Just happened to read this first chapter of Ursula Le Guin's translation of the Tao Te Ching, which is as follows:
The way you can go
isn’t the real way.
The name you can say
isn’t the real name.
Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed:
name’s the mother
of the ten thousand things.
So the unwanting soul
sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.
Two things, one origin,
but different in name,
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.
Le Guin's Notes:
A satisfactory translation of this chapter is, I believe, perfectly impossible. It contains the book. I think of it as the Aleph, in Borges’s story: if you see it rightly, it contains everything.
The first thing I thought of while reading this was the juxtaposition of a mind seeking out of craving and desire and attachment vs. a mind characterized by non-attachment in the Buddhist sense (AN 4.10), with the parts about 'name' reminding me of how name and form (nama-rupa) — our tainted conceptual understanding of our experience of mentality-physicality (or mind and body) and the sense of self we construct around it — arise through the process of dependent co-arising (SN 12.67). And, conversely, the seeing of the truth of 'things as they are' and the nature of the unconditioned, nibbana, arises from its cessation and the unfolding of transcendental co-arising (AN 11.2, SN 12.23).
In other words, you can't condition the unconditioned, but you can condition an end to conditioning, thereby opening up to the experience of the unconditioned already present, hidden in plain sight. Hence, the unwanting soul sees the hidden, i.e.:
"For a person who knows & sees things as they actually are, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I feel disenchantment.' It is in the nature of things that a person who knows & sees things as they actually are feels disenchantment.
"For a person who feels disenchantment, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I grow dispassionate.' It is in the nature of things that a person who feels disenchantment grows dispassionate.
"For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.' It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release. (AN 11.2, Thanissaro)
And I think Le Guin is right that this chapter contains everything, much like how the footprint of the elephant encompasses all others. And in the same vein, I'm a perennialist in the sense that I see all of our various religious traditions as smaller footprints encompassed by a larger, universal truth we're all struggling to apprehend. Just different fingers all pointing towards the same moon (i.e., the Tao = the Dhamma = God, etc.).
What do you think, am I on to something or just an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill heretic?