Interpretation of Dao De Jing Passages

“Heaven and Earth last forever. The reason that Heaven and Earth are able to last forever is because they do not give birth to themselves. They are always alive. Hence, the sage puts his/her self last and is first. Therfor, the sage lasts.”-Passage 7 in the Dao De Jing.

Having read through the Dao De Jing many times, I couldn’t help but feel the selflessness that adhered to me each and every time I read a passage in the book, especially from the passage quoted above. It was as if this universal law was whispering something that was so omni-present, yet so far away to our every day normal understanding every time I chose to open the book and lay my eyes on it. In light of this revelation, and with the persistance to want to know more about what lies in the hand of the Dao, I have chosen to bring about some key points that I believe the Dao De Jing is referring to and what we as humans can think of them in use of our everyday lives.

To me, the notion of selflessness in an individual is a really important aspect that is portrayed throughout the whole book. When I read the passage from above, immediately I thought to myself that if one wants to act in a humane manner, one is going to have to learn how to put others in front of oneself and not be greedy. By doing so, an individual loses his/her sense of self-importance(ego) and learns that if all we think about is ourselves, then there is no way that we can be alive or even experience the notion of being alive within the cosmos.

“To continue to give birth to oneself” is the attachment that one holds with his/her insurmountable ego and is also the lack of wu-wei. This notion of not being able to release yourself from that attachment is a very hindering stone that is hard to carry as one tries to climb the hills throughout our everyday life. Losing that attachment is like losing the rock tied to your back and making the journey all the more easier. By not attaching to ego, I think the dao is saying that only then will we be able to feel that experience of being alive and that we will avoid the cycle of struggle. “All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful. Herein lies ugliness. All recognize the good as good. Herein lies evil. Therefor, Being and non-being produce each other. Difficulty and ease bring about each other. Long and short delimit each other. High and low rest on each other. Sound and voice harmonize each other. Front and back follow each other. Therefor, the sage abides in the condition of wu-wei and carries out the wordless teaching. Here, the myriad things are made, yet not separated Therefor, the sage produces without possessing, Acts without expectations And accomplishes without abiding in her accomplishments.It is precisely because she does not abide in them that they never leave her.”- Passage 2 in the Dao De Jing.

This struggle I speak of is what the passage “to give birth to oneself” is also about. We have to keep in mind that the symbol of the dao is the yin and yang. It’s a complete harmonious and balanced symbol. It symbolizes the quintessence of not only the female and male aspects of our existence, but also the  beautiful, ugly, happy, disasterous, selfish, and selflessness that comes along with being a human. With that in mind, if a person were to realize these attributes and learn that the terms that are used every day are for some how conveying our experiences, which are all aspects of attachment, we can realize that we shouldn’t cling to these feelings of happiness and sadness etc, because in essence, they are all the same when placed in front of the Dao. The idea of selflessness comes from the state of being neither happy or sad, tranquil or chaotic, but rather being a in a neutral state of being where you see everything of equal importance and that no matter what happens in the course of our everyday lives, it happens because that is the flow of our existence.

“Accept humiliation as a surprise. Value great misfortune as your own self.”

What do I mean by “Accept humiliation as a surprise?” When you are humble

Attainment is a surprise And so is loss. That’s why I say, “Accept humiliation as a

surprise. “What do I mean by “Value great misfortune as your own self?” If I

have no self, how could I experience misfortune? Therefor, if you dedicate your

life for the benefit of the world, You can rely on the world. If you love dedicating

yourself in this way, You can be entrusted with the world.”- Passage 13 in the

Dao De Jing

After reading the last quote, try to imagine for a second what life would be like if there were no rewards to reap or no strife to deal with. For most people, that is a very chaotic statement. What the dao is doing, is revealing little secrets about how we as humans can make sense of the chaos. This chaotic blunder of events can be summoned up as neither good or bad because if you were to follow this principle of wu-wei, the next time that something good or bad would happen to you, there wouldn’t be anything to think of it other than the flow of life taking it’s place. Because you have no attachments, how could you think anything of it? By embracing what ever may come and utilizing the found knowledge of accepting life as a changing path, we suspend our misfortunes and we can become selfless beings without worrying what the cosmos will throw at us next.

With this idea of being a selfless being now established, we can continue to move on how only spontaneity can exist in light(and dark) of the dao. Being spontaneous requires a person not to have planned action and to take part in the “not doings” of the world. “The dao is always “not-doing” Yet there is nothing it doesn’t do. If the ruler is able to embody it, everything will naturally change. Being changed, they desire to act. So, I must restrain them, using the nameless “uncarved block (original mind).””Using the nameless uncarved block, they become desireless. Desireless, they are tranquil and All-under Heaven is naturally settled.” -Passage 37 in the Dao De Jing

By not doing, we become effortless masters of our own selves. If we practice not doing, we have end up having no intentions or expectations for ourselves and none for others. “True virtue does not “act” and has no intentions.” -Passage 38 in the Dao De Jing. I think this is how the Daoist sages were saying how to break break down the doors of the so called “moral perception” that was taking part on the mundane part of our existance, i.e. being locked in a routine day in and out and planning out exactly every hour of your day etc. The sages realized that there is no spontaneity in planing out everything down to the hour and that if we were going to experience all of what life as to offer, we are going to have to experience the spontaneous events that take place day in and day out, whole- heartedly without judgment.  Also, the idea of having expectations for people is against daoist thought because that brings about the notion of what people are expose to be or should be. If you’re bringing in these expectations into your life and trying to put them onto others, you are not benefiting the world but rather hindering it.

This is what brings me to my next point. “Dedicating yourself to the world.”

This passage, which is listed above in a previous paragraph, has to do with one of the final stages of being a humane person from a daoist standpoint. It deals with letting yourself go and acting in a manner for the world’s sake and not your own. It is as if the Dao De Jing is saying once you obtain all these attributes that are mentioned above(selflessness, wu-wei, not-doing, etc.) then you are in the true position of fufilling your true being for the rest of the world to see and experience. Your dedication to the teaching of the sages shines forth because of your understanding the true ways of the cosmos, and you let yourself become one with everything else. That is what I believe the dao to be.

In conclusion, I hope that you found my insights on the dao to be stimulating in some way and I hope that we all as individuals can continue to make sense of the cosmos and continue to be open-minded of not only daoism, but other forms of philosophy/religion as well. After all, through all of the teachings that we have learned this semester about the various religions of the world, I think that it’s safe to say that we are in no position to strike anyone down upon their beliefs because all of the world’s religions consist of different rivers that are flowing to the same ocean.

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