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"When nothing is done, nothing is left undone."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 48

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


48

Those who seek knowledge,

Collect something every day.

Those who seek the Way,

Let go of something every day.


They let go and let go,

Until reaching no action.

When nothing is done,

Nothing is left undone.


Never take over the world to tamper with it.

Those who want to tamper with it

Are not fit to take over the world.



Let Go

Letting go is a recurring theme in the Tao Te Ching. It's brought up in several chapters, for example the 19th, where I mention the similarity to Zen in this respect. In Zen, you let go to reach empty mind, a mental state of clarity, where nothing disturbs you or pulls you way from the soundness of the simple thought. There are many similarities between Zen and what Lao Tzu argues for.

       Knowledge is a risky thing. It clogs the mind and makes it prejudiced. Those who seek it carry a load that gets heavier every day, and the chance of processing it to come to any conclusions diminishes. It's hard to be wise when you have too much to think about.

       Following Tao, the Way, you learn to trust that it will reveal the true workings of the world and everything in it. By leaning back and opening yourself to it, you watch Tao unfold in front of you, revealing itself from behind everything that happens. The chains of events have patterns, and these patterns show the fabric of Tao.

       Letting go is also to become detached. It's not the same as indifference. You care and you have wishes, but you don't hurry to act before you are certain about the consequences of your actions. Otherwise you are very likely to do more harm than good.

       Only do something when you really have to, and then only do that something. It will suffice.

       Lao Tzu has so much fate in the perfection of Tao that he expects the occasions to be few, when action is needed. Mostly, things correct themselves, because they are governed by Tao. In Lao Tzu's mind, only people can at all deviate from the Way. Neither plants nor animals or any other things in our universe can.


Our Odd Nature

Actually, that's pretty much how modern science sees it, too. Dead things behave according to the laws of physics, plants and animals according to biology. They follow their nature. Only mankind has the nature that makes it possible for us to deviate from it. We shouldn't.

       We are odd creatures, indeed. Not only can we deviate from nature, but we have a tendency to believe that we can improve it. That's absurd, especially since we are far from understanding it completely. Still, we want to take over the whole world and change it to our liking.

       It's not only an ambition among the self-appointed dictators of which we've had far too many. It's almost a reflex of ours, existing in all of us. It starts as soon as we settle somewhere. In our children, it starts as soon as they can move their arms and hands at will. We want to make our marks, and we want to control the world down to every little detail.

       That's exactly why we are not fit to rule the world, but that's also why we keep trying.

       Even when we set out to correct our own mistakes and the misfortunes they created, we start again by seizing control of our surroundings and forcing changes on them. If we have damaged the world when taking power over it, we should not try to fix it with that same power, but lean back and let the world repair itself.

       It will if we let it. Tao is the Way by which that comes about.

© 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.

       More about the book here.



My Other Websites:


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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker

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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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