Tao Te Ching Chapter 34

The way is broad, reaching left as well as right.
The myriad creatures depend on it for life yet it claims no authority.
It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.
It clothes and feeds the myriad creatures yet lays no claim to being their master.

For ever free of desire, it can be called small;
Yet as it lays no claim to being master when the myriad creatures turn to it, it can be called great.

It is because it never attempts itself to become great that it succeeds in becoming great.

D.C. Lau (1963)


The meek inherit heaven and earth.

The person who desires nothing other than what they have is free of further desires. To have no desires, no appetites, no passions seems small in the world of desires. Yet the one who is the One Self, merged with all, is great beyond measure.

The Tao, like Gaia, the living earth, succors life yet does not exert authority over it; living things live and die as they do.

When we are what we are and claim no mastery of anything, we are beyond the smallness  of attempting; we are merged with the greatness of being.

Bloom where you’re planted. Accept the sun and rain, root in the earth, grow toward the sky.

I have no desire to be remembered. I know every unique moment of my life will be lost in time, like tears in rain. The ten thousand things will come together, and gentle rain fall, and I will be in the rain.

I lay no claim upon the One, for it has already laid its claim upon me.


Personal reflections of this chapter, for what they’re worth. For a reciprocal resonance of the above reflections on Chapter 34, I refer you to the commentary on Chapter 39 at Ralston Creek Review. The corresponding observations here and there, inspired in different places by different chapters, offer a reminder of the harmonic connectivity of each to all. It’s not in the Chapters, it’s in us. The Chapters strike certain chords, we hear the music within, we sing it out together. Different voices. One song.

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2 Responses to Tao Te Ching Chapter 34

  1. Amy Putkonen says:

    I love this, Bob. It reminds me of the Native American traditions of not “owning” land. We don’t own things when we are all part of the same fabric. One of the things that I love about the Tao is how it has helped me to accept death. I would much rather a system where I am a tear in the rain than cursed out of heaven because I broke a rule. I always break rules. That’s just what I do.

    • bobgriffith says:

      How nice to “hear” your voice, Amy! I have been checking in to your own commentaries on the chapters often but have been remiss in leaving links and tugging on my end of the rope which connects us. The wisdom, insight, and practicality of your perspective is always refreshing to me – I love the gift you have for translating the TTC into positive, personal, action principles. So glad your voice is here, singing the one song with us all.

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