Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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1. “At favor (as disgrace) take fright:
2. Honors to the self bring woe.
3. “Explain 'At favor (as disgrace) take fright.'”
4. “What could be more dire than favor?
5. Its gain—or loss—betokens danger.
6. Such is the meaning.
7. “Explain 'Honors to the self bring woe.'”
8. “Our selves are why we suffer harm;
9. Without them what harm would there be?
10. So to the one
11. Who honors self above the world
12. Confide its care;
13. To the one
14. Who holds the self more dear than it
15. Entrust its care.

COMMENT The key word in this stanza is self, shen. For Laozi honoring self means protecting it from the world. The word shen has many dimensions. It refers to the physical body in time (its life span) as well as in space; it also refers to the body's social extensions: personality, roles, identity, and character. Shen can also refer to the living generation in relation to generations past.

For the Daoists who eschew legalism and bureaucratic service, right rule depends on the ruler's abnegation. If the ruler remains uncompromised by self-interest and self-will, he will be receptive to the Way, mediating it through his rule without impediment. Adhering to the Way alone, such a ruler has no need for law or history as models. The implication of Laozi's references to a ruler using the


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