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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.



the Way

            第 四 十

Line 1  天下有道却走馬以糞

Line 2  天下无道戎馬生於郊

Line 3  罪莫大於可欲



Line 4  禍莫大於不知足


Line 5  咎莫憯於欲得

Line 6  知足之足恆足矣

likely scribal error, loan character or corrupted character




Never Enough

     Our greatest fault, Lao Tzu tells us, is not a crime against others. It is a transgression against ourselves, namely, "not knowing what is enough." 


     Lao Tzu touched on this crucial trespass in Line 5 of Lesson 44:

Therefore, knowing

what is enough

saves you from humiliation

And knowing

when to stop

saves you from danger.

     But is "not knowing what is enough" the root of our problem?  Or is it, perhaps, ingratitude and an insecurity which lead to our anxious minds. 

     A person who is ungrateful and insecure will always imagine something more, something better, something more satisfying. There is no end to the seekings of the anxious mind.

     Normally we think we are our mind; that we are our thinking. But that is not so. If we were our minds, then we would be unable to turn our attention to our minds, to what we are thinking.  We would be unable to catch our anxious thoughts in action.  That we can actually catch our thoughts in action, means there must be "some-thing," or "some-one," who is "catching" the thoughts and observing them. 

      When we catch our thoughts in action, an odd thing occurs. Our mind immediately quiets. Distress disappears.  We can test this out for ourselves.

      So, who or what is this observer of my thoughts?  And, does this observer suffer from the same anxiety that my "me" does?




Click on each line number

 for Chinese-English interlinear

& commentary


When all are in

accord with the Way,

then fleet-footed horses are

used for their dung.


When all are not in

accord with the Way,

then war horses 

multiply in the countryside.






No offense

is greater than

seeking more




No calamity

is greater than

not knowing what

is enough.


Of our faults,

none brings us more

grief than than our

desire for more.



Know what is enough,

and always

have enough.


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