attention were in lines 3 and 4. Wang Bi’s subscription to the idea that Tao Te Ching addresses the ruler (him) versus Derek Lin’s gender-neutral rewriting stood prominent. WB’s adjectives in lines 3b and 4a, (optimal and fragrant) also stood out, and caused me to search for clues as to what and why and where in terms of Chinese character etymology. Maybe the Wang Bi translator (Rudolf Wagner) took the WB character 泰 (peaceful) substituted for DL character 太 (greatest) and arrived at “peace [would be] optimal” instead of DL’s “harmonious peace”.

As far as Wang Bi’s use of “fragrant” in line 4a, I see such alternate definitions as “bait” and “entice” as possible inducements to choose the euphemism fragrant.

I included an etymology section this time. The original Tao Te Ching used many characters which emanated from nature. This magic can get lost in translation. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried to bring some of this ancient metaphoric construction to the forefront with some original ancient script. Some of the Oracle Bone Scripts are amusing, others confusing and certain ones worth perusing. Though technically correct, when a translator drops the hint of nature contained in the original Chinese character (earth, wind, fire, water, etc.), they not only drop the link to the ancient shamanic past but further distance the sacred text from Laozi’s warning about giving whole meaning to words and names and form.

Afterword

What can I say after word?

Derek Lin’s translation implores us to hold on to The Tao and harmonious peace will transit. Sensory pleasures hold transitory value while The Great Image leaves you satiated. Things that can be seen and heard don’t transcend time…but Oh! The Way. DL’s commentary reveals his theory on how to attract friends. He inserts the words “cooking smells attract”[1], not indicated in his translation but synonymous with Wang Bi’s use of the adjective “fragrant”[2].

Mr. Lin’s internet commentary, captured from Terebess website, appears to be an early bread crumb path into his thought process for commentary on TTC 35…somehow it is left to us to get from this early rendition to the commentary printed in his book version.

I’ve concluded that the good news (of Wayne Dyer using pieces of TTC chapters broken off of the original translations of legitimate authors) is that we can evaluate the perspective and quality of several translators in a single swirling pool of divergent and sometimes pseudo credentialed scholarship. I myself would never have known of some of these fellows, let alone thought to look at the text as their eyes have. Wayne’s commentary, much like a quarry, is long and deep and cool and still. You can’t see into it, so you have to take his word for it. Sometimes someone interpreting for us feels good. And feeling good enough.

Wang Bi’s commentary in some cases uses different Chinese characters than Derek Lin. Their translations read similar. WB’s commentary does make note of a future chapter (45) in the Te.

The comparison sections stood unremarkable to me.

The added Etymology section, however, does allow for an expansion on the idea of nature being present in metaphor, metaphor’s inclusion in Chinese character but then, when myriad things of nature vanish from these characters, the result is that all words necessitate definition. When the sage imagined the ideal metaphor for reverence of ancestors to be:

an old man with long hair, bent-over (lǎo) a child () this ideal represented itself in a character (xiào).

When the sage ruminated on his thought process, the ideal metaphor for “to think” became:

the brain (xìn) and the heart (xīn) heart yielding (). Even back then the sage realized that peoples’ thoughts were an  inseparably emotion/mind confection. The Oracle Bone Scripts for some of the base characters:

人 (“man”) + 毛 (“hair”) + 匕 (“cane”) – a man with long hair (an old man), leaning on a cane.
子an image of a baby, with a large head and spread arms. The legs are wrapped in a blanket.
囟fontanel + heart心
 囟Picture of the top of the head, with X marking the fontanel (gap between bones of an infant’s skull) 囟 started to corrupt into the unrelated 田 as early as the silk script.
心a heart, now highly stylized.

[1] Cooking smells: DL book comment #2.

[2] WB translation line 4a.