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.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 33: Enlightening Yourself

For this Chapter we will use Susuki's Translation:

One who knows others is clever, but one who knows himself is enlightened. One who conquers others is powerful, but one who conquers himself is mighty.  One who knows contentment is rich and one who pushes with vigor has will. 

One who loses not his place endures. One who may die but will not perish, has life everlasting.

Tao te Ching Chapter 33


Here the author speaks directly about the benefits to the individual of taoist behavior.  

The two sentences of the first stanza seem generally well understood.  Happiness and unhappiness are conditions of our own existence.  Understanding others, learning to manipulate others can never be as effective as addressing the sources of happiness and unhappiness in ourselves.

The first part of the stanza also seems clear and is common in western thought.  If you are content you have all the riches you need.  The second half of the stanza is somewhat in doubt however.  It is not clear from this translation whether "will" is a desirable thing to have.

The original text reads this way:

And may suggest that a person of great will is better able to live with contentment.  Or perhaps seek enlightenment within.

The second stanza hints at a common trait among taoist.   Most who follow the Tao do not fear death.  It is as naturally a part of the natural order as is birth.  The rising and falling of all things, even the self is seen as right and natural.  Perhaps this view can be understood by seeing that the taoist does not view himself as separate from the world around him.  An iceberg is still water, does it make sense that the iceberg should be prevented from melting back into the ocean as it passes into warmer water?  The Taoist does not die, he or she moves from form to form as is natural.

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