Daodejing Chapter 34: achieving greatness

Daodejing Chapter 34: achieving greatness

「大道氾兮,其可左右。萬物恃之而生而不辭,功成不名有,衣養萬物而不為主。
常無欲,可名於小;萬物歸焉而不為主,可名為大。以其不自為大,故能成其大!」
The great Dao flows everywhere,
Both to the left and to the right.
All things depend on it for life;
It never turns away from them.
It accomplishes its work,
But it claims no credit for it.
It provides for and nourishes all things,
But it does not claim to be the master them.
Since it is without desires, it can be called small.
All things return to it;
But it doesn’t act as their master.
It may be called great.
Because it never claims to be great,
It achieves greatness.

The way is selfless. Even though all things owe their existence to it, it never expects anything in return from them and never attempts to claim credit for its work.

The way doesn’t make any claims of ownership over everything either. It doesn’t even ask for allegiance or loyalty from anything.

The way is thus “without desires.” Because it doesn’t seek greatness, it effortlessly achieves it. The sage would do well to follow the example of the way by acting selflessly and quietly working away without expecting any reward. Just like the way, they will achieve greatness precisely because they don’t search for it.

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