Monday, May 13, 2019

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 59

“Everything in moderation,” goes the adage. The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism is described as the “middle way.” A meditation instruction teaches “not too tight, not too loose.” 

The concept of moderation is the foundation of this chapter.

Governing people in alignment with heaven
Is accomplished only through moderation

As with other chapters on governing, I find this most helpful when I think of self governance.

The character for moderation  啬  has components that mean come, from, earth, return. Returning, we are told elsewhere in the Tao Te Ching, is the motion of Tao. There is a cycle of manifestation into form, and a return to formlessness. Like an inhale and exhale. 

The center of this cycle, the liminal space between form and formless, the pause between the inhale and the exhale, represents this concept of moderation. Moderation is the point of balance between one extreme and the other. 

The Tao Te Ching is fond of using a cascading structure in some chapters. Perhaps this aided in remembering what was at one time passed down through oral tradition. 

Moderation means early attunement (or attunement from the beginning)
Early attunement means the accumulation of Te (Virtue)
The accumulation of Virtue leads to mastery
Mastery leads to limitless awareness
Limitless awareness leads to aligned governance
Aligned governance leads to the eternal
The deep roots of the eternal offer infinite perception of Tao

Admittedly, that might be a bit hard to follow. However, if we consider the overall arc of this chapter, especially in terms of self governance, we can see the connection between the middle way of moderation and our alignment with the sacred energy moving between heaven and earth. 

When we swing too far in one direction or another, we lose this alignment. We must then use our energy to maintain this imbalance, or we compensate by swinging to the other extreme. But when we follow this middle way, our steps are effortless, and we are always attuned to the guidance of nature (Tao). 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." ~Isaiah 30:21


  1. Thanks, Galen! You have added even more thought provoking depth to this Verse. After reading Stephen Mitchell's translation of it a number of months ago, I wrote/designed a five movement Qigong to celebrate "moderation" and practice it in my moments. Your insights regarding the moment between our inhale and exhale and self governance REALLY speak to me, now.

    1. Hey, CD. Always good to hear from you. I'm intrigued by the idea of creating Qigong movement inspired by the chapter. I'm often struck by the correlation between what I practice in martial arts and the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. Each seems to reflect the other.

      I just received today a book recommended to me by one of my taiji teachers -- The Dao De Jing: A Qigong Interpretation, by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. He translates each chapter and offers both a general and a qigong interpretation. I haven't had time to start reading it yet, but the connection between energy/breath work and the Tao Te Ching seems clear.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you are doing well.

  2. Another enlightening post to read; thank you for it. I do believe in Moderation in all things. I think of it as being on a path and stay on it. I like Isaiah and especially the part: "This is the way; walk in it." We talk often of staying on the covenant path and holding on to the word of God.
    Thanks for this one; I loved reading it.
    Sending happy thoughts and hugs your way!

    1. Thanks, LeAnn. Isaiah is my favorite book in the Bible. There are so many passages that speak to me. Hope you had a good Mother's Day.

  3. Thank you for this fine meditation on moderation. I too find moderation in all things to be the way my heart wishes to follow. The world today is so scary, and I know that we all have much to face in the coming months and years, but if I attempt to stay mindful of the sacred world within and without me, I will make it through. Sending you much love.

    1. Beautifully said. It's the only way to make it through, I think. Thanks for the love, DJan. Sending some back to you.


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