The ancient Masters
who understood the way of the Tao
did not try to educate people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.
They did not try to enlighten people,
but rather kept them in the state of simplicity.
When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide
because they think they are too clever.
When they know that they do not know,
people can find their own way.
Not using cunning to rule a country
is good fortune for that country.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.
The message of verse sixty-five appears to be simple. It speaks to us of the need for simplicity and humility.
Lao Tzu tells us those who have mastered the Tao do not try to educate or enlighten people, or impose ideas, concepts or beliefs upon them. Instead, we’re are encouraged to be in a state of simplicity and openness and to have the humility to realise that there is often very little we actually do know.
The more we think we know, the more we tend to close ourselves off from an experience of reality as it is, getting stuck on the level of merely what we think it is. Of course, when this happens the ego tends to get involved and we pride ourselves on our cleverness and conceitedly think we know it all. Our minds become narrow, closed off and deadened, and so too do our hearts, for an open heart is impossible without an open mind.
This attitude is incompatible with the Tao. It’s important to recognise when we’re falling into this mindset and to be able to shift out of it. Having the humility to realise just how much we don’t know keeps us in a perpetual state of openness and wonder. Instead of trudging through life like so many with a jaded, know-it-all attitude, we can embrace life filled with the wonder and marvel of a child. Life can regain its mystery and magic as we find ourselves always open to new possibilities and new ways of seeing and relating to life.
Maintaining simplicity and humility are therefore keys to being rooted in the Tao and are good qualities to encourage and nurture in others.