Category Archives: Virtue

Simplicity

…If you look at a list of antonyms for virtue you will see words like dishonesty, evil, and, imperfection. Practicing these traits will end in ruin. All virtue has inherent power. You can see the inherent power in simplicity.[1]

The root of the word simplicity is simple. The term “simple” can be defined as easy, clear, uncluttered, and, natural.

Simplicity is a virtue because of its altruistic nature (selfless action). Those who are aware of the ego’s desire for details and complexity know how it can hide cunning and trickery. If you look up the antonyms for simplicity you will see complexity, difficulty, and complication.

End sagacity; abandon knowledge

The people benefit a hundred times

End benevolence; abandon righteousness

The people return to piety and charity

End cunning; discard profit

Bandits and thieves no longer exist

These three things are superficial and insufficient

Thus this teaching has its place;

Show plainness; [hold to simplicity]

Reduce selfishness; decrease desires.

Chapter 19 of the Tao Te Ching

The complement to simplicity is honesty. Those who are honest with themselves and others feel no need to make things anything other than easy, clear, straightforward or natural. Telling the truth keeps things simple. Lying is complicated because of the difficulty in keeping the details straight. The more the lie is defended, the more complex it becomes. Often it will evolve into something indefensible, and it will become painfully apparent that the truth would have been much simpler.

Another complement of simplicity would be conservation. The vanity of ego can be the source of non-useful expenditures of resources. Complexity leads to difficulty and complication, which ultimately leads to stress and worry. Stress and worry generate a need to cope which drains your energy and resources…” Excerpt from Chapter 21, Simplicity (Section Two – A study of Virtue)

[1] See chapter 16, True Courage, subsection Inherent Power

About the photo: What better symbol for simplicity than a moment watching the sunrise? Just simply be present with the moment as the natural beauty unfolds. Just observe, witness, and appreciate being alive.

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Moderation

Chapter 24

MODERATION

...Therefore the sage:

Eliminates extremes

Eliminates excess

Eliminates arrogance”

Excerpt from Chapter 29 Tao Te Ching

I define moderation as avoiding excess or extremes. Complements of moderation are balance, harmony, and conservation. There is inherent power in the ability to moderate behavior and choices.

Understanding moderation is not rocket science. Implementing moderation can be quite challenging. Any reasonable person knows and understands that going to the extreme in any situation erodes balance and well-being and that excess leads to depletion. Most people know this. Then why do most people suffer from some form of excess or extreme?

In most cases, it is due to the cause and effect of choices made by ego. These options usually begin with one person and often spreads to include many other people. When the egos of the many collude, it becomes collective ego. It is easy to observe how an individual or a group of people are out of balance. The result of extreme or excessive behavior is evident by the lack of harmony. Here are some examples to consider.

  • Health and fitness harmony (weight, vitality, energy)
  • Mental and emotional peace (self-destructive behaviors and habits)
  • Financial health – income and debt balance
  • Interpersonal relationships – how well do they get along with others. Cooperation, teamwork, friendships, filial relationships)

If you are experiencing any of these, try realizing where a lack of moderation has created disharmony. The deeper insight will be to realize how ego played a role in the choice that led to excess. You can use moderation as a conscious management of decisions and actions so that balance and harmony are maintained in all aspects of life. Moderate choices are only possible when you have learned to manage the ego. Management of the ego is the self-discipline of sovereignty. To gain control the ego, see the chapter 5 on meditation and mindfulness.

The inherent power of moderation as a virtue.

We all have experience challenges in life. Things happen to us, and we find ourselves in stressful situations. When they do, the ego is quick to react. Often the ego will overreact. These are times when we are most likely to go to excess or extreme. The sovereign is mindful of ego reactions and chooses to use a moderated response.

Here is an example where you can see the inherent power of moderation.

“because of her moderate approach to gambling in Las Vegas, she was able to leave the casino with her winnings and invest them in real-estate.”

The lesson: because she managed the ego’s lust and greed for more, she wisely left while she was away. She was then able to invest the net gain winnings into something with stable growth. This example involves other virtues as well as their inherent powers. In this one, you can see, patience, wisdom, moderation, conservation, and constancy.

…Excessive vitality is said to be inauspicious

Mind overusing energy is said to be aggressive

Things become strong and then they grow old

This is called contrary to the Tao

That which is contrary to the Tao will soon perish”

Excerpt: verses 14 – 18, Chapter 55 Tao Te Ching

I included the excerpt from above in Chapter 55, because it is directly relevant to our modern life.

Excessive vitality. Too many people strive to be successful. There is excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks to raise their vitality for high performance. Or they maybe too tired or hung-over from excessive partying the night before. Either way, the pursuit for extreme energy is known to create health problems.

Mind Overusing Energy. This term has many examples. But the one that I want to focus on is worrying. Being concerned about potential problems is a regular part of life. Chronic worrying can quickly become toxic. Too much anxiety is stressful and is a serious imbalance in the mind and body. Many self-induced sicknesses have their beginnings worry-stress. Again the antidote for this is meditation and mindfulness.

Karma. Now is a good time to remind you of the relationship between moderation and karma. Remember the relationship between choices, cause, and effect. Your future, your destiny is being created in the present. When act or react with extreme measures the future results will be even more extreme and problematic. Taoists call karma “the great executioner” because it does not play favorites and you cannot hide from it. No one is exempt. In this regard, it is imperative to use moderation as a management tool to prevent a dreadful destiny. And your circumstance now can be understood by what you did in the past. Take another look at the list above of areas in your life that may be out of balance. These are the results of some choices or reactions from the past. They may be a result of your own decisions or from others. If they are from others, you must still be mindful of how you respond and use moderation as a guide. This insight is also a reminder of how your choices can affect other people. Moderation is the wise approach.

The sovereign takes care in moderating each step along life’s path. Sovereignty is being mindful of how choices affect your destiny and that of others. The sovereign is mindful of the fact that all things are connected and creates a destiny that serves everyone in the best way possible by avoiding ego-indulgent choices. And that is the power of moderation. Conserving and preserving life by preventing extremism.

Humility

The third is called not getting ahead in the world”

from verse 11, Chapter 67, Tao Te Ching

The verse above stating “not getting ahead in the world”, is stating the virtue of humility. This virtue, humility, is a complementary of compassion and conservation. In conserving spirit, you have transcended the self-important perspective of ego. Compassion is having loving kindness and caring for the suffering and well-being of others. The joining of compassion and conservation opens the door to a state of not striving to get ahead in the world or non-self importance. This state of being is humility. Humility or selflessness is the antithesis of ego.

As you gain skill at sovereignty, you gain more and more control over the ego. This is the point that the need for self-importance begins to reside. Neediness is a core principle of the ego-self. The need to have attention, to be seen as the best, to always win is how the ego spends its life. Seeking ”to get ahead in the world”, rather than being like water and seeking the low places” 1.

Like the hub of a wagon wheel, being empty of ego, humility gives function to so many other principles and virtues of the Tao.

Chapter 8: “The highest goodness resembles water,

Water benefits myriad things without contention

It stays in places that people dislike”

Therefore it is similar to the Tao

Chapter 22: “….be low and become filled

Be worn out and become renewed

Have little and receive

Have much and be confused

therefore the sages hold to the one as an example to the world

Without flaunting themselves, they are seen clearly

Without presuming themselves, and are distinguished

Without praising themselves, and so have merit

With boasting about themselves and so are lasting”..

Chapter 28 “…The eternal virtue does not deviate

Return to the state of the boundless

Know the honor, hold the humility”…

Chapter 39 “The honored uses the lowly as a basis

The higher uses the lower as a foundation…”

Chapter 66 “ Rivers and oceans can be the kings of a hundred valleys

Because of their goodness in staying low

So they can be kings of a hundred valleys

Thus is sage wish to be over people

They must speak humbly to them…”

The inherent power of humility the first two treasures possible. Because you are not trying to get ahead in the world, your spirit resides in compassion. Because of your humility you are free from the greedy desire of ego never caring for conservation. The ego is too hungry with desire, it is ignorant to conserving resources. Through Sovereignty, you can engage the inherent powers of the three treasures and experience a long joyful life.

Humility is the principle and centerpiece for so many insights within the Tao. Humility opens the mystic door to the insight that those who are blinded by ego/desire/self-importance cannot see or comprehend the power of humility. Humility is the gateway to the Tao.

1See the chapter on Softness