Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom
and the people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit
and there will be no thieves.
All of these are superficial outward forms alone;
they are not sufficient in themselves.
Just stay at the centre of the circle
and let all things take their course.
It is more important
to see the simplicity,
to realise one’s true nature,
to cast off selfishness
and temper desire.
At first glance, this might appear to be a strange verse. Is Lao Tzu really asking us to relinquish sainthood and renounce wisdom, to dispense with morality and justice?
This makes no sense until you realise that in striving to achieve sainthood, wisdom, morality and justice we are buying into the notion that these are external things, separate from who and what we are and so we build structures and maps to help us find them.
Such notions are based on misperception. We become like an absent-minded man searching everywhere for his hat, creating all kinds of maps, diagrams and blueprints to help him find the hat – or to create new hats! – not realising that it’s been sitting on his head the whole time. In fact, if you were to take the analogy to its full completion, he would would eventually realise that not only does he already have a hat, but he is the hat!
Where there is love, there is no need of ‘morals’, because love always does the right thing.
When we are in touch with the Tao and know who and what we are, there is no need to try to be ‘saintly’; we give from the heart effortlessly, because it’s the nature of our being to do so. We have no need of industry or profit, because we are whole and at peace with whatever we’ve got.