The ego seeks complexity
Those of ancient times who were adept at the Tao
Used it not to make people brighter
But to keep them simple
The difficulty in governing people
Is due to their excessive cleverness.
Therefore using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a thief of the state
Not using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a blessing of the state.
Know that these two are both standards
Always knowing these standards is Mystic Virtue
Mystic Virtue is so profound and so far reaching
It goes opposite to material things
Then it reaches great congruence.
The ego loves complexity and confusion because it creates opportunity for manipulation. Interestingly, this was as important 2500 years ago as it is today. Yet one can realize that this concept of ego and complexity goes back even further. The first lines written by Lao Tzu 2500 years ago refers to the “ancients”. Lao Tzu was referring to wisdom that was a few thousand years old in his time ! So we can quickly see that ego trickery has been around for a long time. Today, we see the modern version of this when we go to purchase something, only to be overwhelmed with complexity and detail.
The greedy needy aspect of self serving ego loves to confuse and misdirect for the intention of serving itself. Trying to keep up with the complexity only wears the individual down and in the end they are overwhelmed and give in because it is just too much. Perhaps you may remember an experience buying a car, computer, or some complicated service where you found the more you tried to understand how things worked, the more complex it became. On those occasions where ego is at work, there is cleverness with the intention for manipulation. In many cases, they just want your money. The ego and collective ego of the organization to which you are interacting with is just in it for themselves and just want your money, your vote, your whatever it is that is being sought. Complexity and confusion creates opportunity for the non-virtuous and self serving.
In the passages of chapter 65, it can be effective in applying this understanding that the “state” is your life path, and the “people” those who you interact with on a daily basis. Using cleverness to manipulate people to enhance your life is a function of the ego mind. Since the path of virtue, leads to mystic virtue, following the path of ego leads to disharmony. Disharmony leads to failure at life and suffering.
When the opportunity to help relieve the suffering of someone along our path presents itself, we have the choice to respond in either a virtuous manner of compassion and empathy or with egoic self serving. When we are suffering and when others are suffering, they are vulnerable. As a virtuous and spiritual being we can choose to walk the higher path and help others in a simple straight forward manner. Or… as in the case of evil ego, we can, in a moment of self serving, create an opportunity to manipulate a vulnerable being through cleverness and trickery to get what we want.
If you are thinking that it seems that those people seem successful because gain wealth and prestige, then you are only seeing things on the surface level. The underlying reality is that “great executioner” which is karma (cause and effect) will return all that the ego put into action. Besides that, those who understand ego, understand that the ego is never satisfied. Ego can at best only feel a fleeting moment of satisfaction or fulfillment because of the nature of its inherent desire. Those who reside as the true self, the spiritual self, know that true fulfillment does not come from the material plane. True joy and lasting fulfillment only come through mystic virtue. We can be mindful of our intentions and discern what we are doing and why. We can be self aware and step away from ego when we find that we are about take advantage of someone and using cleverness for self gain. We can also use self awareness and realize when someone, some ego, is attempting to manipulate us with complexity and cleverness. You can at once see your own ego being needy and vulnerable and the opposing ego taking advantage. And that is a formula for suffering. Two egos circling each other, one manipulating and the other being manipulated. It creates a downward circularity that ends in suffering for all involved. Yet it does not and should not be this way.
As Tao cultivators, we can embrace the three treasures and use them as a compass for guiding us along life’s path. We can first be compassionate and empathize with another’s situation. We can be conservative and keep things simple and straightforward and remember to be humble by embracing selflessness. Only through mystic virtue can we experience the extraordinary successful life.