Chan of the Day, Tao of the Week

This week’s Tao posts started with the entirety of Chapter 34 on Monday. That’s a lot of the Tao to be reading about all at once. On Wednesday I posted the first half, and on Thursday the second half, of Chapter 33:

He who knows others is wise;

He who knows himself is enlightened.

He who conquers others has physical strength.

He who conquers himself is strong.

He who is contented is rich.

Hw who acts with vigor has will.

He who does not lose his place (with Tao) will endure.

He who dies but does not really perish enjoys long life.

In the source text this comment comes in between Chapters 33 and 34:

Comment. What is it that dies but does not perish? Wang Pi said it was Tao on which human life depended, and Wu Ch’eng said it was the human mind. Other commentators have given different answers. Most of them however, believe that Lao Tzu meant the immortality of virtue. Thus the Taoists conformed to the traditional belief which had already been expressed in the Tso chuan (Tso’s Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals), namely, the immortality of virtue, achievement, and words, and which has continued to be the typical Chinese idea of immortality. It is to be noted that unlike Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu showed no tendency to believe in earthly immortals (hsien, a fairy), although his exaltation of everlasting life undoubtedly contributed to the development of the belief.

I’ll let my value-add here be those hyperlinks – the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy links being the best – and to leave you with two questions: If you believe in a literal life after death, how would it change your thoughts and behaviors if you knew instead that only your words and deeds would live on? On the other hand, if you believe absolutely nothing maintains after your death, how would it change your thoughts and behaviors to think of your words and deeds living on forever?

Have a comment or question about this post? Send Diogenes an email.

This week’s Tao of the Day posts are from Wing-Tsit Chan’s excellent Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Getting a translation from someone who spoke Chinese first and English second is a good thing.
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About Diogenes

Cynic, digital cosmopolitan
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