Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
The five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five tones deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of man;
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
Therefore the Sage:
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Five Colors: green, red, yellow, white, black.
Five Tones: 宫 Gong(Do) 商 Shang(Re) 角 jiao(Mi) 徵 Zhi(Sol) 羽 Yu(La), similar to the Western notes (do), (re), (mi), (so), (la), 1 2 3 5 6.
Lao Tzu points out that our sensual desires or pursuing of material which is external often brings disastrous consequences to us. Again, he reminds us to rid ourselves of outside pleasure and gain peace within. Just like the saint who only meets the basic survival needs of the belly, rather than chasing the extra desires. In other words, the saint chooses to be simple and quiet, and not to be extravagant.
Thirty spokes are joined in the wheel’s hub.
The hole in the middle makes it useful.
Mold clay into a bowl.
The space inside makes it useful.
Cut out doors and windows for the house.
The holes make it useful.
Therefore, the value comes from what is there,
But the use comes from what is not there.
(Translated by Stefan Stenudd)
Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel.
Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being (in the vessel’s hollow)
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall),
From their not-being (space) arises the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the non-existence of things we are served.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Thirty spokes unite in one nave; but it is inn the space for the axle, that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out from the walls that form an apartment; but it is in the space that their uses depend. Therefore, that which does not have positive existence serves profitable adaptation, and what has not that serves actual usefulness. (http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing)
Using the examples of the wheel, bowl, and house, Lao Tzu stresses the importance of emptiness. Those are our daily use and necessary stuff for our livelihood. From here, we can extend that concept to many more things that are close to us, which are empty and yet hold usage. Indeed, value comes from what is there, but use comes from what is not there.
In embracing the One with your soul,
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule without interference?
In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
(From a translation by S. Mitchell)
Image is from https://kknews.cc/zh-mo/culture/46emkbv.html
Lao Tzu presented six concepts here to lead us to “Tao”-
Oneness – the body and soul are one and without separation.
Gentleness – gather chi (vital breath) to reach a gentle state, like a child.
Flawlessness – clear your thoughts and look deep within yourself to be flawless.
Fairness – rule the people with love but do not exempt yourself from the natural law.
Quietness – be peaceful and silent when opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven.
Clearness – see everything as they are without relying upon your knowledge.
What is “Tao”-
The “Tao” gives birth to all things and nourishes them;
it produces them and does not claim them as its own;
it does all, and yet does not boast of it;
it presides over all, and yet does not control them.
This is what is called ‘The Mysterious Quality of the Tao.”
To sum up to reach “Tao”-
Note: Gate of Heaven-
There is life, and there is death; there is breath in, and there is breath out; there is no such thing as the appearance for the gate of heaven. The gate of heaven is nothingness, and all thing comes from nothingness.
Stretch (a bow) to its very longest,
And you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a (sword-edge) to its very sharpest,
And the edge will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with wealth and honor
Is to sow seeds of one’s own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven’s way.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
What is Heaven’s way? That is the way of the Tao.
Never hold anything to its fullest because it will overflow, and then you lose more than you gain.
If you keep showing off your ability; you will lose support from your colleagues and success will not last long.
When gold and jade fill the halls, their possessor cannot keep them safe. Gold and jade are mere worldly possessions which come and go. Virtue is more important than external property.
When wealth and honors lead to arrogance, this brings evil upon that person. Because they invite criticism and jealousy from people, it ignites the beginning of a curse.
When your work is well done, and your name is becomes well-known, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
Here Lao Tzu taught us how to practice ” Tao” in our life. Never do anything extreme and find the balance instead, because the balancing is the Tao. I love this story from Osho. It shows us how to gain balance.
Here is excerpt from Osho-Tao: The Three Treasures, Vol 1 Page 70
I have heard:
Once, a great king had to make a decision that was against his heart. Two of his ministers had committed some crime, and he loved the ministers very much. Even if they had committed the
crime, he wanted to forgive them; his love was such for them. But that was against the law of the country, and it wouldn’t have been a good precedent. So they had to be punished. And the law of
the country said that for the crimes they committed, the only punishment was death. So what to do?
It was too difficult to decide, so he found a way out. He said, ”They have to be sentenced to death, but I will give them one more chance to live. Between two hills a tightrope will be stretched. If they can walk over it and survive, then I will forgive them.”
It seemed almost impossible. It was impossible because the ministers had never walked on any tightrope, let alone on one between two hills over a big valley – there was death everywhere. And to walk on a tightrope is a great art, one has to learn it for many years, and it is a great discipline. They had not even dreamed in their lives that they would become tightrope-walkers.
One of the two couldn’t sleep. The whole night he prayed to God to help him. He couldn’t take his tea in the morning. He came to the place where this phenomenon was to happen; the whole capital
The other, knowing well that he didn’t know anything about tightrope-walking, that nothing could be done and it was almost certain that he was going to die, so why not sleep well? He slept. In the morning he took his usual tea. He walked leisurely to the tightrope that morning. The other was trembling and feverish, but he was quiet and calm knowing well that death was to happen – and when it is certain, why bother? Die silently.
He started walking on the rope, and wonder of wonders – he walked!
Nobody could believe it! Even the tightrope-walkers had come to watch – even they could not believe it. It was difficult, even for them – the distance was too great, and the danger was too much. One step wrong, a little too much leaning towards the left or the right and you are gone; become a little unbalanced and death is waiting at every step. But the man walked, and he walked as leisurely as if he had gone for a morning walk. He reached the other hill.
The first man was trembling, perspiring. He shouted from his place to the other man, ”Please tell me how you walked, so I can also walk!”
The other man shouted back: ”It is difficult to say because I don’t know how. I know only one thing – this is the way I have been walking my whole life. I’m not a tightrope-walker, but now I know I am because this is the way I have been living my whole life – balanced, never going to the extreme. Or, if I lean towards the left immediately I balance it by leaning towards the right. I have not done anything else. But this won’t help you because this is not something you can learn suddenly. If you live in this way, it comes to you.”
Yes, never go to the extremes – to the fullest and sharpest… Be in the middle and be in the balance for that is skill and that is Tao. That is eternal.
A man of morals is like water.
Water benefits everything without evoking conflicts or resistance.
It willingly takes the dirtiness that everyone hates within itself instead, so it is close to resembling “Tao.”
A man of morals always falls back and humbles himself,
His heart is deep and silent.
He treats people with love and kindness.
He has nothing but sincerity in his words.
He governs with fairness.
He is competent in business.
He chooses the right time to take action.
There is nothing to contend with,
so he is without reproach.
Image from Forbes
Our bodies are 66-70% water, so if we are too dehydrated, we cannot survive. We need water. Moreover, the earth is also called a water planet. The Earth is a watery place. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. Water plays a significant role for humans and the Earth. All living creatures on this planet are dependent on the water; the water is the source of life.
You might have heard the story of the jar – a life lesson by a professor to her students. I would like to use the same ingredients to show you the character of water. If we fill the jar with large rocks, we can still put small pebbles inside, and again we can still put sand in as well. The story serves to demonstrate that we should not focus on little things that trouble us, but rather, keep in mind our large goals in the midst of them. The lesson she tells ends here, but I want to point out that the full jar can still be filled with water.
When looking at the character of water, one might notice that the water only flows downward to the lowest place. It has no constant shape nor steady flow. We see nothing in water but humbleness and harmony without competition. No wonder Lao Tzu regards water as Tao. Water fills any spaces that we lack in because it travels to the bottom and because water is shapeless as it flows. The water is the Tao in our full lives.