The Tao Te Ching — The Commentary for Poem #2: Self Culture-Self Development

A portal and an exploration of great and profound wisdom for deep thinkers.

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The Tao Te Ching, The Tao Te Ching (in simplified Chinese: 道德经; also known as the Lao Tzu or Laozi, which is also the name of the author) is a Chinese classic text over 2,600 years old. This important work, consisting of 81 paragraphs is fundamental reading for understanding the pure nature of love, as well as the mystical, philosophical, and religious elements in Taoism and Zen.

The Tao Te Ching is a primary text for, existentialists, atheists, agnostics, and serious spiritual seekers.

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Photo by Jack Prichett on Unsplash

Here is the commentary for Poem #2: Self-Culture, and Self-Development.

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by Pixabay

…Now here is the commentary as promised…

Life is for the most part an experience of dualities. These dualities are subjective experiences. Thus tall or long is seen in relation to what is perceived to be short. Here, short is experienced because it is the opposite of tall or long. This concept also applies to hot and cold, fat and thin, top and bottom, yes and no.

There is also front and back, and beautiful and ugly. Each thing is a reflection of its opposite.

Lao states that this way of thinking also applies an awareness of good and bad. In this entry, Lao points out that these dualities are not always rational or logical. Often they are experienced counter-intuitively, and through paradox, contradiction and ambiguity.

Also, it is fair to say we cannot have something unless we have awareness of what not having it might be like.

Further to understand harmony one needs to know disharmony. With greater wisdom, we soon come to understand that when the necessary struggle is transcended, ease is the result, and that ease that comes from delusion and lack of clear intention often leads to unnecessary struggle. These opposites serve each other by helping us make sense of the world. This concept is illustrated fully through how musical notes and tones create harmony in sound through the relation of one with another.

When a person understands how opposites serve each other and integrates this understanding into how a person lives life, this individual achieves an understanding of true and profound wisdom.

At this stage, a person has a distinction between want and need and need. This Awakened individual is a person who requires little to be content. Others can learn from these Awakened individuals by mirroring how they behave. This is a way of teaching that does not require formal lessons or words.


This Awakened individual also seems able to maintain their psychological and emotional equilibrium no matter how the environment changes or when challenging circumstances arise. Awakened individuals have no regrets about the past or expectations for the future. They are mindful and live in the moment. In this sense, they are not really here and yet are totally here.

…More about the Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching had a strong influence on the development of Chan Buddhism, the form of Buddhism that eventually led to Zen. In 1972 I began a 40-year long project of researching word for word and sentence by sentence over 20 Mandarin to English translations of the Tao Te Ching to create what many experts believe to be the most truthful, and accurate meta-analysis of the Tao Te Ching ever organized. Many artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and gardeners, have used this meta-analysis and the related commentaries, of which this story is one, as a source of inspiration.

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By L. Harrison

The influence of the Tao Te Ching has spread widely outside East Asia and it is among the most translated works in world literature. It is studied by people of all faiths as a source of wisdom, spiritual clarity, and life lessons.

I look forward to reading your comments about this story.

Author — Lewis Harrison is a pioneering psychonaut, writer, and teacher. He offers a wide range of personalized and customized online courses on Zen, Taoism, personal development, self-improvement, and various life lessons. To learn about these courses and to read his extended posts go to

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I offer advice on the arts, innovation, self-improvement, life lessons, mental health, game theory strategies, and love.

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