27.1 (Chapter 7)
27.1 (Chapter 7)
Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting.
They can be so just because they do not exist for themselves.
And for this reason they can long endure.
Therefore the sage places himself in the background,
But finds himself in the foreground.
He puts himself away without self-consideration,
And yet he always remains well-preserved.
It is because he has no personal interests
That his personal interests are fulfilled341
This suggests the selflessness of Heaven and Earth that are taken by Lao Zi as a frame of reference for man in pursuit of the Dao.
This shows how modesty works as a kind of virtue and strategy for self-development. As has been proved in practice, he who remains modest is most liable to be well accepted and respected by others. It is for this reason that the old Chinese saying “Modesty receives benefit whereas conceit brings harm” is widely appreciated and recommended.
This means that he who thinks of others before himself is most apt to be loved and taken good care of.
This represents the advantage of selflessness, which corresponds to the notion that the sage “takes no action and yet nothing is left undone.”
Some readers of Lao Zi assume that this chapter reveals a crafty and diplomatic egoism. In other words, Lao Zi is thought to advocate taking no action for oneself simply because that is easiest way to gain profit, or attaining selfish ends through selflessness. On the other hand, some other readers of Lao Zi maintain that this chapter exemplifies a kind of objective law, as does Chapter 36 (DDJ). Hence they argue that it is only natural for the Daoist sage to “find himself in the foreground,” “remain well-preserved” and have his personal interests come to fruition simply because of his modesty and selflessness. As a matter of fact, Lao Zi's description of Heaven and Earth in view of their alleged selflessness is allegorically directed toward the personality of the Daoist sage. It is largely due to his virtuous modesty and selflessness that the sage can be a beloved ruler and long endure. In reality, however, many rulers fail to restrain their selfish desires owing to external temptations and easy access to treasured objects or rare things. Bit by bit they get deeply involved in corruption and other forms of social ills. When they go too far in order to satisfy their greed at the expense of the interests of the majority, they are likely to be either overthrown or punished in the end. That is why Lao Zi advises people to follow the example of the sage by means of a genuine practice of the Dao and De, both in word and deed.
27.2 (Chapter 23)
A whirlwind does not last a whole morning;
A rainstorm does not last a whole day.
What causes them to be so?
It is Heaven and Earth.
If Heaven and Earth cannot make them last long,
How much less can man?
Therefore, he who seeks the Dao is identified with the Dao.
He who seeks De is identified with De.
He who seeks Heaven is identified with Heaven.
He who is identified with the Dao--
The Dao is also happy to have him.
He who is identified with De--
De is also happy to have him.
He who is identified with Heaven--
Heaven is also happy to have him.
By “whirlwind” is metaphorically meant the strict and severe laws and regulations enforced by despots, and by “rain- storm” is meant heavy taxation and forced labor decreed by harsh rulers.
his indicates that he who pursues the Dao is identified with it by putting it into practice. As has often been noticed in the history of Chinese thought, the identification of words with deeds is always stressed and recommended as an essential part of personal cultivation. The same is also true of identification with De as the manifestation of the Dao.