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Tao Te Ching: Expectation and disappointment March 22, 2016

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Tao Te Ching.
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By Dennis Mellersh

The Tao Te Ching tells us that we will be at peace if we become perfectly at-one with the Way of the Tao.

Consider this passage from section 55 as interpreted/translated by Stephen Mitchell*, which describes the power of the Tao Master:

He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

The pursuit of achieving a mindfulness which is without expectation is part of the overall message of the Tao Te Ching, and it reinforces this concept throughout its pages.

It does this in various ways, including this passage from section 9, that illustrates the paradox of logical expectation producing unintended or unforeseen negative results:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.

The remedy?

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity

Note: In this short post I have quoted a source more extensively than I would normally in order to give readers an idea of the simplicity or elegance of Mitchell’s translation and its ability to succinctly present complex ideas. It’s a book that can be referred to again and again to bring fresh clarity in understanding the way of the Tao.

* Tao Te Ching,  A New English Version, Stephen Mitchell, HarperPerennial, 1991

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