Study Guide

Tao Te Ching Chapter 60

By Lao Tzu

Chapter 60

  • Okay, we have to quote the first line of this chapter: "Ruling a large country is like cooking a small fish" (60.1).
  • Fun idea, but what the heck does it mean?
  • Well, the next line reminds us that when a country is ruled with the Tao, everything is hunky dory.
  • So chances are that the fishy first line is some kind of metaphor for living with the Tao.
  • Maybe cooking a small fish is tough because they're easy to overcook.
  • So when you're ruling a country, it's important to be moderate in everything.
  • Next, we're told that when a country is ruled with the Tao, neither its gods nor its demons can harm it.
  • So the demons must be all the bad stuff like violence and turmoil that can happen when a ruler's got no Tao.
  • But who are the gods in this equation?
  • Natural forces, maybe?
  • Or maybe the term "gods" represents stuff that seems positive, but can actually cause damage.
  • So maybe if a country is overly passive or generous, this can hurt it as well.
  • Moderation in all things, right?
  • Ultimately, though, this chapter leaves us with the idea that nonviolence is the way to go.
  • Like the gods, the sages don't harm people.
  • Choose peace, and peace will come back to you.

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