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, January 19, 2012

The Tao te Ching Chapter 36: Understanding The Rising and Falling

That which has a tendency to contract must first have been extended; that which has a tendency to weaken itself must first have been strong; that which shows a tendency to destroy itself must first have been raised up; that which shows a tendency to scatter must first have been gathered.

This is the explanation of a seeming contradiction: the tender and yielding conquer the rigid and strong.

The fish would be foolish to seek escape from its natural environment. There is no gain to a nation to compel by a show of force.

Tao te Ching Chapter 36


This chapter is one of the cases where the Tao te Ching is so obvious that many people miss the point and so the value.

The first stanza may be taken to say that all things have an origin.  No balloon ever popped that was not first blown up.  No tree ever grew strong that was not first a seedling.

The second stanza makes a subtle but very important point.  That which is young and flexible tends to overcome the strong.  For example:  Stone yields to the prying of tender tree roots.  The new movable type printing press allowed the people of France to communicate quickly and freely and so spawned the French Revolution and the end of the centuries old Monarchy. Can you think of an example where something tender and yielding overcame something rigid?  Water beneath the foundation of a house perhaps.

The interpretation of the third stanza is more challenging.  The first in the first sentence may be said to be the nation in the second sentence.  Perhaps the author means to suggest that "compelling by a show of force" is not the natural environment for a nation.  If this is not the natural manner of action for a nation, what is?

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