Daodejing Chapter 46: true contentment

Richard Brown
2 min readJul 19, 2023

When the Dao prevails
Over all-under-heaven.
The finest steeds
Fertilise the fields.
When the Dao
Does not prevail
Over all-under-heaven,
Warhorses are bred
Just outside the city walls.
No calamity is greater
Than discontent.
No mistake is greater
Than greed.
Knowing when
Enough is enough
Is true contentment.

「天下有道,卻走馬以糞;天下無道,戎馬生於郊;禍莫大於不知足,咎莫大於欲得;故知足之足,常足矣!」

No matter how wealthy and privileged you are, it is not always easy to stop some shiny new object or prestigious new job from capturing your attention.

Laozi saw human greed and ambition as the cause of conflicts and wars, and passionately argued that the best way to stop them was for people to rein in their desires and learn to be happy with what they already have.

We see similar arguments being made today with just as much passion against excessive materialism and conspicuous consumption — and with similar results. No doubt that is because it is easy enough for us to point fingers at other people and say that they have enough, but almost possible for us to say the same thing about our ourselves.

Note
I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.