“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 10” by Lao Tzu


In keeping the spirit and the vital soul together,
Are you able to maintain their perfect harmony?
In gathering your vital energy to attain suppleness,
Have you reached the state of a new-born babe?
In washing and clearing your inner vision,
Have you purified it of all dross?
In loving your people and governing your state,
Are you able to dispense with cleverness?
In the opening and shutting of heaven’s gate,
Are you able to play the feminine part?
Enlightened and seeing far into all directions,
Can you at the same time remain detached and non-active?

Rear your people!
Feed your people!
Rear them without claiming them for your own!
Do your work without setting any store by it!
Be a leader, not a butcher!
This is called hidden Virtue.

In this passage, Lao Tzu provides guidance to leaders on how to best govern. But since this advice is based upon spiritual principles, it applies to all of us in our daily affairs.

Many of us have a tendency to rest upon our laurels. We work hard to reach spiritual harmony, and when we reach it, we run the risk of thinking we are done. We begin to neglect that which we worked to attain, just as the leaders who attain power often begin to neglect their people. When Lau Tzu advises rulers to rear and feed their people, he is also advising the sage to nurture the spiritual enlightenment that the sage has found.

There is something else that I think Lau Tzu was warning against, and that is self-righteousness. Consider the last lines of the first verse:

Enlightened and seeing far into all directions,
Can you at the same time remain detached and non-active?

Throughout my life, I have met many spiritual seekers who, once they reach a spiritual goal, assume a holier-than-thou attitude. They allow the self to revel in the spiritual advances that they made, and as a result, begin to lose what they gained. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and I confess that it happened to me at one point also. The key then is humility, allowing yourself to remain detached enough to remain centered on the path and continue growing spiritually. And stay vigilant, watching for when feelings of superiority or self-importance seep in and become obstacles.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my thoughts. I hope you have a truly blessed day.



Filed under Literature, Spiritual

4 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 10” by Lao Tzu

  1. Alex Hurst

    A great excerpt… I really want to read more of his philosophy. It’s hard to keep moving when you think you’ve reached “perfection”… especially when trying to improve further might even feel like having to start all over… but hopefully the benefits outweigh the uncertainty!

    • Hey Alex! Here’s a thought. The universe is constantly changing and reality is always evolving. Therefore, even if you actually did reach a state of “perfection,” it would only be so in that moment of reality. Once the universe shifts again, so does the concept of perfection. I think Lau Tzu would use a water metaphor here encouraging the sage to be fluid 😉

      Hope you stay centered amid your transition. I’ll share some words of wisdom that have always helped me during those periods: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”


  2. Hi Jeff,
    You know how I am always in search of that perfect translation. By that I mean perfect for me. I think I have found my favorite translator of Tao te Ching. His name is Robert Brookes. I had some time today and started reading it again, and just could not put it down. Extraordinary book. Anyway here I offer the same passage in his translation (hope you do not mind):

    Embrace your physical and spiritual
    natures as one.
    Is it even possible to separate them?

    When gathering your chi to bring
    about flexibility,
    can you be as supple as a newborn?

    When purifying your inner perception,
    can you be free of faulty thinking?

    When caring for and leading all the
    can you be without cunning?

    As the Tao opens and closes,
    can you resist weakening?

    With clear awareness penetrating in all
    can you remain innocent?

    The Tao gives life and cultivates all
    yet it does not claim ownership over them.

    The wise person acts but does not take
    Leads, but does not rule.

    This is a profound virtue.

    • Hi Monika. I find it interesting that we are both reading the Tao Teh Ching right now. Thanks for sharing Brookes’ translation. I like hearing different perspectives. I think Lao Tzu would say that the truth is hidden somewhere between the two. Cheers!