World Chen Xiaowang Taijiquan Association - Bulgaria

Philosophy


Fragments of the Taoist wisdom

The Tao Te Ching (By Lao Tsu)


What man knows is not to be compared with what he does not know. The span of his existence is not to be compared with the span of his non-existence. To strive to exhaust the great with the small, necessarily lands him in confusion, and he does not attain his object. How then should one be able to say that the tip of a hair is the ultimate smallness, or that the universe is the ultimate greatness?

The universe is very beautiful, yet it says nothing. The four seasons abide by a fixed law, yet they are not heard. All creation is based upon absolute principles, yet nothing speaks.

Great knowledge grasps the whole; small knowledge, only a part. Great speech gets hold of the universal; small speech picks at particulars.

Our life has a limit, but knowledge is without limit. A man who knows that he is a fool is not a great fool.

Get rid of small wisdom, and great wisdom will shine upon you. Put away goodness and you will be naturally good. A child does not learn to speak because taught by professors of the art, but because it lives among people who can themselves speak.

The truly great man, although he does not injure others, does not credit himself with charity and mercy. He seeks not gain, but does not despise his followers who do. He struggles not for wealth, but does not take credit for letting it alone. He asks help from no man, but takes no credit for his self-reliance, neither does he despise those who seek preferment through friends. He acts differently from the vulgar crowd, but takes no credit for his exceptionality; nor, because others act with the majority, does he despise them as hypocrites. The ranks and emoluments of the world are to him no cause for joy; its punishments and shame no cause for disgrace. He knows that positive and negative cannot be distinguished, that great and small cannot be defined.

There is no body of water beneath the skies that is greater than the ocean. All streams pour into it without cease, yet it does not overflow. It is constantly being drained off, yet it is never empty. Spring and autumn bring no change; floods and droughts are equally unknown. And thus it is immeasurably superior to mere rivers and brooks. However, I would not venture to boast on this account, for I get my shape from the universe, my vital power from balance of forces, positive and negative. In the universe I am but as a small stone or a small tree on a vast mountain. And conscious thus of my own insignificance, what is there of which I can boast?

The heart of man is more dangerous than mountains and rivers, more difficult to understand than Heaven itself. Heaven has its periods of spring, summer, autumn, winter, daytime and night. Man has an impenetrable exterior, and his motives are inscrutable. Thus some men appear to be retiring when they are really forward. Others have abilities, yet appear to be worthless. Others are compliant, yet gain their ends. Others take a firm stand, yet yield the point. Others go slow, yet advance quickly.

Those who dream of a banquet may wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow may wake to join a hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even experience a dream within a dream; and only when they awake do they realize they dreamed of a dream. By and by comes the great awakening, and then we may find out that this life is really an extended dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams - I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may come forward to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousand generations have gone by.

Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow; hair, to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their heels over the prairie. Such is the real nature of horses. Palatial dwellings are of no use to them.

A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, does not die. His bones are the same as other people's; but he meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear, etc., cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not suffer from contact with objective existences. And if such security is to be got from wine, how much more is it to be got from God? It is in God that the Sage seeks his refuge, and so he is free from harm.

There is no weapon so deadly as man's will. Excalibur is second to it. There is no bandit so powerful as Nature. In the whole universe there is no escape from it. Yet it is not Nature which does the injury. It is man's own heart.

Naming things enables us to differentiate between them, but names are words, and words easily give rise to confusion. They do not replace the thing or direct experience of the thing which they name, but only represent or describe it.

The mind should not be filled with desires. The individual who is at one with the Tao is aware of the distinction between that which is needed as a sufficiency, and that which is a desire, or merely wanted rather than needed.

Those who excel in beauty become vain; those who excel in strength become violent. To such, it is useless to speak of Tao. He who is not yet turning gray will surely err if he but speak of Tao; how much less can he put it into practice!

The perfect man has no self; the spiritual man has no achievement; the sage has no name.

When Chuang Tzu was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish to give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzu said, With the heavens and earth itself for my coffin and shell; with the sun, moon, and stars as my burial regalia; and with all creation to escort me to the grave-are not my funeral arrangements already well in hand? We are afraid the vultures will eat the body of our master, said the disciples. To this Chuang Tzu replied, Above ground I shall be food for vultures; below I shall be food for worms and ants. Why rob one to feed the other?