Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 61

This chapter address the theme of power in the context of the relationship between large and small countries. Like other chapters addressing nations and government, this chapter can also apply to individuals – how we govern ourselves and how we relate to others.

A large country is like a river delta
The lowest point where all streams converge
Manifesting the receptive stillness of the feminine
It absorbs the power of all the water that flows into it

The Tao Te Ching often uses the image of water to describe the natural movement and energy of Tao. Water naturally flows towards the lowest point. The character for low 下 is used nine times in this chapter and can also mean underneath or humble.

The chapter goes on to describe the relationship of large and small countries, explaining that harmony between them is fostered not by force but by mutual respect and humility. An image that comes to mind is the practice in some cultures of bowing, each party offering respect rather than demanding it.

Bowing is often a part of martial arts ritual. Teachers and students bow to each other. Higher and lower ranked students bow to each other. Sparring partners bow to each other before and after combat.

Humility is sometimes confused with weakness or passivity or being taken advantage of. Or humiliation, which is a function of ego, whereas humility is a relinquishment of ego.

As we see in this chapter, humility is a quality of strength and power, like the power of the ocean that lies below all the waters of the earth. True power comes not from force, as anyone who practices martial arts will tell you. There will always be someone stronger. True power comes from alignment with the natural energy of the universe, allowing that energy to flow unimpeded.

Humility is a quality we used to value. It is one of the fruits of the spirit listed in the Bible. But as we look at nations and world leaders today, as we look at those who excel in sports, and those who attain celebrity status for reasons no one can identify, it seems that self promotion and self aggrandizement are the coin of the realm.

This chapter has led me to contemplate the place of humility in my own life. Is this a quality of the people I admire? Do I catch myself when ego puffs up? Do I value the opportunities I have to learn from others and to be in caring relationships when I check my ego at the door of life and bow to the beauty of every moment’s blessing?

I’m practicing….

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5

10 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching – Chapter 61”

  1. The longer I live, Galen, the more I come to realize that humility is the source of the true strength that comes from God. When we submit, He empowers. Our egos are reduced, His presence is contagious with others around us. Oh, how I want to grow and mature in this faith!
    Blessings, my friend!

  2. Thank you, Martha. One of the reasons I love my practice of martial arts is that it keeps me humble. I am almost always the oldest person, and there are plenty of folks younger, stronger, and much more skilled than I am. If I somehow forget and walk in the door with my ego, I can assure you I never leave with it!

  3. '……humility is a relinquishment of ego'

    It seems that humility may be a quality which expresses a high level of spiritual maturity in an individual or group. Most spiritual paths point toward humility as virtue and the relinquishment of ego is all part of the process of being humble.

    The practice of bowing toward others is very honorable act. In our culture many will bow their head very slightly if they great others with respect. The eastern cultures get their whole body into it and some fold their hands, palms together over their heart in a prayerful position. Some say 'namaste' as they bow. The spirit in one individual acknowledges the spirit in the other. Divinity honors divinity.

    When I wake ever morning, getting out of bed ,I often do the palms together and bow slightly towards the universe as I say thank you. I am in this way thankful and at the same time trusting the power of life as my guide for the day. It is something I started doing naturally months ago and I will continue it as a practice.

    I enjoy reading what you write Galen.

  4. I think humble people are worth emulating, not ego driven braggarts. I like what you say here about bowing, and how your practice of martial arts helps keep you humble. As I grow older, I remember how much I loved practicing tai chi and think perhaps it's time in my life to take it up again. I love your posts about the I Ching chapters. Thank you, dear friend 🙂

  5. I hope you do take up your tai chi practice again, DJan. It teaches me so much beyond the physical and health benefits I get from it. At our age, though, the physical and health benefits are considerable, especially pertaining to flexibility and balance, as I wrote in a recent post "Why We Practice."

    Thanks for commenting.

    Just to clarify, the chapters I write about are from the Tao Te Ching. The I Ching is a different text and also full of wisdom. I am glad you enjoy these posts.

  6. Thanks, Brian. That is a lovely practice of bowing to greet the day. I often bow before and after meditation. Thankful and trusting…I love that.

  7. I really enjoyed reading every one of your wise words today. I wish there was some way to get your words out in the world on this one.
    You speak clear truths on how nations interact and also people in good ways of respect. I wish there were more doing that.
    Developing Christlike attributes is a goal of mine and humility is a very important one.
    Thanks, again for you incites today.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs!

  8. Thanks, LeAnn. You are welcome to share my post in any way you like. I'm reading a book right now based on the inner castle of the soul described by Teresa d'Avila. Within the castle are many rooms and levels of spiritual soul work to approach the divine. The very first level is the level of humility. Without it, one cannot access the upper levels. It is the gateway to all the other virtues. Thanks so much for commenting, LeAnn.

  9. You say: 'Do I value the opportunities I have to learn from others and to be in caring relationships when I check my ego at the door of life and bow to the beauty of every moment’s blessing?' This is so well expressed, Galen. It is what we can strive for. There is strength in leaving one's ego at the door and strength in humility. When I began practising spotting my ego stirring me up and then practising letting it go, I felt so much more free. Being humble can do this too, i think. And Bryan is right, I feel, humility is part of spiritual maturity – such a far cry from how human affairs seems to be operating these days! I like to look for the good in others where I find it (with a kind of nameste nod to their spirit) and to not take the bad personally. Always an on going practice, but so worth it.

  10. Your comment reminds me of the story about the professor who visits the Zen master. The master pours tea in the professor's cup until it is overflowing. When the professor objects, the master tells him he is like the cup — too full. The master tells him he must empty himself before he can learn anything. That is a great lesson in humility. Imagine if that was a virtue that we truly valued in today's world! You are so right that it leads to freedom. Thanks for commenting, Lynne.

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