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"Meet the difficult while it is easy."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 63

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


63

Act without action.

Pursue without interfering.

Taste the tasteless.


Make the small big and the few many.

Return animosity with virtue.

Meet the difficult while it is easy.

Meet the big while it is small.


The most difficult in the world

Must be easy in its beginning.

The biggest in the world

Is small in its beginning.

So, the sage never strives for greatness,

And can therefore accomplish greatness.


Lightly given promises

Must meet with little trust.

Taking things lightly

Must lead to big difficulties.

So, the sage regards things as difficult,

And thereby avoids difficulty.



Big Is Small at First

We already know about non-action, wu-wei, and about the importance of avoiding to interfere, but what about tasting the tasteless?

       Well, chapter 12 says that the five flavors dull the mouth. Spicy food is tiresome at length. Fireworks in the mouth deafen the palate. Chapter 12 also warns against a multitude of colors and tones. Spectacles are fun at first, but at length they dull the senses.

       Tasting the tasteless is to increase one's sensitivity by being restrictive with stimuli. Sensations wear down the senses. When you increase your sensitivity you learn to taste what seems tasteless. You perceive nuance and observe the small things.

       With increased sensitivity the small things grow in your perception of them, and you discover their importance. This is another way of saying what was stated in chapter 59: moderation means prevention. When you see the glimpses and listen to whispers, you become aware of things at the moment of their appearance.

       They may be small and seem completely insignificant. But if you contemplate their possible consequences at length, you may be able to avoid disaster.

       That's meeting the big while it's still small. Anyone with huge responsibilities must learn it, or crisis after crisis will appear.

       Big problems start as small problems. That's when to solve them. Big obstacles start as small obstacles. That's when to overcome them.

       This is true for one's personal life, as well as for the family, the town, the country, and the whole world. Whatever great problem we live with, if we look back we discover that it could have been solved easily in the beginning. But at that time nobody cared.

       We are often stuck in the misconception that the world is a static place, although we can see that everything in it moves and changes constantly. When problems appear, they are usually quite small and nonthreatening. So we ignore them, thinking that they will stay that size forever. They don't.

       Any problem not dealt with will grow. That's the way it is. We need to learn to deal with problems immediately. Then we will find that we need to do almost nothing.

       Actually, many problems are initially so small that they are solved just by recognizing them. By discovering and exposing them, we make our world immune to their potential harm.

       In the middle of his reasoning about big and small, Lao Tzu states that we should return animosity with virtue. That attitude alone would solve just about any major crisis in society, if it had been applied early on. Animosity feasts on being met by animosity. If not, it will wither.

       So, to create a peaceful world we must learn not to respond to aggression with the same, but treat it in a noble manner. That's great virtue, in the sense of being morally superior as well as being the most efficient countermeasure.

       Treating small issues as if they were big, is learning to take things seriously. Not only should we seriously consider what we want to do before doing it, but also what seems so insignificant that we feel no urge at all to deal with it. The danger lies in ignorance and indifference – especially in the latter.

       In society, few things are as damaging as indifference.

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

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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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