The Tao as it appears to me

The Tao is a personal journey into oneself from within and without. This is my understanding of the philosophy stated by Lao Tzu and other Daoists like Lieh Tzu, Chuang Tzu...


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I am what I think...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I plan to do...

I wanted to discuss a verse every month and then spend the rest of the month elaborating on it and comparing it with other streams of philosophies and so on. Unfortunately, Blogger does not allow me to specify dates beyond 2006 (I required dates upto 2011 so that I could write in reverse chronology). So I shall regularly change dates on the posts although most of them should be completed in a span of a year or two.

I have no disclaimer to present. This blog contains my views. A view is but a whiff of hot ccocoa from a chocolat and isn't the brewing chocolate itself. I can present my view about Mount Fujyama, but that cannot be the mountain itself.
I could present to you more than a view. I or another troubled soul might claim that what I write is the exact representation of the Tao, but claims are merely views presented verbally. What is contained here is my understanding which has come to me, for I strongly believe that knowledge, understanding and wisdom choose their vassals. And I thought I had no disclaimer to present!

I would urge readers to read these posts with an open mind. I do not ask you to agree with what I say. I request you not to compare it with what you have already learnt or what you already follow. Its not whether I am right or wrong that matters, but whether these posts gave you a new experience or at least make you meditate.

I set forth on this journey with least expectation. Frankly, I am clueless as to where this will lead me.

The Tao has appealed to me like none other has. Most of my questions since childhood remained unanswered by popular religions. Then I stopped putting them to religions and put them to people who were older than me. I realised I would be better off not disturbing them. I never found another soul amongst my peers who was interested in discussing the import of life. Soliloquy offered me my much sought after companion, guide and devil.

The following sites are of use to those who want other sources of information regarding the Tao:
2. Daily Tao
3. Tao Te Ching at BigView
4. Dao De Jing

I will mostly be using the previous link in generating the translation of a verse. Every verse (I hope) will start with a character by character translation of a verse, folowed by a short summary of the verse ending in an interpretation of the same (with sporadic incidents of interpolation). A lot can be learnt from the works on the page.

May this journey bring to you what is meant to be with you...

Chapter 1

The following is the transliteration of the 1st chapter (the accents are not included):

Dao ke’ Dao, fei chang dao; Ming ke’ ming, fei chang ming.
Wu ming tian, di zhi shi, you ming wan wu’zhi mu
Gu chang wu, yu yi guan qi miao;
chang you, yu yi guan qi %
Ci liang zhe’, tong chu er yi ming;
tong wei zhi xuan
Xuan zhi you xuan, zhong miao zhi men

% represents a character which was not found in the dictionary although its closest connotation was available.

Meaning per character:
Way mouth(ed) way, not permanent way, name mouth(ed) name, not permanent name
Without name heaven/god, earth it begin, possess name myriad object mother
Cause/reason permanent not/without, desire continue view this wonderful/subtle
Permanent possess, desire continue view this border
This two thing, similar issue yet differing name
Similar name/call it obscure/abstruse
Obscure/abstruse it possess obscure/abstruse, crowd/many subtle it gate

Summary of the verse derived from above:
The way that is spoken is not the permanent way
The name that is spoken is not the permanent name
The Earth and Heavens came from the nameless
All the objects we see came from the named mother
Without desire or need to reason one can always see the subtleties
With desire we will always see the tangibles within our scope
These two things issue out from the same source but are named differently
The sameness of the source is the obscurity
The obscurity in the obscure is the gate to many subtleties

The Tao/way that is/(can be) spoken/(popular) is not the permanent Tao/way
(As much as) The name that is spoken/(used to identify) is not the permanent name
The infinite that the Heavens and earth represent, issued out of the nameless
The myriad objects that we can sense issue out of the named (or that which we can give a name)
Ever filled with desire we only see and observe what can be sensed
Once we lose desire even subtle intangibles are clear to out eye
Both these (the named and the nameless) spring from the same source (or the Tao) although they are addressed differently
The source of confusion/wonder/mystery is the sameness of these two different entities
This mystery/(wonderful source) which holds the mystery of the Tao, is the gate to all subtleties/wonder/realisation

However fine and magnificent, the Tao Te Ching (hereafter addressed as the TTC) isn’t the Tao itself. Taking it further, the Tao (as we think we know it) isn’t the Tao itself. Once it can be captured in words and names and processes, it ceases to be the Tao, like a breeze does, once it is bottled. This verse, which hasn’t been accidentally placed at the outset of the TTC, seems to me the single most important verse, which also serves as a disclaimer (earliest known?) to Lao Tzu’s work. This verse cleverly discourages all designs of making a religion out of this text, although nothing can prevent a determined mind from doing so! This is most important in our understanding of the Tao and the way of life. Mankind has been notorious for making religions out of words, both names as well as scriptures/teachings. Words and symbols have always had a more tangible relevance to the puny mind. Words soon take a life of their own and any collection of such words becomes sacred. A systematic application and enforcement of this sacred text (coupled with some miracles and fables, for definite adoption) make a religion for scores of people. It is of the utmost importance that we wipe out the hope or ambition of making the TTC a religion in a populist or commercial sense, and Lao Tzu has been fairly farsighted in anticipating that and hence, issuing a statement at the forefront of his text. The Tao, being a way of life, is merely a way. It can’t hence be the way. There cannot be anything absolute or authoritarian about a way. Every path leads to a destination, but the path itself can never become the destination. So be it with the Tao.
As we try explaining things with names we have created, we come to a point when our vocabulary and language itself falters and gives way to the nameless state where an answer to a question like “So what was there before that?” or “So, where did that come from?”, usually starts out like “Well, it was something like...”. There we are. In the state of the nameless. That state is the root of all creation including the heavens (or cosmos to the adamantly scientific) and the earth and all the things we can recognise. Everything arose from this nameless state, which is the Tao, although not the complete Tao.
On our way to that nameless state we had stretched our imagination and vocabulary alike, to state/name everything we know & understand. These named strata are a manifestation of the Tao as much as the nameless state is.
When we have no desires, we do not resist being the Tao & hence are able to be part of the nameless state too and experience it. What is meant by no desire is not being a hermit or an ascetic and fasting and growing beards. What it does mean is that, there is no desire to exert oneself to establish the self as an independent entity. The desire to be known as the name given to us or as the body we hold during our lifetime, or to be remembered beyond our lifetime are efforts to establish the self. When the desire is absent, activities are merely performed to carry out the natural objective. We shall come to this later. Please bear this in mind while coming across the word desire hereafter. No other meaning is intended unless explicitly stated or until brought to notice. Our desires create wants and want-nots, which numb us from experiencing the Tao in its entirety although we are party to some of its manifestations & find contentment in the names we give them along with our explanation and justification.
The irony lies in treating these two (the named and nameless) as different from each other. One might say “But they are different. One is the named and the other is the nameless”. We shant go into that as yet. They are merely called differently as much as water and limejuice are called differently but to the thirsty they are the same.
Once we see the unity of these, everything is the same. There ceases to be the named and the nameless. Both appear from the same Tao and vanish into it, but we associate goodness and badness with them and differentiate between them. This ignorance, this irony is the darkness, the mystery that envelopes the Tao and makes it difficult to understand. But the Tao is also the source of this darkness and is also enveloped by it. In understanding this paradox lies the key to unraveling all the subtleties of life and the Tao.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jiddu Krishnamurthy's views

Herewith is presented Jiddu Krishnamurthy's famous speech. I present it here merely to compare it with the first couple of lines from the 1st Chapter of the TTC.

Truth is a Pathless Land
by J Krishnamurti

We are going to discuss this morning the dissolution of the Order of the Star. Many people will be delighted, and others will be rather sad. It is a question neither for rejoicing nor for sadness, because it is inevitable, as I am going to explain.
You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, "What did that man pick up?" "He picked up a piece of Truth," said the devil. "That is a very bad business for you, then," said his friend. "Oh, not at all," the devil replied, "I am going to let him organize it."
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.
So that is the first reason, from my point of view, why the Order of the Star should be dissolved. In spite of this, you will probably form other Orders, you will continue to belong to other organizations searching for Truth. I do not want to belong to any organization of a spiritual kind, please understand this. I would make use of an organization which would take me to London, for example; this is quite a different kind of organization, merely mechanical, like the post or the telegraph. I would use a motor car or a steamship to travel, these are only physical mechanisms which have nothing whatever to do with spirituality. Again, I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality.
If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth. So that is another reason why I have decided, as I happen to be the Head of the Order, to dissolve it. No one has persuaded me to this decision.
This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies. Then you will naturally ask me why I go the world over, continually speaking. I will tell you for what reason I do this: not because I desire a following, not because I desire a special group of special disciples. (How men love to be different from their fellow-men, however ridiculous, absurd and trivial their distinctions may be! I do not want to encourage that absurdity.) I have no disciples, no apostles, either on earth or in the realm of spirituality.
Nor is it the lure of money, nor the desire to live a comfortable life, which attracts me. If I wanted to lead a comfortable life I would not come to a Camp or live in a damp country! I am speaking frankly because I want this settled once and for all. I do not want these childish discussions year after year.
One newspaper reporter, who interviewed me, considered it a magnificent act to dissolve an organization in which there were thousands and thousands of members. To him it was a great act because, he said:
What will you do afterwards, how will you live? You will have no following, people will no longer listen to you.” If there are only five people who will listen, who will live, who have their faces turned towards eternity, it will be sufficient. Of what use is it to have thousands who do not understand, who are fully embalmed in prejudice, who do not want the new, but would rather translate the new to suit their own sterile, stagnant selves? If I speak strongly, please do not misunderstand me, it is not through lack of compassion. If you go to a surgeon for an operation, is it not kindness on his part to operate even if he cause you pain? So, in like manner, if I speak straightly, it is not through lack of real affection -- on the contrary.
As I have said, I have only one purpose: to make man free, to urge him towards freedom, to help him to break away from all limitations, for that alone will give him eternal happiness, will give him the unconditioned realization of the self.
Because I am free, unconditioned, whole -- not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal -- I desire those, who seek to understand me to be free; not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect. Rather should they be free from all fears -- from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself. As an artist paints a picture because he takes delight in that painting, because it is his self-expression, his glory, his well-being, so I do this and not because I want anything from anyone.
You are accustomed to authority, or to the atmosphere of authority, which you think will lead you to spirituality. You think and hope that another can, by his extraordinary powers -- a miracle -- transport you to this realm of eternal freedom which is Happiness. Your whole outlook on life is based on that authority.
You have listened to me for three years now, without any change taking place except in the few. Now analyze what I am saying, be critical, so that you may understand thoroughly, fundamentally. When you look for an authority to lead you to spirituality, you are bound automatically to build an organization around that authority. By the very creation of that organization, which, you think, will help this authority to lead you to spirituality, you are held in a cage.
If I talk frankly, please remember that I do so, not out of harshness, not out of cruelty, not out of the enthusiasm of my purpose, but because I want you to understand what I am saying. That is the reason why you are here, and it would be a waste of time if I did not explain clearly, decisively, my point of view.
For eighteen years you have been preparing for this event, for the Coming of the World Teacher. For eighteen years you have organized, you have looked for someone who would give a new delight to your hearts and minds, who would transform your whole life, who would give you a new understanding; for someone who would raise you to a new plane of life, who would give you a new encouragement, who would set you free -- and now look what is happening! Consider, reason with yourselves, and discover in what way that belief has made you different -- not with the superficial difference of the wearing of a badge, which is trivial, absurd. In what manner has such a belief swept away all the unessential things of life? That is the only way to judge: in what way are you freer, greater, more dangerous to every Society which is based on the false and the unessential? In what way have the members of this organization of the Star become different?
As I said, you have been preparing for eighteen years for me. I do not care if you believe that I am the World-Teacher or not. That is of very little importance. Since you belong to the organization of the Order of the Star, you have given your sympathy, your energy, acknowledging that Krishnamurti is the World-Teacher -- partially or wholly: wholly for those who are really seeking, only partially for those who are satisfied with their own half-truths.
You have been preparing for eighteen years, and look how many difficulties there are in the way of your understanding, how many complications, how many trivial things. Your prejudices, your fears, your authorities, your churches new and old -- all these, I maintain, are a barrier to understanding. I cannot make myself clearer than this. I do not want you to agree with me, I do not want you to follow me, I want you to understand what I am saying.
This understanding is necessary because your belief has not transformed you but only complicated you, and because you are not willing to face things as they are. You want to have your own gods -- new gods instead of the old, new religions instead of the old, new forms instead of the old -- all equally valueless, all barriers, all limitations, all crutches. Instead of old spiritual distinctions you have new spiritual distinctions, instead of old worships you have new worships. You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else; and although you have been preparing for me for eighteen years, when I say all these things are unnecessary, when I say that you must put them all away and look within yourselves for the enlightenment, for the glory, for the purification, and for the incorruptibility of the self, not one of you is willing to do it. There may be a few, but very, very few.
So why have an organization?
Why have false, hypocritical people following me, the embodiment of Truth? Please remember that I am not saying something harsh or unkind, but we have reached a situation when you must face things as they are. I said last year that I would not compromise. Very few listened to me then. This year I have made it absolutely clear. I do not know how many thousands throughout the world -- members of the Order -- have been preparing for me for eighteen years, and yet now they are not willing to listen unconditionally, wholly, to what I say.
As I said before, my purpose is to make men unconditionally free, for I maintain that the only spirituality is the incorruptibility of the self which is eternal, is the harmony between reason and love. This is the absolute, unconditioned Truth which is Life itself. I want therefore to set man free, rejoicing as the bird in the clear sky, unburdened, independent, ecstatic in that freedom . And I, for whom you have been preparing for eighteen years, now say that you must be free of all these things, free from your complications, your entanglements. For this you need not have an organization based on spiritual belief. Why have an organization for five or ten people in the world who understand, who are struggling, who have put aside all trivial things? And for the weak people, there can be no organization to help them to find the Truth, because Truth is in everyone; it is not far, it is not near; it is eternally there.
Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. You use a typewriter to write letters, but you do not put it on an altar and worship it. But that is what you are doing when organizations become your chief concern.
How many members are there in it?” That is the first question I am asked by all newspaper reporters.
How many followers have you? By their number we shall judge whether what you say is true or false.” I do not know how many there are. I am not concerned with that. As I said, if there were even one man who had been set free, that were enough.
Again, you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.
So you will see how absurd is the whole structure that you have built, looking for external help, depending on others for your comfort, for your happiness, for your strength. These can only be found within yourselves.
You are accustomed to being told how far you have advanced, what is your spiritual status. How childish! Who but yourself can tell you if you are beautiful or ugly within? Who but yourself can tell you if you are incorruptible? You are not serious in these things.
But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, without beginning and without an end, will walk together with a greater intensity, will be a danger to everything that is unessential, to unrealities, to shadows. And they will concentrate, they will become the flame, because they understand. Such a body we must create, and that is my purpose. Because of that real understanding there will be true friendship. Because of that true friendship -- which you do not seem to know -- there will be real cooperation on the part of each one. And this not because of authority, not because of salvation, not because of immolation for a cause, but because you really understand, and hence are capable of living in the eternal. This is a greater thing than all pleasure, than all sacrifice.
So these are some of the reasons why, after careful consideration for two years, I have made this decision. It is not from a momentary impulse. I have not been persuaded to it by anyone. I am not persuaded in such things. For two years I have been thinking about this, slowly, carefully, patiently, and I have now decided to disband the Order, as I happen to be its Head. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Infinity in the Upanishads

Poornamadah Poornamidam
Poornaat Poornamudachyate
Poornasya Poornamaadaaya

That (which we do not yet know) is the whole; this(which we can sense) is the whole
From that whole arises this whole (world as we know it)
When the whole is taken out of the whole, the whole still remains whole.

I read somewhere that Lao Tzu had in his possession the copies of Indian scriptures and having read them and others in his library which he took care of, he adopted some of them in his 81 verses and more in his life. Whether this is true or not is besides the point.

More to come in this post...
--------- Added after 6th March 2005 ----------
Do note the uncanny correlation between the verse above and Chapter 1 of the TTC. The Tao does not call the gross or the sublime as parts of something. The shanti mantra above too addresses them as the "whole". What I proceed to say is my interpretation and stands to criticism as anything else on this blog.

Let us consider the 2nd line in the shanti mantra:
"Poornaat Poornamudachyate"

From the whole that we believe in comes the whole (that we would like to believe in). Some minds need tangibles before they can deal with anything. They need proofs and theories and specimens. Such a mind deals with the tangible whole (I resist using the phrase "gross whole" as it might have negative connotations) and what it can create is also in the realm of tangibles. So be it with the specialists (as JK calls them). They need statistics and lab tests and sundry before they will accept the possibility and, later, the existence of something. This is what Lao Tzu refers to when he says "Ever filled with desire we only see and observe what can be sensed" (rather as per the translation arrived at above, which is definitely not Lao Tzu's handiwork). When the need to sense doesn't exist and the need to measure and assure ourselves ceases, what we enter is the intangible whole. This whole gives rise to a whole world of tangibles and intangibles, but the tangibles here are not measured. This whole, mind you, is still derived from the absolute whole which also contains and is the wholeness of tangibles. I think we are getting vague here. Let us slow down. There is one whole which contains, although it cannot be cleaved on the grounds of containment, the whole world of tangibles and intangibles. This whole shall hereafter be addressed as Whole, merely to reduce confusion. So we realise that the whole of tangibles creates a whole world of tangibles and the whole of intangibles creates a whole world of intangibles (which includes tangibles which needn't be measured). I hope we are together. What I wish to impress upon the intellect is that the single line in the shanti mantra is applicable to both the wholes, and the need for brevity felt by our ancient sages drove them to compress the interpretation into 2 words (if you ignore the sandhi of the words in the 2nd word). Please rest to admire the brilliance of the mind. To capture the immensity of purport and import in merely two words is either the height of intelligence or presumption of wisdom of the reader. But as my starting line of this paragraph notes, these wholes are a projection of our belief systems. Hence, in the absence of belief, rather the absence of our desire to believe, we can arrive at the interpretation that the whole referred to in that line is nothing but the Whole. It is, infact, ironic that a single manifestation of the whole (viz. our mind) would issue preferences over the movement of the Whole.

Let us go to the first line:
"Poornamadah Poornamidam"

Note the impartiality in assigning wholeness to either. Both (the tangibles and intangibles) are complete in themselves. Neither takes a position of superiority over the other. Neither is intended to be superior to the other. So be it in our lives (this is a diversion). Today I wish to study philosophy and meditate but that doesn't make me in any way superior than the the stock broker on the floor who concerns himself purely with the vagaries of the monied markets. Many tales by Lieh Tzu hint at this as well, and shall be discussed later. It is of paramount importance that we lose the awe and dim the aura associated with knowledge (not wisdom) and esoteric pursuits. In the Whole, nothing is treated as more important than the other.

The most exciting beauty (at least to me) lies in the unmistakeable parallel that is drawn between the last lines of the shanti mantra and Chapter 1:

"Poornasya Poornamaadaaya

"Both these (the named and the nameless) spring from the same source (or the Tao) although they are addressed differently
The source of confusion/wonder/mystery is the sameness of these two different entities
This mystery/(wonderful source) which holds the mystery of the Tao, is the gate to all subtleties/wonder/realisation"

I shant taint this beauty with my words. Do let the inevitable arrive.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The pressures of the mind...

This post has nothing to do with the Tao but is, in a way, related. My intention for these posts was (and in many ways, still is) to compose a chapter per month and discuss it throughout a month. I should have composed the 2nd chapter over this weekend, but my browser created problems repeatedly. I was at loss of words regarding the Upanishad's correlation with the TTC ever since I first created that post, and had decided to abandon the pursuit for now. I woke up (4:45 a.m.) and sat down to type today and the correlation comes forth of its own volition.

I hereby notify a change in the agenda. I shall compose a chapter of the TTC every month, but will not stick to any plan rigidly (for it seems that it is not for me to plan). I shall keep updating the blog on various chapters over time. So while I might be working on the 10th chapter I would update something to do with the 3rd chapter. I shall try my best to keep the reader informed of such changes.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Tian xia jie zhi mei zhi wei-wei mei, si e-e'-wu yi.
jie zhi shan zhi wei-wei shan, si bu shan yi.
You wu xiang-xiang sheng, nan-nan yi xiang-xiang cheng,
chang-zhang duan xiang-xiang xing, gao xia xiang-xiang qing,
yin sheng xiang xiang he'-huo, qian hou xiang-xiang sui.
heng ye.
shi yi sheng ren chu-chu wu wei-wei zhi shi,
xing-hang bu yan zhi jiao-jiao;
wan wu zuo er fu shi
sheng er fu you wei-wei er fu shi,
gong cheng er bu ju.
fu wei fu ju, shi yi bu qu

Heaven below together know beautiful it become beautiful, this wicked finish
All know good it become good, this not kind finish
Have not

Under the heavens, all of us recognise beauty as beauty because we know what is meant by ugly.
We recognise good as good because we know what is meant by bad.
Hence, presence and absence (of something) creates a variety of duality
(E.g.)Difficult and easy complete each other
Long and short define forms
High and low merge into each other

08-Jun-05 (please refer to the links in the "What I plan to do" post above, for the translation)

In this world most, if not all, things are realised by their relative importance or the absence of it. We know what is beautiful because we know what we would call ugly. We are quick to categorise things as good because we know what falls within the play of evil. If nothing was denounced as evil, goodness (as a category) would make little sense. We know black because we know white. We know "2" because we know it is 1 more than 1, which in turn is 1 more than nothing. We wouldn't know nothing in this world because there is truly nothing in this world which is not countable or distiniguishable. A whole book is written about Nothing. Ask anyone to describe nothing and see them falter.
This contrast occurs simulataneously; when something is black it is not white or yellow.When we have something, we do not have what we would have had, had this something not been with us. We do not have poverty when we have riches & when in poverty we can only imagine about riches.
This duality is present in every walk of our lives. It is, if one may be bold and patient, impossible to see life & its facets independantly. Things seem easy when one is aware of difficulty. If one ceases to think and merely observes the world around oneself one sees the multitude of contrasting duals. We could go on & on & write tomes enumerating such pairs. Our ambitious goals, joy, sorrow, regret, sense of accomplishment, hoplessness & very nearly everything are relative to ourselves and our circle of concern.
A sagely person would understand this as being the crux of all matters that surround us. Hence, he does nothing which could add to the duality that surrounds everyone. To preach one & create abhorrence for the other would only strengthen the embodiment of duality. So he neither preaches nor castigates, neither leads nor follows (for leading creates a need to continue being a leader and a resistance from following). He lives by recognising the duality of things. Is it not, then, a useless life? Millions of things are created, which thrive & decaywithout preferring one side of the coin over the other but merely recognise and react to each side accordingly. Every phase of their life is lived & they move on to the next. Similarly, a sage does a task and moves on; resting in the ease or difficulty of it or awaiting credit or critique after its completion would make one attached to one face of the duality. Hence, the sage's actions last forever without the sage intending its permanency.
Note how the verse starts. "Under the heavens" is not a mere phrase for poetic or romantic purposes. The literal meaning is "on this earth" while deeper meanings arise as we meditate on it. Heavens signify equilibrium where matter exists and not. Heavens are not a function of time nor are they devoid of temporal qualities. If heavens and being heavenly is recognised as the highest state of a wise mind, what one must go through is represented by "under the heavens". This is not a matter of creating another dual of superiority and inferiority; when one must cross the tree before reaching the lake, we cannot but recognise it as a fact that one passes by. Similarly, the deconditioning of mindset to stop this categorisation of life's entities is a necessary step before one reaches the equilibrium of the heavens.