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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 22: Humility

For this chapter we will use Legge's translation


The partial becomes complete; the crooked, straight; the empty, full; the worn out, new. He whose (desires) are few gets them; he whose (desires) are many goes astray.

Therefore the sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of humility), and manifests it to all the world. He is free from self- display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.

That saying of the ancients that 'the partial becomes complete' was not vainly spoken:--all real completion is comprehended under it.

Tao te Ching Chapter 22


By now the theme of desire and the dangers of desire are well established in the Tao te Ching and the first stanza here is no exception.  It is interesting to note that this chapter does not suggest that you should have no desires only "few."  Perhaps there is a clue to this meaning in the phrase "the partial becomes complete."  Some desires, such as for food, "complete" us.  Other's such as the desire for a 72" plasma screen tv, feed something besides our bodies.

The second stanza can be seen in this context as a message about what we don't need.  What does self-display feed?  What does "self-assertion" feed?

Then the third stanza can be seen as confirmation that the "real" needs can be met naturally within the flow of the Tao.

There are clear parallels in this chapter to both The Buddha's teaching on desirelessness and Jesus' sermon on the mount.  Why do you think so many of the great masters shared the same themes?
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