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fosters all beings through observable means such as "substance," "environment," "sweet dew," selfless protection, etc. By scrutinising the text one can discern that the growth of all beings undergoes such a process as generalized as follows: The Dao produces them all first, and then it stays inherent in them and transforms itself into De as the principle of each individual being; in accordance with this De all beings develop with individual characteristics; finally they grow mature or become what they are with the help of their surroundings or environment (see Chen Guying. Lao Zi Zhuyi Ji Pingjie, p. 246). During this process as a whole, the Dao is venerated and De honored for they both follow the way of spontaneity or naturalness when begetting and fostering all beings. In other words, they are free from any imposing action or force such that they let things be what they can be, or become what they can become. They themselves serve as natural laws allowing all things to develop without any consciousness or purposefulness. Thus they are characterized by great virtue in giving birth and freedom, and offering help and protection selflessly to all beings. In the end they do not claim any merit for what they have done, through which the existence and development of all creation is rendered possible.
The "Profound De" as the manifestation of the Dao can well be termed the "Great Virtue" which transcends mundane values entangled with desires, conflicts, competitions, gains and losses, etc. This "Profound De" can be looked upon as a special part of the nature of the Dao, and a general spirit embodied in Lao Zi's s philosophizing. In addition, it is, explicitly or implicitly, advocated and advised to be adopted and conducted by mankind as a solution to the crisis of the human condition. If we review Lao Zi's thought in respect of the problems which we confront nowadays, we may find it still instructive to a great extent.

6.2 (Chapter 38)
The man of superior De is not conscious of his De,[1]
And in this way he really possesses De.
The man of inferior De never loses sight of his De,[2] And in this way he has no true De.
The man of superior De takes no action And thus nothing will be left undone.[3] The man of inferior De takes action
And thus something will be left undone [4]
The man of superior humanity takes action And so acts without purpose.[5]
The man of superior righteousness takes action And so acts on purpose.[6]
The man of superior propriety takes action,
And when people do not respond to it,
He will stretch out his arms and force them to comply.[7]
Therefore, only when the Dao is lost does De disappear.[8]
Only when De is lost does humanity appear.
Only when humanity is lost does righteousness appear.
Only when righteousness is lost does propriety appear.
Now propriety is a superficial expression of loyalty and faithfulness,
And the beginning of disorder.
The man of foreknowledge has but the flower of the Dao[9] And this is the beginning of ignorance.
Hence the great man dwells in the thick instead of the thin.[10]
He dwells in the fruit instead of the flower.[11]
Therefore he rejects the latter and accepts the former.[12]

Annotations:
[1] The word De generally means "virtue" in both an ethical and social sense. It also denotes the realization and acquisition of the Dao. The cultivation of De varies in degree from person to person. "The man of superior De" follows the way of spontaneity and never displays his De in any pretentious form. That is why he is "not conscious of his De" but "really possesses De."
[2] "The man of inferior De," on the contrary, tends to hold a superficial attitude toward the Dao. He therefore keeps to the exhibitionist form of De. That is why he "never loses sight of his De" (i.e. so-called De in the eyes of Lao Zi) but has "no true De."
[3] This rendering is made according to the Chinese phrase shang de wu wei er wu bu wei (see Gu Di and Zhou Ying. Lao Zi Tong, pp. 269-274) instead of shang de wu wei er wu yi wei ("The man of superior De takes no action and so acts without purpose.") in other versions of the Dao De Jing.


(1)(2)(3)




 

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