Tao Te Ching: Verse 7

Verse 7 is surprisingly straightforward to me in both the translation and Dr Dyer’s interpretation. Rather than expound on the verse, I’m just going to copy it out in full and make one or two comments about it afterwards.

Verse 7

Heaven is eternal- the earth endures.
Why do heaven and earth last forever?
They do not live for themselves only.
This is the secret of their durability.

For this reason the sage puts himself last
and so ends up ahead.
He stays a witness to life,
so he endures.

Serve the needs of others,
and all your own needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.


As well as being a guide for compassion, humbleness and kindness, the seventh verse seems to carry a message to master one’s ego (or at least to prevent one’s ego from mastering one!). Our modern day society in the West made the very sincere mistake of choosing capitalism as its model for operating- almost every human being still lives under the idea that if they obtain material goods, or if they rise in status, they will be happier. Lao Tzu may be suggesting that this is all crock, and that true happiness comes from giving, not receiving. Paradoxically (as is common in the Tao Te Ching), by giving what we have, we receive what we need. When I stop doing things for me, I have the opportunity to perceive the universe as it truly is, and that is a wonderful thing. Easier said than done- we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to put “number one” first, but if we can genuinely stop caring about ourselves and care more about others, everything becomes better. (One specific example I’d like to work on is that I’m going to do my utmost to stop trying to teach people about martial arts unless they directly want to learn. It’s not about me being glorified as a professional or as a teacher, it’s about sharing knowledge with whoever wants it.)

Lastly, Lao Tzu suggests being a witness to life in order to endure. What I take this to mean is not to just sit idly and wait for death, but to stop chasing things (happiness, items, power) and to be at peace. What you need will come to you if you keep a pure heart and open eyes. (In my life, I’m going to keep applying for jobs, but not at a frantic panicky pace. And I will look and wait for opportunities, and be ready to act upon them where I can.)


One thought on “Tao Te Ching: Verse 7

  1. I think I needed to read that. I really love that you’re working through this – I think I might like to read this book sometime to ponder my own meanings. <3

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