Tao Te Ching Verse 63: Refining Ourselves with the Tao
Tao Te Ching Verse 63
translated by James Legge
(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting;
to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste
without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great,
and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they
are easy, and does things that would become great while they are
small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a
previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one
in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while never doing
what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest
One who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; one who is
continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so
never has any difficulties.
Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash
Attending to the Subtle
Accomplish do-nothing, attend to no-affairs, and taste that which has no taste. I like how parts of the Tao Te Ching start off with statements like this that make me think. Like they don’t make sense at first, but once I sit with them for a while and contemplate, I begin to understand them.
After having practiced Harmony with the Tao for a short while, I have an idea of what these statements mean, and I’ll bet you do, too. In fact, they’re probably not all that cryptic if we’re in a quiet state of reception. I’ve noticed that during the day, when I’m immersed in my work and relationships and life, these verses don’t resonate with me as much as when I’m sitting quietly. Knowing this, I’ll pick out a quick one or two phrases I can repeat that day for quick remembrance while I’m doing life. It helps me to practice.
So - the subtle things. That’s what I’ve been trying to remember in little moments. The subtle things that belong to Harmony with the Tao. Doing nothing, attending to no-affairs, and tasting the no-taste. Doing nothing - that’s an easy one, since we’re always talking about abstaining from inserting our selfish egos into things. How about no-affairs? I feel like this is our self-cultivation, which we’ve been talking about, too. Practicing, when they come to mind in certain situations, what we’ve learned so far on our journeys. And tasting the tasteless? For me, that means paying attention to the whole experience and savoring it as best I can.
As I think about this, I realize that there is a lot to do when doing nothing! And a lot to attend to when I’m attending to no-affairs. And yo, there’s almost too much to taste when I’m aware of everything. Crazy. But it’s in the subtle things, isn’t it? The tiny, seeming not even there aspects of life that quietly run in the background. Like that wall clock that ticks ticks ticks 24/7, it can’t be heard except at 4 o'clock in the morning when everything else is still. Our Tao is the same. So I feel like the main call to action in the first part is to pay attention to the little things, because if we do, we can begin and create great things with very little effort.