"The high is lowered and the low is raised."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 77
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
Heaven's Way is like stretching a bow.
The high is lowered and the low is raised.
Excess is reduced and deficiency is replenished.
Heaven's Way reduces excess and replenishes deficiency.
People's Way is not so.
They reduce the deficient and supply the excessive.
Who has excess and supplies the world?
Only the one who follows the Way.
Therefore, the sage acts without taking credit.
He accomplishes without dwelling on it.
He does not want to display his worth.
Raise the Low
Here, Lao Tzu again uses the expression Heaven's Way
as if it's synonymous with Tao, the Way. It's a bit strange
that he would do so, considering his otherwise consistent
perspective on Tao preceding everything, including Heaven.
To Lao Tzu, Tao is superior to all. Accordingly, Heaven's
Way must be something lesser and later than the Way itself. I
discuss this at chapter 73, where it also appears.
Anyway, what this chapter speaks of is hardly
dependent on the definition of Heaven's Way.
Lao Tzu points out that the natural order of things
is that excess should be reduced and deficiency should be
That's what water does by itself, and we are told
that water behaves like Tao. It moves downwards, striving
to balance high and low to a perfect middle.
Our society is certainly different. That's just as true
today as it was in ancient China. The rich get richer and
the poor get poorer. Wealth tends to move from those who
don't have enough to those who have more than enough. It's
true on the individual level, as well as for nations. Also, there
are big differences of wealth between whole continents.
It's a tragedy that seems to have no end.
The sage refuses to participate in this deplorable
process. Not only does he avoid getting what he doesn't
need, but he also escapes being praised above others, although
he might deserve it. He completes his tasks without
expecting any reward. When he is done he just moves on.
Otherwise, society would surely hurry to make him
one of the privileged, and cover him with gold.
Some have to struggle not to get more than they
need, others don't get what they need no matter how
they struggle. What's really needed, is that those who have
more than they need give it to all those in the world who need
it. Unfortunately, that's a struggle that few of the wealthy
are willing to undertake.
© Stefan Stenudd.
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