DiscoverThe Tao Te Ching for Everyday LivingTao Te Ching Verse 68: Practicing Non-Contention
Tao Te Ching Verse 68: Practicing Non-Contention

Tao Te Ching Verse 68: Practicing Non-Contention

Update: 2021-01-08
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Tao Te Ching Verse 68

translated by Lin Yutang

The brave soldier is not violent;
The good fighter does not lose his temper;
The great conqueror does not fight (on small issues);
The good users of people place themselves below others.
- This is the virtue of not-contending,
   Is called the capacity to use people,
   Is reaching to the height of being
Mated to Heaven, to what was of old.

Photo by Mario Klassen on Unsplash

Practicing Non-Contention

  1.  What do I secretly wish was better about life?  In my worldly life, I secretly wish I had an awesome car.
  2. Next, just sitting with this, I can ask, what does this have anything to do with my social status?  Do I think that if this thing was better, it would mean that I would be satisfied?
  3. And now the next question: why?  This one is where I need to be super honest with me and consider how much of this thing I wish was better has to do with my social status or who I think I’ll be as an individual.  If I had a dope ride, for example, I could roll around looking awesome and I’d have this feeling of ‘got my stuff together’ ness. Sure, a nice machine is a nice machine, and great speakers, that awesome new car smell, the sleekness with which I slide in and out of the cockpit - those are all things that are pleasurable and are a joy to experience.  Apart from that, though - are they the things that are worth the money or effort that I would spend getting that experience?  Or is there more to it than that?  With that money, don’t I also get bragging rights, a quiet sense of satisfaction that I can afford such a cool thing?
  4. So the next question I can ask is, if I had this thing that I secretly wished was better, how would I use it to compete with others for emotional security or social status?  If I had a great car, I could allow myself to feel a little superior to the other cars on the road.  If I had a spouse that listened every time I said something, I would have important things to say.  If I had a boss that told everyone how much she depends on me, I would be the best worker.  If I was the cool kid in my group of friends, I could walk around and be myself without having to doubt.  And if I was spiritually achieved, I could just plug into the Tao at will and make cool stuff happen.

I guess the good news is that there isn’t a shortage of ways we can practice non-contention.  For me, I can start with the big things and ask why I secretly wish something was different.  I can identify what I’m trying to get out of that secret wish, and I usually find that it’s because I want to feel more secure about - anything - in relation to other people.  There must be people there to acknowledge I have a sick ride.  There must be people there to listen to me.  There must be people there to say I’m the best worker or the coolest friend.  And there must be an unrealistic standard against which I am measuring myself in spiritual matters or personal achievements.

When I identify this aspect of competition within myself, I can consider how allowing the Tao to control that aspect would look.  If I took my competitive attitude and set it aside for a moment, I can observe how according to Tao it could be irrelevant or how I could focus on another, more positive aspect.  I could practice non-contention, and see how, when choosing this way forward, things turn out better than I could have imagined or planned.

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Tao Te Ching Verse 68: Practicing Non-Contention

Tao Te Ching Verse 68: Practicing Non-Contention

Dan Casas-Murray