"Nothing exceeds moderation."
Tao Te Ching — Chapter 59
The Taoist Classic by Lao Tzu
Translated and Explained
When leading people and serving Heaven,
Nothing exceeds moderation.
Truly, moderation means prevention.
Prevention means achieving much virtue.
When much virtue is achieved,
Nothing is not overcome.
Nothing not overcome means
Nobody knows the limits.
When nobody knows the limits,
One can rule the country.
The one who rules like the mother lasts long.
This is called deep roots and a solid base,
the Way to long life and clarity.
Rule with Moderation
A leader serving Heaven tries to rule in accordance
with nature, following Tao, the Way. Moderation is the key.
One should not interfere more than necessary, not act if not
sure of how, and not overdo things. There is no feat so great
that its good exceeds the benefit of reluctance to perform
When moderation is used, there is sensitivity to
actual needs and there are remaining resources to deal with
them, should they appear. Also, with a moderate perspective,
one becomes aware of problems while they are still small. If
you want to act as little as possible, you see the small things
that need to be considered and dealt with. A wise leader has
no longing to cause revolutions, but pays attention to detail.
The preventive perspective is indeed in accordance
with Tao, and therefore it constantly increases virtue. The
leader becomes nobler, and so does the people. Sensible
leadership promotes sensibility.
Wherever there are leaders – in the family, in the
workplace, in the community, or in the whole country –
everybody matures from the leader's example and becomes
wiser by following the leader's directions. So, when the
leadership is done with ease, it will all the time get easier.
Since virtue is in accordance with Tao, everything
gets easier along the Way, and there is no limit as to what can
be solved or accomplished.
If the leader knows how to act and when not to act,
there is nothing that cannot be overcome. Even if people are
not aware of why this is so, they will feel it, take comfort in
it, and respect the leadership. They will voluntarily submit
to it and support it. Then it's possible to rule the whole
Even the mightiest ruler needs the approval of
the people, at the very least its acceptance. No quantity of
weaponry and soldiers will do as a substitute. People are sure
to approve of a leader who seems to have limitless ability.
With such a leader they feel safe.
Sadly, this might be the case even if the leader is
heading towards disaster.
No matter how powerful and massively supported,
the worthy leader must rule like a mother. Lao Tzu surely
refers to the mother of all, which is Tao, but also to the
motherly fashion of leadership. It's based on care and yielding,
on acting with caution and consideration.
The mother works for her children, and not for her
own benefit. It may not be true for every mother who ever
lived, but it's certainly the principle of Tao, the mother of
all. Therefore, anyone being motherly in that fashion will
be saluted, supported, and successful.
That's the Way by which to last for long and find
© Stefan Stenudd.
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