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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 12: 檢欲


An excess of light blinds the human eye; an excess of noise ruins the ear; an excess of condiments deadens the taste. The effect of too much horse racing and hunting is bad, and the lure of hidden treasure tempts one to do evil.

Therefore the wise man attends to the inner significance of things and does not concern himself with outward appearances. Therefore he ignores matter and seeks the spirit.

Tao te Ching Chapter 12


This chapter is usually interpreted as "desire is bad."  While it is true that the last sentence of the first stanza contains the message that desire leads to "evil," there is a second message.  The author points out in the first stanza that too much of anything, whether desired or not, is self defeating.  When the author says, "an excess of condiments deadens the taste," they do not say that condiments are good or bad, or that using condiments is good or bad.  They only make the observation that too many of them decreases your ability to enjoy them.  

This is again the difference between the "more is always better" mentality and Taoist thought.  If you have enough of anything, more of it will probably only lead to trouble.  You are less likely to have your less expensive car stolen. You are more likely to have peace in your marriage if you don't keep a lover on the side.  

The first sentence of the second stanza of this chapter and several other passages with the Tao te Ching are sometimes translated as "the wise man attends to the belly."  This can be interpreted as meaning, "the wise man takes care of the things needed for life, and ignores anything beyond that.

A simpler life is easier to keep in balance.
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