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Scripture on the Way and Virtue, Chapter 19

With Bai Yuchan’s Commentary

Restoring the Genuine

還 淳

Banish holiness (naturally bringing this about) and discard intelligence (naturally being stilent and being without thought), and the people will benefit a hundredfold (clarity and wisdom dwells within ourselves. Will the Qi to bring about the Spirit)

Banish benevolence (this is naturally listening to the self ) and discard righteousness (the stars pity those who have this in excess), and the people will restore their filial piety and humaneness (only during times of ease do people abide by this)

Banish cleverness (forget ceremonial rites) and discard profit making (put an end to anxiety), and the thieves and robbers will disappear (because the battle in the mind about these do not arise, within the square inch1 there is peace).

These three pairs (forget the body to nourish the Qi, forget the Qi to nourish the Spirit, and forget the Spirit to nourish the Void) only adorn what is inadequate (employing these [three pairs] is just to make use of grasping, as if they were the “naturally-just-so”).

Hence the people need something to abide by (respond to things with displaying them, there is clarity without a self): Look for the undyed silk, embrace the uncarved wood [no comment], reduce the sense of self and restrain desires (these are seeing the undyed silk and uncarved wood).

  1. The “square inch” is a term for the mind’s eye. 

The Meaning
This chapter is primarily showing that the way to restore oneself to the harmony of nature is through the elimination of harmful effects upon the consciousness. The three pairs—holiness and intelligence, benevolence and righteousness, cleverness and profit making—are what keep us from harmonizing with nature and entering the Tao. It is only through reducing the sense of self and restraining desires that we can become like undyed silk or uncarved wood, which is to be completely natural.

Bai Yuchan’s Original Chinese Text

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