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The Tao te' Ching. quotes and comments. ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By John Blofeld. Taoism. The Road to Immortality.
From the book, Taoism. The Road to Immortality
Saturday, May 14, 2011

In his book, Taoism. The Road to Immortality, John Blofeld quoted the following selections from the Tao te' Ching on the subject of wisdom. He elaborates, following the quote:

Because he has no high opinion of himself, [his] mind is luminous; not caring for status, he becomes illustrious; being without pride, he achieves success; unassertive, he is supreme. Because he does not strive, no one in the world can vie with his supremacy. There is an old saying: 'The imperfect becomes whole.' How true that is! To become whole and return [to the Source], one must be ever in accord with nature. . . . There is nothing in the world so weak as water, nor anything strong enough to overcome it. . . . The man of great wisdom is like water which, though benefiting all things, never strives. . . . That which is strong and hard gets put down; that which is pliant and supple is exalted. . . . As low ground forms a foundation for the high, so does humility form the foundation of regard. . . . He who stands on tiptoe totters; he who takes great strides cannot travel far. . . . The wise men of old who took goodness as their way possessed marvellously subtle powers of penetration; they were so deep that none could plumb their minds and, on this account, if forced to describe them we can only say that they moved cautiously like men fording a river; they were retiring as though shy of all around them; their conduct [to all] was respectful as though to honoured guests; they could adapt themselves like ice melting before a fire; they were as artless as blocks of uncarved wood.

Again and again Lao-tzu' emphasises the unwisdom of seeking prominence, wealth or status; the wisdom of being simple and artless - hence that graphic image, the uncarved block. This image perfectly accords with what is meant by 'becoming an immortal' and underlies much of Japanese as well as Chinese art and culture. In the Far East, restraint and simplicity have long been regarded as the hallmark of true greatness, and this principle is inherent in the best of the poetry and visual arts of China and Japan, where the loveliest poems consist of a few bare syllables; the finest paintings are often executed with astonishing economy of brush-strokes and with no color but the various shades of watered black ink on a white surface; the most exquisite ceramics are notable for extreme simplicity; and the most elegant furniture owes almost the whole of its beauty to simplicity of line.

This love of the simple and unassuming derives directly from intuitive perception of the nature of the Tao. Formless and void, the Tao is the source of all the myriad forms. Mother of the universe and sustainer of all creatures, it is perfectly indifferent to - indeed unconscious of - its bounty. Effortlessly it replenishes lack and diminishes excess, accomplishing all that is required without for-thought, strain or hurry. It is at once both void and form, the one aspect being essential to the other, just as voidness is essential to a vessel, unimpeded space to a window or door. For creatures to sing the praises of such a Mother in the form of hymns or psalms is simply to make a noise. The Tao is never obtrusive, demanding or flamboyant. To sing of its glories would be a waste of breath; what needs to be done is to observe the manner of its working and take that for a model. To live by the Tao is to function like the Tao, to conform with that marvelously effortless way of getting all things done, and to produce what is of use to others as the Tao produces beneficial rains and dews with never a thought of praise or thanks, still less reward...

Softness prevails over hardness as water prevails over all obstructions to its flow. Arrogance and contention violate the way of heaven, bringing misery in their train. True sagehood, true superiority, is never to be won by strife, but by letting things be. Resistant plants get blown down or snapped; supple plans survive the gale. . . .

Taoism. The Road to Immortality
Shambhala Publications, 1978
Selections from pages 42-44
by John Blofeld (1913-1987)





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