“The ultimate purpose of the Tao Te Ching is to provide us with wisdom and insights that we can apply to life. If we cannot do that then it doesn’t matter how well we understand the passage. The true Tao must be lived.” Derek Lin1
I define wisdom as the intelligence that consciously combines knowledge and experience for sound judgment. There are many books and articles that use the phrase “wisdom of the Tao”. I take that to mean, intelligence gained through study and practice of Tao lessons in everyday life. However, it is important to note the distinction of knowing the wisdom and using the wisdom. Acquiring knowledge alone is not enough. To benefit from the real power of wisdom, you must actually cultivate it and use in the moment by moment choices that create your destiny. The opposite of wisdom is ignorance and stupidity. A colloquial definition of stupidity or ignorance is to keep repeating the same destructive mistakes expecting new and different results.
There are two main points I hope that you will gain from this study of wisdom. One is to cultivate wisdom and the other is to choose to use it.
I believe that there are two parts to cultivating wisdom. They are experience and knowledge. Of the two, experience is the key ingredient and knowledge is a by product. Our society seems to promote the opposite of this path which is striving for knowledge with little regard for wisdom. The pursuit of knowledge is something the ego is fond of when the motivation is for vanity, greed or intent on manipulation.
The distinction is that learning and training to build knowledge is sound when it is intended as a foundation to build experience. Later when you have practiced what you learned in real life experiences, your wisdom will be true. The wisdom of the Tao follows the same process. You are to study the Tao lessons and gain experience through use in everyday life. Over time, you become conditioned to be guided by what you have learned through the teachings and your experiences.
The wisdom is found in both failure and success. One teaches you what leads to failure and one teaches what leads to success. Over time, your experience becomes the true wisdom.
The other point to know is that the gained experience must be applied. Wisdom has no value if you do not listen to it and use it. This may sound mundane but it happens every time your ego overrides your wisdom. It is the reason that smart people make stupid mistakes.
The sovereign ability to rule over the ego is what this book is about. In that important moment of choice, you can be aware of the many options available. The voice of the ego will often be the loudest. Sovereignty is accessing your wisdom-mind whose intelligence is learned from both knowledge and experience. In that moment, you can override the emotional ego and make a wise choice.
Again, meditation and mindfulness practice will provide the presence of mind and awareness to make a wise choice. Without this skill, your mind will be captivated by the ego influence and the emotions that go with it. Emotions, mood, and desire can be the cause of obvious mistakes.
Tao cultivators can remain calmly detached from these negative factors so that the wisdom-mind can prevail.
The inherent power of wisdom is the right action of intelligence. One of the complements2 of patience is wisdom. Patience can provide the space and opportunity for wisdom by controlling the reactive ego. Detachment can provide the opportunity for patience. You can see these virtues work together in a tapestry to create wisdom. You just have to be present and self-aware.
Wisdom is one of the power virtues of Sovereignty. And remember what Lao Tzu stated in chapter 59; verses 5-9:
“Accumulating virtues means that there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome
One’s limits are unknown
The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting”
1Excerpt from Tao Te Ching – Annotated and Explained. Written by Derek Line, published by Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT Published 2009.
2Complement (no compliment) something completes or perfects the associated virtue.