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The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue

Part 24 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm); he who strains his strides does not walk (well); he who reveals himself is not luminous; he who justifies himself is not far-famed; he who boasts of himself is not given credit; he who prides himself is not chief among men. These in the eyes of Tao are called “the dregs and tumors of Virtue,” which are things of disgust. Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.

(Tao Teh King 24)

The Feng and English translation is a bit more on target: “He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. He who strides cannot maintain the pace. He who makes a show is not enlightened. He who is self-righteous is not respected. He who boasts achieves nothing. He who brags will not endure. According to followers of the Tao, ‘These are extra food and unnecessary luggage.’ They do not bring happiness. Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.”

He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.

Those who try to overreach themselves and try to appear to others as much more than they really are, are always uncertain, in flux and unbalanced. In time they fall over, such is the folly of the ego. But those who stand firmly on the ground with feet secure, will be certain, steady and balanced, able to cope with any forces that might seek to push them over. Honesty with themselves and others is an essential character of the wise. Truth in living is as important as truth in speech.

He who strides cannot maintain the pace.

Here again we have the folly of those that overextend themselves in the hope of gaining the admiration of others for qualities they do not really have. Such persons may maintain a good appearance for a short while but soon they stumble and fall, making their real status clear to all.

He who makes a show is not enlightened.

Legge: “He who displays himself does not shine.” In Greek there is a term: agia phania, “holy show.” In religion this takes many forms of outer display, and the same is true of “show” in any area of life. The very fact that a person must make a show of something is an indication of his lacking it. For a show is an appearance only, not a reality. Many people are busy starring in the theater of life, but not really living at all since they are so absorbed in being a lie.

He who is self-righteous is not respected.

Legge: “He who asserts his own views is not distinguished.” Those who let the world know how good or intelligent, or capable, or whatever they are, are not such at all. Those who display themselves or seek to force themselves and their ways and ideas on others are only mirages, not real people. They are themselves lies.

He who boasts achieves nothing.

Legge: “He who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged.” I think we all know braggarts who exemplify the old adage: “The empty wagon rattles the most.” Nothing ever comes of them since all their energy is spent in claiming to be something rather than really being it. Their boasting is a dead-end. Such people end up with nothing but themselves: a pitiful reward, indeed.

He who brags will not endure.

Legge: “He who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.” Arrogance, pride and boasting are sure pathways to loss and ruin. I knew a very wise old man who, when he saw such persons, would laugh and say: “They are headed for the ash-heap, and it won’t be long now.” Many years of intelligent observation had given him that insight, and now over fifty years after his sharing that with me, I can say it is my observation, too. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), is as true as the day it was first spoken.

According to followers of the Tao, “These are extra food and unnecessary luggage.” They do not bring happiness. Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.

Legge: “Such conditions, viewed from the standpoint of the Tao, are like remnants of food, or a tumor on the body, which all dislike. Hence those who pursue (the course) of the Tao do not adopt and allow them.” Let us turn from all these follies and seek the Tao in all things and in ourselves.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: The Four Eternal Models

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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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