Ah, the good old days when men were men and, well, I’m sure you get my drift. Just like Confucius did with the Duke of Zhou, Laozi is attempting to evoke a golden age from deep antiquity that almost certainly never existed. He is imploring people to learn from the mythologized behavior of the (nameless) great masters of the past in the hope that everyone returns to the right path. Continue reading Daodejing: back to the good old days
I am beginning to see why the Daodejing appeals to so many people in the west seeking spiritual inspiration. Passages like this one in Chapter 14 do a masterful job of evoking the myriad mysteries of the Dao, which stretches back to the very “beginnings of antiquity”. The richness and ambiguity of the text, no matter whether it’s in Chinese or English, certainly send the brain cells spinning in multiple directions! Continue reading Daodejing: the unbroken thread
There’s nothing like fear to motivate people (though I suppose you can always spice it up with a dollop of uncertainty and doubt). Most of the time, it’s a negative force that holds us back from doing what we really want to do with our lives because we are frightened of losing what we have – just like a high-ranking official terrified of being dismissed or even losing his head at the whim of the capricious ruler upon whose favor his livelihood depend. Continue reading Daodejing: the power of fear
Chapter Ten of the Daodejing reprises many of the key themes in Chapter One, challenging the reader to achieve oneness by embracing paradoxical polarities through a series of pointed questions. Continue reading Daodejing: questions, questions, questions
The highest good is like water;
Water brings good to all things without contending with them;
It settles in places that people disdain;
Thus, it is akin to the way.
In choosing your home, it is the location that counts;
In cultivating your mind, it is depth that counts;
In dealing with others, it is goodness that counts;
In speaking, it is good faith that counts;
In governing, it is order that counts;
In handling affairs, it is ability that counts;
In action, it is timing that counts.
By not contending with others,
You won’t be singled out for reproach.
The Dao is like water. It sustains life without intending to. Continue reading Daodejing: flow like water
The more you give, the more you get back. I’m not sure I even need to add that.
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;
Places himself on the outside, but remains present.
Isn’t it because he doesn’t think of himself,
That he is able to achieve his private ends?
This is an important chapter in that it evokes the feminine or yin (陰) aspect of the Dao, which complements its masculine or Yang (陽) aspect. Continue reading Daodejing: the mysterious female
Straw dogs were used instead of living dogs in ancient Chinese ritual practices. Just as heaven and earth don’t draw any distinction between them despite their obvious differences, the wise do not favor any particular people. Nobody is special; everybody deserves equal consideration. Continue reading Daodejing: straw dogs
Do not single out individuals for praise,
So that the people won’t contend;
Do not prize rare goods,
So that the people won’t steal;
Do not display objects of desire,
So that the people’s hearts will not be restless.
That’s why the sage rules his people by:
Emptying their minds;
But filling their stomachs;
Weakening their ambitions;
But strengthening their sinews.
Always keeping the people free from knowledge and desires;
So that the ones with knowledge will never dare act.
By acting with effortless action,
There is nothing he cannot govern. Continue reading Daodejing: perfect harmony
As human beings we tend to take a very judgmental view of what we see around us. We either like something or we don’t and are quick to compare it with other items.