Saturdao 11

Dao De Jing, verse 7

16 translations

1. James Legge:
Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long.
The reason heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long
Is that they do not live of, or for, themselves.
This is how they are able to continue and endure.
Therefore the sage puts his own person last,
and yet it is found in the foremost place;
he treats his person as if it were foreign to him,
and yet that person is preserved.
Is it not because he has no personal and private ends,
that therefore such ends are realised?
2. Archie Bahm:
The principle of initiation persists; and the principle of completion continues also.
Why do such opposing principles persist? Because they inhere in Nature, rather than stand by themselves.
That is why opposites endure.
The intelligent man, when an issue arises, stands off and observes both contentions.
Since he does not take sides, he never loses a battle.
By not favoring one side more than another, he is able to appreciate the virtues of both sides.
3. Frank MacHovec:
The heavens endure; the earth is very old. Why?
Because they do not exist for themselves, they therefore have long life.
The truly wise are content to be last; they are therefore first. They are indifferent to themselves; they are therefore self-confident.
Perhaps it is because they do not exist for themselves that they find complete fulfillment.
4. D.C. Lau:
Heaven and earth are enduring.
The reason why heaven and earth can be enduring is that they do not give themselves life.
Hence they are able to be long-lived.
Therefore the sage puts his person last and it comes first,
Treats it as extraneous to himself and it is preserved.
Is it not because he is without thought of self that he is able to accomplish his private ends?
5. Gia-Fu Feng:
Heaven and earth last forever.
Why do heaven and earth last forever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.
6. Stan Rosenthal:
“Sheathing the Light”
When living by the Tao, awareness of self is not required,
for in this way of life, the self exists, and is also non-existent,
being conceived of, not as an existentiality, nor as non-existent.
The sage does not contrive to find his self,
for he knows that all which may be found of it,
is that which it manifests to sense and thought,
which side by side with self itself, is naught.
It is by sheathing intellect's bright light
that the sage remains at one with his own self,
ceasing to be aware of it, by placing it behind.
Detached, he is unified with his external world,
by being selfless he is fulfilled;
thus his selfhood is assured.
7. Jacob Trapp:
“To Live is to Give”
This deathless universe
Forever renews itself
In all its transformations.
By endlessly giving itself
It endlessly becomes itself.
So the Sage seeks to live:
To be foremost by being last,
To save his life by losing it.
By giving himself,
He becomes himself.
8. Stephen Mitchell:
The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has not desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.
9. Victor Mair:
Heaven is long and earth is lasting.
Heaven and earth can be long and lasting
because they do not live for themselves.
They can be long-lived.
For this reason,
The sage
withdraws himself
but comes to the fore,
alienates himself
but is always present.
Is this not because he is free of private interests?
He can accomplish his private interests.
10. Michael LaFargue:
Heaven is lasting, Earth endures.
What enables Heaven and Earth to last and endure?
Because they do not live for themselves –
so it is that they can live so long.
And so the Wise Person:
Puts himself last, and so finds himself in front.
Puts himself in the out group, and so maintains his place.
The personal does not exist for him—
isn't this how he can perfect
what for him is most personal?
11. Peter Merel:
Nature is complete because it does not serve itself.
The sage places himself after and finds himself before,
Ignores his desire and finds himself content.
He is complete because he does not serve himself.
12. Ursula LeGuin:
“Dim brightness”
Heaven will last,
earth will endure.
How can they last so long?
They don't exist for themselves
and so can go on and on.
So wise souls
leaving self behind
move forward,
and setting self aside
stay centered.
Why let the self go?
To keep what the soul needs.
13. Ron Hogan:
Tao never stops. Why?
Because it isn't trying to accomplish anything.
The Masters hang back.
That's why they're ahead of the game.
They don't hang on to things.
That's how they manage to keep them.
They don't worry
about what they can't control.
That's why they're always satisfied.
14. Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall:
The heavens are lasting and the earth enduring.
The reason the world is able to be lasting and enduring
Is that it does not live for itself.
Thus it is able to be long-lived.
It is on this model that the sages withdraw their persons from contention yet find themselves out in front,
Put their own persons out of mind yet find themselves taken care of.
Isn't it simply because they are unselfish that they can satisfy their own needs?
15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura:
Heaven is eternal and earth everlasting.
They thus endure forever.
Because they exist not for themselves
But for the whole, selflessly.
Whereby the sage,
Puts himself behind and thereby finds himself foremost,
Holds himself outside and thereby finds himself inmost.
He has no self apart from the whole,
Wherefore he realizes the self that is the whole.
16. Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo:
Heaven is long, Earth enduring.
Long and enduring
Because they do not exist for themselves.
Therefore the Sage
Steps back, but is always in front,
Stays outside, but is always within.
No self-interest?
Self is fulfilled.
There seems to be an empirical claim: that if you put your own person out of mind, then you always will be taken care of, your needs satisfied, all your desires fulfilled.

Suppose you listed your desires: a house; a car; fulfilling and well-compensated work; a lovely, talented, and devoted partner; lovely, talented, and devoted children; the unwavering respect and admiration of your peers.

Will you get all these things through selflessness? Maybe. Probably not.

Suppose you dig a little deeper into your desires and notice that your first list consists merely of "strategies," rather than human "needs." So you make a list of the "needs" you want fulfilled: security, acceptance, health, connection, autonomy. The items on your first list were strategies for getting these things -- and maybe other strategies would work as well or better.

If you become like the Daoist sage described in Dao De Jing verse 7, will your universal human needs be provided for? Sometimes. Sometimes not. No guarantees.

The Daoist sage finds "complete fulfillment," he "can accomplish his private interests," "finds himself content," and is "always satisfied." Not only does this happen even if wealth doesn't happen, but this also happens even if universal needs (for, say, security, health, and acceptance) are not met.

This is not about how the sage gets the things that nonsages think they want. This is about how the sage has everything she wants because whatever she has is exactly what she wants. There is nothing more to get. To be fulfilled requires only that you become aware of how fulfilled you are.

The sage is unselfish -- yet not in the sense of going around performing ostentatiously altruistic deeds. This is not "unselfish" as a description of actions. The sage is unselfish in recognizing that "she has no self apart from the whole."

As Ames and Hall explain: "The world as a process is constituted by the myriad things that find their consummation within it. . . . While each focus pursues its own consummation, there is not superordiante, generic agenda beyond the unsummed total of the foci themselves. There is no world qua world."

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See: Saturdao Index