Tao Te Ching Verse 67: The Three Treasures
Tao Te Ching Verse 67
translated by Ellen Marie Chen
All under heaven say that my Tao is great,
That it seems useless (pu hsiao).
Because it is great,
Therefore it seems useless.
If it were useful,It would have long been small.
I have three treasures (pao),
To hold and to keep:
The first is motherly love (tz'u),
The second is frugality (chien),
The third is daring not to be at the world's front.
With motherly love one can be courageous,
With frugality one can be wide reaching,
Daring not be at the world's front,
One can grow to a full vessel (ch'i).
Now to discard motherly love, yet to be courageous,
To discard frugality, yet to be wide reaching,
To discard staying behind, yet to be at the front,
One with motherly love is victorious in battle,
Invulnerable in defense.
When Heaven wills to save a people,
It guards them with motherly love.
Photo by N. on Unsplash
Not gonna lie, I’ve done this whole verse backwards for most of my life. Which I guess is OK, given that the nature of the Universe is cyclical! Here’s what I mean: Lao Tzu says that there is a divine order to things. It starts with compassion, then leads to contentment, then continues with humility. If one lives life in placing these virtues second, one courts disaster. When things are confusing, he says, remember to just start with compassion.
Right now, in where I’m at, If I were to sum up the Tao Te Ching, I’d use this verse as the cover page. Of course, I love how it is ensconced about 80% of the way through, mostly because of the reason Lao Tzu cites in the very first part - that it’s great and all but doesn't seem to have anything to do with real life. So in my pain, I became receptive to the first 80% of this teaching and practiced it as best I could along the way. This has made me even more receptive to what is for me in this moment the crux of the Tao Te Ching.
I mean we’ve talked about the different ways and aspects of compassion. We’ve talked about not judging, we’ve talked about fighting and then mourning the fight, we’ve talked a bout that do-nothing thing.
We’ve talked about contentment. Becoming aware of desires and abandoning them, attending to no-affairs, and non-competition.
We’ve talked about humility, too. Abandoning identity, service others and giving, and being vulnerable.
I feel like Lao Tzu sums up all these things for us in this verse. And not only does he say that these are the main things we’ve been discussing, he also presents the cycle, so if people like me have done it backwards, I can use the light to guide me back home. It starts with compassion, he says. Practicing that will lead me to contentment and practicing contentment will lead me to humility. When I am close and connected with these three things, I then discover that life seems to be worth living. I find limitless opportunities to take advantage of being in human form. Once I am connected - and I can reconnect any time by practicing - I move back into Harmony and can really begin consciously participating in the Divine Infinite.