Friday, 17 December 2010

Suppleness (Lao-Tzu)

Verses 8-10 of the Tao Te Ching, based on the Ma-Wang-Tui manuscript (168 BC).

The supreme good is like water.
Water nourishes the ten thousand things without comparing.
It dwells in the low places that people disdain.
Therefore it is close to the Way.
In dwelling, it is good to live close to the ground.
In thinking, it is good to go deep.
In giving, it is good to be benevolent.
In speaking, it is good to be sincere.
In governing, it is good to have order.
In work, it is good to have ability.
In action, it is good to be timely.
Only that which is beyond comparison is therefore beyond reproach.

To hold upright and fill to the limit is not so good as stopping.
When you sharpen to the limit, it will not stay sharp for long.
When gold and jade fill your rooms, you’ll never be able to protect them.
Pride in wealth and rank, unchecked, will sow the seeds for disaster.
When your task is done, step back!
Such is Heaven’s Way.

Can you nourish your soul and embrace the One without forsaking the Way?
Can you concentrate your breath and make it soft like that of a new-born child?
Can you transform and purify your divine mirror so that it has no blemish?
Can you love people and guide them without filling their minds?
In opening and closing the gates of Heaven, can you play the part of the female?
In understanding all within the four reaches, can you do away with knowledge?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Giving birth and not trying to possess,
Helping to grow, but not overruling,
This is called Profound Virtue.


  1. Oh I have to compare and contrast.
    So many interpretations of this text.

  2. Water nourishes without comparing. Only because it does not compare, it is beyond reproach. ;-)

  3. I don't necessarily agree though, but that seems to be the philosophy of the Dao.

  4. Comparison is the source of knowledge. And knowledge feeds our deeper instinct to know...I think anyway.

  5. LOLOL
    I'm sorry. I laughed when you said, "I think anyway"...
    That's my line!

  6. LOL! I'm such a copycat! I copy your "lolol", I'm posting Lao-Tzu on my site just like you and now I'm even writing like you, LOLOL.

  7. Verse 8 is suppleness of the Way.
    Verse 9 is suppleness of avoiding extremes.
    Verse 10 is suppleness of the heart of Profound Virtue.

    The seven activities in verse 8 progress from inner (thinking) to outer (action).
    The four obstacles to suppleness in verse 9 are greed, perfection, wealth and rank.
    Verse 10 seems to be all about balancing the male and female through meditation.