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"He who changes it
will destroy it."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 29

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


29

Conquering the world and changing it,

I do not think it can succeed.

The world is a sacred vessel that cannot be changed.

He who changes it will destroy it.

He who seizes it will lose it.


So, among all things,

Some lead and some follow,

Some sigh and some pant,

Some are strong and some are weak,

Some overcome and some succumb.


Therefore the sage avoids extremity, excess, and extravagance.



Don't Change the World

Lao Tzu continues his ecological thinking, more than two millennia ahead of time. In his own era, he was not alone in appreciating the world as it was, but he expressed it with rare sharpness and devotion.

       He would not have approved of the Great Wall of China, which was begun around the time when this book is supposed to have been written. That colossal wall, which grew and grew by each century, is such a striking symbol of what Lao Tzu deplored, one must wonder if he watched its beginning with his own eyes.

       The emperors, who tried to hold onto their vast domain by enclosing it, were indeed headed towards the failure he foresaw.

       The bigger things are, the more difficult they are to grab and keep. The world is simply too much. So are countries, even rather small ones. Any one of them has had countless rulers, even dynasties, where the mightiest of kings have been replaced, borders have been moved, treasures have changed owners, and castles have been vacated. Power is not persistent.

       Many have tried to change the whole world or some significant parts of it. We seem to be getting good at it, lately. But each such change must be constantly renewed and fortified. Otherwise, the world will soon return to its previous state. Man-made changes wither, often quicker than men do.

       Nature gnaws down unattended buildings, grass pierces through asphalt, and forests move in on lawns that aren't mowed regularly. Animals, too, feast on civilization as they do on nature. The changes we make are splendid only in our own eyes, and we should refrain from blinking if we want the sight to remain.


Change Is the Nature of Nature

What makes the world difficult to change in a lasting way is not its reluctance to change, but because it's so familiar with it. The world itself is a master of change. That's how it was made in the first place, and that's how it continues to remake itself.

       From the smallest to the biggest part of the world, everything changes. Water evaporates, rising to the sky, and falls back on the ground as rain. Forests grow, burn down, and grow back up again. Even the vast continents move across the surface of the planet, as if playing their own Rubik's Cube.

       Our whole planet is spinning around its axis, and around the sun, in a remarkable race which is still insignificant compared to the movements of galaxies and the expansion of the whole universe. Everything is changing, and most of those changes are far superior to anything the human being can accomplish.

       We don't fail because we try to change things, but because we want to stop them from changing. What little adjustments we do to the world, we don't want undone. We build our houses and want them to remain exactly as they were immediately after the roofing.

       That's futile. Decay starts already at the beginning of growth. Change has neither beginning nor end. We can never fully control it, since we are mere parts of it.

       So, what Lao Tzu states about the consequences would be true, if change and seizure of the world were at all possible. If the world could be changed into a fixed state, which is what we would try, it could only lead to destruction. We would have to stop time, and where would that leave us?


Costly Dreams

There is an order to life, and we play our parts in it. That's fine, and grants us enough liberty to explore our capacities and take delight in them. But if we try to overstep our boundaries, extend beyond our capacities, we will fail miserably and painfully.

       There is no satisfaction in pretense, if allowed to guide our lives. We need to be what we are, not what we would like to be. Otherwise we can never come to like ourselves, and then we will never be pleased.

       Lao Tzu understands the temptation of overdoing things and reaching beyond our wildest dreams. But he also knows about the price that needs to be paid for it. It's inevitable, since chasing our dreams means running away from our reality.

       He wants us to start by reexamining what we have and what we are, because he is confident that doing so, we will find it to be sufficient. Then we can enjoy it. What more to ask for?

© Stefan Stenudd.

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Tao Te Ching Explained


Preface


Introduction


Literature


The 81 Chapters of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
translated and explained by Stefan Stenudd.
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Tao Te Ching Explained


James Legge's Tao Te Ching


Aleister Crowley's Tao Te Ching


The 1st Chapter of Tao Te Ching in 76 Versions


Lao Tzu - Legendary Author of Tao Te Ching





My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

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Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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