Chapter 70 – The Jade Is Within

 My doctrines are easy to understand and very easy to practice,
But none in the world can understand or practice them.
My doctrines have a source (Nature); my deeds have a master (Tao).
It is because people do not understand this that they do not understand me.
Few people know me, and therefore I am highly valued.
Therefore the sage wears a coarse cloth on top and carries jade within his bosom. 

Translation by Wing-Tsit Chan (1963)

 I would like to begin this essay with two quotes from Confucius or his later followers.  JadeThe translation for each is taken from Hellmut Wilhelm’s Change: Eight Lectures on the I Ching, which was translated from German into English by Cary F. Baynes (1960):


 “The Master said:  Writing cannot express words completely.  Words cannot express thoughts completely. 

“Are we then unable to see the thoughts of the holy sages?
(Wilhelm, Page 36).

The other:

 “First take up the words,
Ponder their meaning,
Then the fixed rules reveal themselves.
But if you are not the right man,
The meaning will not manifest itself to you”.
(Wilhelm, Page 65)

I am tempted to stop right here and say that Confucius has just explained to us what Lao Tzu wrote in this chapter – both because he has and because while the doctrines may be easy to understand and to practice, they are not easy to explain.

In the first lines of Chapter 1, Lao Tzu warned us that the Tao that can be told of or named is not the eternal Tao.  Now here we are, several thousand Chinese characters and English words into the telling of Tao and Te, and the Old Master is reminding us of the limitations on what we have read.

In many ways, Lao Tzu’s words and their translations seem reasonably easy to understand, and even reasonably easy to apply and follow.  Therein perhaps lies the problem.  Reason is a human construct.  Nature and Tao, which are here said to be the source of Lao Tzu’s doctrines and the master of his deeds, do not reason.  They simply are.

Yet not even that last three-word sentence is simple or true.  If Tao is the master of the sage’s deeds, the servant would be doing very little, for wu wei, the course of non-action, would direct those deeds.   Most people will not understand this.

The words of the Tao Te Ching are simple, humble even, like coarse cloth.  We have been told of their limitations.  The real treasure of this life lies within the soul or spirit of mankind; and very few look beneath the poor clothing in which the treasure is presented.*

But if you are the right man or woman, the meaning will manifest itself to you.  It is your treasure, after all.


*  Sort of like Bilbo’s riddle to Gollum in The Hobbit – “What is in my pocket?”


6 thoughts on “CHAPTER 70 – THE JADE IS WITHIN

  1. Welcome back. I agree, and well said. Reason has its place as an existential manifestation of duality. Thoughts and words, appreciated for what they are –secondary reflections of essence – and not confused with what they are not – the truth of essence – are a part of what we do. The Sage is speaking of the truth of essence, of our very being, when he says “ My doctrines are easy to understand and very easy to practice, But none in the world can understand or practice them.”

    We clothe ourselves in doing, thinking, speaking. We are human, doing. Rough cloth indeed, wrapped around a core of priceless jade – our essence. Essence is human, being – which requires no understanding or practice. It is “the truth that passes understanding.” It appears in quiet moments when, all thoughts and words and memories and feelings put aside, we know things just are. Things just Be.

    • And now, the inevitable PS:

      “Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing. It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed any more.”

      “What have I always believed?
      That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.”

      “It is at this point that normal language gives up, and goes and has a drink.”

      Of coffee. Cheers. (All quotes by Terry Pratchett)

      • Ah, Terry Pratchett.

        I have been thinking about writing Entry 66 in the “65 years in 65 days” series that I began, and thought I had completed, last year. Thinking now about Terry Pratchett is one of the reasons I may.

        There was a famous interview with Ronald Reagan after his Alzheimer’s Disease became known in which the Great Communicator referred to books as “trees.” That is their essence, but most of us thought he used the wrong word. Terry Pratchett is now several years into what is considered an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s. I suppose we will see this fine writer who earned his fame and his living with words lose the use of them as Reagan (and thousands of less famous people) did.

        A few years ago, as I was just reaching the age at which I could apply for Social Security if I had wished to, I thought of my father and how he had participated in a bowling league each week when he was about that age. I had considered that to be very active for him, and thought him fortunate. That thought came to me as I was out running to train for a half marathon. Needless to say, I felt very fortunate.

        Several months ago, I tore the meniscus in my left knee. Only very recently have I been able to return to even very short jogs, though I do walk several miles each day. I still feel fortunate.

        I looked up Terry Pratchett’s date of birth. He is about six weeks younger than I am.

        Now I feel fortunate that Ezekiel Emanuel is not my physician.

        • I had a bucket handle tear of both the “red zone” and “white zone” meniscus, so I sympathize. When it happened the pain knocked me out. I did it in a customer’s basement and woke up on their lawn in the front yard. They told me later I did a fancy dance through their living room involving a lot of reeling and staggering and yipping, none of which I remembered because my lights were out.

          As time went on I got used to the pain and when the tear got painfully doubled over on itself and my knee wanted to lock up I’d plant my toe and bend my knee inward at an awkward angle and produce a loud, ugly crunch that would free it up. People near me found this ghastly, so I learned to hop around the corner before I did it.

          I finally had it repaired surgically, and it has given good service for the past 15 years or so. Be advised that cartilage in the “white zone” doesn’t grow back, so if you’re into impact activity the remaining cartilege will wear accordingly. Just a little geezer wisdom, which is apparently not worth as much as it used to be according to Doc Emanuel.

          You must subscribe to The Atlantic. Dr. Emanuel has revealed himself as a person who has no qualms making judgments about the quality and advisability and, indeed, the allowance of life, in terms of how we measure up to local societal standards.

          If he’s so concerned about we look to others then perhaps he could decide for himself what constitutes looking bad and arrange to have himself offed according to that criteria without involving the rest of us and superimposing his local perspective over our own. I’ll cut in a part of what he said here:

          “…But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic…”

          So much for how the good Dr. regards his elders…

          I’m getting old, and I suppose some ignorant idiot with no insight, discernment, sensitivity, or experience – which is pretty much the polite definition of “ignorant idiot” – might take a look at the way I live and see a faltering, declining, deprived, feeble, ineffectual, pathetic and “non-contributing” social unit which they could righteously replace with a newer cog so the machineries of their small world might more smoothly grind human beings down into a homogeneous grist…

          Hmmm… Aww, heck with it. I’ll go when I want to. If circumstances dictate it’s a gunfight at the front door – so be it.

          I figure the tribe proposes, but God disposes. That is, the tribe can propose how I will come into this life, how I will live it, and how I will leave it. But the God in me, the free will I have, and the natural and not socially-imposed definitions of existence I experience still have the final word.

          Nobody has the power to tell anyone when they can be born, or how to live. I suppose there is an argument that others might be able to enforce their definitions of how or when or why my body should die, but I have no doubt that the spirit within that body has the final word on all of that regardless of circumstances, even if those circumstances involve the slow melting of Alzheimer’s or the knock of the age police at the front door.

          As a counterproposal to Dr. Emanuel’s thoughts let me offer the suggestion that, within three days after all citizens reach their 25th birthday, they have to produce a list enumerating the values of elders to a society, and if they do not then they are to be summarily euthanized.

          Seems to me that Dr. Emanuel needs to take a second look, and this time look for value rather than valuelessness.

  2. Pingback: |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *