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.
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
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.