46th Verse – Peace of Contentment

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When the world has the Way,
running horses are retired to till the fields.
When the world lacks the Way,
warhorses are bred in the countryside.

There is no greater loss than losing the Tao,
no greater curse than covetousness,
no greater tragedy than discontentment;
the worst of faults is wanting more-always.

Contentment alone is enough.
Indeed, the bliss of eternity can be found in your contentment.

Contentment is the secret to happiness and peace. All that you need is to be content with what you have, who you are, what is occurring in the current moment and whom you have in your life. That is it. Nothing else is needed to be happy and to be at peace.

Discontentment is the cause of all suffering. Simply by wanting something or someone to be different or feeling that something is needed in order to feel happiness causes suffering. You suffer until that thing that you think you need is attained or that situation is changed. However, the desire that existed does not become satisfied. Instead, it turns to the next thing that is needed or something else that needs to change. It is never satisfied and suffering continues.

Discontentment is also the reason for mankind’s tendency towards acts of war. Without contentment, there is a constant need for more power. This leads to a desire to rule over others, to conquer and to obtain that which someone else has.

What Lao-Tzu is saying here is that when humankind is content and in tune with the Way, weapons are not needed and available resources (the example of horses is used in the verse) are turned towards the creation and support of life. When humankind is discontent and out of touch with the Way, those resources become used for the conquering and destruction of others.

Imagine a world where all of the resources, time and energy that are used in the preparation and execution of war where instead placed on the betterment and support of life. Imagine if the intelligence that was focused on more advanced and more destructive weapons was instead turned to the eradication of disease.

All that is needed for this to be a reality is contentment. That alone is enough.

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2 thoughts on “46th Verse – Peace of Contentment

    • Excellent question! Yes, this is very challenging and is one that I struggle with myself. I am going to write a post about this because I think it is an important concept to get and much to say about it. In the meantime, here are my thoughts about tools to use.

      There are three things that come to mind for me:

      1) Gratitude – If you recognize what there is to be grateful for, there is less time spent on focusing on what you may think is missing.
      2) Removing the creation of cravings and aversions – This is whole premise behind the Vipassana mediation course that I wrote about previously. If you start to recognize when you are creating suffering for yourself by latching onto things that you want but don’t have or trying to remove things that you have and don’t want, you start to let go of creating that suffering. This leads to more contentment in the current moment with the way things are.
      3) Living in expectancy vs with expectations – I wrote a post about this before, but the idea is to live with the desire for great things without being tied to a certain set of expectations. Be content with what you are given in your life even if it is not exactly how you expected things to show up.

      This is not something that you can just turn on and all of a sudden live in contentment. (well some spiritual teachers say that it is and we just make it difficult.) For me , it is a continual learning experience. Over time you get more adept at recognizing the 3 things mentioned above and contentment comes more eaily.

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