Laotzu , Staying in the Flow with Tao


Let life open like a flower and then fall.



Force is not the way at all . . .


Those who would take over the world

And shape it to their will

Never, I notice, succeed. . .

The best general does not plunge headlong

Nor is the best soldier a fellow hot to fight.

The greatest victor wins without a battle.


This teacher’s emphasis is ever on living fully an ordinary life,

and of being of service to one’s neighbors. 


“A person at his best, like water,
Serves as he goes along;
Like water he seeks his own level,
The common level of life,
And he loves living close to the earth,
Living clear down in his heart,
Loves kinship with his neighbors,
And the pick of words that tell the truth,
The even tenor of a well-run state,
The fair profit of able dealing,
The right timing of useful deeds,
And for quarreling with no one,
No one quarrels with you.”


The Tao Te Ching has much to say about how to lead people and how to govern a country. Indeed, it’s one of the great manuals of state craft. The advice, however, is very different from the amoral stratagems of the Western classic, The Prince by Machiavelli. Laotzu’s advice, both for the citizen trying to live peacefully with his neighbors and for a President trying to run a country, is the same: don’t be sticking your nose in everything, leave people alone, respect their judgments, remember that they probably know a lot more than you think. Laotzu, of course, strikes the homely note even in affairs of state:

“Handle a large kingdom with as gentle a touch as if you are cooking a small fish. . . . 


If you manage people by letting them alone,
Ghosts of the dead will not haunt you. . . .
The less a leader does and says
The happier his people;
The more a leader struts and brags
The sorrier his people.”


Laotzu suggests that there are spiritual laws, as unchanging as gravity, built into the universe. And one of these is:

 ‘When you poke something, expect to be poked back.’


Therefore, he says again and again, the right touch is a very light touch: 

Whoever follows the Tao feels alive.

Whoever keeps to the way of life

Feels at home.

Whoever uses life properly

Feels welcome.




Excerpts from the above translation, Witter Bynner:



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