Updated: Nov 23, 2021
In chapter 67 of Daodejing, Laozi tells us he has three treasures that he holds closely. If we seek to embody Daoism and not just intellectualize it, we have to practice the Three Treasures and hold them closely to our hearts just like Laozi. How do we do it?
The First Treasure: Kindness 慈
Laozi's first treasure is shown with the character 慈. The Chinese dictionary MDGB tells us the meaning of this word is compassionate, gentle, merciful, kind, humane. While Laozi can write in ambigous ways in order to provoke reflection and emotion, there's no ambiguity here. Laozi uses a one-character word for his first treasure. Regardless of which word you select from the dictionary, our task is the same, to be kind.
Laozi tells us that the consequence of being kind is that we can be bold. As a psychotherapist, this rings true practically. If I'm kind with my patients, I'm able to share with them truths that wouldn't be received well if I were just being blunt or judgmental. When we are kind, we can gracefully interact with the world, knowing that we are treating it well. Daoism doesn't have a concept of karma, but it is very concerned with observable dynamics in the world. There are real, observable benefits to being kind without relying upon the concept of karma.
If we want to practice kindness, we have to first practice a compassionate, gentle attitude toward the world. If we walk through the day bitter, what are the chances that when we encounter someone that we will have the inclination to show them kindness?
Challenge yourself this week
This week, just practice a kind, gentle attitude toward the world. This doesn't mean to ignore the stupidity, cruelty, impatience, crudity, and banal suffering. It means to be kind in spite of it. Being kind doesn't mean not having boundaries or letting people walk all over you either. It means to maintain your grace in the face of those who aren't so inclined.