Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
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.
Tao is the mysterious secret of the universe,
The good man’s treasure,
And the bad man’s refuge.
Beautiful saying can be sold at the market,
Noble conduct can be presented as a gift.
Though there be bad people,
Why reject them?
Therefore on the crowning of an emperor,
On the appointment of the Three Ministers,
Rather than send tributes of jade and teams of four horses,
Send in the tribute of Tao.
Wherein did the ancients prize this Tao?
Did they not say, “to search for the guilty ones and pardon them”?
Therefore is (tao) the treasure of the world.
(Translation by Yu Tang Lin)
Image of Xinjiang(新疆), China by Kue chu Chen
This chapter once again promotes the benefits and functions of tao. Lao Tzu thought that the “tao,” which is silent, is not only the magic weapon of the good but also for the bad person to keep. Therefore, this chapter points out that the world should be equal before the word “tao. ” Tao” protects the good, but it does not abandon the unscrupulous one. Tao answers the prayers of the people and forgives the faults of them. This is the valuable aspect of the Tao.
Lao Tzu gave an example of the significant offering. The most important ceremony in ancient China was the crowning of the Emperor and the installation of the Emperor’s three ministers(太师、太傅、太保). The ceremony included the offerings of large and valuable jade and a team of four horses. The Tao is valuable, and it surpassed those offerings. In another word, no material could compare the Tao; the Tao is priceless.
Why did ancient cherish the Tao? It was because the Tao brought them to the way of nature. For those who live in the society that follows the law of nature, they will gain the protection, and they are all equal. Not only for good also for the bad for Tao will not find fault in them, but they can also perfect and improve themselves, thereby they become better and better. Therefore the Tao is considered the greatest treasure of all.
The big country is like the downstream of the river
It is the converging point of the world
The female of the universe.
The female always overcomes the male with quietude
Lying low in stillness.
Thus if the big country is humble to the small country
Then it can conquer the small country
If the small country is humble to the big country
Then it can be accepted by the big country
Thus one uses the lower position to take
The other uses the lower position to be accepted
The big country wants to gather and protect people
The small country wants to be sheltered
So that both obtain what they wish
The big country should place itself low
The big country should be like the downstream of the river so that whole world will meet here. She is in the position of the females. Softness and quietness of female overcome the strength of the males. Therefore big country shows the humbleness and respects to the small country and it will win over the submission of the small country. Whereas the small country humbles and respects the big country, and it will gain the trust from the big country in return.
A big country does this is for the sake of receiving all and shelter them. A small country does so is for mutual respect and non-aggression. Therefore, reaching the mutual respect through humbleness, both big or small countries achieve the best strategy. The key is that a big country should be humble and respect the small country in good faith.
Rule a big country as you would fry small fish.
Who rules the world in accord with Tao
Shall find that the spirits lose their power.
It is not that the spirits lose their power,
But that they cease to do people harm.
It is not (only) that they cease to do people harm,
The Sage (himself) also does not harm the people.
When both do not do each other harm,
The original character is restored.
(Translation by Lin Yutang )
Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Approach the universe with Tao,
And evil is not powerful.
Its power will not be used to harm others.
Not only will it not harm others,
But the sage himself will also be protected.
They do not hurt each other,
And the Virtue in each one refreshes both.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
The image is from Food channels recipes.
Governing a country is like cooking a small fish. If you keep turning the little fish, again and again, it will fall apart. Similarly, if a ruler continually disturbs and interfere in the affairs of the people with excessive rules and regulations, the country becomes chaotic, and everyone suffers.
In the presence of Tao, peace, and harmony prevail in the society. If demons lose power and the rulers (sages) refrain from meddling people’s lives, then they all can coexist peacefully. In a world with profoundly rooted virtue, they do not harm each other, they forgive each other, and synchronize with each other.
This is the doctrine of Tao, which is what Zhuangzi said Heaven and Earth coexist with him and he and all things are united as one. (莊子「齊物論」「天地與我並生，萬物與我為一」)
In caring for others and serving heaven,
There is nothing like using restraint (harvesting).
Restraint (Harvesting) begins by giving up one’s ideas.
This depends on Virtue gathered in the past.
If there is a good store of Virtue, then nothing is impossible.
If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits.
If a man knows no limits, then he is fit to be a ruler.
The mother principle of ruling holds good for a long time.
This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation,
The Tao of long life and eternal vision.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.)
The image is from Harvesting Rice, Agri-Crop | Deped K to 12.
The best way to manage people and serve heaven is to follow the laws of nature just as farmers do when they harvest grain. Harvesting grains is a simple way to follow Tao.
The average scholar interprets it as “being frugal, restrained, perseverant, and stingy.” But if we check the origin of the word 「嗇」(the last word of the first sentence of the Chinese text-治人事天莫若嗇), it has the meaning of harvesting of grain by the farmer. In my opinion, harvesting grain is the best way to reflect the law of natural growth. it is the core idea of Laozi’s Taoism and the essence of “Taoism is natural law.”
The general idea is to do things according to the laws of nature and to practice virtue. Then the practice of virtue will be invincible. There is no limit to the way of nature. When the Tao of nature cannot be exhausted, it is the beginning of a nation. When one knows not what the limit shall be, he may be the ruler of a state.
When he has a firm spiritual foundation in the Tao, he will be everlasting.
It is like the plant which roots are deep and which flower stalks are firm so that they will last longer. Similarly, through the principle of harvesting and cultivating virtue, the ruler will make the country he founds to continue for generations.