November 19th, 2009

Chapter sixty-seven: Three treasures (I. Mercy)

everybody says my way is great
but improbable.

All greatness
is improbable.
What's probable
is tedious and petty.

I have three treasures.
I keep and treasure them.
The first, mercy,
the second, moderation,
the third, modesty.
If you're merciful you can be brave,
if you're moderate you can be generous,
and if you don't presume to lead
you can lead the high and mighty.

But to be brave without compassion,
or generous without self-restraint,
or to take the lead,
is fatal!

Compassion wins the battle,
and holds the fort;
it is the bulwark set
around those heaven helps.

Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching.
Interpreted by Ursula Le Guin.
goban
  • trevoke

67

Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great and beyond compare.
Because it is great, it seems different.
If it were not different, it would have vanished long ago.

I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy; the second is economy;
The third is daring not to be ahead of others.
From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity;
From humility comes leadership.

Nowadays men shun mercy, but try to be brave;
They abandon economy, but try to be generous;
They do not believe in humility, but always try to be first.
This is certain death.

Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
It is the means by which heaven saves and guards.
-
-
Everywhere I go, people tell me,
"Tao is so powerful, so immense,
it's inconceivable!"

But it's only powerful
because it's inconceivable.
If we could wrap our minds around it,
Tao would be just another thing.

The three most important qualities in life
are compassion,
or showing kindness and mercy to others,
moderation,
or knowing what a thing is worth,
and modesty,
or knowing your place in the world.

Courage stems from showing
kindness and mercy to others.
Generosity starts with knowing
what a thing is worth.
True leadership begins with knowing
your place in the world.

But these days,
I see everyone trying to act courageous
without any trace of compassion.
They try to be generous
but they don't practice moderation
in their own lives.
They act like leaders,
but they have no sense of modesty.
No good can come of this.

If you want to get ahead,
show people compassion.
When other people attack you,
defend yourself with compassion.
It's the most powerful force in the universe.
-

The first version is from the Fortune files. The second version is the Beatrice Tao.