33rd Verse – Self Mastery

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One who understands others has knowledge;
one who understands himself has wisdom.
Mastering others requires force;
mastering the self needs strength.

If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.

One who gives himself to his position surely lives long.
One who gives himself to the Tao surely lives forever.

We live in a society where we think that everything is controlled by forces outside ourselves. Our emotional state, our level of success, our happiness, and our worth are all dictated by the world outside.

Power and success are seen as having control over others and possessing certain things. This type of success is short lived and hangs on a knifes edge. As we have seen in a previous verse, things that are forced cannot be sustained. Force causes stress which is weakening. In addition, success that is reliant on others can succumb to the winds of human capriciousness and can be overturned in an instant. This is very evident in the world of celebrity news.

Self-mastery is harder to obtain, but more rewarding, more stable and longer lasting. According to the teachings of the Buddha, wisdom gained in one lifetime passes through towards the next and moves one on the path to enlightenment. Material success passes away and in fact can move one farther away from enlightenment.

Self-mastery is harder because it requires strength and mental fortitude. It is easier to blame others or outside forces for our personal state than it is to master our own mental state in all situations.

The need to master others means that you are seeking value, worth, and validation from others instead of being secure in your self. Your personal state is dictated by how others treat you, how others act, and their state of mind. You live in reactivity to the roller coaster ride of other’s emotions. I know this well because this is the state that I have spent most of my life entwined in.

If instead you are coming from the wisdom of the Tao, you know that you are responsible for your own reactions at any given moment. There is no one outside of yourself that has power over you. You are receiving value, worth, and validation from your own state of being. You realize that you are enough and you have enough already. Other’s needs to control and react do not matter to you anymore.

This is true success. This is true wealth. This is wisdom. This will last lifetimes by putting you in tune with the eternal Tao.

If you work with your mind, you will alleviate all suffering that seems to come from the outside ~ Buddha


32nd Verse – Flow Back to Source

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The eternal Tao has no name.
Although simple and subtle, no one in the world can master it.

If the kings and lords could harness them,
the 10,000 things would naturally obey.
Heaven and earth would rejoice with the dripping of sweet dew.
Everyone would live in harmony,
not by official decree, but by their own goodness.

Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.
There are already enough names;
know when to stop.
Know when reason sets limits to avoid peril.

Rivers and streams are born of the ocean,
and all creation is born of the Tao.
Just as all water flows back to become the ocean,
all creation flows back to become the Tao.

Attempting to control life is like trying to control the ocean. “No one in the world can master it.” You can slam yourself against the rocks and flail about attempting to will it to your desires, but this is madness. Unfortunately it is a madness that many create day after day.

Like fighting against the riptide, fighting against the nature of life only brings more misery and potentially an untimely end. Instead, flow with the current and eventually you will be delivered to your goal without the generation of misery and discontent.

Allow yourself to flow like the rivers back to the ocean. This is the natural path of life that we all travel along.

Open your eyes to what it presented to you, be grateful for what you are given and allow life to unfold in its natural state. Then you will see the glory of life’s potential as it is presented to you.

Over the next day, pay attention to what you have in your life. Notice what is presented to you. Let go of trying to be in charge. Allow things to flow and be aware of the “coincidences” that occur in your life. What are they telling you? Where are they directing you?

31st Verse – Futility in the Use of Weapons

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Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Therefore, followers of the Tao never use them.

Arms serve evil.
They are tools of those who oppose wise rule.
Use them only as a last resort.
For peace and quiet are dearest to the
decent man’s heart,
and to him even a victory is no cause for rejoicing.

He who thinks triumph beautiful
is one with a will to kill,
and one with a will to kill
shall never prevail upon the world.

It is a good sign when man’s higher nature
comes forward.
A bad sign when his lower nature comes forward.

With the slaughter of multitudes,
we have grief and sorrow.
Every victory is a funeral;
when you win a war,
you celebrate by mourning.

Here Lao Tzu continues on the theme regarding the futility in the use of weapons. He asserts that weapons are the implements of evil and are a sign of man’s lower nature.

As in the last verse, these weapons are not only physical weapons of war, but also actions and words that are used to put one being beneath another.

According to the Tao, we are all connected, so victory over another is really victory over ourselves and this is a step away from the nature of the Tao. You “celebrate by mourning” because there is nothing to celebrate. Instead, you mourn the loss of connectivity with your true nature.

Ones higher nature is to realize that the true path is to remove the use of all weapons as well as hateful words and actions.

30th Verse – Weapons turn upon the wielder

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One who would guide a leader of men in the uses of life
will warn him against the use of arms for conquest.
Weapons often turn upon the wielder.

Where armies settle,
nature offers nothing but briars and thorns.
After a great battle has been fought,
the land is cursed, the crops fail,
the earth lies stripped of its Motherhood.

After you have attained your purpose,
you must not parade your success,
you must not boast of your ability,
you must not feel proud;
you must rather regret that you had not been
able to prevent war.

You must never think of conquering others by force.
Whatever strains with force
will soon decay.
It is not attuned to the Way.
Not being attuned to the Way,
its end comes all too soon.

This verse can be taken literally to be a battle cry for the anti-war sects. Or it can be taken for the more deeper meaning that I believe the author was attempting to convey.

The “use of arms for conquest” in the literal sense is referring to weapons of war. In the time of Lao Tzu, this would have been in the form of clubs, swords and knifes. In current times, this could refer to missiles, guns, tanks, explosives, etc.

If we instead look to the deeper meaning, these “arms for conquest” could be anything that oppresses or puts one being beneath another. This would be in the form of negativity, anger, demeaning words, fear inducing actions or any verbal or physical action that one uses to rise against another in the efforts of conquest.

Weapons often turn upon the wielder

Any of these verbal or physical weapons can turn against its wielder because anything that we do to another is done upon ourselves. In other words if I spew my anguish at you, you can accept it and become angry as well or you can choose not to let my anger effect you. However, either way my anger greatly affects my own being because I have created more negative energy within myself, which is detrimental to my own health and well-being.

After a great battle has been fought,
the land is cursed, the crops fail,
the earth lies stripped of its Motherhood

Those that have lived a life full of stress, negativity and anger are naturally more inclined to illness, more visibly aged and tend to pass away at an earlier age. Those that are free from those stressors are visibly younger, more vivacious and healthier. The “great battle” of negativity and anger is like a festering wound that poisons the body and mind that it inhabits.

you must rather regret that you had not been
able to prevent war

If one has acquired his/her goals, but has done it at the expense of others then he/she should not revel in it. One should instead regret going to such lengths as marginalizing another being for one’s own benefit. This “success” should be treated as a learning experience to ensure that such methods are not employed in the future.

Refrain from all acts of violence whether physical or verbal and stay intune with the way of the Universe. The need to struggle for conquest will soon fade away.