Daodejing Chapter 32: streams and rivulets

Daodejing chapter 32: streams and rivulets

The Dao forever has no name;
Although the uncarved block of wood is small,
No one in the world can subordinate it.
If princes and kings are able to harness it,
All things will submit of their own accord.
Heaven and earth will come together,
And cause sweet dewdrops to fall.
The people will share them fairly without being ordered to.
Only when the whole is divided are names required for each part.
When there are names,
You need to know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
For the Dao is to the world,
What streams and rivulets are to the rivers and seas.

The way is the source of the world just like the tiny streams and rivulets that trickle down the sides of valleys to feed the mighty rivers and seas. Even though it is small, it has such infinite power that “princes and kings” can never hope to control it. However, they only need to “hold fast to it” in order to unite the people under their leadership and establish a harmonious and equitable society.

Without the way, society is divided and the ruler has to give everything a name so that his people can identify different objects and know what is permitted and forbidden. The problem is that is that as the number of names proliferates, the people lose their connection to the way and a materialistic culture is fueled by the proliferation of arbitrary desires for an ever more lavish lifestyle.

Thus, Laozi cautions: “When there are names, you need to know when to stop.” For “knowing when to stop averts trouble” in the form of the increasing social unrest and conflicts that ravaged China during his lifetime.

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