Tao Te Ching-Lao Tzu- Chapter 76


nature

人之生也柔弱,其死也堅強。
萬物草木之生也柔脆,其死也枯槁。
故堅強者死之徒,柔弱者生之徒。
是以兵強則不勝,木強則共。
強大處下,柔弱處上。

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid

All living things, grass and trees
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle

Thus that which is hard and stiff
Is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
Is the follower of life

Therefore, an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree is easily broken

It is with great strength when one stays low
It is with gentleness and fragility when one can assume superiority

(References- Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Yu-Tang Lin, Derick Lin, and Wikisource )

When we are living, we can cope and adapt to the environment changes; we are free to change.
On the other hand, if we die, our body is rigid and hard. Therefore we are not able to cope and adapt to environmental change.

Lao Tzu found that most dead things have the property of “hardness,” while most living things have the property of “softness.” The same things happen to the grass. Here he derives the “law”: things with a “hard and rigid” attribute belong to the category of “dead”; The thing that has “soft and pliable” attribute, belong to “living” category.

Lao Tzu uses this law to speculate on other things.

For example, in the case of warfare, if you are stubborn and violate the laws of nature, you will have a “strong” attribute, and the natural law will match you to the “dead” category so that it will fail.

Similarly, if a tree is stiff, it will have a “strong” attribute, and the natural law will match it to the “dead” category so that the wind will break it.

Lao Tzu concludes the chapter with the following-
It is with great strength when one stays low
It is with gentleness and fragility when one can assume superiority

This chapter can be read in conjunction with the contents of Chapter 8. Lao Tzu regards water as Tao. The water only flows downward to the lowest place. The water is soft and quickly adapt to the change of the environment. Thus it reminds me of the quote from Bruce Lee.

Be Like Water

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” – Bruce Lee

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