The following poem is from the ancient book known as the Tao Te Ching (pronounced “Dow Duh Ching”), written by the mysterious figure Lao Tzu, over 2500 years ago. It is one of two foundational Daoist texts — the Zhuangzi being the other — and is regarded by some as one of the deepest, most wisdom-rich works ever written.
Because it is a book of poetry, the words can be difficult to understand and comprehend; some are more obvious than others, but if you stick with the tough ones long enough, you’ll start to make connections and aha moments will arise. Some verses you may not fully understand for many years, perhaps never, and this is testament to a book which, even though written in the 6th Century BC, still survives today; and it survives for no other reason than it’s level of mystery, profundity and most importantly, seemingly perpetual relevance. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you some of my favourite poems.
This poem is about knowing yourself. Finding ways around barriers, jumping over hurdles and overcoming obstacles are fundamental things you must do if you’ve the faintest interest in growth, achievement and ultimately, fulfillment; add to that, the acquisition of wisdom, better understanding and the ability to tell motivating, awe-inspiring stories to your grandchildren. Of all the obstacles in life, there is none greater than the self. The hardest hill to climb is the one closest to home. Once you know yourself, once you become your own best friend, the world really is your oyster.
Knowing others is intelligent.
Knowing yourself is enlightened.
Conquering others takes force.
Conquering yourself is true strength.
Knowing what is enough is wealth.
Forging ahead takes inner resolve.
Hold your ground and you will last long.
Die without perishing and your life will endure.