Doctrine of the Mean - Center Unchangeable 中庸 Translation and Commentary 2
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Doctrine of the Mean 中庸
Zhong Yong - Center Unchangeable
Translation and Commentary - Part 2
(PD) Zhong Yong on Winter Forest
Photograph enhancements and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy
Copyright©2018 April 08, 2018
Not All Concepts Have English Words
Measure the width of a wall. Place a mark on the left side, then place a mark on the right side, and then measure from one mark to the next. Now, what happened in-between when the marks were measured? Something happened, something had to happen if a person could retain the knowing to continue his thought from the left to the right. Life happened, consciousness happened (or subconsciousness depending on the individual), and though very few individuals are ever consciously aware of what happened in-between the two marks, still, something happened.
I refer to the thing that always occurs in-between all other things as 'duration'. The term is very simple, but the English term cannot so much as be translated back into English because the term requires a firsthand understanding that is gained from the firsthand experience of being consciously aware of what happens in-between things.
Some systems of belief might think of duration as being 'great awareness' or some mystical power of 'enlightenment', but, no, duration is merely being aware of what is happening, and being able to retain a mental thought that extends from one point to another point. It is very simple, but explaining duration is very difficult because relatively few individuals are ever conscious of what their minds do, and their minds do not possess a useful duration beyond that of connecting two dots. If a person's duration were lengthy, then measurements would extend beyond two points, including countless more durations that happen in-between other objects.
Now, if a simple English word like 'duration' cannot so much as be communicated to English-speaking individuals, then so much less is it possible to translate an uncommon Chinese concept into English. Accurately translating ancient Chinese into modern English cannot be done, and, so, there is no convincing reason of why anyone should expect any translation of 中庸 to be happily error-free.
Why Read 中庸
Some forms of beauty are relative to the personality traits that an individual most values for himself, and so, for the individuals who value positive traits that include politeness, mindfulness, and modesty, the individuals may sense a great beauty within the people who are with a mastery of the ideals within Confucianism.
Similar to all other ideologies and philosophies of life, Confucianism is populated by some followers who are very good at what they do, and Confucianism also has followers by name only, who are not living the ideals. Also similar to all other ideologies and philosophies of life, a lengthy time of devoted effort is required to gain a knowledge and understanding of Confucianism. Confucianism cannot be learned, nor understood, nor mastered within the reading of a few books, nor can any one book adequately convey the message of Confucianism.
中庸 (Zhong Yong ~ Center Unchangeable) is but one of the many books that are popular within Confucianism, but, of course, popularity does not infer that the book is the alpha-omega of Confucianism. It is useful to read 中庸, but it is also useful to remember that one book by itself is not the sole measure of any topic.
There are surely many Chinese masters of Confucianism's teachings, but there appears to not be any useful English translations for use outside of China. The following translations and comments make use of one of James Legge's translations of Asian texts. There exist a small number of modern translations that have the advantages of having chosen a few English synonyms that are superior to Legge's, but Legge's translations are in the public domain, which enables a freedom of use and a freedom of comments without critiquing a living individual's work.
It is important and useful to point to a reality of life: though there may exist many experts and masters of ideologies, it does not mandate that all of the men teach the same beliefs within the same ideologies. A master of Catholic Christianity and a master of Protestant Christianity will not agree with the other even though they both follow the same book. There are splits of beliefs in all religions and all philosophies, and so, it is expected and accepted that there must also be differences of interpretations within Confucianism.
The following translations and comments that begin in Part 3 are intended to be received as a curious glance into Confucianism while the book's words are compared to Nature-based realities of life. There are some very beautiful people who live under the name of Confucianism, and though I personally have no wish to follow any ideology, I am curious of the words that the people live by, and I enjoy learning which words that the beautiful people value for themselves.
Method of Presentation
Similar to an interlinear, I have simply presented the Chinese text while giving an English synonym below each core word concept.
I have used the double tilde '~~' where a Chinese word is a particle that may require an English conjunction that cannot adequately convey the conceptual connection between Chinese words. Much too often, an English conjunction creates a difference of meaning of what the core conceptual Chinese words might be pointing at.
As a brief example of three concepts, 'tree wind bend' relies upon the reader's own firsthand experience of having seen trees bend in the wind, and the reader applies their own thinking and firsthand understanding to  duration-retain the concepts in mind as the mind progresses to the next concept,  assemble and reason how the concepts relate, and then  to create meaning to the words: one's own interpretation. Adding particles to create proper grammar — 'a tree in the wind causes the tree to bend' — often results in less thinking while increasing the memorization and recitation of words that do not require understanding, but rather may rely solely upon the imagination of knowledge.
When an imagination is rooted within a preexisting system of belief, then it is normal for the imagination to translate words into forms that are interpreted by and agreeable to the system of belief. Legge's translations were rooted within the European academic system of belief, which, of course, resulted in his translations attempting to force-fit the Chinese words into a form that supports European academia while fully ignoring the original concepts.
Humans are not identical, nor the same, nor equal. All people think differently than all other people. No two people share the same thoughts. Some people think left to right, some people think right to left, some people think spherically, some people think within segmented sequences, some people write right to left, some people write top to bottom, some people write left to right, and of the many different ways that people think and express their thoughts, each way is uniquely their own.
Ideally, and where productive, written words of important topics should present brief concepts that point to shared experiences between the writer and the reader, which enables the reader to remember, self-reflect, and to understand the words by what the reader themselves have experienced in life firsthand. Legge's translations were presented as if all humans are identical of thoughts, and Legge's translations were also presented within an academic tone that excludes the need for firsthand experiences.
Therefore, I use the '~~' as a way of removing unnecessary particles while leaving the core conceptual words. If an individual does not understand the core words, then adding many particles will still not create an understanding. Legge's academia was focused solely upon knowledge without understanding, and Legge's translations suffered accordingly.
The structure of 中庸's first segment is of four paragraphs. I have separated sentences and portions of sentences so as to permit each sentence and portion to be touched upon within a sequence that is not yet influenced by latter sentences.
My preexisting standard is Nature. Nature is always honest. Nature is creative. Nature creates through harmony. Nature never changes; Nature always remains true to itself. The following translation is interpreted by how I myself interpret the core concepts of heavens, Nature, dao, center, and unchangeable. As Legge force-fit 中庸 to appear to agree with academia's beliefs, I too am not immune to weighing words by what I would prefer the words to point to. I have given considerable effort to present the words within their most likely meanings, but I am very much aware that my own experiences of life do influence my interpretations of words, and so I have given at least two different translations of each sentence so as to better illustrate plausible variations of translations.
The first time I glanced over 中庸, there appeared to be three words that pointed at things that to my knowledge have never been written about. I was thrilled with one of the words, and the third word had me very much excited. But, after a closer inspection, I realized that my initial glance was misinterpreting the words because of my reading the words to imply Nature-based concepts.
Also within the initial glance was the noticing of the 'joy' sentence, which did not thrill me.
A knowledge of 中庸 is useful as a reference to how some individuals presented their thoughts over two-thousand years ago, and how the thoughts might harmonize or conflict with today's era. Too, some of the sentences appear to speak with different mental patterns and different intentions, which suggests that 中庸 might be as a small collection of quotes from different sources, which causes 中庸 to not always be uniform of intent.
The little book is not easy to read, but it is an interesting book, which makes it worth the effort.
The full list of available articles in this series can be found on the home page at Doctrine of the Mean 中庸 Zhong Yong Translation and Commentary.
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