DiscoverThe Tao Te Ching for Everyday LivingTao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome
Tao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome

Tao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome

Update: 2021-02-12
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Tao Te Ching Verse 73

translated by Isabella Mears

A person with courage and daring is slain,
A person with courage and self-restraint lives.
Of these two, the one has benefit, the other has injury.
Who can tell why one of them should incur Heaven's Wrath?
Because of this the self-controlled person has doubt and difficulty.
Heavenly Tao strives not, but conquers by love;
It speaks not, but responds in Love;
It calls not to people, but of themselves they come;
It slowly is made manifest, yet its plans are laid in Love.
The net of Heaven is widely meshed; the meshes are far apart, yet nothing escapes from it.

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

Wait, what?  You mean that sometimes I can’t help but act selfishly and sometimes that’s OK?  Not only that, but I thought that acting non-selfishly was the way to place myself into Harmony with the Tao.  Interesting indeed.

I’d like to tell a short story - maybe you’ve heard it before.  It’s the story of the Chinese Farmer, as told by Alan Watts:

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”

Commenting on this story, Alan Watts says, ‘The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.’

I’ve heard this story used to illustrate the benefits of non-judgment before, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it can also serve to show us how the Tao moves, dare I say, in mysterious ways.  Honestly, the whole paradigm is too complicated for me to analyze, personally.  Like when should I do this or be that, or how do I know when to teach, when to learn, all that.  I mean, maybe a quantum ai algorithm can figure it out at some point, but for now, it’s simply too much for my mind to bear.

Perhaps that’s why just trying to stick to one thing and being ok with making mistakes is the best thing for me to do, according to Lao Tzu.  Kind of like a, ‘I’ll do my part, the Tao does its part’ thing.  I’m OK with that for now.  

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Tao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome

Tao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome

Dan Casas-Murray