02 May 2014

The Problems and Answers for Men According to Lao Zi

Lao Zi tells us how come we have so much problems from our seemingly good actions to get people to do more. He also provides us the answers for fixing this hypocritical world.
In Lao Zi's Dao De Jing 道德经 (The Book of Moral) chapter 3, Lao Zi points out the three temptations of men, namely, glory, greed (for wealth), and girls/guys (hedonism) and proposes the answers. The key answer is the famous 无为而治 self-management without interference (i.e. actions that violate the natural laws). Evil comes from using our own smartness to tempt people and to manipulate them to do the seemingly good things!

Everything, task or man, has purpose and meaning and does not need external temptations or motivations to disturb it. Doing so is the root cause of all the problems. For example, the meaning of work is good enough to motivate people to do them well. To give extra high salary and incentives distort the meaningfulness of work and leads to bad and evil practices like sabotaging others and cheating the incentive systems to get more. Giving is good by itself but many give not for the love for it but for the glory and fame that comes with it. The world becomes artificial and hypocritical. Below is the Chinese text and my English translations for Chapter 3.

Dao De Jing 03 Management with Abiding Actions 无为而治
1 不尚贤,使民不争;                Give no glory to the able and men fight not
2 不贵难得之货,使民不为盗;Give no high value to scarce goods and men steal not.
3 不见可欲,使民心不乱;        See no desirable pleasures and men hearts are not stirred.
4 是以圣人之治,                        Hence, the management of the wise is:
5 虚其心、实其腹、                    empty his ego, fill his stomach (answer for 1 glory)
6 弱其志、强其骨。                    weakens his ambition,
                                                       strengthen his bone of uprightness (answer for 2 Greed)
7 常使民无知无欲,                   cause the people to the scheme not and lack not (answer for 3 Hedonism)
8 使夫智者不敢为也。               so that the scheming ones have no place to act (no more evil)
9 为无为,则无不治。               disrupt not the natural order and everything will be well managed.

Misunderstanding on No Action 无为
Contrary to the popular understanding that Lao Zi teaches passive no-action, Lao Zi is actually had pro-active and positive. Verse 9 says 为无为 Do '无为‘. 无为 Wu Wei is not about no action but about no violation. So some people think it is better to use similar-sounding words 无违 to cover the real meaning of Not Rebelling (against the natural order or the Way). It is not about not acting 无为, but rather 为无为, Do the non-rebellious actions by following the natural order of things.

Ecology teaches us that not the strongest survive, and not even Darwin's the fittest survive, but rather the complementary mutually supportive living chains survive. The killing of a particular species on the ecology chains will cause the death of the long ecology chains of living things!

So, it is important to heed Lao Zi's advice to first understand the purpose and meaning of things (living or material) and then honor the purpose by actions that draw out the potential and remove other hindrances. It is very important to question motivations and the longer-term impact of our many so-called good intention actions. They may draw the opposite behavior that we originally wanted.

For more on Lao Zi see Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Lim Liat (c) 2 May 2014

No comments: