Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
Everyone in the world calls my Tao great
As if it is beyond compare
It is only because of its greatness
That it seems beyond compare
If it can be compared
It would already be insignificant long ago
I have three treasures
I hold on to them and protect them
The first is called compassion
The second is called conservation
The third is called not daring to be ahead in the world
Compassionate, thus able to have courage
Conserving, thus able to reach widely
Not daring to be ahead in the world
Thus able to assume leadership
Now if one has courage but discards compassion
Reaches widely but discards conservation
Goes ahead but discards being behind
If one fights with compassion, then victory
With defense, then security
Heaven shall save them
And with compassion guard them
(Translated by Derek Lin, 1994)
People all over the world say that Lao Tzu speaks of the “tao” grand as if it is not a specific thing. Because it’s grand, it’s not like something concrete. If it looks like it, then the “tao” is already small and becomes insignificant.
Lao Tzu has three treasures that he holds and cherishes: one is called compassion, the second is conservation, and the third is not to be seen above and ahead of the others.
Because of compassion, we can be brave and courageous. Because conservation, we can be broad and reach far; Because of daring not to put our interests ahead of the world, we can be the leaders of all things.
Without three treasures, it will result in death. Compassion brings victory in battle and strength in defense. It is the means by which heaven saves and guards.
Rivers and oceans can be the kings of a hundred valleys
Because of their goodness in staying low
So they can be the kings of a hundred valleys
Thus if sages wish to be over people
They must speak humbly to them
If they wish to be in front of people
They must place themselves behind them
Thus the sages are positioned above
But the people do not feel burdened
They are positioned in front
But the people do not feel harmed
Thus the world is glad to push them forward without resentment
Because they do not contend
So the world cannot contend with them
(Translation by Derick Lin)
The great river has become the king of the valley because it has always been at its lowest place to accommodate hundreds of rivers. Therefore, if the sages of Tao are to lead the people, they must be low-key and humble to the people. If we want to unify the public, we must put our interests behind the interests of the masses. So saints living in the people above, people do not feel any pressure, standing in front of people, people do not feel harm.So the people are happy to hold him and not get bored.Because he never fought for his interests, no one could argue with him.
This is an entirely different concept from the conventional one. The people who seize power often by force and their tactics. On the other hand, the sages who have Tao are doing the exact opposite. They do not need to conquer anyone by doing anything. Instead, with their humbleness and selfless, they gain people’s support from their heart.
Those of ancient times who were adept at the Tao
Used it not to make people brighter
But to keep them simple
The difficulty in governing people
Is due their excessive cleverness
Therefore, using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a thief of the state
Not using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a blessing of the state
Know that these two are both standards
Always knowing these standards
Is called Mystic Virtue
Mystic Virtue is so profound, so far-reaching
It goes opposite to material things
Then it reaches great congruence
(Translation by Derick Lin)
The ancient sage is good at governing the country according to the avenue of nature. He does not awaken the interest and wisdom of the people but wants the people to keep the simple and honest.
The people are hard to rule if they are smart and have a lot of intelligence.
Therefore, the use of cleverness to rule the country, which will end up harming it! Without using cleverness to rule the country, it becomes a blessing for the country!
If you know these two things, you will know the rules of governing the country.
To be able to experience and understand this rule for a long time, this is called “Mystic Virtue.”
How deep and profound is Mystic Virtue!
It is the opposite of what is common in the world so that it can be done naturally.
Lao Tzu was born into a chaotic world, and the root of the world’s chaos is that people are fighting for wisdom and pretending to be fake, so he called on people to abandon the dispute of worldly value and return to the truth. Lao Tzu aimed at the evil time and made this cynical remarks. He wanted people not to be confused by their ingenuity and craftiness and lost the original simplicity as a result. He had such a zealous heart wishing people keep the pure and honest human nature to live life following nature(Tao).
Peace is easily maintained;
Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs up from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
He who acts defeats his own purpose;
He who grasps loses.
The sage does not act, and so is not defeated.
He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He helps the ten thousand things find their own nature,
But refrains from action.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English )
(A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.)
When the situation is stable, it is easy to maintain. It is easy to plot when there are no signs of incidents. When things are fragile, they are easily digested. When things are subtle, they are quickly dissipated. Things must be handled properly before they occur. Government affairs must be prepared before the disaster hit.
This chapter is the continuation of the previous chapter, Lao Tzu again reminded us the big things always begins with small things, and there is the process for their occurrence, change and development, through this process we can pay heed to the occurrence of any disaster thereby we can prevent it from happening.
Lao Tzu further expounds the law of the development and changes of things by giving us three examples-A tree with a full span’s girth springs up from a small shoot. A nine-storied terrace begins with a pile of earth, and a journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet. He proved something big is developed from the tiny things. He told us no matter what we do; we should follow the law of nature to start from the small thing, patiently and diligently one after another with the strong will and never slack, so we will not fail before the end.
Attend to no-affairs.
Taste the flavorless.
Whether it is big or small, many or few,
Requite hatred with virtue.
Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
Deal with the big while yet it is small.
The difficult (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet easy;
The great (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet small.
Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems)
He who lightly makes a promise
Will find it often hard to keep his faith.
He who makes light of many things
Will encounter many difficulties.
Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult,
And for that reason never meets with difficulties.
(Translation by Yu Tang Lin)
Image of Xinjiang(新疆), China by Kue chu Chen
The first three sentences cover the general idea of the sage governance, the specific implementation of the view and the policy that is beneficial to the people.
“Do-nothing” is present throughout the chapters of Tao Te Ching. Lao Tze mentioned the concept of “inaction”, that is to follow the “tao,” to abide the laws of nature by objective laws. Do not do the thing with our desire and intention. This is the essence of “do nothing.”
Attend to no-affairs implies that the saints or the rulers give out as few decrees as possible. They should not suppress the people with numerous government decrees.
Taste the flavorless literal meaning of “tasteless” is that the flavor is Stoic. In combination with “Do nothing” and “Attend to no-affairs ” are LaoTzu’s request for governing the country, The sage and other rulers should not burden the people with numerous rules and regulation that the people could not breathe. It should be to simplify the order and govern more naturally; so the people will support and cooperate. Hence there will be a natural, balance between rulers and the people; It will be the ideal condition.
Deal with small things with a big attitude, handle simple situations with complex attitudes. Therefore, the sage does not limit himself to doing great things so that he can accomplish great things.
A promise must always be broken, and a man who does things too lightly will never accomplish anything.
The sages always treat things as if they are difficult, and carefully break them down into pieces that are easy to solve, and eventually they become easy to solve.
Indeed, if we face the complexity, we can only start from simple, how can we understand the complexity without simple. The Cambridge Dictionary defines complexity as “the state of having many parts and being difficult to understand or find an answer to.” The definition of simplicity is the inverse: “something [that] is easy to understand or do.” Therefore, take care of small thing and resolve the simple problem then we can handle the complexity.