One of the teachings of the Tao is that everything belongs to the Tao. In Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Cheng, Lao Zi says that desire should be limited because everything is part of the Tao and that in order to live by the Tao there must be balance between Yin and Yang. “One should stop in due time Rather than fill it to the brim. When a point is too sharp, Its sharpness cannot remain too long. When a hall is full of gold and jade, Nobody can keep them long;
When a man of wealth and rank is arrogant, He is looking for a calamity upon himself; When one succeeds and subsequently retires, He follows the true way of Heaven. ” The meaning of Chapter 9 is moderation (limitation) of desires. Taking moderation in what you have and not being quick to obtain more because it is not good. Within the Tao this means going with the flow of things and not reaching for more because that is the nature of things. Within Chapter 9 the line “One should stop in due time rather than fill it to the brim” (pg 81, line 1-2) is saying to know your limits.
To not take on more than what you should, but to do the right amount and even taking on less is better than taking on more. This is because when taking on more you tend to overflow your cup meaning that you will take on more than you can handle which may lead you to trouble. The next line, “ When a point is too sharp, its sharpness cannot remain too long. ” (pg 81, lines 3-4) is saying that continuing sharpening a blade will eventually leading it to become dull.
When compared to life this could mean that continuing doing something and it will eventually lose its interests. It can also mean that just because you are good at something and are at the top doesn’t necessary means that you will always be at the top, someone will eventually surpass you. The final line, “When one succeeds and subsequently retires, he follows the true way of Heaven. ” means that once you have accomplished your goals or in making yourself known then you must fade into the background, let your accomplishments speak for themselves and not you, don’t try to bask in the spotlight then that is following the Tao. In life money and power is not everything and will only get you so far.
“When a man of wealth and rank is arrogant, he is looking for a calamity upon himself” (pg 81, lines 7-8) This is saying that when you have money and power, tie it with your pride and boast about it then you are bringing attention to yourself, bad attention and it will lead to something bad happening to you.
This is like going out in a public and crowded area, holding up a thousand dollars and yelling out, “ I have a load of money on me, so come and get it. ” Eventually someone will try and see if they are able to get it from. You are making yourself an easy target for trouble. All these things that goes on in this poem ties directly into Yin and Yang. No person can live a truly good life and no person can live a truly bad life. When everything have been good in your life something bad will eventually happen and the same vice versa because that is Yin and Yang and this is the Tao.
There needs to be a balance. Nothing truly belongs to us, everything belongs to the universe, to the Tao. Whenever something good happens, there needs to be something bad that happens as well to balance everything out. This chapter is saying that, in the way of being moderate or limiting your desires because the things you desire are not truly yours to keep. Do not desire too much for that is the Tao and everything is of the Tao.
Everything is a part of the Tao and the Yin and Yang are needed to keep the balance therefore you will not be able to keep anything, so you should desire them less is the main meaning of Chapter 9. Having limited desires for things will keep you from feeling more pain when the time comes and they are taking from you. Following the Tao will help you focus more on yourself in the way that you are healthy and alive instead of focusing on materialistic things that you are not able to keep because it doesn’t belong to you.
Courtney from Study Moose
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