Home - Dharma for Awakening - Tao Teh King for Awakening–Preface - Nothing Weaker than Water

Nothing Weaker than Water

Part 78 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

Tao Teh King for Awakening cover
Also available a free PDF download from our E-Library and as an ebook and paperback from Amazon International.

In the whole World nothing is softer or weaker than water. And yet even those who succeed when attacking the hard and the strong cannot overcome it because nothing can harm it.

The weak overcome the strong. The soft conquers the hard. No one in the world can deny this yet no one seems to know how to put it into practice.

Therefore the Sage says “One who accepts a people’s shame is qualified to rule it. One who embraces a condemned people is called the king of the Universe.” True words seem paradoxical.

(Tao Teh King 78–Mabry translation)

In the whole World nothing is softer or weaker than water. And yet even those who succeed when attacking the hard and the strong cannot overcome it Because noting can harm it. Lin Yutang: “There is nothing weaker than water but none is superior to it in overcoming the hard, for which there is no substitute.” Here again we have the constant theme of Lao Tzu as to the wisdom of flexibility and accommodation. Though others may think of us as water, “weak as water” being a common expression, yet if we persist in our determination to be soft and flexible we shall eventually prevail. Many times it is simply a matter of karma: overcoming the negative karmas of others with our positive karma. But not in the sense of conquering or vanquishing, but of clearing up and healing. Harmlessness is the way to become invulnerable and unharmed.

The weak overcome the strong. The soft conquers the hard. No one in the world can deny this yet no one seems to know how to put it into practice.

Certainly he who does know how to put this wisdom of Lao Tzu into practice is the greatest of sages and a blessing to the entire world. One of the great problems of humanity is knowing the right principles but having no insight as how to apply them.

Therefore the Sage says “One who accepts a people’s shame is qualified to rule it. One who embraces a condemned people is called the king of the Universe.” True words seem pardoxical. Legge: “Therefore a sage has said, “He who accepts his state’s reproach, is hailed therefore its altars’ lord; to him who bears men’s direful woes they all the name of King accord.” Chan: “Therefore the sage says: He who suffers disgrace for his country is called the lord of the land. He who takes upon himself the country’s misfortunes becomes the king of the empire. Straight words seem to be their opposite.” Byrn: “Therefore the Master says: “Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom is worthy to become its ruler. He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks is the best ruler in the world.” Blackney: “Because of this the Wise Man says that only one who bears the nation’s shame is fit to be its hallowed lord; that only one who takes upon himself the evils of the world may be its king. This is paradox.” Lin Yutang: “Who bears himself the sins of the world is king of the world.”

As you see, nearly every translation I have consulted has given different but valuable perspective on this verse. Two facts are affirmed in these translations:

  1. The wise can take upon themselves the ills of a nation, often by being persecuted by those for whom they suffer or by identifying with those faults. There is here a very definite idea of a kind of mediator with heaven on the behalf of the people, one who sorrows for their evils and folly and may even give his life for them.
  2. Truth–true wisdom–often seems to be contradictory or paradoxical; though clear it seems to be confused and nonsensical. To most people Lao Tzu was just a goofy and disagreeable old man. No one but the gate keeper minded when he left to never be seen or heard of again. But millions through the centuries have revered and even worshipped him.

All praise be to the great master-teachers of the world, and may we be master-students of their wisdom.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Peace Settlements

(Visited 20 time, 1 visit today)

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

Visit our e-library page for Free Downloads of this and other ebooks in various formats.

(Visited 20 time, 1 visit today)