Chapter 3: On the Futility of Contention
Lao Tzu says on the futility of contention:
To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be tattered is to be renewed.
To be in want is to possess.
To have plenty is to be confused.
Therefore the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes the model of the world.
He does not reveal himself,
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore far-famed.
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride himself,
And is therefore the chief among men.
It is because he does not contend
That no-one in the world can contend against him.
Is it not indeed true, as the ancients say,
”To yield is to be preserved whole”?
Thus he is preserved and the world does him homage.
Lao Tzu is a paradox. His whole teaching is paradoxical, and unless you understand the nature of paradox you will not be able to understand Lao Tzu.
What is the nature of paradox? The first thing is that it is not logical, it is illogical. On the surface you see that two opposites are being forced to meet together, two opposites are put together. Logic is consistency; illogic is paradox. There are only two ways to be here in this world: you can be here as a logical mind or you can be here as a paradoxical life.
If you can understand the paradox the mind disappears because the mind cannot cope with it; paradox is a poison to mind, it kills it with absolute certainty. That’s why Lao Tzu uses paradox to kill the mind completely. Once the mind is not there you have achieved the whole; once the mind is not there enlightenment has already happened. So to understand paradox is the whole process of meditation for Lao Tzu. That is his way, his device to meditate.
Logic has an appeal for the mind because it is mind-created, manufactured by the mind. With logic, the mind can cling and remain safe, secure; every step into logical thinking strengthens the mind more and more. So people who think they can prove God by logic are simply being foolish. God cannot be proved by logic, he can only be disproved by logic. You can try; superficially, your logic may have a certain appeal, but if you go deeper into it you will certainly find loopholes. Logic can only deny God because God is whole and paradoxical. How can you prove a paradox by logic? You have to look at the whole directly, putting your mind aside. If you can renounce the mind you have renounced all that is worthless. If you can observe life without the mind, suddenly it is a benediction: nothing was ever lacking and nothing was ever hidden, everything was an open secret - only you were hidden behind your logic, only your eyes were clouded by logic.