Tao-te ching Comments

Hiding the Light of the Procedure

When one is about to take an inspiration, he is sure to make a
(previous) expiration; when he is going to weaken another, he will first strengthen him; when he is going to overthrow another, he will first have raised him up; when he is going to despoil another, he will first have made gifts to him: --this is called "Hiding the light (of his procedure)".

The soft overcomes the hard; and the weak the strong.

Fishes should not be taken from the deep; instruments for the
profit of a state should not be shown to the people.
(Ch. 36, Legge version).


This chapter suggests hiding the light, that is your real intention of doing something. A parallel to this chapter is the saying of Jesus in Gospel of Thomas where he says that one who wishes to kill an important person must prepare in advance in his own house as to have some expertise inside him prior of killing.

Here, at Lao-tzu, we find also that one needs to hide his intent in order to succeed.

What is the meaning of the "soft overcomes the hard"? Simply, one can overcome the hard when the hard is not yet hard, that is, it is soft.

And what is meant by "fishes should not be taking from the deep"? This is related to the interpretation of the first part of chapter, that is, when someone is aware of our intent it is hard (difficult) to be seized, the same as a fish can't be caught from deep waters.

Another interpretation of this chapter is offered by Gao Heng: "These lines speak of the way of Heaven… Laozi is warning against taking what is waxing for a permanent state, against counting on the stronger, against rejoicing in promotion, against craving to be provided for".(*)

* Quoted by Moss Roberts in his translation and commentary on Dao De Jing, University of California Press, p. 101.

Commentary by Jhian



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