Thursday, 26 January 2012

Verse 61


A great country is like the lowland,
toward which all streams flow.
It is the reservoir of all under heaven,
the feminine of the world.
The female overcomes the male with stillness.
Her tranquility gives rise to her humility,
The more powerful a country grows,
the greater the need for humility.

If a great country lowers itself before a small one,
it wins friendship and trust.
And if a small country can lower itself before a great one,
it will win over that ‘great’ country.
If a nation is centred in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people,
if it does not meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.

Most nations want to achieve ‘greatness’, to be higher, more elevated, prosperous and influential than other nations. Nationalism in all its forms is born of the ego’s desire to create a stronger identity for itself and it does so by trying to be ‘better’ than others. This is not the Tao. Lao Tzu asks us to adopt the very opposite approach and to recognise the value of humility.

Instead of trying to be bigger and better than other nations, we are asked to embrace humility, to become like the lowland toward which all streams flow along their path to the sea. This is the feminine approach, which is one of stillness, equanimity and peace.

There is no place for conflict, war or erroneous notions of ‘more than’ and ‘less than’ when a country is at one with the Tao. We’ve tried it the other way. It didn’t work. Perhaps it’s time for us to approach world affairs and foreign policy with an altogether different approach.

This doesn’t mean that we become the doormats of the world. The Tao is a state of perfect balance, not idle passivity. But it is a state of alignment and a very necessary recalibration after countless centuries of striving to be on top, to subjugate and dominate other nations. True victory is not coming out on top: it is unity, peace and harmony between all nations.

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