Daodejing Chapter 7: selfishness and selflessness

「天長地久,天地所以長且久者,以其不自生,故能長生。是以聖人後其身而身先,外其身而身存。非以其無私耶!故能成其私。」
Heaven is infinite and Earth is eternal;
The reason why they last so long,
Is because they do not exist for themselves;
Thus, they can continue to endure.
That is why the sage:
Places himself at the back,
But finds himself at the front;
Has no consideration for himself,
But stays safe and secure.
Because he is selfless;
He is perfectly fulfilled.

Laozi drew the inspiration for his teachings from his observations of the laws of nature. In the Daodejing, he highlights the principles that people should follow to lead impactful lives and contribute to social harmony.

Just as Heaven and Earth have lasted from the beginning of time precisely because they don’t “exist for themselves,” so too should the sage eschew his own personal interests. Paradoxically, by “placing himself at the back” he automatically “finds himself at the front” because he is willing to listen to other people and work towards the collective benefit. By the same token, “because he doesn’t think of himself” he is “perfectly fulfilled.”

By “perfectly fulfilled”, Laozi was referring to the spiritual kind derived from the satisfaction of working towards the common good rather than the selfish kind produced by the ephemeral pleasures of accumulating unbridled wealth and power.

Food for thought for today’s one percent to consider!

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