The Great Way is universal;
it can apply to the left or the right.
All beings depend on it for life;
even so, it does not take possession of them.
It accomplishes its purpose,
but makes no claim for itself.
It covers all creatures like the sky,
but does not dominate them.
All things return to it as to their home,
but it does not lord it over them;
thus, it may be called “great”.
The sage imitates this conduct:
By not claiming greatness,
the sage achieves greatness.
In our society, we bestow greatness upon those that have amassed considerable wealth, achieved public notoriety or accomplished renowned athletic feats. This label of “greatness” seems to be attached to those that have risen above the masses regardless of how many people have been stepped on or pushed to the side in the process.
This verse of the Tao wants us to see greatness in a different light. This alternate label of “greatness” is assigned to those that have achieved wonderful things without the use and abuse of others and without the self-declaration of greatness.
The verse describes the Tao as the thing that all life depends on. However, the verse says that the Tao does not profess its greatness, nor does it attempt to control or subjugate those that depend on it. The Tao provides for the sake of providing and expects no remuneration.
Under the new light that the verse has shed on the label of “greatness”, look to those that give without expectations of repayment, care just for the sake of caring, and seek to lift others up instead of pushing them down in the name of self-promotion. Take notice of how much more important and beneficial this sort of greatness is to humanity. Cultivate this greatness within yourself. Realize that this is the kind of greatness that is already a part of your true self.
A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. – Confucius