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"See others as yourself."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 54

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


54

What is well planted will not be uprooted.

What is well held will not escape.

Children and grandchildren will not cease to praise it.


Cultivate virtue in yourself,

And it will be true.

Cultivate virtue in the family,

And it will be overflowing.

Cultivate virtue in the town,

And it will be lasting.

Cultivate virtue in the country,

And it will be abundant.

Cultivate virtue in the world,

And it will be universal.


Therefore:

See others as yourself.

See families as your family.

See towns as your town.

See countries as your country.

See worlds as your world.


How do I know that the world is such?

By this.



Cultivate Virtue

The last line of this chapter is almost a riddle: "By this." The two words are not very explanatory. By what? The scholars have different ideas about it. The most likely answer is that Lao Tzu simply refers to what he has stated in the preceding lines of the chapter.

       Chapter 21 ends with the same words.


Confucian Obligations

The world is like this, because the virtue of it connects all parts of it in the manner described. The chain from the individual through family, town, country, to the whole world, is quite Confucian.

       Kung Tzu, Confucius, was according to legend contemporary with Lao Tzu, even slightly his junior. But it's at least as likely that it was the other way around. Taoism can be seen as a reaction to Confucianism. Whatever the case, there are some similarities among the many contradictions.

       Confucianism stresses heavily the links of obligations one has towards family members and country.

       But Lao Tzu is no friend of obligations. He prefers such bonds to be voluntary. They should be consequences of one's virtue, and one's sense of what's natural, and not some laws to which we are forced to surrender.

       Virtue should be cultivated, and not preached. One needs to find it within oneself, in one's search for the Way. Otherwise, the virtue is ill planted and ill held, so it will be uprooted and escape.

       Virtue only remains if it's reached by personal conviction. If it's demanded of us, we have no way of knowing if it's true, and then surely it will not be lasting.

Others as Yourself

When Lao Tzu says that you should see others as yourself, other families as your own, and so on, he doesn't necessarily mean that you must treat strangers with the same care you show the near and dear ones. It's possible that he says so, but it can also be a way of saying that other people, their needs and actions, can be understood by comparing to oneself.

       If you want to understand others, you must start by understanding yourself. If you want to understand other countries, start by examining your own country.

       It works the opposite way as well. If you want to understand yourself, compare with what you learn from watching others. It leads to the conclusion that you should treat others like you need to be treated. Again something that Jesus would agree with.

       Lao Tzu might be slightly different from Jesus in how he motivates the principle. Although he wants us to be good, that's not the foremost issue in this chapter. Instead, he focuses on understanding the people involved and what virtue would apply.

       It's a process of learning, more than one of compassion. It will lead to compassion, but without reaching it by learning, our compassion will be superfluous and misguided, just like our virtue will be if not firmly established according to Tao.

       It's all a matter of cultivation. Virtue is no simple rule to memorize, but an endeavor of growing insight. It's a time consuming quest.

© 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.

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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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