Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 57


Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
Become master of the universe without striving.
How do I know that this is so?
Because of this!

The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men’s weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.


Interpretation by Gabriel Raam:

He begins by portraying the nature of the ruler (of himself or of a nation, he does not puts a differentiation): inside his own kingdom he rules with justices but the same ruler who rules with justice- when has to go out to war, can do it masterfully, suddenly, without warning, like a snake that bites without a warning, which makes him the most dangerous enemy. Because you do not notice his attack.
And then he begins to explain how this ambivalence between the 2 is possible, it is possible not only if you are a master of the universe, but if you are master without striving for it.
The concept here is connected to the concept in the previous verse of going against over use of will power. He goes against it’s cousin: too much striving.
And now he goes on to explain in details and by examples why striving and too much effort would not bring you to the high position he described in the beginning. And what is worse than just striving for something is striving with restrictions. You strive by restricting yourself of not doing anything that might enterer with your striving. Striving with restriction brings problems, as follows:

The problems he specifies are:

  1. Rules and restrictions would make people poor in the spirit, and their inner life, their inner being is chained by those restrictions.
  2. Rules and restrictions are weapons; here he is going against verbal and mental cruelty, which for him are weapons which could kill.
  3. Being ingenious and clever is another restriction which can cause him to miss the deep meaning in simplicity. .
  4. The more rules and regulation – funnily enough it will bring about it’s opposite: more thieves…
    All this is happening by two reasons mainly; one: striving, the other is by having too many restrictions, while we are convinced that most of the wrong in the world is exactly because of lack of restriction and lack of motivation (striving) which we are convinced would bring about chaos. So living in a striving and restriction free world will free us from the 4 problems I just brought above.
    So, he ends with advices, which will stop us being slaves of the strivings and restrictions that capitalistic world is full of, but to the normal citizen they sound like the worst advices possible:
    A. Take no action
    B. Enjoy peace
    C. Do nothing
    D. Have no desire.

All this 4 advices and the efforts he goes against before, are summing up nicely the essence of the Tao: What we see as passivity and a feminine approach – is the main road for the Tao, it is an upside down view, turning from a Yang view to a Ying one.

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