Simplicity in action

Simplicity (愚) doesn’t mean stupidity or ignorance, as so many commentators have interpreted it. It means stripping away all the gunk that has accumulated around a basic principle so that you can understand its very essence.

The ancient sages didn’t have to educate the common people about the way, because they embodied its virtues and values in their behavior and attitudes. Attempting to describe them with words would only lead to confusion and worse.

Acting according to basic principles is a far more powerful teaching tool than talking about them. Indeed, the more you talk about them and discuss them, the more likely you are to deviate from them.

「古之善為道者,非以明民,將以愚之。民之難治,以其智多,故以智治國,國之賊!不以智治國,國之福。知此兩者,亦稽式;常知稽式,是謂玄德。玄德深矣遠矣!與物反矣,然後乃至大順。」
In ancient times, people who excelled in following the Way,
Did not use it to enlighten the people,
But to keep them on the path of simplicity.
Now, the people are difficult to lead,
Because they have become too cunning and crafty.
Therefore, governing a country with craftiness is a disaster for it;
Governing a country without craftiness is a blessing for it.
If you understand the difference between these two models,
You have grasped the fundamental principle.
Staying true to the fundamental principle is called subtle and profound Virtue.
Subtle and profound Virtue is deep and far-reaching.
It leads all things back to universal harmony.

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