Three Precious Attributes

One of the essential chapters of the Tao Te Ching to me is the sixty-seventh, on the three precious attributes, love, simplicity and selflessness. These are the aspects of myself that I strive to nurture and act with in all I do. Through every event in my life I’ve had the merits of these attributes reaffirmed in both subtle and grand ways. The true sages of all cultures, from Jesus to Buddha to the elders of The Dobe !Kung (a people of the Kalahari Desert), promote these as high virtues, and each of us should take heed of this great wisdom.
Diane Dreher translated part of this chapter in her book The Tao of Inner Peace, and I found it especially direct.

“I hold three treasures
Close to my heart.
The first is love;
The next, simplicity;
The third, overcoming ego.”
-Tao Te Ching (Dreher, 67)

These are absolutely treasures. They build the finest, most joyous, most rewarding lives. The happiest people I have met are those who fill their lives with love and generosity, who don’t waste energy and resources on things that don’t offer them true value and who are humble in all they do. We are not enriched by excess, by extravagant or overcomplicated things, by apathy, or by selfishness.

“Those who follow the natural way
are different from others in three respects.
They have great mercy and economy,
and the courage not to compete.
From mercy there comes courage;
from economy, generosity;
and from humility, willingness to lead from behind.
It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful,
and to acclaim only heroic deeds,
to abandon economy, and to be selfish.
They are sick, who are not humble,
but try always to be first.
Only he who is compassionate
can show true bravery,
and in defending, show great strength.
Compassion is the means by which
mankind may be guarded and saved,
for heaven arms with compassion,
those whom it would not see destroyed.”
-Tao Te Ching (Rosenthal, 67)

The sickness mentioned here is sadly far-ranging in our world. Political leaders, business leaders and countless other members of our societies are afflicted by this and put our world in great risk of hardship. We all can learn a great deal from this one short passage and transform the way we live. Isn’t it remarkable how much wisdom can be found in a text over two and a half millennia old?

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