Chapter 3 Discussion – Tao Te Ching Today Ep 0006

Posted by on March 13, 2012

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Hi! Welcome to Tao Te Ching Today. Today we move in to chapter 3, one of the more political chapters that Lao Tzu wrote for the Tao Te Ching and he peppered these throughout the book because what was asked was that he write a tome that could be read by leaders and the non-leaders alike in living a better life and so we’re moving to that today. Let’s roll.


Hi. Welcome to Tao Te Ching Today where we talk about the reality of the Tao Te Ching and Tao from Lao Tzu’s eyes, I am your host Sean Webb. Today we move in to chapter 3 and I’ll be reading first from Robert Hendricks translation and chapter 3 starts:

“By not elevating the worthy, you bring it about that people will not compete. By not valuing goods that are hard to obtain, you bring it about that people will not act like thieves. By not displaying the desirable you bring it about that people will not be confused.

Therefore, in the government of the Sage: He empties their minds, and fills their bellies. Weakens their ambition, and strengthens their bones.

He constantly causes the people to be without knowledge and without desires. If he can bring it about that those with knowledge simply do not dare to act, then there is nothing that will not be in order.”

Now, this is a highly controversial concept because in a capitalist society and an economy run on capitalism, you want people to be greedy, you want people to be motivated, you want people to be striving for more. Striving for that big screen TV, striving for that extra car, striving for that bigger house, striving for the things that you dictate are desirable. And let me tell you what… it IS subjective… because I used to be one who thought that a bigger house and a fancier cars and more stuff was desirable… and now… the less crap I have, the better. That’s the most desirable existence for me. The less stuff that owns me, awesome! I’m looking forward to giving away more stuff every day of my life and I have a very stiff rule in our household for me anyway and that if I haven’t touched something in 6 months, it’s gone! I don’t care how much value that item may contain in society’s eyes, I get rid of it!

And that to me… is a better existence than going out and getting that bigger TV, or going out and getting that fancier car, and going out and getting that bigger house that has to be taken care of. I’d rather spend my time with lesser things enjoying life and doing stuff than managing the things that I own. Right…? So, it is subjective what society puts on us from an ideal existence standpoint, from that picture of desirability.

And so, from a governmental standpoint this is Lao Tzu’s attempt to have leaders understand what a peaceful society could look like and he’s talking about managing the existence of the ego within the subjects of a country. By not elevating the worthy, you bring about the people will not compete, people will not strive, people will not fight each other for possessions or things. By not valuing goods that are hard to obtain, you bring it about that people will not act like thieves… and literally… this is true. If you release all attachment within your mind and if you could go around tapping people on the heads that would release all need for attachment to things within their minds… thieves would not exist. Thievery would go away. No one would yearn for items which they did not have which they could take from someone else. It wouldn’t exist and this is hinting at an enlightened mind.

“By not displaying the desirable you bring it about that people will not be confused.”

Right, if you don’t create a desirable picture, you won’t confuse people from the truth of the universe, which is that everything is beautiful; the earth gives us every bit of sustenance and entertainment and life that we would need without having to go out and make a bunch of crap to distract us so they wouldn’t become confused with those things.

“Therefore the government of the Sage, he empties their minds”… in that, he empties their minds with these wantful things. “He fills their bellies”… because one of the things that are a need or a want or a yearning that goes beyond the mind is the body asking for sustenance. So when you fill their bellies, you’re quieting their bodies as well. “He weakens their ambition.” He weakens their needs to become a certain title, become a certain attachment of their mind. To be attached to that house on the lake or that multiple house or that extra big car or whatever it is. He weakens their ambitions to strive for being extra more than the perfection of being human.

“And he strengthens their bones”… in that he strengthens their bodies, he strengthen their existence, their resolve in being just what they are. “He constantly causes the people to be without knowledge and without desire”… and this goes to the argument that knowledge of men is corrupt and when you look at knowledge from that black and white perspective, knowledge of nature is perfect. Knowledge of your experience is great, it’s perfect, it’s awesome, it’s correct. Knowledge of men enables the judgments… the thoughts… surrounding the existence and THAT is what is evil, THAT is what creates pain and suffering. And so, if he causes the people to be without knowledge and desires, realistically what that means is you’re removing pain and suffering from within your people. So as that sounds like a bad statement because he constantly causes the people without knowledge and desires, what we’re talking about there is man’s knowledge, man’s judgment, man’s tainted filter through which he sees the world. So when you’re denying people knowledge, (it’s a judgment to say that we would be denying people “bad” knowledge… but) you’re removing the evil influence of man within the mind of your people and allowing them to exist in a perfect natural existence.

And so if you can bring about it that those with knowledge simply do not dare to act. Though if he brings about it that the people with judgment, the people with ideas that are destructive, the people that hold in their minds the attachments that can lead to strife then, there is nothing that will not be in order in that country. And so, this could be the ideal existence if that were our only driving force of course in a capitalist society there is a number of attachments that people have within their minds and so then you also create activities surrounding filling people’s needs for things. And so there’s a ton of activity and you have to have some kind of motivation to get people out of bed to get them to go to jobs so that we can keep the illusion going. So, I don’t know that this is realistic in today’s world unless everyone were to be enlightened but it would be the ultimate existence and the ultimate society if it were be able to work.

Now because most of us aren’t leaders of countries or leaders of society, I’ll go ahead and skip how we implement chapter 3 in our everyday lives for next week and we’ll go ahead and move in to chapter 4. So until then then if you like to get a complimentary book on audible, you can go to to get a free book or a 30 day trial of their service, it’s an awesome service. I’ve been a member for four years, check ‘em out. They’re awesome, Anyway, you can pick up a physical copy of your Tao Te Ching from Amazon by going to one of our links at and when you do so, you don’t pay any more for the Tao Te Ching but we get a couple of pennies for sending you, so we appreciate that. Until next week, we’re moving to chapter 4. I hope you’re well.

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