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The Dao of Hiking

Excerpts from Laozi's Daodejing (Kirby translation)

Any path that can be described in words is not really THE path.

Any naming that stands still is not really naming.

The nameless is the origin of all happenings.

While the named mothers all things.

Maintaining objectless desire reveals the wonders of the happening.

While constantly desiring objects can only reveal its expressions.

These two have the same source but different aims.

The source is called a dark secret.

The darkest dark secret, it is the gateway of all wonders. – Daodejing, Ch. 1

The Path is empty, yet it never runs out of use.

Running deep, it gives rise to everything.

Blunt the edges.

Untie the knots.

Soften the glare.

Join the dust.

In the depths, yet right at the surface.

I know not from whence it comes.

The ancestor of ancestors. – Daodejing, Ch. 4

Tip-toers cannot stand steady.

Over-striders cannot hike. 

Show-offs are never truly seen.

Braggarts are never truly known.

Boasters are never truly heard.

From the Path’s point of view these are called,

“Consuming extra food and carrying excess baggage.”

All are repulsed by such things.

Those who follow the Path will not dwell there. – Daodejing, Ch. 24

The best hiking leaves no trace.

The best speech is not overworked.

The best counting needs no tally.

The best door requires no bolt to stay locked.

The best knot requires no rope to stay tied.

That is why the Sage assists others and abandons none.

Assists everything and abandons nothing.

This is called “sharing enlightenment.”

This is how the good person can be a model to the bad.

And how the bad, like clay, can be shaped by the good.

Not to value one’s role-model, not to love one’s clay,

may seem wise but belies great confusion. 

This is called the deepest secret. – Daodejing, Ch. 27

Coming we are born, going we die.

Three in ten chase life;

three in ten chase death –

some, at birth, begin to move slowly towards death, these too are three in ten.

Why is this?

Because they treat life as life.

I have heard that the one good at protecting his life can hike in the hills

but never encounter rhinoceros or tiger,

can charge against armies and never be touched by weapon or armor.

The rhinoceros finds no place to thrust its horn;

the tiger finds no place to grip its claws;

weapons find no place to drive their blades.

Why is this?

Because he has no death place in him. – Daodejing, Ch. 50

If I have even just a little sense,
I will hike the Path and my only fear will be of straying from it.
Keeping to the Path is easy,
But people love shortcuts.

While the court is arrayed in splendor,
The fields are full of weeds,
And the granaries are bare.
Some wear gorgeous clothes,
Carry sharp swords,
And indulge themselves with food and drink;
They have more possessions than they can use.
They are robber barons.
This is certainly not the way of the Path. – Daodejing, Ch. 53

Excerpts from Zhuangzi's Nanhuajing (tr. by Burton Watson)

If water is not piled up deep enough, it won't have the strength to bear up a big boat. Pour a cup of water into a hollow in the floor and bits of trash will sail on it like boats. But set the cup there and it will stick fast, for the water is too shallow and the boat too large. If wind is not piled up deep enough, it won't have the strength to bear up great wings. Therefore when the P'eng rises ninety thousand li, he must have the wind under him like that. Only then can he mount on the back of the wind, shoulder the blue sky, and nothing can hinder or block him. Only then can he set his eyes to the south.

The cicada and the little dove laugh at this, saying, "When we make an effort and fly up, we can get as far as the elm or the sapanwood tree, but sometimes we don't make it and just fall down on the ground. Now how is anyone going to go ninety thousand li to the south!"

If you run off to the green woods nearby, you can take along food for three meals and come back with your stomach as full as ever. If you are going a hundred miles, you must grind your grain the night before; and if you are going a thousand miles, you must start getting the provisions together three months in advance. What do these two creatures understand? Little understanding cannot come up to great understanding; the shortlived cannot come up to the long-lived. – Zhuangzi, Ch. 1

The Path is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable.

For this reason, whether you point to a little stalk or a great pillar, a leper or the beautiful Xi Shi, things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange, the Path makes them all into one. Their dividedness is their completeness; their complete­ness is their impairment. No thing is either complete or impaired, but all are made into one again. Only the man of far­ reaching vision knows how to make them into one. So he has no use for things, but relegates all to the constant. The constant is the useful; the useful is the passable; the passable is the successful; and with success, all is accomplished. He relies upon this alone, relies upon it and does not know he is doing so. This is called the Path. – Zhuangzi, Ch. 2

When Confucius visited Chu, Jie Yu, the village crazy person, wandered by his gate crying, "Phoenix, phoenix, how his virtue failed! The future you cannot wait for; the past you cannot pursue. When the world is on the Path, the sage succeeds; when the world is off the Path, the sage survives. In times like the present, we do well to escape penalty. Good fortune is light as a feather, but nobody knows how to hold it up. Misfortune is heavy as the earth, but nobody knows how to stay out of its way. Leave off, leave off - this teaching men virtue! Dangerous, dangerous - to mark off the ground and run! Fool, fool - don't spoil my walking! I walk a crooked way - don't step on my feet. The mountain trees do themselves harm [by making good lumber]; the grease in the torch burns itself up. The cinnamon can be eaten and so it gets cut down; the lacquer tree can be used and so it gets hacked apart. All men know the use of the useful, but nobody knows the use of the useless!" – Zhuangzi, Ch. 4

Excerpt from The Book of Liezi (Kirby translation)

At first, Liezi liked to hike. His master Huzi asked: “Why do you like hiking so much?” Liezi replied: “The joy of hiking is the change in scenery. Others hike for the scenery. I hike for the change. There’s hiking… and then there’s real hiking! Most can’t tell the difference.”

Huzi responded: Isn’t your hiking the same as theirs? Do you say there’s really a difference? Everything we see as permanent is already changing. You delight that things never stay the same, but you’re oblivious that you yourself never stay the same. You attend to what is outside while hiking, but do not attend to the internal sights. Hiking outside is to search external objects for something we lack inside, by observing what is inside we find plenty within ourselves. You hike towards something in the external world, but you won’t arrive until you look within.”

After this Liezi stopped hiking, figuring he didn’t understand it. But Huzi exclaimed: “Hike until you arrive! Arrive at your destination without realizing where you were going; find what you need without realizing you were searching; hiking to each and every thing; discovering each and every thing; now that’s what I call real hiking; that’s what I call discovering. That’s why I say: ‘How thoroughgoing it is to hike! How thoroughgoing!’” – Liezi Book 4, Chapter 7 

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