“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 8” by Lao Tzu


The highest form of goodness is like water.
Water knows how to benefit all things without striving with them.
It stays in places loathed by all men.
Therefore, it comes near the Tao.

In choosing your dwelling, know how to keep to the ground.
In cultivating your mind, know how to dive in the hidden deeps.
In dealing with others, know how to be gentle and kind.
In speaking, know how to keep your words.
In governing, know how to maintain order.
In transacting business, know how to be efficient.
In making a move, know how to choose the right moment.

If you do not strive with others,
You will be free from blame.

Water is a pretty standard symbol for the spirit and the subconscious mind. But this passage builds on that metaphor and uses water as a symbol for how to live a spiritual life in the material world. Fluidity is the key. Lately, it seems like people are taking the complete opposite approach, asserting that a “hard stance” is what is required, that one needs rigid adherence to ideologies in order to be successful. This is the materialistic approach and is antithetical to the spiritual path.

When you move like water through life, obstacles that may arise to not block your progress. You are able to flow past the stones that crop up in your way. And then you are happier, because you are not spending your energy struggling and fighting against things that you cannot change. It is a great philosophy for how to live life.


Filed under Literature, Spiritual

8 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 8” by Lao Tzu

  1. Agreed with the above! I was just thinking about the same metaphor/philosophy yesterday. Thanks for sharing.

  2. These are the sort of excerpts that make me very happy. Thank you. A wonderful metaphor, and an exceedingly good read.

  3. Just what I needed to hear today, Jeff. Thank you. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I’ve long found much such a sense of peace and freedom when studying Tao.

    • Hi Deborah! So glad that this was a timely post for you. I’ve read the Tao several times already, and each time it brings new insights. It’s nice to go through it slowly and write my own reflections on each passage.

      I hope you have a blessed day!


  4. Mmmm, another lovely and insightful musing, Jeff. Thank you. Yes, flow like water … which does seem to know how to flow right around those ‘hard stances’ (and even slowly soften away those sharp edges, too). This Tao te Ching passage seems perfect for today. xo J

    • Hi Jamie. Softening the edges… great point. I agree, this passage is perfect for today. Sometimes we read what we need to read when we need to read it. Strange how the universe works that way.