"The sage puts himself last and becomes the first."
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 7
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
Heaven is eternal and Earth is lasting.
How can they be eternal and lasting?
Because they do not live for themselves.
That is how they can be eternal.
The sage puts himself last and becomes the first,
Neglects himself and is preserved.
Is it not because he is unselfish that he fulfills himself?
The well-known reward for the unselfish is the praise
received. Another benefit is hinted in the example of
Heaven and Earth: The ones who don't live for themselves will
endure, because that path is less straining, less of a struggle.
Those who strive to get ahead are quickly fatigued
and wear themselves down. Impatience and discontent are
poison to the mind, therefore to the body as well. That's
how it works. The one who chases his own happiness will
never catch it. He just rushes from the cradle to the grave. He
may reach far and gather a fortune, but when will he have
time to enjoy it?
The humble ones with modest demands are easily
satisfied and therefore soon to be joyous. Their joy lasts,
because it's undisturbed by temptation. Such an attitude
towards life is appeasing to the mind and a remedy for
There is no guarantee for longevity, but those who
are pleased with their situation have a better chance at it
than those who never get enough.
Of course, the reward for unselfishness can create
a paradox. Considering such a reward, what selfish
man would not try his utmost to be unselfish – at least
enough to receive the benefits of it? That would be selfish
I doubt that it matters, though. We shape our lives
and affect the lives of others by our deeds, not by the
thoughts behind them. A good deed is helpful, whatever the
reason for it. Considering the sad state much of the world is in,
we can't afford to be picky. A good deed does good, even if
its purpose is selfish.
Furthermore, it's quite possible that a selfish
benefactor will be so pleased with the outcome that he forgets his
original intention. That's one of the finer sides of mankind –
delight and pleasure are contagious. Unfortunately, so are
bitterness and anger. Another reason for encouraging
good deeds of whatever intent.
© Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching Explained
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