Thursday, December 30, 2010

Line by Line - Verse 18, Lines 1-2

When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

The great Tao fades away
There is benevolence and justice

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

When people ignore Tao, they start talking about "righteousness" and "sanctity".
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
For me, Verse 18 is one of my favorites. In a scant 8 lines, it presents a radically different worldview than the average westerner is accustomed to. In fact, it takes many of our time-honored notions and turns them on their head!!

From the Christian standpoint, morality is the basis of leading a "good" life. From this standpoint, if no morality existed, then it would be an ugly dog-eat-dog world, one in which we each would give in to our carnal lusts at the expense of others.

But from the standpoint of Lao Tzu, via the concept of yin and yang, all morality gives birth to is immorality. As soon as external rules are created, they inherently create the mechanisms by which we scheme to get around them.

When we permit the essence of the Way to permeate our lives, we seek harmony and balance in all we do and think. We don't act because we're trying to toe the line; we act because it fits into the flow of life around us.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

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