The 34h Verse
The Great Way is universal;
it can apply to the left or the right.
All beings depend on it for life;
even so, it does not take possession of them.
It accomplishes its purpose, but makes no claim for itself.
It covers all creatures like the sky, but does not dominate them.
All things return to it as to their home, but it does not lord it over them;
thus, it maybe called "great."
The sage imitates this conduct:
By not claiming greatness, the sage achieves greatness.
In this verse, Lao-tzu asks you to reevaluate your perception of greatness. Typical definitions tend to center around the amount of fame and fortune that an individual accumulates in his or her lifetime. As the previous verse emphasized, the power to dominate and control others can also be used as a benchmark of this quality. Commanders of huge armies and heads of state who attract worldwide attention are considered great. Yet great men or women are often thought of as having been instrumental in affecting the course of human events in a positive way, making the world a better place on either a local or global level. Greatness, then, is a claim made by or for individuals who stand out from the crowd.
Verse 34 of the Tao Te Ching describes greatness in an entirely different manner. Such a quality is the Tao, which is so all-encompassing that every plant, creature and human originates and lives because of it, yet it doesn't seek to dominate anyone or anything. The Tao doesn't ask for recognition of any kind, for it has no interest in fame or being thanked for all that it provides. It is this indifference toward notoriety that makes true greatness.
When you change the way you think about this quality, you'll see your world in an entirely new way: You'll no longer be gauging appearances and accumulations and you won't notice how much power you or anyone else uses to exact dominance or control over others. Rather, your new way of thinking will allow you to look for the unfolding of the Tao in everyone you see. Perhaps for the very first time, you'll notice greatness in others, as well as yourself, in terms of the Tao that includes all. You'll be able to look at the sky and see its grandness, which demands absolutely nothing in return.
As you change your enculturated view of greatness, you'll begin seeing a different world. You'll see the importance of everyone, including those individuals you've previously identified as difficult or unreasonable. You'll begin to see that the holiness that ferments the galaxies is working in you, in me and in everyone. You'll begin to trust that greatness is every person's heritage. The Tao is everywhere; therefore, this quality will be visible in all things and people.
Here are my suggestions for applying the 34th verse of the Tao Te Ching to your everyday life:
Discontinue deciding what anyone else should or shouldn't be doing. Avoid thoughts and activities that involve telling people who are perfectly capable of making their own choices what to do. In your family, remember that you do not own anyone. The poet Kahlil Gibran reminds you:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters
of Life's longing for itself
They come through you but not from you.
This is always true. In fact, disregard any inclination to dominate in all of your relationships. Listen rather than expound. Pay attention to yourself when you're having judgmental opinions and see where self-attention takes you. When you replace an ownership mentality with one of allowing, you'll begin to see the true unfolding of the Tao in yourself and other people. From that moment on, you'll be free of frustration with those who don't behave according to your ego-dominated expectations.
Discover a new definition of greatness
Offer yourself a definition that doesn't use any standards of appearance or traditional external measures of success. Notice those who give much, boast little, nurture others and decline recognition or credit and put them in your greatness file. Encourage yourself to practice these same kinds of behaviors. Begin noticing how the Tao is always flowing in an all-providing, nonboasting, nondemanding, nonpossessing manner. Can you see how great that truly is? There are many people in your daily life doing just that. Seek them out and acknowledge them, while quietly emulating what they do. Remember that a great sage never claims ownership of greatness, so when you change your definition, you'll see that quality cropping up everywhere, especially within yourself.
Do the Tao Now
Make a decision to spend a day seeking out several people who fit the model of this verse of the Tao Te Ching. Silently convey to them that you sense their greatness as an unfolding of the Tao. Then notice how your interactions with them differ when you're not making judgments based on their age, sex, title, conduct, manner of dress, height, weight, skin color, religious affiliation, or political beliefs.
Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development. He’s the author of 30 books, has created many audio and video programs, and has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows. His books Manifest Your Destiny, Wisdom of the Ages, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, and the New York Times bestsellers 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, The Power of Intention, Inspiration and Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life have all been featured as National Public Television specials. See Wayne in his new feature length movie The Shift. Visit www.drwaynedyer.com for details.