Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 79


和大怨,必有餘怨;安可以為善?
是以聖人執左契,而不責於人。
有德司契,無德司徹。
天道無親,常與善人。

After settling a great dispute
There must be remaining resentments
How can this be considered good?

Therefore the sage holds the left part of the contract
But does not demand payment from the other person

Those who have virtue hold the contract
Those without virtue hold the collections

The Heavenly Tao has no favorites
It constantly gives to the kind people
(Translated by Derek Lin, 1994)

In this chapter, Lao Tzu regards not getting fuel with the people as an essential principle of governing the country and fundamentally preventing social unrest. He warns the king to practice moral governance and not to practice tyranny.

Lao Tzu first sums up a regular experience of dealing with disputes: ” After settling a great dispute
There must be remaining resentments
How can this be considered good?”
Once the king and the people made a significant hostility, no matter what method you use to reconcile, is bound to leave the sequelae. So what’s the best way to do it? The best way, Lao Tzu suggests, is to avoid grievance with the people at all. The great disputes here are not ordinary personal dispute or public grievances. It is the large-scale public resentment. Once it reaches the large-scale public grievance, it will inevitably lead to violent protests, social unrest. The so-called water can carry the boat, can also overturn the boat. Those who have lost the hearts of the people have lost the world.

Lao Tzu teaches the king: “The Saints hold the left part of the contract and they do not demand payment from the other person.” Tolerating others and being kind to others is a fundamental way to avoid enmity with the people.

Those who have virtue hold the contract, while those without virtue use the left part of the contract to reinforce the collection.

Lao Tzu never ceases to remind us to follow the law of nature. Because the laws of nature have no preference for anyone, and always help good people with virtue.

Note:

When the ancient Chinese people began building their civilization some five thousand years ago, they found themselves in need of a way to keep track of debts.

The method had to be proof against forgery somehow, so less trustworthy individuals wouldn’t borrow funds and then deny it or claim a smaller amount. Also, this was back in the days before the invention of paper, so that made the problem even more difficult.

What they came up with was clever. Lender and borrower would get a piece of wood or tree bark, and carve the record of their transaction and agreement on it. Then, this contract would be split apart in the middle. The left part goes to the lender; the right to the borrower.

Thus, the left side of the contract is the lender’s proof that he has a right to demand payments. When the loan has been paid, the lender gives the left side to the borrower, thus making the contract whole.
Because the tear in the wood or bark is uneven, it serves as the perfect and natural way to authenticate. A forged left side will never be able to match the right side – a brilliant solution.
(Reference- https://terebess.hu/english/tao/DerekLin.html#Kap79)

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