All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn to follow them.
The Master is above the people,
and no one feels oppressed.
She goes ahead of the people,
and no one feels manipulated.
The whole world is grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.
-Lao Tzu- (Tao Te Ching, chapter 66, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, I said that the reason Lao Tzu said the ancient Masters taught the people to not-know was not because they wanted simple, ignorant and compliant people. It was because humility was key, if people were going to be governed well. And, that the more powerful you are, the more humility you needed to practice.
Today, we are continuing this theme of humility. Lao Tzu begins with the familiar metaphor of streams flowing into the sea. Humility is what gives the sea its power. Notice, the sea doesn’t compete with the streams. It simply follows the streams. Wherever there are streams, if you follow them long enough, there you will find the sea. And streams, naturally, flow to the sea, giving it all of their power.
Once again, Lao Tzu is talking about governing. It has been a subject we have devoted a lot of time to over the last several days. If you want to govern people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead people, you must learn to follow them.
I have been going through the Tao Te Ching for long enough that this doesn’t sound strange to me any longer. But I know that for some of my newer followers this might sound very strange indeed. Our rulers certainly don’t put themselves below the people. And they don’t have any intention of following us, either. They just want compliance. And, they are ever ready to respond with force if we don’t comply. Leading by following is not the way that things are done in the world. Yet, Lao Tzu insists that is the only way to effectively lead.
If Lao Tzu is right, and I think he is, I think it explains a lot about why our world is plagued with wars and rumors of wars; and, why we have a great divide between the haves and the have nots. Those in the political class just don’t follow Lao Tzu’s sage advice regarding governing. That is why there is so much suffering in our world, today.
That is in contrast with the Master, who, though she is above the people, no one feels oppressed. And though she goes ahead of the people, no one feels manipulated. She understands the need for humility.
The people know they are oppressed and manipulated. That is the way of things in the world right now. And I don’t have any easy answers for how to change things. I do know that the political class can only oppress and manipulate for so long. Then their house of cards will come crashing down around them. My intent with this blog is to help raise up new leaders. People who will understand the need to practice humility. People that are content to serve as an example; rather than always resorting to the use of force, oppression, manipulation, and control. I want leaders the whole world will be grateful for. I want leaders that aren’t competing with anyone. Once you stop competing, no one can compete with you.