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"They will rejoice in their daily life."

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 80

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained


80

Let the country be small,

And the inhabitants few.


Although there are weapons

For tens and hundreds of soldiers,

They will not be used.

Let people take death seriously,

And not travel far.

Although they have boats and carriages,

There's no occasion to use them.

Although they have armor and weapons,

There's no occasion to wear them.

Let people return to making knots on ropes,

Instead of writing.


Their food will be tasty.

Their clothes will be comfortable.

Their homes will be tranquil.

They will rejoice in their daily life.


They can see their neighbors.

Roosters and dogs can be heard from there.

Still, they will age and die

Without visiting one another.



Simple Utopia

Making knots on ropes was believed to be a forerunner to the sophisticated Chinese pictogram writing. Lao Tzu expresses a longing back to previous times, when things were simpler.

       I have some problems with this chapter. It describes what Lao Tzu regards as a dream society, but I find it kind of boring. No travel, no visions, no aspirations, and no curiosity. Nothing but the routine of everyday life. It's certainly peaceful and secure, but isn't it also dull?

       Not to Lao Tzu, evidently. He praises this life, which could be described with his favorite image of the uncarved wood. We would call it rustic.

       People have boats and carriages, but no longing to use them for exploring other parts of the world. They see the neighboring village and hear sounds from there, but don't bother walking the short distance to visit and get to know its inhabitants.

       What kind of life is that? What kind of peace and security? To me, it seems like sleep, and a dreamless one at that.


Prison or Sanctuary

Lao Tzu is tired of the spectacular and the grand. He longs back to the basic qualities of life. That's possible for someone who has experienced the world, and gotten enough of it. For those who are yet to explore it, the simple village life might be closer to a prison than a sanctuary.

       Of course, what he describes has a lasting charm. No war. No frustrated longing for a greener pasture elsewhere. People are content with what they have, so they know how to enjoy it fully.

       The food they make may be simple, but it's tasty and filling. Their clothes may be colorless and coarse, without any fancy decorations, but they are comfortable and therefore pretty, too. Their homes are no palaces, but they find security in them. A house doesn't need to be big to be a home.

       People who enjoy the simple everyday life are free from anguished longings for what very few can get. They will not be tempted by things they can't reach, and they will not suffer because they have less luxury than the emperor, his dukes and generals. Only by not longing for something else, you can truly enjoy what you have.

       Many people have this ability. There is reason to envy them. If we are pleased with a life of simplicity, nothing can surpass it. Still, I'm not sure I would be satisfied.

       I also doubt that Lao Tzu, that splendid mind pondering the hidden workings of the universe, would have settled for it, if he didn't first go out into the world to explore and understand it.

       What he describes is not a perfect life for everyone, but a perfect retirement plan. The human being is not able to settle for steady peace and quiet, until after having experienced at least one adventure.

© 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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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
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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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