Alice Lin

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Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 44



Fame or one’s own self, which does one love more?
One’s own self or material goods, which has more worth?
Loss (of self) or possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?

Therefore: he who loves most spends most,
He who hoards much loses much.
The contented man meets no disgrace;
Who knows when to stop, runs into no danger –
He can long endure.
( Translation by Lin Yutang )

The image is from 简书.

This chapter emphasizes the importance of self. Lao Tzu began by asking:

Self and fame, which one is closer to you?
Self and the goods, which is more important to you?
If you gain fame and good but cause harm to yourself, which one makes you lose more?
He added: If you love fame too much, you need to spend a great deal and if you try to store too much, you will end up suffering a severe loss.

So Lao Tzu said: If people can be content enough, they will not be subject to humiliation. If they know when they should stop, they will not be in danger.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 43


The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.
(From a translation by S. Mitchell)

Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Lao Tzu told us why he knows the benefits of “inaction” because he watched “nothing go into the gaps of the things.”

Lao Tzu said: the softest thing in the world can destroy the hardest thing. The things that have no fixed shape or fixed form (such as wind and water), can enter the gaps of all things.

And “nothing” is instead a soft thing without a fixed shape and fixed form, which can enter hard things and things without gaps.

Therefore, inaction is not for the sake of purpose but with no purpose. It is what the Buddhists say: “without the heart’s desire.”

On the contrary, a lot of people do things with purpose and want compensation. There are seldom people who can apply inaction and ask for nothing in return.

Lao Tzu also realized that only a few would be able to teach without words or work without actions, which he reminds us of again and again in his book.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 38




The following text is translated by Stefan Stenudd.

The highest virtue is not virtuous(Te). Therefore it has virtue(Te).
The lowest virtue holds on to virtue(Te). Therefore it has no virtue(Te).

The highest virtue(Te) does nothing. Yet, nothing needs to be done.
The lowest virtue(Te) does everything. Yet, much remains to be done.

The highest benevolence acts without purpose.
The highest righteousness acts with purpose.
The highest ritual acts, but since no one cares,
It raises its arms and uses force.

Therefore, when the Way(Tao) is lost there is virtue(Te).
When virtue(Te) is lost there is benevolence.
When benevolence is lost there is righteousness.
When righteousness is lost there are rituals.
Rituals are the end of fidelity and honesty,
And the beginning of confusion.

Knowing the future is the flower of the Way(Tao),
And the beginning of folly.
The truly great ones rely on substance,
And not on surface,
Hold on to the fruit,
And not to the flower.
They reject the latter and receive the former.

The image is fromHospital Marketing Journal – Typepad

This chapter is rather long, and I would like to summarize the whole content as follow so we can understand better:

  1. Causes                                                    Effect

The highest virtue is not virtuous.           So it has virtue.

Those who possess the higher form of virtue are not intentionally virtuous. Their actions are natural and unforced. This is why we say they have true virtue.

Those who possess the higher form of virtue do not act with contrivance. Their actions are without ulterior movies. They act out of virtue because it is natural, not because they want to “look good” doing it.

The lowest virtue holds on to virtue.       So it has no virtue.

There are also those who possess a lower kind of virtue. They never lose sight of virtue because they have to constantly remind themselves to be virtuous. This is why we say they have no true virtue.
Those with the lower form of virtue are the opposite. When they act in ways that seem virtuous, they do so for a specific personal agenda – perhaps improving their image, assuaging guilty feelings, etc.

Lao-tzu’s definition of virtue, benevolence, righteousness, rituals, and their order, we list as follows:

The highest is the virtue: is no action, and no purpose of the act.

Next is benevolence: is with action, there is no purpose of the act.

Next is righteousness: is with action, and the purposeful act as well.

Next is the ritual acts: is with action, there is no response, so, lead to the response of confusion and disorder.

If people lose their virtues, then the next best thing would be benevolence. If people can still hold on to the mindset of love, compassion, and kindness, then they can at least treat one another in a way that is gentle and humane.

What if people lose their benevolence too? Then they will have no choice but to resort to righteousness. Their actions can no longer be guided by love, compassion and kindness. Instead, they will act, choose and decide based on correctness or a sense of justice. Everything becomes more muddled because right and wrong can often be so subjective.

Finally, what if people can no longer rely on righteousness? Then rituals is all that’s left. Following rituals, customs and propriety may or may not be right, benevolent, or virtuous… but at least there is something to follow.

This sort of rituals is artificial and disingenuous. Those who practice it are little more than thin shells without substance, pretending to be loyal and sincere while possessing neither quality. Such people are the source of chaos, discord and strife.

Similarly, people who possess knowledge without righteousness, benevolence or virtue are also thin shells lacking substance. Like flowers, they give a pleasing appearance but possess none of the satisfying goodness of fruits. That’s what we mean when we call them the flowers of the Tao. Such people may project a knowledgeable appearance, but are in fact ignorant in basic, fundamental ways.

To summarize, the truly great person would be the antithesis of the above. That is, they focus on substance instead of the thin veneer of superficiality. Their emphasis is on the real inner self, and not on the facade of external appearance. They discard the fakery of etiquette and knowledge, and reach for benevolence, justice, virtues… and finally the Tao.


Note:Tao Te Ching is comprised of two parts; the first one is from chapter one to thirty-seven. From chapter thirty-eight on, it discusses Te. Tao is the “body,” while “Te” is a phenomenon and an application. Only when we apply or use Tao, do we then gain the results. It is like two sides of a coin, and without either side then there is no existence of the Similarly.

In the past, people with insight thought they had mastered the beauty of “Tao.” However, without practicing Tao, it was the beginning of “ignorance.” To gain Tao, we should rely on the substance and get rid of superficial showiness.



Better to Depend on Yourself



A gentleman was under the eaves of a building taking shelter from the rain when suddenly he saw the Guanyin holding an umbrella coming toward him.

He was delighted, and said hastily, “The bodhisattva of all sentient beings, could you please help take me home?”

“You stand under the eaves where there is no rain, but I am in the rain, so how can I help you?” The Guanyin replied.

Once he heard it, he ran into the rain and said, “Here I am in the rain, can you help me now?”

“You are in the rain; I am also in the rain, but you get wet from the rain because you did not bring an umbrella. I do not get wet because I have an umbrella. Therefore, the umbrella shields me, and you have no umbrella, so you should look for an umbrella instead of me.” With that, the Guanyin disappeared.

Later, the man encountered difficulties and went to the temple to beg for mercy of the Guanyin.

He went into the temple, and saw a man who was looking for a Guanyin, who looked precisely the same as the Guanyin, and asked, “Are you the bodhisattva?”

“I am.” The man replied.

The gentleman was a bit more surprised, “Since you are Guanyin, why should you worship yourself?”

The Guanyin smiled and said, “Like you, I also encountered a difficult problem, but I know that it is better to depend on yourself than to ask for help from others.”

The original text is from
[ 本帖最後由 dumbmotor 於 2008-7-6 06:23 編輯 ]


Please go to the following link for Chinese text-


The Trilogy of Life in the Eyes of the Famous


The German poet Goethe wrote a poem summarizing the experience of life toward maturity and perfection: “The young, I love your beauty; the middle age, I love your speech; the old age, I love your virtue.”

Goethe (Stieler 1828).jpg

The image is from

The Chinese poet Liu Dabai once wrote a poetry praising the trilogy of life: “Young people are artists and create piece by piece; middle-aged people are engineers, and build one building at a time; the elderly are historians, and you can read their works page by page. ”

Image result for image of 中国诗人刘大白
Image of Liu Dabai from中国梦文学网.

The poetry veteran Zang Kejia posted a poem to reflect the poor and tragic lives of the old farmers: “Son, bathe in the soil; Father, sweat in the soil; Grandpa, buried in the earth.”

The image of Zang kejia from

Female writer You Jin writes that the drink preferences of different generations of people reflect modern life: “My son likes soft drinks, he only tastes sweet; my father loves coffee, which is bitter but also sweet; my grandfather drinks boiled water because it is very light. ”

Image of You Jin from

Wang Dingjun, a scholar, has a special understanding of the Trilogy of Life: “God gives us, the small and young to our parents, the strong and energic to the national society. Only by old age, He returns us to ourselves.”

The image of Wang Dingjun is from



For the Chines text, please click the link

人生三部曲/The Trilogy of Life


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