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Discover the wisdom of Lao-Tzu's teachings on leadership and harmony. Learn how ancient societies lived in pure simplicity and balance.
In ancient times, real people breathed yin and yang, and all living beings admired their virtue, so they lived together peacefully. At that time, leadership was hidden, so pure simplicity naturally arose.
The pure simplicity had not yet been lost, so that countless creatures were very relaxed. Eventually society fell into disrepair.
At the time of Fu Hsi, the first signs of deliberate effort were seen; all people were about to lose their spirit of innocence and conscious understanding of the universe. Their virtues were complicated and unified. Arriving at the time when Shen-nung and Huang Ti ruled the land and drew up calendars to harmonize with yin and yang, now all people stood upright and consciously carried the burden of watching and listening. Therefore, although they were orderly, they were not harmonious. Later, in the society of the Shang-Yin dynasties, people took pleasure in and covet things, and the mind was seduced by appearances.
The essential life lost its reality, Once in the Chou dynasty, we have tarnished the purity and lost our simplicity; we leave the Way and strive for artificial values, creating dangerous qualities. The shoots of ingenuity and cunning have sprouted, cynical scholarship is used to feign wisdom, false criticism is used to intimidate the masses, elaborations of poetry and prose are used to win fame and honour. leather tries to gain recognition within society with knowledge and skills and loses the general source as a basis; therefore in society there are people who lose their natural life. This decline was a gradual process that continued for a long time. Therefore, what whole people must learn is to reduce their essential nature to non-being and to let their spirit float in space. The knowledge of the worldly eliminates their inherent virtues and diminishes their essential nature; inwardly worried about their health, they use violence and an excess of cunning to get worked up about name and honor. This is something complete humans don't do. What eliminates inherent virtue is self-awareness; what shrinks essential nature is the closing of its living creativity.
When people are complete they ascertain the meaning of life and death, and understand the patterns of glory and infamy. Even if all the world praises them, it gives them no extra encouragement; and though the whole world rejects them, it does not stop them.
They have acquired the key to the ultimate Way.
Those who deliberately pursue politeness polish human nature and flatten their feelings; their eyes may be greedy for something, but they are restrained by measures; their hearts may be fond of something, but they are constrained by courtesies. Their behavior is restrained and restrained, humble and submissive; they do not eat fatty meat, nor do they drink clear wine. Outwardly they are restrained in their actions, inwardly they are concerned about their virtues, and thus suppress the harmony between yin and yang and inhibit their feelings of life itself. Therefore, they remain sad people all their lives. Why? Because they forbid what they desire without getting to the root of the why of their desire. They avoid what they enjoy without finding out why they enjoy it. This is like locking up wild animals without closing the gate; trying to keep them from ambition is like trying to stop the mighty flow of a river with your hands. That is why it is said that opening your eyes and taking care of your affairs does not mean that you are safe all your life. Polite forms hinder feelings and block desires; by bridging yourself with a sense of duty, even though your emotions and your heart are choked and gagged, and your body and nature suffer hunger and thirst, you keep forcing yourself with the thought of necessity, so that you can never live a perfectly natural life.
Polite forms cannot take away people's desires, but they can suppress them; music cannot deprive people of their pleasure, but it can inhibit them. Even if you make everyone so afraid of punishment that they dare not steal, how does that compare to making sure that they have no desire to steal?
We know, then, that even the greedy refuse that which they know to be of no use, and that not even the unpretentious will be able to refuse that which they know to be useful.
The reason people lose their land, die at the hands of others, and become a mockery of the whole world, always turns out to be greed. If you know that a fan in winter and a leather jacket in summer are of no use to you, everything will turn to dust and dirt, When you use hot water to bring a kettle off the boil, it will only to cook all the more; those who understand the essence of the matter simply remove the fire.
Bright serenity and joyful harmony are the human essence; standards and guidelines are regulators of affairs. When you know the human essence, you develop yourself spontaneously without violating it.
When you manage your affairs, your actions will not be chaotic.
Issue a directive that spreads endlessly, uniting all in one organ - this is called the heart.
To see the root and thereby know the branches, to adhere to the one and thus to respond to the multiplicity - this is called art. Knowing the reason why you live, where you are, knowing where you go when you go somewhere, knowing what resources you depend on when you work, knowing when to stop when you act - this is called the Way.
What drives others to praise and praise you as high and wise is mental strength. What drives others to despise and deny you is mental error.
When words have gone out of the mouth, one cannot prevent them from reaching others.
Actions initiated in the immediate vicinity cannot be prevented from having a wide scope.
Work is hard to accomplish and easy to undo; fame is hard to establish and easily obsolete.
Ordinary people never worry about minor injuries and petty trifles until they grow into great problems. When disaster comes, it is the people themselves who have brought it about. When happiness comes, it is the people themselves who perfect it.
Misfortune and happiness come through the same gate, gain and loss come from the same neighbourhood.
Unless one is perfectly clear, one cannot discern them.
Knowledge and thought are the door of misfortune and happiness, activity and tranquility are the pivot of gain and loss. It is necessary to pay close attention.