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.
Since it is merged with all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn’t aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 34, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
This Would Make Us Truly Great
Where I think we make our mistake is that we talk about greatness, without talking about humility. Because Lao Tzu has told us to be like the Tao, today’s chapter, stressing how the Tao’s humility is what makes it truly great, is a lesson for each of us.
From the center of the circle, the great Tao flows everywhere, and in all directions. All things are born from it; but notice this distinction, it doesn’t create them. There is a very different relationship between a creator and its creatures. Creators rightly assume ownership over what they create. But, the Tao is not like that. As it flows, it pours itself (its very essence) into its work; yet, it makes no claim of ownership. Having given birth to infinite worlds, it continues its work by nourishing them. Yet, it doesn’t hold on to them. Every being remains free, sovereign. The Tao is merged with all things and hidden in our hearts. Thus, the Tao is humble. It is its humility which makes it great. All things vanish into the Tao, until it alone endures. The Tao has no conscious awareness of its greatness. It simply is what it is. That is what makes it truly great.
Can we, too, simply be what we are? Not seeking glory. Not seeking power. Not seeking anything. Because if we can, then we, too, can be truly great.