Sunday, February 12, 2012

Humility and the Tao Te Ching

Having just finished the Bhagavad-Gita and the Tao Te Ching I wanted to for each be able to condense my biggest thematic take-aways from those pieces.  The themes I've chosen aren't necessarily the most prevalent or the most important, but are, however, those that stuck out to me the most.  The Tao Te Ching took me aback by its repetitious admonitions toward humility, meekness and strength through weakness.   I've included a compendium below of such verses.
"My mind is that of a fool -- how blank!  Vulgar people are clear.  I alone am drowsy.  Vulgar people are alert.  I alone am muddled.  Calm like the sea; like a high wind that never ceases.  The multitude all have a purpose.  I alone am foolish and uncouth."  XX
I think the above verses are an interesting contrast with that of Proverbs in the Bible.  There the 'fool' is someone else who is always messing up and receiving life's/God's punishment for it: "Fools proclaim folly...fools will suffer harm...a fool is arrogant and careless...the mouth of fools spout folly..." etc.  Not humility a huge theme within the Tao Te Ching, but it's even written humbly--the author makes fun of himself!!

"Therefore the sage embraces the One and is a model the empire.  He does not show himself, and so is conspicuous; he does not consider himself right and so is illustrious; he does not brag, and so has merit; he does not boast, and so endures."  XXII

"Know honour but keep to the role of the disgraced." XXVII

Humility in war/victory: 
"There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men.  One who exults in the killing of men will never have his way in the empire...When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow.  When victorious in war, one should observe the rites of mourning."  XXXI

"It [the tao, the way] is because it never attempts itself to be great that it succeeds in becoming great."  XXXIV

"The submissive and weak will overcome the hard and strong."  XXXVI

"Weakness is the means the way employ." XL

"Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great."  LXIII

"The reason why the River and the Sea are able to be king of the hundred valleys is that they exxcell in taking the lower position.  Hence they are able to be king of the hundred valleys.  Therefore, desiring to rule over the people, one must in one's words humble oneself before them; and, desiring to lead the people one must, in one's person, follow behind them."  LXVI 
"One who excels in employing others bumbles himself before them...This is known as matching the sublimity of heaven."  LXVIII
To know yet to think that one does not know is best. LXXI 
Hence the sage knows himself but does not display himself, loves himself but does not exalt himself. LXXII 
Therefore a weapon that is strong will not vanquish; a tree that is strong will suffer the axe.  The strong and big takes the lower position, the supple and weak takes the higher position, the supple and weak takes the higher position. LXXVI 
"In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water.  Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.  This is because there is nothing can take its palce.  That the weak overcomes the strong and the submissive overcomes the hard, everyone in the world knows yet no one can put this knowledge into practice." LXXVII 

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