Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Tao of Self-Governance

In light of the ongoing indignation against so-called democratic governments, here are a few salient thoughts from Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese treatise on the natural order of things, a perhaps utopian ideal where people may live whilst enjoying real freedom and happiness, instead of the grief-stricken and abusive facade of a free world we live in.

Yours truly on a political rampage by chance of circumstances...

The exact details of contemporary application will of course vary a good deal, as we're living a fair 2500 years apart in a radically different world, but the heart of the ideology of a passive mode of government, where the people themselves make the decisions and bear the responsibility, is something that strikes a strong chord in me. I've heard something eerily similar in spirit presented as pure democracy — though it'd really be but a platform towards fully natural collectives for hatching inherent human potential.

The Tao of Good and Bad Government 


"To be concerned about whether people look upon you with favour, or whether you are in disgrace, is to live in fear. Why does concern with favour and disgrace imply living in fear? Favour corrupts you; you fear losing it, and yet you are convinced you do not deserve it.

"A ruler may treat the welfare of his own body above the welfare of the political body [the people]; that would make him unworthy of trust. A ruler who treats the political body with as much care as he treats his own body, is worthy of trust."


"The best leaders are hardly known to their people; they are shadowy figures in the eyes of those they rule [because they stay out of the way]. The next best leaders are those who are known and admired by their people. Below them come leaders who are feared by their people. And the worst leaders are those, who are despised by their people.

"If leaders do not trust their people, their people will not trust them; if they give no trust, they will receive no trust. If leaders enable their people to live well, and do not fuss or boast of their achievements, then the people will take the credit for themselves, saying: 'We did that.'" [And so learn to become adept and rely on themselves.]


"In ruling his country, the king should do what is expected [by people]. In winning a war, he should do what is unexpected. In controlling the world, a person should do nothing. ... The more rules and regulations there are in the world, the poorer people become. The more experts a country has, issuing edicts on every aspect of life, the more confused people become. ...

"Thus the wise leader says: 'I shall do nothing, and let the people look after themselves. I shall enjoy tranquility, and let the people find justice for themselves. I shall avoid interfering in the conduct of business, and let the people prosper on their own. I myself am free from desire; let those who are wise among my people share my freedom."


"In ruling the people and in serving heaven, it is best for a ruler to be inactive. If he is inactive from the start of his rule, the people will soon learn to expect inactivity from him; and thus they will learn to rule themselves. As a result, his country will enjoy an abundance of virtue; and he himself will be invulnerable, because he will have no enemies.

"When the inactive ruler decides on rare occasions to be active, no-one will oppose him, because they will have forgotten how to oppose. Thus the inactive ruler has unlimited power. But he will retain this power only so long as he uses it sparingly. The inactive ruler is like a tree with deep roots and and strong trunk. The less a ruler uses his power, the longer he keeps it."


- Translations adapted from Robert Van De Weyer's "366 Readings from Taoism and Confucianism".


Vegman said...

Looks awfully cold and dreary there in Hellsinki. Jesus saves!

Mr. Ananda said...

It's a shame he doesn't save from bad weather, otherwise we might be in business... Overall the whole covenant deal should get a good reworking with bundled natural benefits, especially in our days of religious recession.

Mr. Ananda said...

For everyone wondering why the source book for the translations combines Taoism and Confucianism, Van De Veyer writes in his Introduction (p. ix):

"The teachings of Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius), and those of his greatest follower Meng Tzu (Mencius), are often contrasted with those of the great Taoist teachers. But in fact there is a large overlap, and the differences are complementary. Thus they are included in this volume."

The extent of their complementing each other is of course a whole issue to hash through.

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