Blog Series, TaoTeChing

EP2 – The Tao – Duality and Living with Virtue

Verse Two

As soon as beauty is known by the world as beautiful, it becomes ugly.

As soon as virtue is being known as something good, it becomes evil. Therefore being and non-being give birth to each other.

Difficult and easy accomplish each other.

Long and short form each other. High and low distinguish each other.

Sound and tone harmonize each other

Before and after follow each other as a sequence.

Realizing this, the saint performs effortlessly according to the natural Way without personal desire, and practices the wordless teaching thru one’s deeds.

The saint inspires the vitality of all lives, without holding back.

He nurtures all beings with no wish to take possession of.

He devotes all his energy but has no intention to hold on to the merit. When success is achieved, he seeks no recognition.

Because he does not claim for the credit, hence shall not lose it.


Gems from verse Two


We come face to face with duality on a daily basis. It seems like we are hardwired to identify duality. This sometimes become an unconscious pattern of judging all the situations in our life at an alarming rate. It is either good or bad. She/He is fat or slender. Beautiful or ugly. Quiet or noisy. Courteous or rude. Popular or Unpopular. A lot of likes or none at all. Good or evil. Vegan or an animal killer. Now, I am sure you get the point, or you don’t.

I am not about to tell you that labeling or judging things are good or bad. Like Lao Tzu said, “being and non-being give birth to each other”. How can this be understood? Well, if we didn’t know what it was to be cold, how would we know warmth? If we didn’t know darkness, how would we know light? As you can see, duality is useful only in the sense that it helps us to understand, or comprehend, the opposite experience.

Knowing this, how can we start using this understanding in our daily lives?

Like I said previously, intentional awareness is the biggest building block in our attempt to evolve creatively. So firstly, become aware of how you judge or label situations and experiences based on duality. In last week, we went on a bit of a road trip to one of the most scenic routes in Cape Town. On our way I found myself growing more and more with frustration at the taxi drivers. I was convinced that they were driving shitty, which I am sure many people from Cape Town will agree that they do. As I became more aware of my emotional reaction I started exploring why I was feeling that way. The only conclusion was that I had the duality firmly fixed in my mind. The duality of people who don’t care about others and people who drive courteously. The moment this thought came into my awareness I knew what I had to do. I gave up the notion of shitty taxi drivers all together. I gave up my expectations of how things should be. I just stopped making any judgments towards how they were driving and stopped labeling or contextualizing it.

Did that change the way they were driving? Not at all. But it did change the amount of frustration I felt. It actually made me feel more empathetic towards them putting themselves and others in harm’s way. Could you spot the duality in that sentence? It seems like we just cannot get away from it. So why not just accept it.

“…according to the natural Way without personal desire”

When we realize that duality is part of the natural order of things, we can live according to the natural way without desire. We would have no desire to change or judge our experiences or other people. Living without personal desires leaves us free from disappointment. “Desire” in this context could be understood as living without expectations. We have expectations as to how things are meant to be in this life we living. We have expectations about everything. Just, even for a moment, imagine a life without expectations. It is normally difficult to do that. When our cup is filled with expectations, we get into a frenzy when things don’t go as planned. This causes frustration and anxiety. To live free, is to live with no expectations. It is to “inspires the vitality of all lives, without holding back”.  Having no expectations is to give all your energy with “no intention to hold on to the merit”. To seek “no recognition”.

The benefits of living with no personal desire provides us with an opportunity to really and genuinely appreciate when we do get recognition. And if we don’t, we are not disappointed because how sense of being is firmly based on our inner strength and does not depend on getting our personal desires fulfilled.

And in this simple and graceful way we can live with virtue and a deep feeling of humbleness rooted in the knowing that ”

Because he does not claim for the credit, hence shall not lose it.”

Verse One – things to consider to start doing the Tao

  • Increase your awareness of the moments when you notice yourself becoming judgmental
    • Ask yourself ” How is my personal desires or expectations involved in the act of judging this situation?”
  • When you feel frustrated or anxious, explore your expectations of the current situation or person.
    • Ask yourself ” What is it that I truly expect?” also “Can I let go of these expectations?”
  • This might be the most important one. When you allow yourself to let-go of your expectations, celebrate it! In your own personal way, celebrate this moment!

I am sure that anyone can write and dissect the Tao Te Ching way more graceful than me. That is not my point though with this mini blog series. The point is to break it down in simple and easy to digest ways to live more naturally with Tao.


In case you missed it – EP1- The Tao -…the Gate to the essence of all Life.

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