Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park, and climb the terrace,
But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.
Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Others are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Others are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.
Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English )
When I first studied this chapter, I was somewhat confused. So I put it down and tried to reread it, then I skipped from this section to the next. After I finished Chapter 21, I had no choice but to come back to this one. Well, I told myself that I had better take a different angle to read this content. Sure enough, I understood it better and was able to write down my insight for this chapter.
Lao Tzu wanted us to take individual steps to be the student in Tao.
First, we need to rid of what we put in us. The education, the knowledge is the first to go, then we should know that there is no good or bad; no yes or no; and moreover that we need not fear as others do because everything will take its natural course.
The people seem to be happy pursuing fame, power, glory, and wealth. I am not even as a child but a baby who cannot yet smile and is indifferent to all these, like a homeless wanderer.
From the secular perspective, everyone is abundant, talented, intelligent but I am weak, dull, and foolish. Unlike the people of the world who have aim, goal, and purpose, I have none of them.
My heart is a wave of a sea which can accept all rivers, and I am like a soft wind drifting above the sea aimlessly but freely. I know that I am indeed different from the people. However, I cherish the nourishment from the Mother to cultivate and improve myself and to be in the Dao.
Legend has it that Lao Tzu lived to be more than one hundred sixty years old. Neighbors and friends came to pay their condolences. Everyone was overcome with grief as they remembered Lao Tzu for his natural, non-combative, kind, and merciful personality.
Chin Shih came and cried out loud without kneeling and worshipping. He simply used his hand to salute; then he came out.
People stopped him and asked: “Are you not the Master’s friend?”
He replied: “Yes.”
“But is it not disrespectful for you to mourn him like that?”
He replied: “Yes.”
People were angry and questioned him, “What is your reason for acting so indifferent?”
He replied: “Lao Tzu told us that birth is not happy, and death is not sad. His birth is simply none becoming existence and following the flow of nature, so there is no reason to be happy. Whereas his death illustrates the beingness become nothingness again, so similarly there is no reason to be sad.”
He continued, “When I see those mourners, I see that there are the elderly who cry for him as if he was their son and younger people who cry for him as if he was their father. When they gather together like this, there must be those who don’t want to come but come anyhow and those who don’t want to cry but cry anyway. This is going against one’s feelings and forgetting one’s given nature. The ancients would call this the punishment for denying the true nature.
When it was suitable to come into the world, the Master came at the right time. When it was suitable to depart the world, the Master left naturally. If one can calmly wait for the right moment and go with the natural flow, sadness and joy cannot enter the heart. The ancients would call that being released by the Emperor from hanging upside down.”
After listening to his words, the neighbors seemed to understand more, and then asked: “Since you are not sad, why did you cry out three times?” He laughed: “I cry three times, not because of sadness, but instead to bid a farewell to my friend Lao Tzu. The first cry was to tell him his birth suited the natural time and the second cry is also telling him that his death is in line with the natural reason. The third is because he taught the natural inaction of the truth is also in line with the nature of the other.”
After listening to him, the neighbors and friends all agreed that he was a true friend of Lao Tzu, so they wanted him to in charge the burial.
Here is the eulogy he wrote:
“Lao Tze-a distinguish sage, practice Tao for heaven, focus on great harmony, his works is imperishable.”
Banish wisdom, discard knowledge,
And the people shall profit a hundredfold;
Banish humanity, discard justice,
And the people shall recover love of their kin;
Banish cunning, discard utility,
And the thieves and brigands shall disappear.
As these three focus on the external and are inadequate,
And the people need what they can depend upon:
Reveal thy simple self,
Embrace thy original nature,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won’t be any thieves.
If these three aren’t enough,
just stay at the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.
Here, Lao Tzu tells us that everything that exists is impermanent, The Dao is emptiness, void, and nothingness. Why do we insist on continually arguing?
Just see the essence and grab the root. Don’t be tired of foreign things, nor become trapped by chaos. Yes, come back to the origin and search within, not without, and all things will take their course, naturally.
I found a story told by Osho (Tao: The Three Treasures) that illustrates this well.
There is a beautiful Jewish parable: It happened in a certain village where whenever there was some difficulty, the rabbi would go to the forest and perform a magic ritual and pray to God, and
always then the village was helped.
Then the rabbi died. Another rabbi succeeded him. There was some difficulty, so the next rabbi went to the forest. He didn’t know the exact place so he said to God: “I don’t know where the old rabbi performed his ritual, so I will do it anywhere – you are everywhere, so you can listen from everywhere.” He performed the ritual where he was, and the village was helped.
Then he died, and another young man followed. Again there was some difficulty. The man went to the forest, and he said to God: “I don’t know the place or the ritual, but you know all, so
what is the point of doing it? I simply pray to you: Save my village from this difficulty.” And the village was helped.
Then that man died. Then another young man took his place, and the village was again in difficulty. The young man never went to the forest. He sat in his chair, and he said, “Listen! I don’t know the place
where the old rabbis used to go, I don’t know the ritual, I don’t know the prayer that they used to say, but I will tell you a story – and I know you love stories – please help my village.” And he told a
story, and the village was helped.
As the great Tao declined,
The principles of “humanity” and “justice” arose.
When knowledge and cleverness appeared,
Great hypocrisy followed in its wake.
When the six relationships no longer lived in peace,
There was (praise of) “kind parents” and “filial sons.”
When a country fell into chaos and misrule,
There was (praise of) “loyal ministers.”
Again and again, Lao Tzu reminded us that life is a balance. It is everywhere. Just as he mentioned in Chapter 2:
Being and non-being depend on growth;
Difficult and easy depend on completion;
Long and short depend on contrast;
High and low depend on position;
Tones and voice depend on harmony;
Front and behind depend on company.
He explains the principle of opposition and symbiosis. All contradictions are two sides of a coin, and they are both dependent and part of the whole. Only when we understand this, will we avoid putting weight on one side. There is no right and wrong, neither good or bad then we enter the Dao, follow the flow of nature and reach tranquility.
Of the best rulers
The people (only) know that they existed;
The next best, they love and praise;
The next they fear;
And the next they revile.
When they do not command the people’s faith,
Some will lose faith in them,
And then they resort to oaths!
But (of the best) when their task is accomplished,
and all their work is done,
The people all remark, “We have done it ourselves.”
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)
In this chapter, Lao Tzu paints his ideal political system.
He compares ruling the ruling styles favored by Confucianism, by benevolence, and by Legalism, by the rule of law.
He shows us the four types of rulers:
The first-class ruler who teaches the people, and governs them with benevolence. Then the people are close to him and will praise him.
The second-class ruler who uses politics to govern the people, so the people fear him.
The worst ruler who uses tricks to fool and cheat people, making his citizens despise him.
And the best ruler of the country, who has pursued the understanding of the word and has made the people all their own, so the people are not aware of its existence.
A ruler needs to be trustworthy, at ease, and undemanding, so the people can follow and live their own lives, thereby reaping the most benefits. After they have succeeded in doing this, the people do not even realize that they are it. They will say that it is natural to do so.