• Agustino
    The Art of War should be read, and notes taken on every page.

    He who advances without seeking fame0 thru 9
    To seek fame is to be attached to a goal which doesn't have practical value - fame isn't going to make you win, nor help you rule over the realms.

    Who retreats without escaping blame0 thru 9
    To escape blame is to never learn from your mistakes, and the moment you stop learning defeat becomes certain.

    He whose one aim is to protect his people and serve his lord0 thru 9
    Your goal has to be driven by something greater than yourself - you can't do it for yourself, you must do it for a grander ambition, for a much greater purpose, which will rally you and everyone else around a common target - which will give you the motivation to do anything - even risk your own life, for its achievement.

    The man is a jewel of the Realm0 thru 9
    To this man shall be handed all the kingdoms, and he shall rule over all of them, because only he deserves.

    If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst0 thru 9
    The cause before the person.

    (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction;0 thru 9
    The reckless general does not plan and have the patience to wait for the right conditions to launch his attack and thus sends his troops to perish.

    (2) cowardice, which leads to capture;0 thru 9
    The coward does not have the cojones to stand his own ground and fight, and the moment things get rough, he would rather surrender than keep going. He has no dignity.

    (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;0 thru 9
    Your enemy will use any means necessary to get you to make a mistake. Thus even your so called hasty temper has to be controlled. Fake a hasty temper, in truth be controlled, and be capable any moment to put an end to it.

    (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;0 thru 9
    A man who wants honor, doesn't really want victory.

    (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.”0 thru 9
    Do not over-extend, do not ask for more than can be currently given. Patience will win the day. Win slowly, but surely.

    “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”0 thru 9
    Only in chaos is there a chance to be great. In stable times, there is no greatness. All greatness, and all heroes, are born out of disaster. The hero thirsts for disaster, so that he may put it right.

    Watch or read The Three Kingdoms. Make notes on both Liu Bei and Cao Cao. Identify what strengths and weaknesses each have, and why Cao Cao wins at first, and why Liu Bei inevitably wins in the end. See, for example, how Liu Bei, even though he's losing battle after battle, is actually winning. Understand why. The difference between him and Cao Cao is that Cao Cao is fighting for his own glory and power - he has no larger mission. His men follow him out of fear - the moment they find a better master who is likely to win, they will all leave. But Liu Bei is losing - and yet, he builds an array of people, across the entire realm, who know that he is righteous, who know that he will fight for them, who know that he will govern with sincerity and integrity. And these people - when they shall be called - will be willing to go to their graves like beds for him. Whereas Cao Cao will be betrayed when the situation looks bad for him, Liu Bei will be obeyed and followed, even if it means death. So while outwardly it seems like he's losing, the truth is that he is acquiring capital, building up the most important resource in war - loyalty and a team - whereas Cao Cao impatiently hurries towards victory, Liu Bei is like the cunning serpent, waiting and waiting and waiting, because he knows that the more time passes, the more certain his victory shall be.
  • Agustino
    The Chinese strategic brain is the greatest in the world. Greater than the American! You watch and see how modern politics plays out. China will be great even in 400 years. America won't. China's already the biggest economy. It won't be long until China's people are also the most prosperous. That's the difference between the American and the Chinese. The Chinese will bear 1-2 hundred years of suffering and poverty for greatness, Americans won't even bear 25 years of suffering and poverty for greatness. They want it now!

    And let's not forget that China has been dominating most of history, economically:

  • 0 thru 9

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses and commentary. Most appreciated! Feel free to post further lines from either the Tao te Ching or The Art of War, and a response or insight. (this goes for anyone wishing to contribute, of course). And will check out "The Three Kingdoms" when possible. Thanks for the introduction to it!

    In the movie "Do the Right Thing", there is a scene where a crowd has gathered after a near accident involving a child and a car. The police arrive and ask if anyone saw what happened. The character played by the wonderful Ossie Davis intones in a deep voice, "Those that know, don't talk. And those that talk, don't know." To which the officer replies, "What is that, voodoo?" Very interesting little scene indeed. The tragic and comic balanced artfully. The line referred to being from verse 56 of the Tao:

    Those who know don't talk.
    Those who talk don't know. Close your mouth,
    block off your senses,
    blunt your sharpness,
    untie your knots,
    soften your glare,
    settle your dust.
    This is the primal identity. Be like the Tao.
    It can't be approached or withdrawn from,
    benefited or harmed,
    honored or brought into disgrace.
    It gives itself up continually.
    That is why it endures.
  • 0 thru 9
    Know the male,
    yet keep to the female:
    receive the world in your arms.
    If you receive the world,
    the Tao will never leave you
    and you will be like a little child. Know the white,
    yet keep to the black:
    be a pattern for the world.
    If you are a pattern for the world,
    the Tao will be strong inside you
    and there will be nothing you can't do. Know the personal,
    yet keep to the impersonal:
    accept the world as it is.
    If you accept the world,
    the Tao will be luminous inside you
    and you will return to your primal self. The world is formed from the void,
    like utensils from a block of wood.
    The Master knows the utensils,
    yet keeps to the the block:
    thus she can use all things.
    -chapter 28

    Every year, every month, every day, every nanosecond is a brand new block of wood to carve. What will we make with it now?
  • MJA
    There was a time when I was lost and found that by randomly opening this book to any page the Teo Te Ching would show me the Way. =
  • R-13
    I'm a master of the Tao Te Ching.wuliheron

    I'm a master of The Sneetches.
  • Ying
    We're going to do chapter 28? OK, let's do chapter 28. I'll go through it line by line, or at least, part of it. Here's the complete chapter:

    "Who knows his manhood's strength,
    Yet still his female feebleness maintains;
    As to one channel flow the many drains,
    All come to him, yea, all beneath the sky.
    Thus he the constant excellence retains;
    The simple child again, free from all stains.

    Who knows how white attracts,
    Yet always keeps himself within black's shade,
    The pattern of humility displayed,
    Displayed in view of all beneath the sky;
    He in the unchanging excellence arrayed,
    Endless return to man's first state has made.

    Who knows how glory shines,
    Yet loves disgrace, nor e'er for it is pale;
    Behold his presence in a spacious vale,
    To which men come from all beneath the sky.
    The unchanging excellence completes its tale;
    The simple infant man in him we hail.

    The unwrought material, when divided and distributed, forms vessels. The sage, when employed, becomes the Head of all the Officers (of government); and in his greatest regulations he employs no violent measures.
    -Laozi, "Daodejing", ch. 28, Legge translation.

    Alright. First line: "Who knows his manhood's strength, Yet still his female feebleness maintains". This relates to the first two chapters of the "I Ching", "The Creative" and "The Receptive". This line is about wu-wei, maintaining non-action in the midst of change. Miyamoto Musashi notes, in his "Book of Five Rings" (Scroll of Emptiness):

    "In emptiness there is good but no evil. Wisdom exists, logic exists, the Way exists, mind is empty."

    Links to the relevant chapters of the "I Ching":


    Second line. "As to one channel flow the many drains, All come to him, yea, all beneath the sky."

    The first part, "as to one channel flow the many drains", alludes to water and it's symbology in classical Chinese parlance. In this sense, water represents a yin attitude. The "I Ching" notes (hexagram 29, "Water"): "Water reaches its goal by flowing continually. It fills up every depression before it flows on."

    Hexagram 29:

    The second part states "All come to him, yea, all beneath the sky". This is explained in line 5 hexagram 1 of the "I Ching":

    "Things that accord in tone vibrate together. Things that have affinity in their inmost natures seek one another. Water flows to what is wet, fire turns to what is dry. Clouds (the breath of heaven) follow the dragon, wind (the breath of earth) follows the tiger. Thus the sage arises, and all creatures follow him with their eyes. What is born of heaven feels related to what is above. What is born of earth feels related to what is below. Each follows its kind."

    It also alludes to the mysterious forces emanating from sage kings like Yao, Shun and Yu, as outlined in the relevant chapters of the "Shang Shu" (China's early sage kings are considered as model rulers according to daoists. They are held in the highest reverence.).

    The final line of the first paragraph states: "Thus he the constant excellence retains; The simple child again, free from all stains." This is explained in chapter 25 of the "I Ching", "Innocence/the unexpected:

    "Ch'ien, heaven is above; Chên, movement, is below. The lower trigram Chên is under the influence of the strong line it has received form above, from heaven. When, in accord with this, movement follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile. His mind is natural and true, unshadowed by reflection or ulterior designs. For wherever conscious purpose is to be seen, there the truth and innocence of nature have been lost."


    The same concept returns in the "Zhuangzi" (outer chapters, "Heaven and Earth", 8):

    "In the Grand Beginning (of all things) there was nothing in all the vacancy of space; there was nothing that could be named. It was in this state that there arose the first existence - the first existence, but still without bodily shape. From this things could then be produced, (receiving) what we call their proper character. That which had no bodily shape was divided; and then without intermission there was what we call the process of conferring. (The two processes) continuing in operation, things were produced. As things were completed, there were produced the distinguishing lines of each, which we call the bodily shape. That shape was the body preserving in it the spirit, and each had its peculiar manifestation, which we call its Nature. When the Nature has been cultivated, it returns to its proper character; and when that has been fully reached, there is the same condition as at the Beginning. That sameness is pure vacancy, and the vacancy is great. It is like the closing of the beak and silencing the singing (of a bird). That closing and silencing is like the union of heaven and earth (at the beginning). The union, effected, as it is, might seem to indicate stupidity or darkness, but it is what we call the 'mysterious quality' (existing at the beginning); it is the same as the Grand Submission (to the Natural Course)."

    The rest of the chapter basically repeats what's being said in the first paragraph.
  • Saphsin
    Hey Ying, wuliheron, I was wondering how much importance you think one needs in reading Zhuangzi in order to understand Tao Te Ching?
  • Ying
    Being familiar with the symbology employed in ancient Chinese discourse is your best bet. You get this through the "I Ching" and the "Shang Shu". It's most likely that Li Er (the historical Laozi) had access to these texts too, since he was an official in the imperial archives. While both Lie Yukou (Liezi) and Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi) provide insight into the "Daodejing", they also put their own spin on it, albeit in a subtle way.
  • Saphsin
    I can't find any proper biographies or works on the historical Laozi.....
  • Agustino
    Excellent! The Daoist writings are one of the few writings in the world that communicate what the reader and student needs to be communicated to them. In other words, each finds what they are looking for at that time in it. In this way it is empty and formless.
  • Noble Dust
    I just started reading the Tao Te Ching today for the first time, and had a humorous and enlightening experience, so I thought I'd share.

    The first few lines of Chapter 1 are:

    The way you can go
    isn't the real way.
    The name you can say
    isn't the real name.

    I was on the train heading home from work while reading this. The 2nd set of lines made some sense to me, probably because of my Western viewpoint. "A name for something isn't the real thing". But the first 2 lines were confusing. As I was riding the train, I realized the station map and the (automatic) announcer on the train were going backwards; it was set to a different part o the city. We were going over a particularly long stretch between stations, and periodically the automatic announcer would say "this is 30th Ave", and then the train crew would cut it off because it was wrong. Of course, we were headed in the "right" direction the whole time. So, "the way you can go/isn't the real way", indeed.
  • Ying

    There really isn't much to go on. We have the account of Sima Qian, and... that's about it. The rest is conjecture, and even Sima Qians account doesn't hold up that well. Then there's the discussion on the authorship of the "Daodejing" itself, and if Li Er (Laozi) served as a mouthpiece for other anonymous writers or not.
  • Rich
    The issue with any and all translations is that they are limited by and reflect the experiences and worldview of the translator. So in the case of the Dao De Jing, we are for the most part reading whatever the translator wishes to relate about their worldview, whatever that may be. But even if reading the Chapters in the native language there still remains the question of meaning in time (which evolves), and the reader's own worldview and life experiences.

    Such be the case, the Dao De Jing is as understandable or understandable as a good read of Shakespeare, and as with Shakespeare, meaning will change as the reader's experience evolves. As for me, I look upon the Dao De Jing, not as a book of wisdom but rather a book of chants that ancient people sang together to utter their view of life. It the view that is not too dissimilar from Heraclitus who saw the universe as Lagos in flux. If nothing more, this thought is enough to make these two philosophies worthwhile to study. The ideas of the Fao De Jing are for us to discover and in so doing provide us with a deeper understanding of the universe. Such an understanding can only be derived via experience though books can certainly lead us to different paths to explore.
  • TheMadFool
    Tao Te Ching
    No matter how beautiful and perfect
    One cannot fly with one wing
    A diamond with a defect
  • 0 thru 9

    With Yin being their left wing, and Yang their right,
    The harmonious one lifts the world up into flight.
  • 0 thru 9

    Hey, thanks! Great responses and insights. You get to pick the next chapter to discuss! (Y)
    (Well, actually anyone can pick any chapter they want. But a good answer deserves a prize.)
  • Ying

    Hey, thanks! Great responses and insights. You get to pick the next chapter to discuss! (Y)
    (Well, actually anyone can pick any chapter they want. But a good answer deserves a prize.)
    0 thru 9

    Well, I particularly like chapters 5 and 11:

    "Heaven and earth do not act from (the impulse of) any wish to be benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt with. The sages do not act from (any wish to be) benevolent; they deal with the people as the dogs of grass are dealt with.

    May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows?'Tis emptied, yet it loses not its power; 'Tis moved again, and sends forth air the more.
    Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see;
    Your inner being guard, and keep it free.
    -Daodejing, Legge translation, ch. 5.

    "The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space (within), that its use depends.

    Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation, and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.
    -Ibid. ch. 11.
  • 0 thru 9
    We seem to be always needing something, always lacking somehow. Hungry or thirsty. Needing oxygen, movement, rest, light, and more. Finding completeness in the lack is to know the stillness in the eye of a hurricane. From chapters 34 and 35:
    The great Tao flows everywhere.
    All things are born from it,
    yet it doesn't create them.
    It pours itself into its work,
    yet it makes no claim.
    It nourishes infinite worlds,
    yet it doesn't hold on to them...

    ...Music or the smell of good cooking
    may make people stop and enjoy.
    But words that point to the Tao
    seem monotonous and without flavor.
    When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
    When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
    When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
  • T Clark
    But words that point to the Tao
    seem monotonous and without flavor.
    When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
    When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
    When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
    0 thru 9

    I didn't know this thread existed. Yay Tao!!

    I like this verse because it is a milder restatement of the first verse, my favorite - "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao."

    Lao Tzu, what a funny guy.
  • unenlightened
    Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no talking.
    The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
    Creating, yet not possessing,
    Working, yet not taking credit,
    Work is done, then forgotten.
    Therefore it lasts for ever.

    Clearing out the attic, and it's full of work done and forgotten. Stuff that I might get round to using, too good to throw away - wood, cloth, and above all paper. Childrens' school work, art projects, my poems, half written stories, philosophy notes journals. If I was famous, it would be an archive worth a fortune for academics to trawl through. As it is, the recycle bin is going to be very full every week for the foreseeable.

    So I'm imagining god or the drowning man, or you, going through my actual life, deciding whether any of it is worth keeping... there are a few things that I still want to keep, and a few that my children will hold onto; perhaps I have said a kind or helpful word here and there...

Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.