Tao-te ching Comments

Keeping the Opposites as One

Who knows his manhood's strength,
Yet still his female feebleness maintains;
As to one channel flow the many drains,
All come to him, yea, all beneath the sky.
Thus he the constant excellence retains;
The simple child again, free from all stains.

Who knows how white attracts,
Yet always keeps himself within black's shade,
The pattern of humility displayed,
Displayed in view of all beneath the sky;
He in the unchanging excellence arrayed,
Endless return to man's first state has made.

Who knows how glory shines,
Yet loves disgrace, nor e'er for it is pale;
Behold his presence in a spacious vale,
To which men come from all beneath the sky.
The unchanging excellence completes its tale;
The simple infant man in him we hail.

The unwrought material, when divided and distributed, forms
vessels. The sage, when employed, becomes the Head of all the
Officers (of government); and in his greatest regulations he employs no violent measures.
(Tao-te ching, chapter 28, Legge)


The first three paragraphs show how one keeps the opposing things together thus realizing the child condition or the state without flaw (I already commented on this state in my course about guarding one's life - see https://www.taopage.org/guarding_life.html.)

Or the child condition (acquired by the sage) presupposed the keeping of the opposites as One (the Tao)(1).

The final paragraph provides a parallel between the uncarved wood - that is the source of everything, perhaps the void - and the sage. The same as the uncarved which can be shaped in myriad of things, the sage too can be used/usefull in the leadership (for example).

Chuang-tzu considered this chapter the quintessence of Lao-tzu's teachings and quotes fragments in his book, when talking about the doctrines of the most important philosophs of his time.

1. Or the unity of mind, supposed to be the state of the new-born child.

Commentary by Jhian



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