Tao-te ching Comments

They Make Mad the Mind


    Colour's five hues from th' eyes their sight will take;
    Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
    The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste;
    The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
    Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
    Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change.

    Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former. (Ch. 12, Legge version.)


So not looking for what is sublime - be it sounds, colors, flavours etc. - is the sage approach? You know of many people today who learn about these beauties and look for and cultivate them for they are the expression of the modern cultured man. Why is this not the same with the Taoist sage?

The text says: "the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly". That is, he is pleased with only food and drink and rejects everything else. I think this text is a criticism of the Confucian ethics intended in shaping the noble man who will rule the world. It is the Confucian leader as fashioned by Confucius. Taoist are not interested in this. They seek the natural and the "what-is" without any interference of the humans.

But what is wrong with these interferences? Lao-tzu says: "(They) make mad the mind!" as much as to change the people conduct into evil. In other words, when you follow the Confucian ethical teachings you loose your natural state of your mind and are led to the evil.  Which is, obviously, wrong.

The more so with the modern man. His modern culture is the key of the modern problems including so much depression and alienation!

Commentary by Jhian



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