A truly good person is not conscious of his virtue,
and therefore possesses virtue.
A foolish person tries to be virtuous
and is therefore not virtuous.
The sage does nothing,
Yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of ego.
The highest kindness is to give generously.
The highest justice is to see without prejudice.
When Tao is lost, there is virtue.
When virtue is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is husk of doctrines,
the beginning of disorder.
The sage follows his own nature, not the fluff of life.
He dwells in the firm, not the flimsy.
He dwells in the fruit, not the fluff.
He dwells in the true, not the false.
As I Understand It:
The sage acts naturally with the flow of the Tao, the human goodness that is complete in itself. The moment we boast about our goodness or virtue, it is lost. When we become conscious of our virtues, our vices surface. The polarity of good and bad come into our awareness. Our essential nature, the Tao, is whole–complete beyond polarities.
In her goodness, the sage is humble, generous and without prejudice. She acts naturally and everything gets done. But the ordinary people create rules and say, these are “our” laws and rituals. Reliance upon these laws and rituals divides humans. It feeds people’s egos, creates chaos. Each one of us has essential nature, the human goodness, the Tao. It excludes no one. Have complete faith in your essential nature.
When the flow of the Tao gets divided into good and bad, it gets disrupted. In order to fix it we create moral laws, religious codes of conduct and forget that genuine goodness is already present in our hearts. We forget goodness is natural, laws and rituals are man-made.
Don’t blindly follow rituals and customs simply because your ancestors followed them. Look within for goodness. Like the sage, be true to your inner self.
The Way of Lao Tzu, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.
Dyer, Wayne W., Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.