Continuing from previous article…..
The fourth prose continue with the master advising us to basically chill out (in modern language). He set the mood in the prose by talking about impermanence of life and the inherent fault of our worldly affairs. He advised us not to be over critical nor be caught up in worldly strife.
The third part goes like this.
and it can be roughly translated as follows;
是非不必爭人我 – it is meaningless to engage in strife
What was deemed immoral in fashion a few centuries ago is the normal street wear today. Arranged marriage of young girls were normal in Asia a few centuries back but frowned upon now. Some cultures are patriarchy whereas others matriarchy and in the modern world we fight for equality. In one country the number 4 is unlucky but in another it is holy.
The list is endless and mankind had been in conflict because of such differences.
Everyone has their own views and opinions. We should accept that and not mindlessly spend time and energy trying to “win” others.
In this stanza, Master De Qing is pointing upfront that there is no need for such conflicts. He discourage us from being fixated with our viewpoints and getting entangled in endless bickering and strife with others. Pursuing who is right or who is wrong, who is at fault etc.
He advised his disciples against such fruitless pursuit.
彼此何須論短長 – what need is there in determining who fares better or short.
The spirit of this prose focus on renunciation of pride, ego and selfishness because ultimately we all die. Following from the previous stanza, Master DeQing advise us against being fixated with finding faults with others and being calculative in life.
We do not always have to win, or have the last say in a disagreement or make a gain from a relation with others.
He advice us to understand the temporal nature of life and to approach life in a more light hearted manner and be less egocentric. This is because all material gains are impermanence.
世事由來多缺陷 – imperfections are inherent in worldly matters
As discussed in the 1st stanza, the society and world that we live in is defined by many man made principles, beliefs, cultures, knowledge etc. Since we are ordinary beings governed by emotions and clouded by ignorance, it is not surprising that inherent faults exist in the way this world works.
Therefore is there really a need to be fighting one another over who is right or wrong?
幻軀焉得免無常 – our illusionary body is ultimately impermanent
If we just sit and recollect quietly. We remember ourselves as a baby, staring out. Then as a toddler, crawling and stumbling about, adults like giants around us. Then as young kids going to school, owning our 1st money, then as teenage, then as adults etc
The morphing and changing body, the changing personalities; they all seems so remote and dreamlike. Is that young boy whose favourite toy is a convertible robot me? Is that ruthless and strict supervisor climbing the corporate ladder me? They all seemed like somebody else. But yet, I know it was my past. Yet so unreal.
What we like and what we believe so strongly 20 years, 10 years ago may seems ridiculous today. Yet we used to live by those beliefs and principles.
In this stanza, the master evoke a sense of impermanence and ever changing self with the term 幻軀 (illusionary body)
He reminded us that the things which we are so attached to are impermanent and without any reality.
Therefore when the whole prose is read together, we get a sense of impermanence. Everything is changing and illusionary. Yet we spend so much time and energy fighting with people so that we gain some dreamlike advantages/recognition/benefits in our dreamlike existence. Creating unhappiness and suffering for ourselves and others in the process.
So the message is to chill out and not take things too seriously. Again the desired outcome is to become more open with a more embracing attitude towards life and others. Instead of being fixated on oneself, learn to let go and look at things more lightheartedly. No need to fight with others and cause sufferings because at the end of it, our life is impermanent. Chill out.
That’s my limited translation and interpretation of the 4th prose. (to be continued…..)
醒世歌 (poem of awakening)