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"Knowing that you do not know is the best."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 71

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


71

Knowing that you do not know is the best.

Not knowing that you do not know is an illness.


Truly, only those who see illness as illness

Can avoid illness.

The sage is not ill,

Because he sees illness as illness.

Therefore he is not ill.



Knowing Illness

Disease awareness and the lack thereof are frequently discussed in relation to mental disease, where the lack of awareness is said to be common. No wonder, since it's the mind that is affected, and it's by the mind one is made aware. One can't see into oneself. Nor is it easy to regard one's actions from an objective perspective, because the mind is subjective by nature.

       When Lao Tzu uses the metaphor of illness, he is referring to a mental capacity, but hardly any kind of real insanity. He speaks about the ability to be aware of what you know and what you don't know. They are not easy to tell apart, again a paradox of the mind.

       If you know something, that's fine. You know that you know it. But you must also know something to know that you don't know it. Otherwise you can only guess about it.

       So, if you know, you can't be completely sure that you really do. If you don't know, it's most likely that you are not aware of it, or you would know at least to some extent. Maybe the truth lies in the great gray zone between the two extremes, as is so often the case with things in this world.

       If you know a little, you may know that it's only a little of it you know. Then you also know that there's more to know, and until you do so, there is a lot you don't know.

       Still, we are only concerned with quantities. The quality of knowledge is the extent to which it's true. Every person experiences often through life, how things that one held to be true, later prove to be false. This also goes for society as a whole. What's the truth one day is nothing but nonsense the next day.

       Our knowledge keeps increasing, but our knowledge of the truth often changes dramatically. What we take for granted may very well prove to be completely wrong.

       The only proper attitude to have towards this is one of modesty and humility. We must keep in mind that knowledge is uncertain and truth is elusive. Then we know that we don't know, and thereby escape the illness.

       The uncertainty of knowledge has been discussed by philosophers since ancient times, in the West as well as the East. When Descartes stated that "I think, therefore I am," he pointed out that the only thing I can be sure of is that there is someone wondering – that someone being me. Making sure of anything else is not an easy task. Claiming to be sure of anything else can be quite detrimental.

© 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.



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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.


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Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
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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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