This blog is an interpretation of the Tao te Ching "Tao Virtue Book" which is attributed to Laozi "Lao Tze" a Chinese philosopher who lived circa 600 b.c.

Please remember always that this is the description of the Tao and not the experience of the living Tao. Hopefully, this blog will not serve as analysis or commentary but as a window into the Tao. You are encouraged to disagree with this interpretation, involve yourself in self-study, and ultimately leave all concepts behind and so experience the living Tao.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 10: 能為

For this chapter we will use Legg's translation.


When the intelligent and animal souls are held together in one embrace, they can be kept from separating. When one gives undivided attention to the (vital) breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as a (tender) babe. When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights (of his imagination), he can become without a flaw.

In loving the people and ruling the state, cannot he proceed without any (purpose of) action? In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven, cannot he do so as a female bird? While his intelligence reaches in every direction, cannot he (appear to) be without knowledge? (The Dao) produces (all things) and nourishes them; it produces them and does not claim them as its own; it does all, and yet does not boast of it; it presides over all, and yet does not control them. This is what is called 'The mysterious Quality' (of the Dao).

Tao te Ching Chapter Ten


This passage is again about how to rule people.  What is immediately interesting is that the author does not discuss how to rule other people until he first discusses how to master the self.  He asserts that our animal and intelligent minds can be brought together, that we can by focus become childlike again and so be cleansed to purity.  It is only after these accomplishments that we may be ready for rule.

In the second stanza, it may be useful to substitute the word desire or ego for the phrase (purpose of action.)  Of course a ruler will take some action but can they do so only out of the motivation of providing for the people without any desire for personal gain or fame?   the author compares rulers the Tao itself.  All things rise from the Tao, all things feed from the Tao, yet the Tao never seeks anything for itself nor does it claim ownership of anything.  Can a ruler be likewise so present and yet so passive?  Can a teacher teach a student without seeking praise, can a father build a home for his children without demanding some praise?  

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