10 October 2016

The Great Wisdom for Living - DaoDeJing 33

The great wisdom for life is best described by Lao Zi in DaoDeJing Chapter 33. It is not about working smart or working hard. It is more than just about loving others or doing the right things. Those are obvious and fundamental values or virtues. It addresses the concepts of knowledge, power, wealth, and longevity. 
DaoDeJing Chapter 33 The Original Text and Translation:

知人者智,自知者明;
Knowing others is wisdom. Self-awareness is understanding.

胜人者有力,自胜者强;
Winning against others have strengths. Winning against ourselves is truly strong.

知足者富,强行者有志;
Contentment is wealth. Persevere in action shows determination and aspiration.

不失其所者久,死而不亡者寿。
Being true to oneself is lasting. Died and yet his legacy lives on is a long life.

1 Knowing Self and Others
In the Art of War, Sun Zi tells us that we must know others and then know self. Our strengths and weaknesses cannot be self-claimed but measured against the enemy that we are going to engage. In Gui Gu Zi's Strategic Persuasion, knowing others begins with knowing self. There is no contradiction here. We must know our character, thinking biases and our ignorance that we may be able to perceive things more accurately and comprehensively.  If we are impulsive, we must learn to stay cool and be more patience in order find out more about others. If we are presumptuous and narrow-minded, we must surround ourselves with people that think differently from us in order to get a true picture of reality. Knowing others also help us to know about ourselves. Confucius reminds us to learn from those that are better than us and not to make the mistakes that others committed. We are to examine our behavior when we the bad behaviors of others. 

2. True Strength is Self-Control or Mastering Oneself
Bosses are able to command others to do things. But are they able to control their temper and selfishness?  Are we the master over wealth and using and enjoying the wealth we gained or are we enslaved by wealth forever not satisfy and wanting more?

3. Contented and Yet Progressive
If we are driven by greed and forever not satisfied, then no matter how much we have, we always want more, always having a feeling of lack and needs. We will never be happy then. Contentment does not, as many people have misunderstood, means not wanting to make progress. Lao Zi tells us that we can and should both. On the one hand, we are happy at the present situation and yet on the other hand, we aspire to make it even better. Contentment and aspiration can do together. Our contentment gives us the strength and confidence to do better. Security brings progress. Fear regresses and changes not.

4. Leaving a Legacy
Not losing our values and identity makes us lasting. But life can be more than our life span. Our ability to influence future generations are not limited by our life on earth.  Consider how what you can leave behind even after your death. 

For more in-depth study of this chapter, see
The Four Principles for Greatness
  1. The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self 
  2. The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self
  3. The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better 
  4. The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy
Lim Liat (c) 10 Oct 2016

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