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 13: Favor and Disgrace are Equal


Favor and disgrace are alike to be feared, just as too great care or anxiety are bad for the body.

Why are favor and disgrace alike to be feared? To be favored is humiliating; to obtain it is as much to be dreaded as to lose it. To lose favor is to be in disgrace and of course is to be dreaded.

Why are excessive care and great anxiety alike bad for one? The very reason I have anxiety is because I have a body. If I have not body why would I be anxious?

Therefore if he who administers the empire, esteems it as his own body, then he is worthy to be trusted with the empire.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 13


This chapter is again talking about seeking balance rather than a high place.  This time the context is appearance before other people.  Are we considered to be "favored?"  Are we considered to be "disgraced?"  The author recommends avoiding both positions.  It is easy to understand why disgrace is undesireable who why favor?  Perhaps the life of the movie star can be used as an example.  The famous person, while receiving many benefits from fame also cannot go to a restaurant without being approached by fans, photographers hound them constantly and their private affairs are likely to appear on the front page of magazines.  Truly they pay a high price for their fame.

The author, desiring a quiet, and balanced life, avoids both favor and disgrace.  Preferring to live a quiet, unnoticed life.

The second stanza is often interpreted to mean that it is somehow unsatisfactory to have a body or to be living.  This is inconsistent with the message of the Tao te Ching.  It is more likely that this passage is meant as reminder that the Tao itself is not concerned with issues of favor and disgrace.  It is only those of us seeking to care for our human bodies that conceive and worry about such notions.  A good way to observe the truth of this is to explain to a dog or cat the shame of nudity.  Truly favor and disgrace are human attributes. 

The final message is for those who would rule.  If you would treat the ruled as your own body, your worries will serve those you lead.
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