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, February 17, 2012

Chapter 41: The Dangers of Power

For this Chapter we will use Legge's Translation:

The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.

All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonised by the Breath of Vacancy.

What men dislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as carriages without naves; and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.

What other men (thus) teach, I also teach.

The violent and strong do not die their natural death. I will make this the basis of my teaching.

Tao te Ching Chapter 41


This chapter may be seen to have an inverted structure will the earlier stanza used to build to the final line.

In stanzas one the author reminds us that all form rises from the formless.

The translation of stanza two is somewhat in doubt.  Some translators translate this stanza to mean that all things have positive and negative attributes which are held in balance buy the unmanifested nature of the Dao.    Susuki translates it this way: 

"The ten thousand things are sustained by Yin [the negative principle]; they are encompassed by Yang [the positive principle], and the immaterial breath renders them harmonious."

This translation seems more likely because it ties more clearly to the overall message.  

After having asserted that all things have positive and negative attributes, the author goes on to assert that some negative (or weak) attributes are actually desirable.  The example he gives is from an earlier chapter where they pointed out that humility, in this case claiming low station, is advantageous for rulers.

Finally, the author says that they, like other teachers before, will teach that seeking only to be strong and violent will not grant you long life.

The overall message of this stanza can be read thus:  All things rise from the Dao with both positive and negative (strengthening and weakening, or expressive and receptive) properties.  Even the strongest of use find use for the weakest tools.  Therefor, those who seek only power and violence doom themselves.

Or, as has been stated many times before, a balanced life is best.

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