So here are a few pearls of wisdom from the latest verses of the Daodejing…
Verse 59 [my interpretation]
In leading others, and living naturally,
the qualities of thrift (simplicity) and moderation (restraint) cannot be overlooked.
Restraint begins by letting go of one’s own self-importance and ideas (one’s ego).
I recently cleared out my closet and my room of many of the material goods I no longer need. In the end, I gave away maybe 40% of my clothes, including four white belts which I have collected from various uniforms over the years. I’ve emptied my drawers, given away dozens of games (a challenging notion for me), cleared off my shrine (it was hard to let go of my giant Super Saiyan Son Goku figurine), and created some empty space for a little while. Inevitably I’m sure it will fill back up, but for the moment I am enjoying a little more simplicity. As I was going through all my stuff, especially the stuff I was attached to, I asked myself “Will it improve my life by owning this object?” In almost every case the answer was no- as one of the (many) verses of the Tao Te Ching says, that which really matters has no form and cannot be destroyed.
Also, I’ve avoided spending excess money on material goods. I have resolved to look for alternatives whenever I am tempted to spend money (does the library have a copy I can access whenever I want? Do my friends have a spare [x] they’re not using while I’m on gashuku? Can I recycle an old container to perform the same function as a new one?), and when no alternatives are available, I once again question whether it will improve my life. If the answer is yes, then I might leave it for a few days to see if I change my mind. In following these rules, I’m proud to say I haven’t bought anything (other than food and a tub of moisturiser) in the past month or two. How might you simplify your life?
Verse 60 [my interpretation]
Live in the Way and hatred and ignorance will not harm you.
That is to say, though hatred and ignorance can be harmful,
if you do not provoke or fuel them, they will fizzle out on their own.
You cannot pick a fight with someone who won’t fight back.
Thus, by approaching life with the Tao, can you walk through life without being harmed.
If only a ruler and his people refrained from harming one another,
all of life’s benefits would flock to them!
And all people start with one person: you. It can be hard sometimes to have faith in the human race, but it is of the highest importance that one never gives up hope that a critical mass of enlightened people might yet change the fate of this world.
Verse 61 [my interpretation]
Just as all streams flow down towards the ocean,
those on high will inevitably be brought low.
One who is receptive to the possibilities of life,
rather than attempting to conquer and dominate one’s circumstances,
is truly great.
Verse 62 [my interpretation]
The Tao is nature’s treasure house,
the source of all things.
It is the wealth of wise men
and the refuge of foolish men.
It does not withhold itself from those it deems unworthy,
but is open to any who would partake of it.
If a person seems evil, do not shun him.
Awaken him with your words,
elevate him with your actions,
repay his injury with your kindness.
[Do this not for expectation or reward,
but because it is the nature of a good person to be good.]
Do not cast him away;
cast away his wickedness.
[Love the sinner, hate the sin.]
When a new leader is chosen,
do not impose your resources or experience on him.
Offer instead to teach him about the Tao.