Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Verse 2


When people see some things as beautiful, 
ugliness is created. 
When people see some things as good, 
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other. 
Difficult and easy complement each other. 
Long and short define each other. 
High and low depend on each other. 
Before and after follow each other.
The Master lives openly with apparent duality 
and paradoxical unity. 
Therefore he acts without doing anything 
and teaches without saying a world. 
Things arise and he lets them come; 
things disappear and he lets them go. 
He has but doesn’t possess, 
and acts without any expectations.
When his work is done, he takes no credit. 
That is why it will last forever.

The essence of the Tao is non-duality. Whereas most people tend to reduce the world into bite-size pieces and label each constituent part ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the Master (one who is at one the Tao) knows that all seemingly separate parts are actually indivisible pieces of a far greater whole.

The image of the yin and yang symbol which is associated with Taoism perfectly illustrates this point. Light and dark, rather than being construed as separate and either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ are seen as two aspects of an inseparable whole, joined in perfect unity. Both are necessary, for both are as inextricably interconnected as day and night. And so it is with the world and all the seemingly separate manifestations. A greater unity exists beyond all apparent separation.

Because the Master has realised the “paradoxical unity” beyond the surface-level duality of life, he is able to see beyond the illusion. His life is no longer governed by the cycle of attachment and aversion. He no longer feels the need to cling to certain things, circumstances and events and desperately avoid others. Because he sees the underlying wholeness of life, he lives his life from a place of deep trust and humility. He surrenders to the flow of life, allowing things to happen as they will, opening herself to the perfection inherent in each situation, in every moment. That perfection is sometimes outwardly apparent, but is just as often hidden beneath seeming adversity.

The Master follows his heart, doing what he feels compelled to do, yet being unattached to the fruits of his labour. In this way, he knows peace and unity, for he is at one with the innate perfection of the Tao, of life itself.


  1. Interesting use of the term 'trust'.
    Does 'the master' trust?
    Trust seems to infer risk.
    Perhaps trust is a misleading concept.
    The master has probably moved beyond such 'trust', and welcomes any and all outcomes, for what they are.
    That said: any word is no more than a symbol for something it, itself, is not. Which is why, I imagine, Lao Tzu's words have endured as they have.

  2. Good point. I guess by trust I meant 'surrender', which perhaps goes deeper. Surrender to life rather than trust in life, as trust implies perhaps the expectation of gaining something. But, yeah, words are imprecise! :)