There were those in ancient times possessed of the One;
Through possession of the One, the Heaven was clarified,
Through possession of the One, The Earth was stabilized,
Through possession of the One, the gods were spiritualized,
Through possession of the One, the valleys were made full,
Through possession of the One, all things lived and grew,
Through possession of the One, the princes, and dukes
became the ennobled of the people.
– that was how each became so.
Without clarity, the Heavens would shake,
Without stability, the Earth would quake,
Without spiritual power, the gods would crumble,
Without being filled, the valleys would crack,
Without the life-giving power, all things would perish,
Without the ennobling power, the princes and dukes would stumble.
Therefore the nobility depend upon the common man for support,
And the exalted ones depend upon the lowly for their base.
That is why the princes and dukes call themselves
“the orphaned,” “the lonely one,” “the unworthy.”
Is not true then that they depend upon the common man for support?
Truly, take down the parts of a chariot,
And there is no chariot (left).
Rather than jingle like the jade,
Rumble like the rocks.
(Translation by Yu Tang Lin)
“Oneness” is where the Tao resides. The oneness manifests itself in many different ways:
It demonstrates clarity in the sky, tranquility on earth, divinity in gods, and abundant life in all living things.
On the other hand, there would be consequences if there is no connection with oneness (Tao): sky would break apart, earth erupt, gods vanish, valley crack, myriad things extinct, rulers toppled.
How can we gain this oneness? How can we lead with the Tao? We can see the clues everywhere. The high must be built upon the low. Tall trees grew from tiny saplings; The base of the mountain exalts the majestic peak.
In Chinese culture, the princes and dukes called themselves “the orphaned,” “the lonely one,” “the unworthy.” (in Chinese 孤家, 寡人, 不才), for they know that they can’t rule the country without the people’s support and the loyalty of the commoner. The same thing applies to a chariot; if the parts of it do not come together as a whole, there is no chariot.
Stefan Stenudd gave excellent comments on the One(Whole), he said:
“This chapter focuses on the necessity for the main parts of the world to be in accordance with Tao, or they will cease to function and there will be disorder. That goes for all the parts. They are equally needed in the grand scheme of things. So, there is no point in any one of them being exalted above the others. It’s a team work, one might say, a great harmony where every piece fits, and nothing could be removed without damage to the whole.” And Lao Tzu said it is better to be a hard and simple stone than a dazzling gem.
A rich man bought a piece of land, and he repaired the villa within, which had a more than one-hundred-year-old lychee tree in the backyard. He loved this place because of the lychee tree, and because his wife likes lychee.
The image is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/349310514831858413/?lp=true.
During the renovation, a friend advised him to check with a feng shui master so as not to commit evil. Initially, he did not believe in feng shui. However, he had a change of heart and agreed to his friend’s suggestion. He made a special trip to Hong Kong to invite a master. The Master’s surname was De, who had engaged in this line of work for more than 30 years, and he had an excellent reputation.
He picked up the master at the train station; he took him to his house after lunch. The rich man kept giving way for any cars that wanted to pass him along the way.
The master laughed: “Your driving is quite sturdy.” The Hong Kong master observed everything.
The rich man laughed: ” Those who want to overtake us must have an urgent matter to take care of, and we should not delay them.”
As they reached the town, the rich man began to slow down because the streets were narrower.
A child laughed and rushed out of the alley; the rich man stepped on the brake to avoid hitting the child. Instead of stepping on the gas immediately after, he looked at the alley and seemed to be waiting for something. A moment later, another child rushed out and chased the first child.
The master was puzzled and asked: “How do you know there were more children?”
The rich man shrugged, “the children are chasing each other, no one would laugh so happy alone.”
The master gave a thumbs-up and laughed: “You have a kind heart.”
Arriving at the rich man’s villa, he got out of the car and held the key to open the door, when suddenly seven or eight birds flew up from the backyard. Seeing this, he stopped at the door and apologetically said to the master, “Please wait a moment.”
The image is By Toby Hudson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8267094
“What’s the matter?” The master was again puzzled.
“There must be children in the backcourt to pick our lychee, if we go in now, the children will be panic and fall, and that won’t be good. Let them pick for a while; we can look around outside first.” The rich man answered with a smile.
The master was silent for a moment and said: “You can send me back to the train station, I do not need to check the feng shui for this house.”
This time the rich man was puzzled: “Why do you say so?”
“Yes, sir, wherever you are, is a good feng shui place.”
This is a true story, in fact, of how people’s behavior is geomantic. No matter how hard the self-serving and selfish person works, perhaps it is only futile.
“You are the root of all.”
The following text is translated by Stefan Stenudd.
The highest virtue is not virtuous(Te). Therefore it has virtue(Te).
The lowest virtue holds on to virtue(Te). Therefore it has no virtue(Te).
The highest virtue(Te) does nothing. Yet, nothing needs to be done.
The lowest virtue(Te) does everything. Yet, much remains to be done.
The highest benevolence acts without purpose.
The highest righteousness acts with purpose.
The highest ritual acts, but since no one cares,
It raises its arms and uses force.
Therefore, when the Way(Tao) is lost there is virtue(Te).
When virtue(Te) is lost there is benevolence.
When benevolence is lost there is righteousness.
When righteousness is lost there are rituals.
Rituals are the end of fidelity and honesty,
And the beginning of confusion.
Knowing the future is the flower of the Way(Tao),
And the beginning of folly.
The truly great ones rely on substance,
And not on surface,
Hold on to the fruit,
And not to the flower.
They reject the latter and receive the former.
The image is fromHospital Marketing Journal – Typepad
This chapter is rather long, and I would like to summarize the whole content as follow so we can understand better:
- Causes Effect
The highest virtue is not virtuous. So it has virtue.
Those who possess the higher form of virtue are not intentionally virtuous. Their actions are natural and unforced. This is why we say they have true virtue.
Those who possess the higher form of virtue do not act with contrivance. Their actions are without ulterior movies. They act out of virtue because it is natural, not because they want to “look good” doing it.
The lowest virtue holds on to virtue. So it has no virtue.
There are also those who possess a lower kind of virtue. They never lose sight of virtue because they have to constantly remind themselves to be virtuous. This is why we say they have no true virtue.
Those with the lower form of virtue are the opposite. When they act in ways that seem virtuous, they do so for a specific personal agenda – perhaps improving their image, assuaging guilty feelings, etc.
Lao-tzu’s definition of virtue, benevolence, righteousness, rituals, and their order, we list as follows:
The highest is the virtue: is no action, and no purpose of the act.
Next is benevolence: is with action, there is no purpose of the act.
Next is righteousness: is with action, and the purposeful act as well.
Next is the ritual acts: is with action, there is no response, so, lead to the response of confusion and disorder.
If people lose their virtues, then the next best thing would be benevolence. If people can still hold on to the mindset of love, compassion, and kindness, then they can at least treat one another in a way that is gentle and humane.
What if people lose their benevolence too? Then they will have no choice but to resort to righteousness. Their actions can no longer be guided by love, compassion and kindness. Instead, they will act, choose and decide based on correctness or a sense of justice. Everything becomes more muddled because right and wrong can often be so subjective.
Finally, what if people can no longer rely on righteousness? Then rituals is all that’s left. Following rituals, customs and propriety may or may not be right, benevolent, or virtuous… but at least there is something to follow.
This sort of rituals is artificial and disingenuous. Those who practice it are little more than thin shells without substance, pretending to be loyal and sincere while possessing neither quality. Such people are the source of chaos, discord and strife.
Similarly, people who possess knowledge without righteousness, benevolence or virtue are also thin shells lacking substance. Like flowers, they give a pleasing appearance but possess none of the satisfying goodness of fruits. That’s what we mean when we call them the flowers of the Tao. Such people may project a knowledgeable appearance, but are in fact ignorant in basic, fundamental ways.
To summarize, the truly great person would be the antithesis of the above. That is, they focus on substance instead of the thin veneer of superficiality. Their emphasis is on the real inner self, and not on the facade of external appearance. They discard the fakery of etiquette and knowledge, and reach for benevolence, justice, virtues… and finally the Tao.
Note:Tao Te Ching is comprised of two parts; the first one is from chapter one to thirty-seven. From chapter thirty-eight on, it discusses Te. Tao is the “body,” while “Te” is a phenomenon and an application. Only when we apply or use Tao, do we then gain the results. It is like two sides of a coin, and without either side then there is no existence of the Similarly.
In the past, people with insight thought they had mastered the beauty of “Tao.” However, without practicing Tao, it was the beginning of “ignorance.” To gain Tao, we should rely on the substance and get rid of superficial showiness.
One day, a Buddhist monk and his apprentice came to a big river and saw a beautiful woman standing by it. Because she couldn’t cross it, she was looking worriedly at it.
The monk walked over and asked the woman: “Do you have an urgent need to cross the river?”
The woman replied: “Yes, Master, my mother is seriously ill. I am hurrying to go back and see her. No one knows that I am at the river, and I am worried I will not get there in time.”
The Buddhist monk said lightly: “This is indeed urgent, let me carry you across the river.”
The woman looked at the two monks in front of her and was hesitant, but when she thought of her mother who was lying in bed, she had no choice but to agree.
The Buddhist monk stepped forward and held the beautiful woman firmly in his arms, rushing past the turbulent river and bringing her to the other side of the river.
Afterward, the monk and apprentice continued on their journey.
After a half-day journey, the young apprentice couldn’t help but ask him: “Doesn’t the master say that monks should not be close to a woman? Why did you carry the beautiful young woman across the river?”
“Oh, do you mean that woman who couldn’t cross the river and needed help?” said the monk casually. “I already put her down when we passed the river and crossed to the other side. Why have you held onto her?”
The monk then said to his apprentice, “if you want pure land, you need to purify your heart. That is to say, to establish a pure land, first of all, purify your heart. Buddhist practice cultivates the mind. The heart is clean so that all beings are clean.”
The woman who was waiting for crossing the river, in the mind of the older monk, was just a human being and someone who needed help. When the monk put her down on the riverbank, he put her down completely. But the young apprentice, though not directly carrying the woman across the river, “carried” her in his heart and was unwilling to put her down. He, as we call it, “could not put his heart down.”
The original Chinese text is from https://www.jianshu.com/p/16b01fbd54a4.
The Tao never does,
Yet through it everything is done.
If princes and dukes can keep the Tao,
the world will of its own accord be reformed.
When reformed and rising to action,
Let it be restrained by the Nameless pristine simplicity.
The Nameless pristine simplicity
Is stripped of desire (for contention).
By stripping of desire quiescence is achieved,
And the world arrives at peace of its own accord.
( Translation by Lin Yutang )
The image is from Boss Royal BossRoyal.
The Wu Wei (never does) suggests natural action rather than action inspired by desire. The practitioners of Wu Wei will stay at rest unless and until they are motivated. They act by need and then return to rest without claiming credit or glory for themselves.
The people will respond with Wu Wei to a leader who practices Wu Wei. A desireless person or a nation will remain at rest, and people can be of their own accord and remain at peace. In this way, all things would be at peace.
The Wu Wei is the principle of Tao. Within the working of the Tao, there is neither strife nor struggle because the Tao devoid the action and does not attempt to achieve, and yet nothing is beyond its power to achieve. On the other hand, if we take action with desire, and attain the goal in mind, we end up with chaos and fruitless both in a big scale-a country and a small scale-individual respectively.
Many years ago, I lost my husband; I was in grief. Seeing how distressed I was, my cousin suggested for me to take a trip back to my hometown(Taiwan). She hoped the trip would not only keep me occupied in doing the networking business to lessen my stress and also my financial hardship. She then prepared two pieces of luggage filled with nutrition bottles from the networking company for me to bring and recruit members there.
Once I settled at one of church friend’s house, I immediately took action and started to connect with all of my friends. Many referred their friends to me, but I failed to produce any result. One of my high school friends even convinced all of the classmates to buy all the products from me. Before I was getting ready to ship the package to them, I found out that they would not consume the products, they bought it was to help me out because of my circumstance. Of course, I could not impose on my friends with my need. I quickly put an end to my newfound career and brought back the two pieces of luggage. The content inside was the same except the hope of making money was no longer there.
While I was overseas, I did one thing effortlessly- that is to tell my daughter to purchase the brand new house in the new development in the city of Laguna Niguel. I moved right into the new home when I came back to the State. Whose to know that this effortless deed I did over the phone land me a gold mine. The price of the house doubled then almost tripled its original purchasing price many years later.