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The People’s Hearts

Part 49 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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The Sage has no interests of his own, But takes the interests of the people as his own.

He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind; for Virtue is kind.

He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.

In the midst of the world, the Sage is shy and self-effacing.

For the sake of the world he keeps his heart in its nebulous state.

All the people strain their ears and eyes: the Sage only smiles like an amused infant.

(Tao Teh King 49–Wu’s translation)

The Sage has no interests of his own, But takes the interests of the people as his own.

Living in wise simplicity and free from ego, the sage is sensitive to the difficulties and needs of others and does what he can to quietly and unobtrusively (even invisibly) assist them. Possessing peace and contentment himself, he feels for those who have none. Sometimes he must simply observe and care, but as much he can he tries to alleviate all care and need in others. I have known such people, mostly in India where there was a great deal to feel compassion about.

He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind; for Virtue is kind.

We tend to have the idea that it is all right to be pleasant to the pleasing and unpleasant to the unpleasing. “They asked for it,” or “They deserved it,” we say in justification. But we are only revealing our lack of virtue. For as Lao Tzu tells us, virtue is unfailingly kind.

He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.

It is considered acceptable to lie to liars and cheat cheaters, to let the unmerciful suffer and the selfish stingy continue in need. But Lao Tzu says otherwise. No matter what a person is not, we must not mirror his lack or defect. We must be what he should be, no matter what. This is not easy, for being virtuous does not much appeal when dealing with the unvirtuous. But the virtuous are always virtuous. Of course they are not foolish, and do not let themselves be made fools of. But they are consistently gentle and kind, even if firm and uncompromising.

In the midst of the world, the Sage is shy and self-effacing.

“Shy” may not be such a good translation; reticent, modest and retiring is the idea. No sage is a zero, a wimp or a bore. Lao Tzu does not mean mean that. Rather, the sage is unassuming and quiet. Preferring to be completely offstage rather than on center stage, he is not antisocial but fits the description of a wise man given in the Bhagavad Gita: “Absence of pride, freedom from hypocrisy, harmlessness, fortitude, rectitude, purity, constancy and self-control, detachment from the objects of sense, absence of egotism, keeping in mind the evils of birth, death, old age, disease, and pain, non-attachment, constant even-mindedness in desired and undesired events, living in secluded places, having distaste for association with many people, establishment in the knowledge of the Supreme Self, keeping in mind the goal of knowledge of the truth–this is said to be true knowledge. The contrary is ignorance” (13:7-11).

For the sake of the world he keeps his heart in its nebulous state.

That is, he meets everything without preconception or prejudice, able to see it as it is. His mind is in a sense ever new in its experience of the world. This is why saints are mistakenly thought to be childlike and childish people are mistakenly thought to be saints. Just as wax or clay must be kept warm and malleable for the sculptor’s use, so the mind and heart of the sage is able to receive a full and perfect impression of anything or anyone he encounters. Since he lets nothing interfere with his perception, including any thoughts or attitudes regarding himself, his mind is more than a mirror, it is a source of understanding and knowledge regarding all things. It is not passive but supremely active in an incomprehensible manner. Consequently Lao Tzu concludes:

All the people strain their ears and eyes: the Sage only smiles like an amused infant.

The sage does not try to be a sage–he does not try to be anything. Rather, by cultivating non-trying and non-thought he is totally himself and practically speaking omniscient. All things are a source of happiness to him. His smile is the smile of an amused infant. This is not mere poetics. Swami Sivananda had just such a smile, which I will never forget, and which I have never seen the like of in all the intervening years. He was one whom Krishna meant when he said about the man of illumination: “When he leaves behind all the desires of the mind, contented in the Self by the Self, then he is said to be steady in wisdom. He whose mind is not agitated in misfortunes, freed from desire for pleasures, from whom passion, fear and anger have departed, steady in thought–such a man is said to be a sage. He who is without desire in all situations, encountering this or that, pleasant or unpleasant, not rejoicing or disliking–his wisdom stands firm” (Bhagavad Gita 2:55-57).

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: The Preserving of Life

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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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