Tao Te Ching – Chapter 74

By |2013-05-14T12:00:36+00:00May 14th, 2013|Tao Te Ching|0 Comments

If people do not fear death

why threaten them with it?

But suppose they did fear death

and this was the fate handed to lawbreakers

Who would dare to do the killing?


There is always a Lord of Death

He who takes the place of the Lord of Death

is like one who cuts with the blade of a master carpenter

Whoever cuts with the blade of a master carpenter

is sure to cut his own hands.

– Jonathan Starr


If you realize that all Things change,

there is nothing you will try to hold onto.

If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.

When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,

chances are that you will cut yourself.

– Wayne Dyer

Beyond the obvious commentary on the death penalty in verse 74, this points out something deeper about the Tao and what happens to us after we die.  Someone who has truly watched the nature of the Tao will have seen that what happens after death is still very much unknown.  For certain, the world still spins, and everyday life continues to change without us.  Knowing this helps us to release the fear of death.  It also helps us to redefine life.

We also begin to understand the impermanence of everything in our life.  Our favorite food, the people we like to talk with, our routines that are so ingrained… all change (die) sooner or later.  Trying to keep things the same, or even forcing ourselves to resist change is futile.  It causes suffering.  It causes us to cut our own hands on the blade of the master carpenter’s tools.  Of course the stanza, “If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve.” can be taken quite literally.  If, you aren’t afraid of losing your life, then you may take big and dangerous risks achieving great things!  I choose to interpret this phrase with a little less drama.  If you are not afraid of change, then there is nothing you cannot achieve.  That project at work, that life decision you have been afraid to make, the person you’ve been meaning to talk to…  change will happen no matter what you choose to do.  Why hold onto something that isn’t even real?  Naturally there are ways to approach decisions that are more inline with the Tao.  If you understand that you come from the Tao and you make choices by living in accordance with the Tao, there is absolutely nothing to fear.

Death is as much a part of the Tao as life is…by following the Tao, we’ll know naturally when it is time to live and when it is time to die.  These decisions come, not from us, but from the Tao.

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