Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon one’s self.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 30, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
In today’s chapter, we are talking, once again, about our relationship as individual selves with the world. For the last couple of days we have been talking about your self accepting the world. Since you are to see the world as your self, today, he talks about accepting your self. Whether or not we accept the world and ourselves is a measure of how much we are relying on the Tao.
If we are relying on the Tao, we won’t try to force issues. This applies to every aspect of our lives. But today, Lao Tzu speaks of it as it relates to the art of governing. Governing just means how we relate with others. Do we trust others? Or do we not trust them? If we don’t trust them, we will want to establish lots of ways to try and control them. What kind of government you have, indicates the level of trust you have for others. The less you trust, the more repressive the government will be. Lao Tzu was, perhaps, the first libertarian. He wants us to trust each other. Whether or not others are trustworthy. He likens it to relying on the Tao. Trust people. Rely on the Tao. Don’t try to force issues. And for goodness’ sake, don’t try to defeat your enemies by force of arms.
To further explain himself, he uses an elementary physics lesson to drive home his point. For every force there is a counter force. This is why we shouldn’t try to apply force. Violence, even with the best of intentions, always rebounds upon one’s self. The violent are inevitably met with violence. Just make sure you are not the one meeting the violent with violence. Oh, but they started it… I was just coming to someone’s defense… What? Am I just supposed to let bullies get away with being a bully?… What is Lao Tzu really expecting of us, here?
I expect this will be misunderstood. So, if that is the case, please message me, so I can try to better explain myself.
I don’t think Lao Tzu is opposing self-defense, or sticking up for the underdog who is being picked on by a bully. So, I hope you don’t misunderstand.
However, don’t miss the lesson he is trying to get across, either. We need to rely on the Tao. If we rely on the Tao, we won’t resort to violence. Self-defense doesn’t have to require violence. Violence always rebounds on the violent. Even if your violence has the best of intentions, know this, your violence will rebound on you. That is a universal law.
We are going to talk more about violence, tomorrow, when we talk about the tools of violence. For today, let’s just talk more about what it means to rely on the Tao.
And, who better to illustrate what it means to rely on the Tao, than the Master. The Master does his job and then stops. I could probably stop right there. Lao Tzu has already said this so many times before. This is what relying on the Tao is all about. You do your job and then you stop. Be satisfied, be content right there. Oh, if only we would! You see, the Master understands the Universe is forever out of control. What possible reason could he have for trying to control it? Because the Universe follows the Tao, trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
Why don’t we understand this? Perhaps we give mental assent to this truth, generally. But when it comes down to specifics, we want to meddle. We aren’t content to leave it alone. We simply aren’t relying on (trusting) the Tao to lead the Universe. Why don’t we understand this? Lao Tzu thinks it is tied to what we think of our selves. Whether or not you rely on the Tao is founded in how you see your self.
He says, the Master believes in himself. So, he doesn’t try to convince others. The Master is content with himself. Therefore, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Finally, the Master accepts himself. And guess what? The whole world accepts him.
There it is, my friends. That is what relying on the Tao is all about. It is all about how we view our selves. That affects our relationship with our world. And we have already said that it is only by following the world that we can follow the Tao. Yesterday, Lao Tzu said accept the world, just as it is. Don’t try to change it. Don’t try to improve on it. And now, today, he tells us to accept our selves, just the way we are. When we do that, the whole world accepts us, too.