28 October 2016

Happiness is Being Gentle & Flexible - DaoDeJing 76

Live is about growing and growing is about changes. Change is about adapting to it rather than holding on old thinking and resisting the changes. Being soft, gentle and flexible is the way to life and happiness said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 76
DaoDeJing Chapter 76 Text and Translation

人之生也柔弱,其死也坚强。
When a person is born, he/she is soft and weak. But he is hard and stiff when dead.

万物草木之生也柔脆,其死也枯槁。
All plants and trees are soft when alive, but they are dried and withered when dead.

故坚强者死之徒,柔弱者生之徒。
Hence, the person who is hard and stubborn belongs the company of the dead.
The person who is soft and flexible belongs to the company of the living.

是以兵强则不胜,木强则兵,强大处下,柔弱处上。
Hence, the army that counts only on his strength and is not flexible will not win wars.
The trees that have strong trunks will be cut down.
Great strength is ranked at the bottom while soft and weak are ranked on top.

Which is stronger, the trees or the grass?
When a great storm arises, the hard branches and even the trunks of trees are usually broken off. But the grass that bends with the winds remains.  Does that mean that we should have no principles and just move and shift with the times? Is that what Lao Zi is teaching here?

Principles vs Approaches
The answer is no. We hold on to the virtues or principles of Dao but our approaches and methods should be gentle and flexible. Outside soft and flexible but inside is made of solid strength of Dao. Our approach should always be gentle and soft while we strongly hold on to our principles of Dao. We insist on values such as of love and charity but we don't have to insist on our methods. We are to consider the feelings and desires of others. In every situation, we must be able to identify what are beyond our control and what are within our control. We don't waste effort on changing what we have no control or influence, but we can take actions on what we have control over. Most importantly, as Lao Zi emphasizes here, we must do it gently and softly with respect for people. Even if we are right and others are wrong, we don't raise our voices and scold or embarrass them. Softness does mean giving in to others demands. It is just that we insist on our principles with softly. We will express our views with gentle voices, smiling faces and patiently with repetitions.

Going Deeper - The Secret of Happiness is 随 Follow and Adapt
I-Ching, the root of all Chinese Philosophies including Lao Zi's has a hexagram #17 随 Follow and Adapt that explains this 'Soft' concept of Lao Zi in greater extent. See The Secret of Joy in Changes – I-Ching Hexagram 17隨 Following

The principle for success and happiness in life is about being soft and flexible on the outside and solid and strong of Dao within. Be like water. see The Most Powerful Force and Leadership - Adaptive like Water - DaoDeJing 78.

Lim Liat (c) 28-10-2016

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