Tao Thought: Gratitude and daodejing 69



When you drink water,
Remember its source.

If your spiritual understanding is sound, then you will constantly be aware of the subtleties of life. If you fritter away your concentration on minor entertainment and trivial distractions, then you will never attain a profound level of awareness.

It is not the grand sweeping religious celebrations and heroic moments in life that are the only important spiritual occasions. Every ordinary moment, every little detail should be a celebration of your personal understanding. Your smallest act should be permeated with reverence.

One of our most basic acts is drinking water. Without it, we could not sustain ourselves. Water cleanses us, cools us, and is an essential component of most of our biological processes. But when we drink it, are we aware of what it does? Do we think of its source and all the efforts that make it possible for us to have this simple glass of water?

Being spiritual means not taking things for granted. Quite the opposite, you remember how everything that comes to you fits into an overall scheme. You acknowledge the precious quality of everyday things. An you maintain a gratitude for both the good and the bad in your life.

365 Tao
Daily Meditations

Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Tao Te Ching translated by current scholars


In warfare there is a saying
rather than a host
better to be a guest
rather than advance an inch
better to retreat a foot

This means to form no column
to wear no armour
to brandish no weapon
to repulse no enemy

No fate is worse than to have no enemy
without an enemy we would lose our treasure

Thus when opponents are evenly matched
the remorseful one prevails




In conflict it is better to be receptive than aggressive,
better to retreat a foot than advance an inch.

This is called moving ahead without advancing,
capturing the enemy without attacking him.

There is no greater misfortune than underestimating your opponent.
To underestimate your opponent is to forsake your three treasures.

When opposing forces are engaged in conflict,
the one who fights with sorrow will triumph.




The generals have a saying:
"Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard."

This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.



Stanford Studies on Daoism


  • The Laozi Story
  • Date and Authorship of the Laozi
  • Textual Traditions
  • Commentaries
  • Approaches to the Laozi

Is the Laozi a manual of self-cultivation and government? Is it a metaphysical treatise, or does it harbor deep mystical insights? Chapter 1 of the current Laozi begins with the famous words: “The Way that can be spoken of is not the constant Way.” Chapter 10 speaks of nourishing one's “soul” and embracing the “One.” Chapter 80 depicts the ideal polity as a small country with few inhabitants. The Laozi is a difficult text. Its language is often cryptic; the sense or reference of the many symbols it employs remains unclear, and there seems to be conceptual inconsistencies. For example, whereas chapter 2 refers to the “mutual production of being and nonbeing,” chapter 40 declares, “Being originates in nonbeing” (Henricks, trans. 1989). Is it more meaningful to speak of the “worldviews” of the Daodejing, instead of a unified vision? If the Laozi were an “anthology” put together at random by different compilers over a long period of time, coherence need not be an issue. Traditionally, however, this was never a serious option. Most modern studies are equally concerned to disclose the “deeper” unity and meaning of the classic. While some seek to recover the “original” meaning of the Laozi, others celebrate its contemporary relevance. Consider, first of all, some of the main modern approaches to the Daodejing (cf. Hardy 1998).

One view is that the Laozi reflects a deep mythological consciousness at its core. The myth of “chaos,” in particular, helps shape the Daoist understanding of the cosmos and the place of human beings in it (Girardot 1983). Chapter 25, for example, likens the Dao to an undifferentiated oneness. The myth of a great mother earth goddess may also have informed the worldview of the Laozi (Erkes 1935; Chen 1969), which explains its emphasis on nature and the feminine (Chen 1989). Chapter 6, for example, refers to the “spirit of the valley,” which is also called the “mysterious female.”

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