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Difficult and Easy

Part 63 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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Accomplish do-nothing. Attend to no-affairs. Taste the flavorless.

Whether it is big or small, many or few, requite hatred with virtue.

Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy; deal with the big while yet it is small.

The difficult (problems) of the world must be dealt with while they are yet easy; the great (problems) of the world must be dealt with while they are yet small.

Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems) accomplishes greatness.

He who lightly makes a promise will find it often hard to keep his faith.

He who makes light of many things will encounter many difficulties.

Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult, and for that reason never meets with difficulties.

(Tao Teh King 63)

Accomplish do-nothing. Attend to no-affairs.

Mabry: “Do without doing. Work without forcing.” Feng and English: “Practice non-action. Work without doing.” Blackney: “Act in repose. Be at rest when you work.”

This is much clearer in the statements of the Bhagavad Gita: “He who perceives inaction in action and action in inaction–such a man is wise among men, steadfast in yoga and doing all action” (Bhagavad Gita 4:18). “Having abandoned attachment, he acts untainted by evil as a lotus leaf is not wetted by water” (Bhagavad Gita 5:10). Remaining in the consciousness of the Self which is one with the Tao, the wise man neither touches anything nor is touched by anything. Action does not shape or condition him in any way. Thus he creates no karmic bonds for himself, but is free.

Taste the flavorless. Mabry: “Taste without seasonings.” Blackney: “Relish unflavoured things.” We should experience things as they truly are in their essence without any overlay or “flavoring” in the form of attitude, judgment, desire, attraction or aversion. That is, we should see a thing exactly as it is and know it to be exactly what it is without our mind getting in the way to classify, condition and react to it and create a false impression for us to react to and make a muddle of everything. We must see and live according to reality, not according to the desire or fantasy of our egos, which is the way of nearly all people. Self-deception is the keynote of their lives.

Whether it is big or small, many or few, requite hatred with virtue. Blackney: “Great or small, frequent or rare, requite anger with virtue.” Whatever the degree, hatred and anger should be reacted to with positivity, not in kind. In this way we protect ourselves and others from being drawn into the whirlpool of negative emotion and drowned. We also protect the universe by not perpetuating or increasing destructive vibrations.

Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy; deal with the big while yet it is small. The difficult (problems) of the world must be dealt with while they are yet easy; the great (problems) of the world must be dealt with while they are yet small.

Both the individual and society need to be vigilant and detect the beginning of problems and deal with them before they get much beyond the seed stage. Then private and public life will be ordered and peaceful.

Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems) accomplishes greatness. The greatness he will accomplish is in the form of orderliness and mastery of life.

He who lightly makes a promise will find it often hard to keep his faith.

Feng and English: “Easy promises make for little trust.” We all know about this and should guard against it. For like the old adage says: “Loose lips sink ships” in private life as well as in war.

He who makes light of many things will encounter many difficulties.

Feng and English: “Taking things lightly results in great difficulty.” Chan: “He who takes things too easily will surely encounter much difficulty.” Refusing to face the real state of things, our life runs into chaos. The “no sweat” or “go with the flow” policy is self-defeating. There are people who will not face anything if they can avoid it. I had an aunt and a cousin (her daughter) who lived this way all their lives and made a mess of everything. They had a kind of moral laziness that continually sabotaged them. My cousin died young and tragically as a result of her self-blinding ways.

Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult, and for that reason never meets with difficulties.

Feng and English: “Because the sage always confronts difficulties, he never experiences them.” Byrn: “The master expects great difficulty, so the task is always easier than planned.” The Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” is wisdom for life. Those who prepare for the worst and meet difficulties head-on will make them turn out for the best. Heedless living is a curse that devastates individuals and societies.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Beginning and End

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Introduction to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Chapters of The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Preface to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

  1. On the Absolute Tao
  2. The Rise of Relative Opposites
  3. Action Without Deeds
  4. The Character of Tao
  5. Nature
  6. The Spirit of the Valley
  7. Living for Others
  8. Water
  9. The Danger of Overweening Success
  10. Embracing the One
  11. The Utility of Not-Being
  12. The Senses
  13. Praise and Blame
  14. Prehistoric Origins
  15. The Wise Ones of Old
  16. Knowing the Eternal Law
  17. Rulers
  18. The Decline of Tao
  19. Realize the Simple Self
  20. The World and I
  21. Manifestations of Tao
  22. Futility of Contention
  23. Identification with Tao
  24. The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue
  25. The Four Eternal Models
  26. Heaviness and Lightness
  27. On Stealing the Light
  28. Keeping to the Female
  29. Warning Against Interference
  30. Warning Against the Use of Force
  31. Weapons of Evil
  32. Tao is Like the Sea
  33. Knowing Oneself
  34. The Great Tao Flows Everywhere
  35. The Peace of Tao
  36. The Rhythm of Life
  37. World Peace
  38. Degeneration
  39. Unity Through Complements
  40. The Principle of Reversion
  41. Qualities of the Taoist
  42. The Violent Man
  43. The Softest Substance
  44. Be Content
  45. Calm Quietude
  46. Racing Horses
  47. Pursuit of Knowledge
  48. Conquering the World by Inaction
  49. The People’s Hearts
  50. The Preserving of Life
  51. The Mystic Virtue
  52. Stealing the Absolute
  53. Brigandage
  54. The Individual and the State
  55. The Character of the Child
  56. Beyond Honor and Disgrace
  57. The Art of Government
  58. Unobtrusive Government
  59. Be Sparing
  60. Governing a Big Country
  61. Big and Small Countries
  62. The Good Man’s Treasure
  63. Difficult and Easy
  64. Beginning and End
  65. The Grand Harmony
  66. The Lords of the Ravines
  67. The Three Treasures
  68. The Virtue of Not-Contending
  69. Camouflage
  70. They Know Me Not
  71. Sick-Mindedness
  72. On Punishment (1)
  73. On Punishment (2)
  74. On Punishment (3)
  75. On Punishment (4)
  76. Hard and Soft
  77. Bending the Bow
  78. Nothing Weaker than Water
  79. Peace Settlements
  80. The Small Utopia
  81. The Way of Heaven

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