When the world is in possession of the Tao,
The galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings.
When the world has become Taoless,
War horses breed themselves on the suburbs.
There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough.
There is no evil like covetousness.
Only he who knows what is enough will always have enough.
This is a very straight-forward passage. Essentially, when you are living in balance and contentment with what you have, you are in a state of peace and oneness with the world. But when you are striving for more, and attempting to grasp and hold material things, then you are at odds with the world. If you believe that you are lacking, then you will never be content with what you have. This feeling of not having enough is what leads to war, societal problems, anxiety and depression, a veritable smorgasbord of social ills.
Ask yourself: Do I really need the things I think I need?
Image Source: Wikipedia
The greatest perfection seems imperfect,
And yet its use is inexhaustible.
The greatest fullness seems empty,
And yet its use is endless.
The greatest straightness looks like crookedness.
The greatest skill appears clumsy.
The greatest eloquence sounds like stammering.
Restlessness overcomes cold,
But calm overcomes heat.
The peaceful and serene
Is the Norm of the World.
Reading this passage made me think about how our impression of the world is based solely on our limited perception. We are in the midst of everything, and not far enough removed to see the big picture. What we see as chaos because we are so close, may really be harmonious from afar. Think of our planet as seen from space. It is beautiful and tranquil, until you get up close.
The Tao, therefore, is like the big picture. When we feel the stress of daily life, take a breath and imagine yourself removed, looking down on everything. This shift in perception will change how you interpret what his happening to you. Remember, “The peaceful and serene is the Norm of the World.”
“Death and the Miser” by Hieronymus Bosch
As for your name and your body, which is the dearer?
As for your body and your wealth, which is the more to be prized?
As for gain and loss, which is the more painful?
Thus, an excessive love for anything will cost you dear in the end.
The storing up of too much goods will entail a heavy loss.
To know when you have enough is to be immune from disgrace.
To know when to stop is to be preserved from perils.
Only thus can you endure long.
Once again, Lau Tzu offers a pearl of wisdom that is important today. Our present culture is one that encourages constant striving for more, regardless of how much you have. Corporations must always show higher earnings and growth, and the measure of personal success is determined by the rate of increase in wealth.
The problem with this mentality, as Lau Tzu points out, is that it is not sustainable. Eventually, there will be suffering as a result of this paradigm, and we are beginning to see this suffering manifesting in the world around us. It is time for people to step back and realize when they have enough, and not be in constant competition with everyone around in an attempt to prove that they are somehow better at the “Game of Life” than the next person.
For myself, I have found that an attitude of gratitude helps me keep the urge for excess at bay. I have much to be grateful for in my life. And yes, there are things that would be nice to have, but I don’t have the burning desire to accumulate and accumulate.
Thanks for stopping by, and take a moment to reflect on all the great things in your life.
The softest of all things
Overrides the hardest of all things.
Only Nothing can enter into no-space.
Hence I know the advantages of Non-Ado.
Few things under heaven are as instructive as the lessons of Silence,
Or as beneficial as the fruits of Non-Ado.
This passage is very short, yet brimming with wisdom. The first two lines are simple enough to understand. Consider how water over a long period of time, steadily flowing, wears down the rock. But the other four lines require a little more work to comprehend.
In order to fully grasp the meaning of the passage, one must have a basic understanding of the concept of Wu wei. Wu wei (translated as Non-Ado) is essentially not striving, an “attitude of genuine non-action, motivated by a lack of desire to participate in human affairs.” In other words, “the sage does not occupy himself with the affairs of the world.” (Source: Wikipedia)
So what Lau Tzu is saying here, is that the path to wisdom is discovered by quieting the mind, and turning away from the distraction of worldly affairs. This silence becomes the softness that eventually overrides the hardness of the mental noise generated by the obsession with all things temporal. This is truly sage advice in an age where we are constantly bombarded with distraction and stimulation-overload from media of various sorts.
This past weekend, I took a long hike in the woods, just myself and my dog, and enjoyed the quiet and solitude. When I emerged back into the world of noise and traffic, I brought with me some of the calmness which I gained on my hike. Quiet time is important. I encourage you all to take some time each day to get quiet and centered. Your life will improve as a result.