Study Guide

Tao Te Ching Chapter 33

By Lao Tzu

Chapter 33

  • This one's all about knowing yourself.
  • The TTC says that you're pretty smart if you understand others, but you're totally enlightened if you understand yourself.
  • Then it tells us that you're strong if you overcome others, but it's only when you overcome yourself that you're truly powerful.
  • (How do you overcome yourself, we wonder. Are we talking about inner strength? Yeah, probably.)
  • We're also told that if we find contentment, then we're pretty well off, but if we go through life vigorously we've found real willpower.
  • (That one kind of debunks the idea that master Taoists just sit around meditating all day.)
  • Last of all, the TTC hits us up with these somewhat cryptic lines: "Those who do not lose their base endure / Those who die but do not perish have longevity" (33.7-8).
  • We'll say that the base probably means your spiritual relationship with the Tao.
  • If that's firm, then you'll survive.
  • But if you're the Tao-iest of the Tao, the positive effects you've had on the world will live on after you die.

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