Taoist Philosophy

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If you wish to shrink it,

You must initially stretch it.


If you wish to weaken it,

You must initially strengthen it.


If you wish to desert it,

You must initially work closely with it.


If you wish to snatch something from it,

You must initially give something to it.



He who is to be made small

Must first be caused to expand.


He who is to be weakened

Must first be made strong.


He who is to be laid low

Must first be exalted.


He who is to be taken away from

Must first be given to.


This is called the Subtle Light.


The submissive and weak conquer the strong.



[i personally, prefer the word 'flexible' over the word 'weak'.]


(In this chapter we see a full expression of the practical consequences of the doctrine of universal reversion.)




Autumn Floods


The autumn floods had came. Thousands of wild torrents poured furiously into the river. It surged and flooded its banks until, looking across, you could not tell an ox from a horse on the other side. Then the River Spirit laughed, delighted to think that all the beauty in the world had fallen into his keeping. So downstream he swung, until he came to the ocean. There he looked out over the waves, toward the empty horizon in the east and his face fell. Gazing out at the far horizon he came to his senses and murmured to the Ocean Spirit, Well, the proverb is right. He who has got himself a hundred ideas thinks he knows more than anybody else. Such a one am I. Only now do I see what they mean by Expanse!


The Ocean Spirit replied, Can you talk about the sea to a frog in a well? Can you talk about ice to dragonflies? Can you talk about the way of Life to a doctor of philosophy?


Of all the waters in the world the Ocean is greatest. All the rivers pour into it day and night; it is never filled. It gives back its waters day and night; it is never emptied. In dry seasons it is not lowered. In flood time it does not rise. Greater than all other waters, there is no measure to tell how much greater! But am I proud of it? What am I under Heaven? What am I without Yang and Yin? Compared with the sky I am a little rock, a scrub oak on the mountain side. Shall I act as if I were something?



The Doctrine Of Reversion


Shut up, Uncle River. What do you know about the distinctions of the higher-class and lower-class houses and between the big and the small families? said the Spirit of the North Sea.


Then what should I do, and what should I not do? What should I accept, and what should I reject? What am I going to do? asked the River Spirit.


From the point of view of Tao, said the Spirit of the North Sea, what is higher class, and what is lower class? For this is the doctrine of reversion. Do not clutter up your mind with hard and fast notions, for this would be running opposite to Tao. What is much and what is little? Be grateful to Heaven for what you have. Do not follow stubbornly one course of movement, for this would be to deviate from Tao. Be strict with yourself, impartial with all others, like the ruler of a country, and at ease, like the sacrifice at the Spirit of Earth where prayers are offered for the common good. Flow everywhere, in the vast and limitless expanse, abolishing all boundaries. Love all creation equally.



On Finality


Of all the beings that exist, and there are millions, man is only one. Among all the millions of men that live on Earth, the civilized people are only a small proportion. Smaller still the number of those who having office or fortune, travel by carriage or by boat. And of all these, one man in his carriage is nothing more than the tip of a hair on a horses flank. Why, then, all the fuss about great men and great offices? Why all the disputations of scholars? Why all the wrangling of politicians?


There are no fixed limits; time does not stand still. Nothing endures; nothing is final. You cannot lay hold of the end or the beginning. He who is wise sees near and far as the same; does not despise the small or value the great. Where all standards differ, how can you compare? With one glance he takes in past and present, without sorrow for the past or impatience with the present. All is in movement. He has experience of fullness and emptiness. He does not rejoice in success or lament in failure. The game is never over. Birth and death are equal; the terms are not final.



Two Kings And No-Form


The South Sea King was Act-on-Your-Hunch. The North Sea King was Act-in-a-Flash. The King of the place between them was No-Form.


Now South Sea King and North Sea King used to go together often to the land of No-Form; he treated them well.


So they consulted together; they thought up a good turn, a pleasant surprise, for No-Form in token of appreciation.


Men, they said, have seven openings for seeing, hearing, eating, breathing. But No-Form has no openings. Lets make him a few holes.


So after that they put holes in No-Form, one a day, for seven days. And when they finished the seventh opening, their friend lay dead.


The Sage said, To organize is to destroy.



The Leveling Into One


Take the phenomena of rise and fall, growth and decay. The Tao does not regard rise and fall as rise and fall, and it does not regard growth and decay as growth and decay. It does not regard beginning and end as beginning and end. It does not regard formation and dispersion as formation and dispersion.


These are all leveled together by Tao. Destruction is the same as creation, and creation is the same as destruction. There is no such thing as creation and destruction, for these conditions are again leveled together into One.



Tao Unifies The Parts


Tao unifies the parts. The disadvantage of regarding things in their separate parts is that when one begins to cut up and analyze, each one tries to be exhaustive. The disadvantage of trying to be exhaustive is that it is consciously exhaustive. One goes on deeper and deeper, forgetting to return, and sees the externals of things only. Or one goes on and imagines he has got it, and what he has got is only a carcass. For a thing which retains its substance but has lost the magic touch of life is but a ghost of reality. Only one who can imagine the formless in the formed can arrive at the truth.



To Be United Is To Be Parted


In the nature of things and in the known tradition of human affairs, it is different. To be united is to be parted. To be completed is to be destroyed. To be sharp-edged is to be blunted. To be in an elevated position is to be criticized. To do is to impair. To be eminent is to be plotted against. To be stupid is to be taken advantage of. Alas, is there anything in this human world that we can regard as sure? Remember, my disciples, take refuge only in the village of Tao and Te, says the Sage.



Signs Of Failure And Success


There are eight signs of failure, and three signs of success. Beauty, a long beard, tallness, size, strength, grace, courage, daring; those who excel others in these eight are doomed to failure. Conservatism, compliance with caution, feeling oneself not equal to others; these three are the signs of success.

Edited by Marblehead

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Delightful read.


Thanks. Did you notice that the 'three signs of success' are exactly the Three Treasures of Taoism?


Peace & Love!

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Thanks. Did you notice that the 'three signs of success' are exactly the Three Treasures of Taoism?


Peace & Love!



Cool but shaking my head. Cloud

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This is awesome stuff. I sometimes wonder if our dear "leaders" read it.

And if they do. What the hell are they doing?


Also thankful I have no beard, lack grace and elevation and all the rest ;-)

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I think you are referring to the "3 treasures" of Lao Tzu in TTC(the scamp!), and not the Three Treasures of the Taoism.


Yes. That is what I was referring to.


Tao Te Ching, Chapter 67, Henricks translation:


5. I constantly have three treasures;

6. Hold on to them and treasure them.

7. The first is compassion;

8. The second is frugality;

9. And the third is not presuming to be at the forefront in the world.


But yes, I do consider them as three treasures of Taoism.


Peace & Love!

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