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Chapter 5: On the Danger of Overweening Success


On the danger of overweening success, Lao Tzu says:

Stretch a bow to the very full,
And you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a sword to its very sharpest,
And the edge will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with wealth and honor
Is to sow the seeds of one’s own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven’s way.

Logic moves to the very extreme - life never. That’s how logic misses life. Logic has the tendency to reach to a conclusion - life is never concluding.

Life has no conclusion. It goes on and on and on without any conclusion; it is without any beginning and without any end, it is always in the middle, it is always in the present, it is an on-going process. That’s how a logical mind becomes by and by dead; that’s how logic becomes its own downfall. Don’t conclude. Live without conclusion. That is the only way to live because only then do you live in the middle and the middle is the balance.

Life is a balance between opposites, it never comes to an end. The balance goes on and on, it is eternal. A man of understanding never comes to any conclusions, he cannot. When life itself is non-conclusive how can a wise man be conclusive? If you ask Lao Tzu for any conclusive answer he will laugh. He will say you are foolish. He lives according to life, and the most basic note, if you live according to life, is balance. Never move to one opposite, don’t cling to one polarity; then you will lose balance.

I have heard:

Once it happened that a great king had to decide something against his heart. Two of his ministers had committed some crime and he loved the ministers very much. Even if they had committed the crime he wanted to forgive them, his love was such for them. But that was against the law of the country, and it wouldn’t have been a good precedent. So they had to be punished. And the law of the country said that for such a crime the only punishment was death. So what to do?

It was too difficult, so he found a way out. He said, “They have to be sentenced to death, but I will give them one more chance to live. Between two hills a tightrope will be stretched. If they can walk over it and survive, then I will forgive them.”

It was almost impossible. It was impossible because they had never walked on any tightrope, let alone on one between two hills over a big valley - death everywhere. And to walk on a tightrope is a great art, one has to learn it, it is a great discipline. They had not even dreamed in their lives that they would become tightrope walkers.

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