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The Classic Manual on the Art of Living - Practical Guide to Leadership - Tao Te Ching

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Anything related to matters of the mind

Woosah

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Something that's made a profound impact on my life is the book, Tao Te Ching—which roughly translates to The Book of the Way.

This book is sometimes labeled as a book of poetry or a religious book, but to me, it's a book on mindset. A classic manual on the art of living, filled with deep wisdom.

This book, among other things, is a treatise on the art of government/leadership. The teachings can be applied to governing a country, leading employees/team members, raising a child, or even just conducting yourself in daily life.

I've been reading out of it for the last several years. And now, I want to share parts of it with you. I'll post the verse, and I'll include extra explanations below them.

--

This first verse is about the IT. I can't say too much about IT, because I'll just take away from IT.

Get IT?

Enjoy
1f642.png


--

"The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding."

--

What we're doing here is describing the indescribable, trying to teach the unteachable, pointing the way to the Way.

In the very first stanza, Lao Tzu tells us this can't be done—then continues to write 80 more verses. What was he doing?

He was pointing a finger at the moon.

As you're reading the things I share with you, at you looking at the finger—or the moon?

Tao is the single principle underlying all creation. It's HOW things work, HOW things happen.

Tao can't be defined because it applies to everything, and you can't define something in terms of itself.

Tao can't be defined, but Tao can be known.

How?

A function of the mind is to name things - become detached from it.
A function of the body is to desire things - become detached from it.
Set aside your personal prejudices - prejudiced people only see what fits those prejudices.
Pay attention with an open mind - become aware of what is happening.
This is how you can begin to know Tao.

you realize the mystery: Infinitely marvelous, yet as ordinary as sunlight. Impossible to know, yet as easy as touching your nose when you wash your face.

This source is called darkness: Because none of our senses can perceive it.

The gateway to all understanding: In order to understand, we have to remain in the darkness of not-knowing.

In my introduction post, I end my thread with a note about an invisible string that pulls us in a direction that we should go. Some people would call this intuition, or grace, or some guidance from a "higher Self", but whatever label you want to use, this comes from Tao. The more open and receptive we can make ourselves to this "force", the more creativity will flow through us, the more fluid our lives will be. In business, relationships, and every other aspect of our lives. As Bruce Lee says, "Be water, my friend."
 
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Woosah

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[--Verse 2--]
This one is about polarity and the relative nature of reality.

If you've noticed, the human mind understands by comparison. I won't know what 'rich' is if there is no 'poor'. Likewise, an understanding of 'tall' won't exist in my mind without an understanding of 'short'.

The same goes for behavior (there's a pendulum effect with behavior we'll discuss after the verse).

Enjoy!

---

"When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever."

---
acts without doing anything: When the Master acts without doing anything it means that all her actions are spontaneous and effortless. Thus, her actions are appropriate responses. "She embodies compassion, yet she doesn't try to be compassionate. She doesn't struggle to make money, yet she enjoys spending it when it comes to her. She goes her own way, yet she accepts help gratefully and has no pride in walking alone. She is not elated by praise, not discouraged by neglect. She doesn't give even a moment's thought to right or wrong. She never has to make a decision; decisions arise by themselves. She is like an actress who loves her role. The Tao is writing the script."

Understanding how polarities work means not interfering or using force to make things happen. Rather, to allow processes to unfold naturally. To accept what is, instead of insisting on things being a certain way.

The more and more one tries to make a certain thing happen, the more its polarity will appear. For example, striving to be beautiful will make you ugly. Likewise, trying so hard to be kind is in itself a form of selfishness. In other words, over-determined behavior will produce its opposite. Chasing after money will leave you feeling poor. Pressuring a client to work with you will only repel the chances they buy from you. Forcing an employee to be productive will interfere with their willingness to get the job done. Bragging about your accomplishments really signals that you're small and insecure.
 

loop101

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[--Verse 2--]
This one is about polarity and the relative nature of reality.

If you've noticed, the human mind understands by comparison. I won't know what 'rich' is if there is no 'poor'. Likewise, an understanding of 'tall' won't exist in my mind without an understanding of 'short'.

The same goes for behavior (there's a pendulum effect with behavior we'll discuss after the verse).

Enjoy!

---

"When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever."

---
acts without doing anything: When the Master acts without doing anything it means that all her actions are spontaneous and effortless. Thus, her actions are appropriate responses. "She embodies compassion, yet she doesn't try to be compassionate. She doesn't struggle to make money, yet she enjoys spending it when it comes to her. She goes her own way, yet she accepts help gratefully and has no pride in walking alone. She is not elated by praise, not discouraged by neglect. She doesn't give even a moment's thought to right or wrong. She never has to make a decision; decisions arise by themselves. She is like an actress who loves her role. The Tao is writing the script."

Understanding how polarities work means not interfering or using force to make things happen. Rather, to allow processes to unfold naturally. To accept what is, instead of insisting on things being a certain way.

The more and more one tries to make a certain thing happen, the more its polarity will appear. For example, striving to be beautiful will make you ugly. Likewise, trying so hard to be kind is in itself a form of selfishness. In other words, over-determined behavior will produce its opposite. Chasing after money will leave you feeling poor. Pressuring a client to work with you will only repel the chances they buy from you. Forcing an employee to be productive will interfere with their willingness to get the job done. Bragging about your accomplishments really signals that you're small and insecure.

And then you have to pay your rent.
 

Woosah

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Jan 6, 2022
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[--Verse 3--]
This verse is about temperance and having the right perspective.

Our views determine our beliefs, our beliefs shape our behavior, and our behavior determines the outcome we create.

If you want to change the outcome, the intelligent thing to do is to examine your views.

How is your interpretation of a given situation impacting what's happening?

What are you NOT seeing that gives you the experience you're having?

Read below and find out?

Enjoy!
1f642.png


---
"If you over esteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.

The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place."
---
emptying people's minds: he empties them of their preconceived ideas, their judgments, and their desires—bringing them back to the simple state of a child.

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

filling their cores: He fills them with a sense of their original identity—thus, returning to a state of joy.

weakening their ambition: When there is no false sense of self to defend or accumulate for, greed, hatred, and arrogance vanish disappear on their own.

toughening their resolve: Realigning their will on developing the courage and self-reliance to give up their idea of self.
Excess is rooted in deprivation. When we can't appreciate our own self, we endlessly seek praise from others. When we can't find gratitude in the essentials of life, we overvalue the luxuries. When we can't acknowledge our own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, we develop desperate cravings because we feel we're starved.

Thus, freedom from deprivation allows us to function at our best—effortlessly. Only then is everything done as a natural expression according to our life's needs, rather than as compensations for our deprivations.

And so it rings true: the person who's down-to-earth can do what needs doing more effectively than the person who is merely busy.
 
Last edited:

Woosah

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[--Verse 4--]
This verse describes Tao in its essence—what it is.

It's short but the few words it has can provide deep insight into Tao.

Enjoy

---
The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.
---

It is older than God: There is no God when there is nothing but God.

Looking for it, you will never find it, because Tao is not a thing. It is a principle or a law. All things behave according to Tao, but Tao itself doesn't behave. It's not an object nor is it a process, but it is the common ground of all creation.

Creation—things and events—are vibrations, which consist of opposites (polarities).

Opposites can cooperate with one another or they can clash, but regardless of how their nature seems—harmonious or conflicting—they become resolved in accordance with Tao.

Thus, Tao is the great mediator. It blunts all sharpness and unties the entangled. It not only creates, transcends, and modifies, but it merges with the dust—the state to which all matter ultimately returns.

Tao itself has no opposites. It's not vibratory. Tao is just One—unity.

Where did Tao come from? Beyond the finite limitations of our perceptions is an infinity of time, space, and energy. Here, there is no beginning.

Such a concept transcends contemporary religion and science, both of which keep us strapped to the expressed paradigms of the past few thousand years.

Transcending these precepts is essential to entering the higher evolutionary phase that's promised through our species self-realization.
 

Woosah

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Jan 6, 2022
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[--Verse 5--]
This verse is about duality and how natural law doesn't take sides.

It's about how we should view and treat people—people we like and people we dislike.

Enjoy!
---
"The Tao doesn't take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center."
---
The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil: Everything arises from the same source and eventually returns to it. Existence is not sentimental and doesn't form judgments of "good" or "bad". Because people are in constant flux, at any moment they are capable of the most surprising and impressive transformations.

Justice is evenhanded. One might escape the consequences of man's law, but never nature's law. The best laws are not enforced by man, and so the consequences of one's behavior are inescapable.

Everything demonstrates the law. People aren't better than the rest of creation. This principle that's behind human beings is behind all things equally.

No one person is better than the rest of humanity. Each person is as worthy as the next. There's no reason to play favorites.

The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable: The course of events doesn't follow our wishes. The harder we try to force events to conform to what we believe is "right", the less likely our success. On the other hand, the more we yield to the rhythms (bellows) of life, the greater our fruition. The more we put aside our preferences, the freer we are to move with the new opportunities every moment brings.

The more you use it, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you understand: Understanding the law, the Master doesn't pretend to be special. He doesn't waste his energy arguing theories or gossiping about others. Countless words count less; so, silence is his source of strength.
 
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Woosah

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Jan 6, 2022
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[--Verse 6--]

This verse is short but, like all the verses, has great depth.

It refers to the spirit of life itself.

The gateway to mysteries within mysteries.

Enjoy!

---

"The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.

It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want."

---

"The spirit of the valley never dies. It is called the mysterious female. The gate of the mysterious female is the root of heaven and earth."

This is the creative principle in the universe: Feminine energy receives, and with what it receives, it creates.

The seed is Yin—feminine.

The spark is Yang—masculine.

"Imagine that there is a pond in this valley. When no fears or desires stir the surface of the pond, the water forms a perfect mirror.

In this mirror, you can see the reflection of Tao. You can see God and you can see creation. Go into the valley, be still, and watch the pond. Go as often as you wish. Your silence will grow. The pond will never run dry.

The valley, the pond, the Tao are all within you."

If you can learn to become open and receptive, quiet and without desires or the need to do something, you get a clear look into this mirror. In this mirror, you see the path that’s specific to you. You see the seeds which need your hand in planting. You feel the invisible string that pulls you to your destination.
 

Woosah

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Jan 6, 2022
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[--Verse 7--]
This verse is a powerful one about modesty and fulfillment.

It speaks to the hearts of those who wish to serve mankind and gives insight on how to enhance yourself through the process.

Enjoy!

---
"The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled. "
---

The Tao is infinite, eternal: Here and Now is all that there is. Here is everywhere. Now is anytime.

The Master stays behind; that is why she is ahead: A turtle is perceived as a slow-moving creature. What's often overlooked is that the turtle is home everywhere it goes. So really, it's neither behind nor ahead, but exactly even with all things.

She is detached from all things: Detachment is often confused with keeping things at a distance, but to stay away isn't to be detached. True detachment is to be present with all things, yet naturally beyond them.

Detachment results in clarity and strong discernment—in other words, the ability to judge accurately. When one can judge accurately, they can love freely.

Because she has let go of herself, she is perfectly fulfilled: When we no longer feel the need to have to respond to the compulsive demands and deprivations of our egos, we will fulfill ourselves naturally and silently.

Looking at nature, the Earth endures because it isn't selfish; it exists for all of creation. So, true self-interest is selflessness. True leadership is service.

If you wish to grow more and last longer, place the well-being of all above the well-being of yourself alone.

It's a paradox: By being selfless, you enhance yourself.
 

Woosah

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Jan 6, 2022
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[--Verse 8--]
Bruce Lee has a famous quote:
"Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless—like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

His quote is connected to this verse, which is about the highest Good.

Here it is! Enjoy.

---

"The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you."

---

The supreme good is like water: Water is the source of all life. It cleanses and refreshes all without distinction or judgment. It's fluid and responsive, flowing freely and, without hesitation, going deep beneath the surface of things.

The wise leader learns from nature, from water. (S)he works in any setting without complaint and with any person or issue. (S)he acts so that all benefit and gives her best service regardless of the rate of pay. (S)he speaks simply and honestly and intervenes only to shed light and create harmony.

When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you: Like water, the leader is yielding. Because (s)he doesn't push, the group doesn't resist. Because there is nothing to resent, there is only respect.
 
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Woosah

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[--Verse 9--]

Especially for entrepreneurs, this one is important as it talks about our work: why we work, how we work, for what we work.

But, deeper than that, it talks about the impact we have on others through our work.

Like all the Tao Te Ching verses, although it expresses it all with just a few lines, it says a lot. I expand below.

Enjoy

---

"Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity."

---

Our current culture comes with some heavy conditioning. In our youth, we're taught through example and instruction to constantly seek to accumulate. We're trained into filling our bowl even after it's full, into accumulating more money even after we have enough to meet all our needs, into reaching for more recognition even after we've been fully acknowledged.

Looking at nature, no other species ever seeks more than it needs. It's clear that this type of behavior works against one's self, against one's own craving for fulfillment.

So, there're some adjustments we can make:

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill: When our bowl is the community bowl that we fill and use collectively, we never overfill it.

Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt: When our knife is the community knife that we sharpen and use together, we never oversharpen it.

Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench: When our possessions are community possessions that we gather and use for each other's mutual benefit, we never miserly hoard them.

Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner: When our love is freely expressed, naturally nurturing each member of the community, we never seek it with insatiable desperation.

Fundamentally, our cultural conditioning is one that sacrifices cooperation completely for competition. The scale is unbalanced and the pendulum is completely on the side of the latter. This contributes heavily to the injustice, hostility, and inhumanity among us.

Moreover, on a group level, it hinders the growth of the group's members. When the leader is constantly seeking to stand out, the teacher outshines the teaching. And before long, they get carried away with themselves, become uncentered, and crash.

A wise leader keeps the ego in check, settles for good work, and then lets others have the opportunity to shine. (S)he doesn't take credit for what happens and has no desire for fame.

Do your work, then step back: When you do your work wholeheartedly, you are glad to let it go, just as a parent lets a child go into its own life.
 

Black_Dragon43

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[--Verse 9--]

Especially for entrepreneurs, this one is important as it talks about our work: why we work, how we work, for what we work.

But, deeper than that, it talks about the impact we have on others through our work.

Like all the Tao Te Ching verses, although it expresses it all with just a few lines, it says a lot. I expand below.

Enjoy

---

"Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity."

---

Our current culture comes with some heavy conditioning. In our youth, we're taught through example and instruction to constantly seek to accumulate. We're trained into filling our bowl even after it's full, into accumulating more money even after we have enough to meet all our needs, into reaching for more recognition even after we've been fully acknowledged.

Looking at nature, no other species ever seeks more than it needs. It's clear that this type of behavior works against one's self, against one's own craving for fulfillment.

So, there're some adjustments we can make:

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill: When our bowl is the community bowl that we fill and use collectively, we never overfill it.

Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt: When our knife is the community knife that we sharpen and use together, we never oversharpen it.

Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench: When our possessions are community possessions that we gather and use for each other's mutual benefit, we never miserly hoard them.

Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner: When our love is freely expressed, naturally nurturing each member of the community, we never seek it with insatiable desperation.

Fundamentally, our cultural conditioning is one that sacrifices cooperation completely for competition. The scale is unbalanced and the pendulum is completely on the side of the latter. This contributes heavily to the injustice, hostility, and inhumanity among us.

Moreover, on a group level, it hinders the growth of the group's members. When the leader is constantly seeking to stand out, the teacher outshines the teaching. And before long, they get carried away with themselves, become uncentered, and crash.

A wise leader keeps the ego in check, settles for good work, and then lets others have the opportunity to shine. (S)he doesn't take credit for what happens and has no desire for fame.

Do your work, then step back: When you do your work wholeheartedly, you are glad to let it go, just as a parent lets a child go into its own life.
I think the Tao discusses here those sort of goods that are best approached indirectly rather than directly. Hence “keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt”.

Some goods, like happiness, if you seem to approach directly, they only get farther from you. In such cases, trying too hard is the root cause of failure.
 

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