Keeping one's person safe
"To honor virtue, nothing makes more of a contribution than keeping one's person safe. To keep one's person safe, nothing is greater than making government secure; to make government secure, nothing is more important than freedom from self-interest; to achieve freedom from self-interest, nothing is more significant than minimizing desire. Thus it is that the noble man only makes a move after making his person safe, speaks only after calming his heart/mind, and takes action only after making his friendships firm.
Since this is so, one's movements decide whether good fortune or bad begins; one's speech controls whether honor or disgrace results; one's search for friends defines the starting point of either benefit or disaster; one's actions decide the difference between security and danger. Therefore, the noble man never makes reckless moves by ensuring that he moves only in accordance with the Dao; he never speaks in vain by ensuring that he speaks only in terms of the true principles of things; he never seeks wrong friendships by ensuring that they develop out of righteousness; he never acts inconsequentially by ensuring that his actions spring from rectitude.
In this way, one can avoid any encounter with misfortune and be blessed by the aid of Heaven
Thus it is that when one's person is not safe, it is in peril; when one's speech is not compliant, it will result in conflict; when one's friendships are not examined carefully, one will be misled; when one's actions are not sincere, they will result in danger. If one harbors these four failings within, calamity and misery will be there to meet him without. Such meeting with misery and calamity surely arises from selfishness and flourishes because of the desires one has. One caught up in selfishness will never be able to fulfill his self-interest, and one who has desires cannot ever be delivered from them. Such are the ultimate principles of existence."
From An Shen Lun by Wang Can, in A New Translation of the Tao-te ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi (Translated by Richard John Lynn), Columbia University Press 1999. An absolutely awesome book which interprets the concepts of the Tao; I highly recommend that if you're interested in this aspect of the Eastern Oriental philosophies, that you start with this book.
The Tao: Keeping safe
- Written by: Robert Sawicki PhD