The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Three

Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened

Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful

Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower

Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevity

                                                                 Lao Tzu

In Matthew 7:3, Jesus asks this question of several who came to hear him preach, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” This simple question captures so much of the underlining neurosis common in us all. It is so much easier to see the shortcomings in others than it is to do the introspective work necessary to know and better yourself.  500 years earlier, Lao Tzu gave us Verse Thirty-Three as encouragement to set ourselves on a Path to self-mastery.

To work to know yourself so well that you can meet life’s challenges without attaching judgment is a lifetime commitment. It is possible to know that kind of peace of mind but it does take discipline. Not the type of discipline associated with self-control but the discipline of daily practice with silence.

Meditation is a safe, supportive place where you can come to make friends with yourself. It is the place where you can re-connect with your essential goodness or worthiness. Extending that kind of unconditional love toward yourself can help you feel right in your own skin. It offers you the ability to call up great discernment, demonstrate equanimity and release the need to judge anyone.

Create a place where you can sit comfortably with you back strong and your chest soft, with your knees positioned just a bit lower than your hips, with your arms gently resting on your thighs. Lower your gaze and breathe a natural easy breath. Initially your mind will sound like the noisiest place on earth but with practice and patience; you will slowly be able to make the space between each though longer. It is there, in those silent moments that self-knowledge and self-mastery wait for you.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.

Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you,

not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” The Buddha


One thought on “The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Three

  1. Phyllis,
    You have introduced me to the Tao Te Ching in a wonderfully unique and pragmatic way. The way these beautiful truths inform your practice is amazing. As usual, thank you for sharing.

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