Thursday, 16 February 2012

Verse 79


Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to blame.

Someone must risk repaying injury with kindness,
or hostility will never turn to goodwill.
So the wise always give without expecting gratitude.

Therefore the Master
always seeks a way to give.
One who lacks true virtue
always seeks a way to get.
To the giver comes the fullness of life;
to the taker, just an empty hand.

This verse speaks of the virtue of giving. Perhaps because of the way we are conditioned and brought up, this is not something that comes easily to many people. We tend to reserve our generosity and kindness to a small and select group of people closest to us and close off our hearts to the rest of the world, failing to realise than it reality we are all one family; one being.

We are conditioned to believe that it’s a “dog-eat-dog world” and that if we want to get ahead, we have to be willing to take what we want and beat others to it. This mentality underlies most of the core institutions of our society on both a large and small scale. Competition is the fundamental principle that drives our economy, our politics, the business world and even our education system and entertainment pursuits.

Why not substitute competition for cooperation? Instead of focusing our entire existence on taking as much as we can, how different would it be if we could truly live to give? Anyone that has ever performed an act of kindness for another, however small, will know the joyous feeling that comes from helping someone in need. The more we re-orient ourselves to live in such a way, embodying a spirit of generosity, the more we might inspire others to do likewise. The change always begins with us.

If you look at the natural world, you will see that it isn’t all about taking. The sun shines its light with no expectation of reward, gratitude or acknowledgement. It gives of itself, freely, endlessly, without expectation of anything in return. The same is true of water, without which there could be no life on this planet. Both are essential to our very survival and they naturally give of themselves without question and without end. This is the Tao in perfect expression.


  1. Mentioning the sun, here, as a metaphor, is profound.
    Not that it gives: it doesn't. It does what it does, with no intent. While everything else benefits from its existence.
    That is the very thing people miss, when considering 'giving'.
    If it involves the mind, and is an 'action', then it is no longer 'giving'.
    To 'give', one must seamlessly do what one does, without keeping stock, or intending any consequence. Or give-not, as the case may be.

    Well done, Rory. That verse was a stealthy opportunity for political interpretation, which you managed to deftly avoid (:>
    Many others would have fallen headlong into that one.

  2. I'm seeing something new here, Rory.
    You've changed. Something is different...

    I've long had issues with online-'taoists', as you may have noticed.
    Because they always 'interpret' taoteching, which does nothing for it, other than muddy its timelessly clear waters.
    You had previously fallen into that same trap, if to a far lesser extent than most. Yet now, now you seem to understand that 'interpreting' Lao Tzu's words is not called-for. Now you are transmitting them, in the interests of accessibility, rather than telling people what the words mean.
    If Lao Tzu speaks to you at all, then you'll admit that what he had to say needed no explanation or interpretation. He said what he had to say, and if the translators got it wrong, then that's something different altogether.
    So I am enormously heartened to see, at last, what looks very like someone with enough respect, and enough humility, to spread these teachings without trying to change them.
    Well done, and thank you!

  3. Thank you :)

    You're right, I believe that interpreting his words and trying to say things better than he did is needless and conceited. It's maybe for this reason that, I'll be honest, I have only read one full commentary on the text. I don't know much about Taoism, or how other people generally interpret each verse. I don't really need, or even especially want to know, either. My intent was really to create an open space to reflect, to allow the original words to breathe, but just to see what words wanted to come through me in relation to them. I'm glad that has come across. Thank you for reading, its nice to hear from you as always :)