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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 34: The Greatest is Smallest

For this chapter we will use Legge's translation:

All-pervading is the Great Dao! It may be found on the left hand and on the right.

All things depend on it for their production, which it gives to them, not one refusing obedience to it. When its work is accomplished, it does not claim the name of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment, and makes no assumption of being their lord;--it may be named in the smallest things. All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing so;--it may be named in the greatest things.

Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.

Tao te Ching Chapter 34


This chapter brings together and restates many of the earlier chapters.

In the first stanza the author makes what can be seen as an important comment on an earlier chapter.  Earlier, the author said that left (wisdom) is preferable to right (strength.)  This is however, only in the context of the conduct of people.  Now the author switches focus back to the Dao itself so they first say, (The Dao) "may be found on the left hand and on the right" or The Dao is found in all things.

In the second stanza, the author points out again that the Tao is the source of all things, clothes all things, gives all things shape.  But they also point out that the Tao desires no credit for this, no reward.  It never draws attention to itself.  In this way it is both greatest and least of all things.

The third stanza states plainly that the wise person acts the same way.  Though the can accomplish great things, he requests and requires no status or reward.  It is through remaining small, like the Dao, that he achieves greatness, also like the Tao.

There is a clear parallel between this stanza and a comment made several times in the Bible by Jesus.  For example Mark 9:35:  " "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."  Does this message appear in other great teachings?  Why do you think this parallel exists?
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