By George Yeo
Former Foreign Minister of Singapore*
Tekson Teo’s translation of Master Sim Pooh Ho’s book on the TaoTe Ching is masterly. To be precise, Teo’s translation is an interpretation of Master Sim’s book. Even the translation of 玄妙解 in the title as “decoding” calls for a judgment of what Master Sim intends to convey. It is certainly not Google’s translation.
Teo is a longstanding disciple of Master Sim and has a deep understanding of Master Sim’s thinking. However, Master Sim’s thinking is multi-layered and a disciple’s grasp of his master’s knowledge is never complete. I am reminded of what Master Sim said of his master, Wu Tunan. Master Sim once asked Grand Master Wu when he would complete his learning from him. Grand Master Wu did not reply the first time. When asked again later, he stroked his white beard and remarked wrily that he himself was still learning. Grand Master Wu’s point which Master Sim keeps reiterating to us, his disciples, is that we ourselves should never stop learning.
The deep sources of Taijigong are the Tao Te Ching and I Ching. Master Sim’s understanding of the Tao Te Ching is a result of many years of patient study and deep reflection, including what he learned from Grand Master Wu. His book is profound and precious, and deserves to be read and re-read. As the disciple grows in knowledge and wisdom, he discovers or uncovers a new layer. Master Sim himself takes an interest in quantum mechanics and dark matter and stresses the need to update our understanding in the light of new scientific discoveries.
It is Master Sim’s lifelong wish that the benefits of Taijigong should be made available to all people and not just to Chinese people. Having his book translated into English, or interpreted in English, is therefore an important task which he entrusted to Teo. Teo took this on not as a task but as a mission into which he has invested much time and effort. Indeed, he told me that this mission has become an all-consuming passion. As he wrestles with alternative interpretations, and clarifies them with Master Sim, he feels himself transformed.
In this process of interpreting Master Sm, Teo came to be dissatisfied with existing English translations of the Tao Te Ching, of which there are many, and has therefore decided to do his own translation which hews closer to Master’s interpretation of the book. The result is an English translation of the Tao Te Ching as “decoded” by Master Sim.
Master Sim wrote his book principally for the benefit of his disciples. He asked Teo to do a translation principally for those disciples who do not understand Chinese. Like a seed that grows once it is planted, Master Sim’s book has reached a wider readership. Teo’s English translation will spread it further. Taijigong is a living tree that bears rich fruits.
*Note: George Yeo, former foreign Minister of Singapore is highly regarded in the spiritual circle. Although a Roman Catholic, he was involved in reviving the Nalanda University, an ancient Buddhist university, in India and was its Chancellor.