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[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 19

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If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom, it 
would be better for the people a hundredfold. If we could renounce 
our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again 
become filial and kindly. If we could renounce our artful 
contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain, there would be no 
thieves nor robbers.

Those three methods (of government) 
Thought olden ways in elegance did fail 
And made these names their want of worth to veil; 
But simple views, and courses plain and true 
Would selfish ends and many lusts eschew. 




Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries.

Exterminate the sage, discard the wise, 
And the people will benefit a hundredfold; 
Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude, 
And the people will again be filial; 
Exterminate ingenuity, discard profit, 
And there will be no more thieves and bandits.

These three, being false adornments, are not enough 
And the people must have something to which they can attach themselves: 
Exhibit the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block, 
Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible. 





Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, 
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.

Give up kindness, renounce morality, 
And men will rediscover filial piety and love.

Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, 
And bandits and thieves will disappear.

These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves. 
It is more important 
To see the simplicity, 
To realize one's true nature, 
To cast off selfishness 
And temper desire.

Jonathan Star



Abandon holiness
Discard cleverness and the people will benefit a hundredfold
Abandon the rules of kindness
Discard righteous action and the people will return to their own natural affections
Abandon book learning
Discard the rules of behaviour and the people will have no worries
Abandon plots and schemes
Discard profit-seeking and the people will not become thieves
These lessons are mere elaborations
The essence of my teachings is this:
See with original purity
Embrace with original simplicity
Reduce what you have


Flowing Hand's Tranmission


 Give up Sainthood, stop preaching. Let people follow the Dao, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone. 
If people are at one, there is no need for religion or morality? 
Give up ingenuity, don't look for profit and bandits and thieves will disappear. 
It is more important to follow the ways of Nature; to observe its order and workings, to see the simplicity, to realise one's true nature, to cast off selfishness and dispel desire. 
For here lies the way of Dao.  



If you give up sagehood and abandon wisdom people will profit a hundred times over.
If you give up Humanity and abandon Duty people will return to obedience and kindness.
If you give up ingenuity and abandon profit bandits and thieves will roam no more.
But these three
are mere refinements, nowhere near enough.
They depend on something more:
observe origin's weave,
embrace uncarved simplicity,
self nearly forgotten,
desires rare.





Discontinue sagacity, abandon knowledge
The people benefit a hundred times
Discontinue benevolence, abandon righteousness
The people return to piety and charity
Discontinue cunning, discard profit
Bandits and thieves no longer exist
These three things are superficial and insufficient
Thus this teaching has its place:
Show plainness, hold simplicity
Reduce selfishness, decrease desires


[Lin Commentary]

This chapter presents one of the more difficult teachings to understand, because we have a strong tendency to worship knowledge. We've all been conditioned to believe that knowledge is power, and having more can't possibly be a bad thing.
Lao Tzu is uniquely alone among all the ancient philosophers in steadfastly pointing to the pitfalls of knowledge. He saw the link between academic intelligence and scholarly arrogance clearly, and addressed it several times throughout the Tao Te Ching in no uncertain language.
One of the problems with knowledge is that we become very good at using it in a crafty and shrewd way to twist the truth. There are examples of this everywhere, and one of them applies to this very chapter.
The first two words of this chapter are literally "end sagacity." The meaning is that we should put a stop to this obsession with book smarts and focus instead on the wisdom of living an actual life apart from the books. It is the ancient Chinese equivalent of telling a bookworm to "get a life."
But some readers of the Tao Te Ching have such a powerful desire for ever more knowledge that they do not hear this message at all. They interpret "end" to mean "extreme" or "ultimate" so they can change the first line to say something completely different - that if one can gain the ultimate knowledge so that there is nothing more to learn (thus bringing about an end to learning), then people would benefit a hundredfold.
In this fashion, they have taken a warning against the disconnect of knowledge from down-to-earth living, and transformed it to a rallying cry to acquire ever more knowledge. The fact that this can happen at all is the very reason why Lao Tzu emphasizes intuitive wisdom and downplays intelligence.
As we progress through cultivation, let's keep Lao Tzu's admonition in mind: Knowledge isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but book smarts is a very different thing from street smarts... and school learning can never compare to, or supplant life learning.

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While 19 is pretty self evident, here are a few thoughts on it...


Forget about chasing spiritual purity, and trying to save everyone with what you think you know or think you have realized.

For if people simply reside in the natural state, there is no need for morality and religion.

Give up trying to be clever (or better/higher) than others, as such desire leads to jealousy and stealing.

Such accomplishment are only temporary and do not lead to the Dao.

Instead, the Dao is simply found in residing in one's true nature.

This can be done by clearing the mind and letting go of (ego based) desires.

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