Parting Words of Wisdom

True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.

The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 81, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Parting Words of Wisdom

This week will be one of endings and new beginnings. Today, we finish the Tao Te Ching with the final chapter. Tomorrow, we will begin our journey anew. As you may have noticed, I have really grown to love Red Pine’s translation, with its commentary by sages from the last twenty centuries. And, I have decided, beginning with my next cycle through, to use Red Pine’s translation as my starting point from which to begin all my commentaries. Stephen Mitchell’s translation has served me well, for something like four years now, and I will always love it, and (don’t worry) I am sure I will still be referring to it, but I think now is a good time to try something a bit different with my own commentaries. Let me know what you guys think. I always enjoy your messages in my inbox. You always encourage me, even you anonymous ones attempting to give me grief. So, enough of that, I want to get to today’s chapter, where Red Pine (and the crew) have some parting words of wisdom for us all.

“True words aren’t beautiful

beautiful words aren’t true

the good aren’t eloquent

the eloquent aren’t good

the wise aren’t learned

the learned aren’t wise

sages accumulate nothing

but the more they do for others

the greater their existence

the more they give to others

the greater their abundance

the Way of Heaven

is to help without harming

the Way of the Sage

is to act without struggling”

HUANG-TI says, “There’s a word for everything. Words that are harmful we say aren’t true” (Chingfa: 2).

TE-CH’ING says, “At the beginning of this book, Lao-tzu says the Tao can’t be put into words. But are its 5,000-odd characters not words? Lao-tzu waits until the last verse to explain this. He tells us that though the Tao itself includes no words, by means of words it can be revealed – but only by words that come from the heart.”

SU CH’E says, “What is true is real but nothing more. Hence, it isn’t beautiful. What is beautiful is pleasing to look at but nothing more. Hence, it isn’t true. Those who focus on goodness don’t try to be eloquent. And those who focus on eloquence aren’t good. Those who have one thing that links everything together have no need of learning. Those who keep learning don’t understand the Tao. The sage holds on to the one and accumulates nothing.”

HO-SHANG KUNG says, “True words are simple and not beautiful. The good cultivate the Tao, not the arts. The wise know the Tao, not information. Sages accumulate virtue, not wealth. They give their wealth to the poor and use their virtue to teach the unwise. And like the sun or moon, they never stop shining.”

CHUANG-TZU says, “When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted” (Chuangtzu: 33.5). Lao Tan was Lao-tzu’s name, and Yin Hsi was the man to whom he transmitted the Taoteching.

SUNG CH’ANG-HSING says, “People only worry that their own existence and abundance are insufficient. They don’t realize that helping and giving to others does them no harm but benefits themselves instead.”

TS’AO TAO-CH’UNG says, “The wealth that comes from giving generously is inexhaustible. The power that arises from not accumulating is boundless.”

WU CH’ENG says, “Help is the opposite of harm. Wherever there is help, there must be harm. But when Heaven helps, it doesn’t harm, because it helps without helping. Action is the start of struggle. But when sages act, they don’t struggle, because they act without acting.”

CHIAO HUNG says, “The previous 5,000 words all explain ‘the Tao of not accumulating,’ what Buddhists call ‘nonattachment.’ Those who empty their mind on the last two lines will grasp most of Lao-tzu’s text.”

WANG CHEN says, “The last line summarizes the entire 5,000 words of the previous eighty verses. It doesn’t focus on action or inaction but simply on action that doesn’t involve struggle.”

And, finally, RED PINE concludes, “At the beginning and at the end of the Taoteching, Lao-tzu reminds us not to become attached to the words. Let the words go. Have a cup of tea.”

I was thinking of adding some of my own commentary. But, after reading Red Pine’s sage advice, I think I will let the words go. Time to have a cup of tea. Tomorrow will be an all new beginning.

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