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Tao Te Ching: Making mistakes, growing, not blaming May 9, 2017

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Tao Te Ching.
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The ancient wisdom of Lao-tzu, as expressed in the 81 chapters or verses of the Tao Te Ching, is able to express and make understandable highly complex principles within the confines of just a few words.

The same concepts the Tao Te Ching so concisely elucidates may take up hundreds of words of commentary in contemporary personal growth and self-improvement media.

Consider the power of these 40 words in Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Chapter 79:

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

Therefore the Master
fulfills her* own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others (1)

* Because the personal pronoun in the Tao is not gender specific, Mitchell alternates between male and female versions of the Master

(1) Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, as translated/interpreted by Stephen Mitchell, HarperPerennial, A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1991

— Dennis Mellersh

Tao Te Ching: Expectation and disappointment March 22, 2016

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Tao Te Ching.
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By Dennis Mellersh

The Tao Te Ching tells us that we will be at peace if we become perfectly at-one with the Way of the Tao.

Consider this passage from section 55 as interpreted/translated by Stephen Mitchell*, which describes the power of the Tao Master:

He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

The pursuit of achieving a mindfulness which is without expectation is part of the overall message of the Tao Te Ching, and it reinforces this concept throughout its pages.

It does this in various ways, including this passage from section 9, that illustrates the paradox of logical expectation producing unintended or unforeseen negative results:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.

The remedy?

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity

Note: In this short post I have quoted a source more extensively than I would normally in order to give readers an idea of the simplicity or elegance of Mitchell’s translation and its ability to succinctly present complex ideas. It’s a book that can be referred to again and again to bring fresh clarity in understanding the way of the Tao.

* Tao Te Ching,  A New English Version, Stephen Mitchell, HarperPerennial, 1991