Snippets from the Tao Te Ching

Because I haven’t posted anything about Taoist philosophy in a while, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll post the highlight reel from my readings, the things that have resonated with me or that I wish more people considered. As always, these are my personal interpretations, posted here for the benefit of anybody who might be interested.


Verse 32

If all beings lived in accordance to the Way, the world would be a much better place;
Not because of law, morality and ritual, but because it is the inherent nature of all beings to be good.


Verse 33

Understanding others requires knowledge.
Understanding the self requires wisdom.
Mastering others requires force.
Mastering the self requires strength.

One who realises that they have enough is truly rich.


Verse 34

By not claiming greatness, a person can be great.
By claiming greatness, a person can be arrogant.
It is more important to fulfill one’s own nature than it is to stoke the ego.


Verse 36

If you want yin, you must let it yang.
If you wish to eliminate something, you must let it flourish.
If you are tired, recognise that you are comparing yourself to your energetic self,
and by extension, you must have once known what it was like to be energetic.

It is the nature of things that burn brightly to fizzle out.
It is far better to live in obscurity, away from the spotlight (which depends upon the favour of others to shine upon you).
Let others push to the front while you live forever in the background.
Gentleness defeats strength.


Verse 37

The Tao does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.
It does not desire, it does not strive;
It simply is, and it is perfect.

When life is simple, pretense falls away and our essential nature shines through.
When one is silent, one finds the anchor to the universe within oneself.


Verse 38

The highest virtue is to act without ego;
The greatest kindness is to give without condition;
The greatest justice is to see without preference/judgement.


Verse 39

The world of 10 000 things has one source.
It is like 10 000 cells of the body working together.
How arrogant would a cell be if it claimed it was more important than the others!
More important, more special, more deserving of nutrition:
It would soon kill off the cells surrounding it, spreading like cancer
Until the entire body suffered and broke down.


Verse 41

A great man hears of the Tao and begins to embody it.
An ordinary man hears of the Tao and remembers some and forgets some.
A foolish man hears of the Tao and mocks and laughs at it.
Without this mocking laughter, it would not be the Tao.
For the Way is only attractive to those who are wise enough to know how foolish they are.

The way forwards seems like retreat;
The easy seems difficult;
True power seems impotent;
Great love seems indifferent;
Great art seems unsophisticated;
Great wisdom seems childish.
This is the Way.


Verse 43

Do not do: be.
Teach without words, perform without effort.
This is the bounty of life.


Verse 44

What is more important:
You, or the way people see you?
You, or the materials you’ve collected?
What you gain from ego and desire is more trouble than what you let go of.

Let go to know love.
Give away to know wealth.


Verse 45

Perceive beyond the “stupid” to recognise the “intelligence”.
See through the “awkward” to identify the “eloquence”.
Discern the “truth” beneath the “false”.
Stillness and tranquility set the universe in order.


Verse 46

When the world knows the way, people focus their resources on producing a better world.
When the world has lost the way, people focus their resources on destroying one another.
There is no greater loss than losing the Tao;
no greater tragedy than discontentment and desire.


Verse 47

The farther one goes in search of knowing,
the less one knows;
All the answers are already with you, within yourself.


Verse 48

Happiness = desires/resources.
To be happy, either increase limited resources to meet infinite desires.
Or, decrease your desires to meet limited resources.
The wise woman wants nothing, and therefore always has enough.

We entered and will leave the world with no-things.
All that we experience along the way are gifts to be enjoyed, but not attached to.

The universe is in a constant state of composing and decomposing;
trying to hold on to material objects is trying to defy nature.
What is real and worthwhile has no form and never changes:
the energy of life that makes us indistinct from all creation: the Tao.


Verse 49

The sage has no concrete sense of identity that distinguishes “us” from “them”;
She lives in harmony with all beings because she is able to see herself in all beings, and see all beings within herself.

Those that are good and those that are bad she treats the same: with goodness.
Because it is her nature to be good.


Verse 50

9 in 10 people follow life, death, or something in between,
clinging to their lives and the physical world.
But 1 in 10 is so wise that he is impervious to harm:
bullets miss him, people cannot hurt him and tigers find no purchase for their claws.
It is because he knows he is not his body;
He knows his physical form is not his true self, but the vessel of his immortal essence.

Realise your true nature and you may witness the end without ending.
You may see death without dying,
and realise that the “end” is part of a cycle which has no end.