Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 27

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善行無轍迹,善言無瑕讁;善數不用籌策;
善閉無關楗而不可開,善結無繩約而不可解。
是以聖人常善救人,故無棄人;是谓袭明。
故善人者,不善人之師;不善人者,善人之資。
不貴其師,不愛其資,雖智大迷,是謂要妙。

Good deeds are unmarked.
Good words are flawless.
The good counter does not need to use a tool.

A good closure cannot be opened, even without a lock.
A good knot cannot be untied for it does not have a rope.

A capable leader is one who is good at rescuing people, so that none are abandoned;
He is also good at saving things so that there is nothing left to be abandoned; This is to hide his light and strength.

Good people can be the teachers of bad people, yet good people can learn lessons from bad people.

The good will not boast about being a teacher, nor spare his glory and capital, while the wise yet look confused to the people, this is the crux of mystery.

If we understand what Lao Tzu meant the word “good,” it will make it easier for us to understand the text of this chapter. By “good,” he means those people that search for and practice the Tao. They are different from commoners; thus they will disregard outward material things such as fame and wealth, and have the five goods in them.

They do not do good deeds to show off or use good words to attack others. They count without tools, provide good closure without locks and none can open, and tie knots without ropes so no one can untie it.

Again, he stresses that helping people and things and putting them to good use, makes it so there will not be abandoned people nor things. He cares for them. What he does is for good and follows the rules of nature. His fame, credits, and wealth…no longer serve any purpose for him. It is his nature to hide his broad light and to be just humble, for a wise man does not show off, but turns the light inward and searches his heart.

 

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 26

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重為輕根,靜為躁君。
是以聖人終日行不離輜重。
雖有榮觀,燕處超然。
奈何萬乘之主,而以身輕天下?
輕則失本,躁則失君。
Movement is the root of light;
Inactivity is the master of the hasty.

Therefore the Sage travels all day
But never leaves his provision-cart.
In the midst of honor and glory,
He lives leisurely, undisturbed.

How can the ruler of a great country
Make light of his role in the empire (by rushing about)?
In foolishness, the Center is lost;
In hastiness, self-mastery is lost.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

There are many types of people’s daily behavior. Of prudence and frivolity, which is better? Lao Tzu thinks prudence is better.

Of calmness and a quick temper, which is better? Lao Tzu thinks calmness is better.

A virtuous saint must behave steadily in his daily life. Even if he has attained high ground and is rich and wealthy, he will still have to be able to detach from materialism and not be trapped in it.

Lao Tzu saw that the power of a monarch, which governs the people with frivolous impatience rather than prudence, and wages war without considering the lives of others, he believes the king is not a man of virtue, and he cannot detach from the materialistic world.

You cannot be prudent and frivolous at the same time, and you cannot keep quiet while impatient. In hasty conduct, nothing will go smoothly, and it is impossible to accomplish anything.

Therefore, being prudent and calm instead of being hasty and impatient will help us not to lose our roots and our self-control.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 25

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有物混成,先天地生。
寂兮寥兮,獨立不改,周行而不殆,可以為天下母。
吾不知其名,字之曰道,強為之名曰大。
大曰逝,逝曰遠,遠曰反。
故道大,天大,地大,王亦大。
域中有四大,而王居其一焉。
人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。

Before the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something nebulous:
Silent, isolated,
Standing alone, changing not,
Eternally revolving without fail,
Worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name
And address it as Tao.
If forced to give it a name, I shall call it “Great.”
Being great implies reaching out in space,
Reaching out into space suggests it is far-reaching,
Far-reaching implies a reversion to the original point.

Therefore:
The Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also great.
There are a Great Four in the universe,
And the King is one of them.

Man models himself after the Earth;
The Earth models itself after Heaven;
The Heavens models itself after Tao;
Tao models itself after nature.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

This chapter came to me in May of this year, almost six months before I started to read and write about the Tao Te Ching and post it on my blog. Here is the story.

I’ve been going to an audition site in Glendale, California for a long time, and there has always been a long picture hanging on the wall. I would stand there and stare at it, trying to figure out what the meaning of the picture was. I don’t know which artist painted it, but it is an interesting piece. You can clearly see a human face, and a hand is touching its lip. Recently, I happened to have an audition there, and I went there twice in one week. The second time was a callback. It was a large project; so many different people were waiting to go in for an audition. I had more than an hour to wait. I went back and looked at the picture again, and I got it. Just like what Lao Tzu said,

“Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows nature.”

Now I know why this painter used clay to make a human face and hands. The face seems like a basket or pot. On top of the head, it looked as if roots were growing. Indeed, we are derived from the earth and are brought up by the earth. Of course, harvests are produced by the earth. We need the sun to give us light. The earth needs the sun to keep producing crops. It is all interrelated. With that, we can develop the Tao by following nature and the universe.

Eventually, man will go back to dust. We are buried, and decompose, and become part of the soil.

Before those four lines, Tao Te Ching also mentions the greatness of four things as they are referred.

“The Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also great.
These are the four great powers.”

Now I understand why humans can be great and powerful because we follow Tao, the universe, and the earth. Without them, we are nothing. Then there will be no greatness in us.

We are made in the image of God, but we cannot see him among humans. Just like that picture, from the eyes we can see wisdom, and that it is definitely in the shape of the human. And yet, the head was made of earth – made of clay. We are not superior to heaven, earth, or Tao. We are all part of each other. That is why, with this understanding, man, earth, the universe, and Tao can all be great together.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 24

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企者不立;
跨者不行;
自見者不明;
自是者不彰;
自伐者無功;
自矜者不長。
其在道也,曰:餘食贅行。
物或惡之,故有道者不處。
He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains his strides does not walk (well);
He who reveals himself is not luminous;
He who justifies himself is not far-famed;
He who boasts of himself is not given credit;
He who prides himself is not chief among men.
These in the eyes of Tao
Are called “the dregs and tumors of Virtue,”
Which are things of disgust.
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

Mount Qingyua
Laozi 002.jpg
Image is from aboluowang.com

If you stand on your toes and want to stand tall, you can’t stand.
If you want to move fast by stretching your stride, you can’t walk far.
He who shows off will not shine.
He who is self -righteous will not be respected
He who is self-boasting will not gain merit.
He who is self-conceited cannot be a leader.

By the perception of the Tao, those four actions are superfluous.
They are things of disgust, and the people of the Tao are less likely to do so.

Lao Tzu has mentioned these “four noes principle ” in Chapter 22, and from his repetition of it, we can tell how much Lao Tzu dislikes such people. Indeed, we can find people with these characteristics everywhere, so all the more we should recognize them. Otherwise, we will be walking further away from the Tao.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 23

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希言自然,故飄風不終朝,驟雨不終日。
孰為此者?天地。
天地尚不能久,而況於人乎?
故從事於道者,道者,同於道;德者,同於德;失者,同於失。
同於道者,道亦樂得之;同於德者,德亦樂得之;同於失者,失亦樂得之。
信不足,焉有不信焉。
Nature says few words:
Hence a windstorm lasts not a whole morning.
A rainstorm continues not a whole day.
Where do they come from?
From Nature.
Even Nature does not last long (in its utterances),
How much less should human beings?

Therefore it is that:
He who follows the Tao is identified with the Tao.
He who follows Character (Te) is identified with Character.
He who abandons (Tao) is identified with abandonment (of Tao).
He who identifies with the Tao –
The Tao is also glad to welcome him.
He who identifies with character –
Character (Te) is also glad to welcome him.
He who identifies with abandonment –
Abandonment is also glad to welcome him.
He who does not have enough faith –
Will not be able to command faith from others.
(Translated by Yu Tang Lin)

Tao Te Ching consists of two sections: Chapter one to thirty-seven is all about Tao, whereas the second section about Te is from chapter thirty to eighty-one. Tao is the “body, ” and Te is the “application.”

Lao Tzu admired nature, and he believed Tao is nature. Nature is of few words, and laws and regulations are against nature. Hence they will not last long. It is inevitable that things that are not natural will not persist. Only things which are natural can be sustained.

Here he gives the examples of a windstorm and a rainstorm, which only last for a short time. But the gentle breeze and bright sun will last long. If heaven and earth go against nature, they will not persist, and the same applies to humans. If people violate nature, they will not last long, so people should follow and abide by nature.

Lao Tzu mentioned there are three types of people:
1. Those who follow the Tao and identify with Tao.
2. Those who follow the Te and identify with Te.
3. Those who neither follow Tao nor follow Te and identify with loss.

The last two lines: “He who has not enough faith will not be able to command faith from others,” has been used to describe rulers in chapter 17. They do not integrate well with this section, so we can just remove these sentences.

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