Chapter 8 – Water

The highest goodness
is to be like water.
Water benefits
all the Ten Thousand Things,
yet does not compete.

Water will go to the low places
everyone despises
and be content.

This is like Tao.
Tao dwells in low places.
Tao dwells with all people.

A home prefers level ground.
A heart prefers depth.
Relationships prefer kindness.
Words prefer sincerity.
Leadership prefers peace.

Serving others in daily life is most effective when one lives in rhythm.
A person is respected when he or she does not compete and is therefore without blame.

For this Tao Te Ching Tuesday, we begin with water as a metaphor for the Tao. Because the true Tao cannot be described in words, metaphors are used throughout. The most common are the feminine (which was introduced earlier), the infant (which is coming soon) and water in its several manifestations.

In A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy Wing-Tsit Chan reminds us the early Indian culture associated water with creation and the Greeks saw it as a natural phenomenon, while ancient Chinese philosophers preferred to use it to teach moral lessons. Water can be all of that and more. Water is such a common symbol for the Tao that Allan Watts refers to the Tao as The Watercourse Way. Continue reading