"To have enough of enough is always enough."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 46
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
When the Way governs the world,
The proud stallions drag dung carriages.
When the Way is lost to the world,
War horses are bred outside the city.
There is no greater crime than desire.
There is no greater disaster than discontent.
There is no greater misfortune than greed.
To have enough of enough is always enough.
Enough Is Enough
We learned in the previous chapter that peace should
govern the world. That's what Tao, the Way, leads to when
followed. When we deviate from the Way, war is imminent.
By preparing for it, we guarantee that it will arrive. It would
be nice with a world where war is not expected.
The following lines may well be regarded as a
separate chapter. Their connection to the previous ones is indirect,
to say the least. Not completely so, since war is often
caused by desire, discontent, and greed. But war is not all
they cause, although that must be the worst.
Desire may not be a crime in itself, but it often leads
to one. Not only the crime of passion, which is more
common than we ever care to admit. What we lust for is so
difficult to resist that we allow ourselves criminal acts to get it,
when our longing exceeds our restrain.
Discontent and greed are really expressions of
desire. We are discontent when we don't have what we desire,
and greed is the untamed eagerness to get what we desire,
in abundance. Both of them easily lead to disaster as well
as misfortune – even when we succeed to fulfill them.
Especially when we fulfill them.
Turning discontent into its opposite is likely to
involve actions that are harmful to others, and therefore at length
to ourselves. But mainly, once we are filled with
discontent, what could possibly cure it? It's most likely to linger
on, whatever benefits we manage to gain. That beast,
when awakened, is very difficult to put to sleep again.
To satisfy greed is a major feat that takes more than
just one lifetime. Greed has no upper limit. When we are
victims of it, the more we get the more we want. It's like a
demon. Once it has appeared, there is no way of getting rid of
it. Every offering to greed just makes it grow stronger. There
is no fortune in the world large enough to bribe it off. So,
even if the greedy one amasses a fortune, it will lead to
nothing but misfortune.
Lao Tzu ends the chapter with a statement that we
recognize: enough is enough is enough. You have to
know what you really need, and decide that any more is
unimportant, insignificant in spite of its splendor.
The Greek myth about King Midas says the same.
His foremost wish was granted, when everything he
touched turned into gold. Soon he discovered that this was true
for food and drink as well. What is valuable is also very costly.
© Stefan Stenudd.
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