“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 29” by Lao Tzu

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Does anyone want to take the world and do what he wants with it?
I do not see how he can succeed.

The world is a sacred vessel, which must not be tampered with or grabbed after.
To tamper with it is to spoil it, and to grasp it is to lose it.

In fact, for all things there is a time for going ahead, and a time for following behind;
A time for slow-breathing and a time for fast-breathing;
A time to grow in strength and a time to decay;
A time to be up and a time to be down.

Therefore, the Sage avoids all extremes, excesses and extravagances.

I feel that this is a passage that every politician, every corporate CEO, and every Wall Street banker should read. It is essentially the same idea as expressed in the sayings “Live simply so that others may simply live,” or “The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth.” As I look around at the mania associated with the frantic quest after more and more, I cannot help but acknowledge that this mindset is totally unsustainable. If we continue to tamper with our world and strip it of its resources, we will ultimately initiate our own demise. Lao Tzu, who lived in the 6th century BC, already understood this. Why is it so difficult for people to grasp today?

The other thing that struck me as interesting about this passage is its similarity to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which was put to music in the song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” I am not sure whether there was a sharing of ideas between the east and west in antiquity, or whether the authors had both tapped in to the same source of divine inspiration, but the parallel is something worth pondering.

Today, I will avoid all “extremes, excesses and extravagances.” If we all made a conscious effort to do this, what a change it would make in the world.


Filed under Literature, Spiritual

11 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 29” by Lao Tzu

  1. O too often wonder about the similarity between ideas expressing themselves across cultures and times. Almost as thought there is a collective unconsciousness at work. I immediately thought of Ecclesiastes when I read this extract.

  2. I thought of that Bible verse too, and I agree with the commentator above about all cultures being able to tap into a universal wisdom. I like the idea about there being a perennial religion, that the highest wisdom of all religions speak the same truth.

    • Exactly! Have you read Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy”? It’s all about the universal spiritual truths.

      • Yes, it was Huxley’s work that I was thinking of when I wrote the comment, only I misspoke saying religion rather than philosophy, although I think he was speaking of religions when he wrote it. It’s been a long time since I read it. I think I still have a very yellowed copy of the paperback book I bought years and years ago.. I’ll have to dig it out.

      • I still have my copy from 30 years ago, too. Was thinking it may be time to re-read it and write a post. The world needs Huxley’s wisdom and insight.

      • I agree. That’s a good idea. I think i will reread it again too.

  3. a classic, to be sure – and quite timely on an energetic level, to boot. many thanks for sharing, jeff.