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The Tao Teh King: A Short Study in Comparative Religion, by C. Spurgeon Medhurst, [1905], at

p. 76


Fame or life, which is dearer? Life or wealth, which is more? Gain or loss, which is worse?

Excessive love implies excessive outlay. Immoderate accumulation implies heavy loss. 1

Who knows contentment meets no shame. Who knows when to stop incurs no danger. Such long endure.

We possess nothing more valuable than our ideals, but the only ideal which is not immoderate is that ideal content which is content with nothing for self; to stop short of this is to linger where danger lurks. Mystics of all ages, irrespective of their religious profession have realized this. A few paragraphs from a Spanish Catholic of the sixteenth century—Saint Jean de la Croix—will illustrate Lao-tzu's thought:

“To enjoy the taste of all things, have no taste for anything.

“To know all things, learn to know nothing.

“To possess all things, resolve to possess nothing.

“To be all things, be willing to be nothing.

“To get to where you have no taste for anything, go through whatever experiences you have no taste for.

“To learn to know nothing, go whither you are ignorant.

“To reach what you possess not, go whithersoever you own nothing.

“To be what you are not, experience what you are not.

“When you stop at anything, you cease to open yourself to the All.

“For to come to the All, you must give up the All.

“And if you should attain to owning the All, you must own it, desiring Nothing.” *

With this compare an hitherto untranslated saying by Lu Hui-neng, the sixth and last Chinese Buddhist Patriarch: "To be able to separate one's self from all affections is the pith of tranquillity."


76:1 "Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess."—Emerson's Essay on Compensation.

76:* Quoted in "The Varieties of Religious Experiences" (Gifford Lectures 1901-1902) by William James, LL.D., etc., p. 306.

Next: Chapter XLV