Daodejing Chapter 29: the world is a sacred vessel

Daodejing Chapter 29

「將欲取天下而為之,吾見其不得已。天下神器,不可為也,不可執也。為者敗之,執者失之。故物或行或隨,或歔或吹,或強或羸,或載或隳。是以聖人去甚、去奢、去泰。」
Those who seek to take over the world and control it,
I do not think they can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel;
It cannot be controlled or held on to.
Those who try to control it will spoil it.
Those who try to hold on to it will lose it.
Therefore, among all things,
Some lead and some follow;
Some breathe gently and some blow hard;
Some are strong and some are weak;
Some succeed and some fail.
That’s why the sage avoids excess, extravagance, and pride.

Beware of the dictator or revolutionary who wants to take over the world. No matter whether they have good or bad intentions, they are doomed to failure because the world is a “sacred vessel” that cannot ever be controlled by anyone.

Chapter 29 of the Daodejing is targeted at the political class of Laozi’s times, and warns it against taking draconian measures to enforce its will over the common people. The only way a ruler can hope to successfully lead their realm is by understanding the different needs of the people and catering to them.

The passage also connects on a personal level as well. The more you try to force something, the less chance you have of succeeding in it. Be yourself and go at your natural pace. Let others do the same.

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