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TAOISM | Be Like Water

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water, for overcoming the hard and rigid, because nothing can compete with it.
而攻坚强者莫之能胜 以其无以易之
Lao Tzu
Many people are hijacked by the rigidity of their minds.
Thinking in categories and fixed ideas can be a great crutch for survival, as it creates
clarity in a chaotic universe.
But thinking too rigidly also has its negative consequences.
Seeing the world in categories and separate boxes limits our perception, so we become
以类孤立地看待世间万物 会限制我们的理解洞察
stuck in our ideas of how things are, or supposed to be.
把我们的思想困于事物的现状 或应有的模样
As the universe is ever-changing, and most things, if not everything, is more complex
宇宙变化无间 不说所有 至少大多数事物
than our minds can comprehend,
A more fruitful approach to life, would be one that is flexible,
tangible, that enables us to flow along.
能够使我们顺通顺流 遗世独立
You know… a bit like water.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu celebrates flexibility in his timeless work named the
Tao Te Ching, in which he opposes the rigid life stance that some people choose to take.
《道德经》之中宣扬灵活变通 反对固执片面的处世之道
In contrast to what many think, weakness, or more specifically, the ability and willingness
根据道家哲学 柔弱 更具体而言
to yield, can actually be a great strength, according to Taoist philosophy.
顺展意志与能力 具有很强大的力量
Hence, Lao Tzu states that the supreme good is like water.
故老子言 上善若水
This video explores the benefits of being a bit less rigid and a bit more like water.
本视频探究的是少点固执 多点如水特质的好处
One thing that characterizes Taoist philosophy is deference towards nature.
The ways of nature are all-encompassing.
The dance between opposites is the fundamental principle of how the universe works, which
对立矛盾 此消彼长是宇宙运行的原则
manifests as ongoing change.
When we observe nature closely and through a Taoist lens, we can see two forces at work:
当我们用道学的方式看待自然 存在两种力量
yin and yang, or the feminine and the masculine.
阴和阳 或者说雌和雄
Yang consists of the more active elements of existence, like speed, restlessness, productivity,
阳代表着事物存在的活跃部分 比如速度 无休止 生产
excitement, aggressiveness, being outgoing, but also hardness, dryness, and stiffness.
兴奋 进取 外向 但也生硬 干燥 刚直
Yin consists of the more passive elements, like silence, receptiveness, not reacting
阴包括更为被动的要素 比如静默 接纳
as opposed to reacting, and also softness, and flexibility.
和反应相对的不应 同时也包括柔顺与灵活变通
Our culture celebrates the yang aspects of life.
It’s all about faster, bigger, more, better, standing your ground, defending your unchanging
人们追求更快 更大 更多 更好
opinions, confronting and clashing with the enemy, altering rather than adapting.
固执己见 据理力争 对立冲突 求变而非顺应
Yin aspects, on the other hand, are looked down upon.
另一方面 阴理念不被人们看好
For example: being receptive to opposing opinions, and being willing to change your views is
例如 对对立观念开放包容 愿意改变自己的观点
often seen as weak.
“If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,”
如果你毫无立场 你将一事无成
former American politician Alexander Hamilton famously quoted, which may be true,
美国前政治家亚历山大·汉密尔顿如此论断 虽有道理
but if we’re not willing to maintain certain flexibility, never change our viewpoints on anything, never change our approach
但如果我们不懂得变通 从不改变自我观念与处事方法
And we are never willing to bend with the wind of life,we become as rigid as a dead branch.
从不向生活弯腰低头 我们就变得朽木般僵硬古板
When we observe the nature of water, we’ll discover that it’s extremely resilient to
当我们观察水之质性 我们会发现水
change, as water is able to take all kinds of different forms.
是最能够改变的 水能够适应各种不同的形式
We can pour water in a glass and it becomes the glass when it’s part of the ocean it waves.
水入杯即成杯 入海便随流
Depending on the outside temperature water changes its behavior; when it’s cooked it
evaporates, and when it’s frozen it becomes solid.
温度高 水蒸发 温度低 水结冰
Thus, water survives many different circumstances by adaptation.
因此 水能够通过适应不同的状况而存于世
The softness of water adds strength to living beings, because it makes them flexible, and,
水之柔给予万物生息 因为它能够使之变通
therefore, more resilient to outside circumstances.
As Lao Tzu stated:
The living are soft and yielding; the dead are rigid and stiff.
人之生也柔弱 其死也坚强
Living plants are flexible and tender; the dead are brittle and dry.
草木之生也柔脆 其死也枯槁
End quote.
Things that are brittle and dry will break easily, and are either dead or equivalent to being dead.
枯脆之物容易破碎 非是枯槁便是死靡
The same goes for minds that are rigid and stern.
People that are rigid and stern generally have difficulties dealing with change,
as they desire permanence, rather than the uncertainty of impermanence.
因为他们渴望亘古不变 而不是飘忽不定 变化无常
Unfortunately for these people, change is inevitable.
很不幸 变化是不可避免的
Life is impermanence.
If life would be permanent, it would be lifeless.
如果生活没有变化 便没有了生机
Thus, when we don’t accept the reality of impermanence,
we waste a lot of energy fighting the inevitable.
Change in life comes in different forms; we could experience small changes.
生活中有许多形式的变化 我们经历各种小变化
For example: a new colleague.
比如 一个新同事
Or we could experience big changes like moving to another country, divorce, or even death.
我们也经历各种大变化 比如移民国外 离婚 死亡
Now, if we’d compare life to a river,
we could see its subtle twists and turns as small changes,
A drastic change in course which represents a big change,
and when it discharges in the ocean it would be death.
当河流汇入海洋 死亡便会降临
We see that, no matter what happens, the river flows along with the changes of circumstances,
我们看到 不论发生了什么 河流会随着环境的变化而流动
adapting to different landscapes, and finding its way past obstructions without effort.
适应不同的地形 毫不费力地通过阻碍
Even its inevitable annihilation the river approaches without being troubled, without
河流终究会流通无碍 即使走向枯竭
resistance, as it simply merges into something else.
And, thus, we live life in a continuous flow,
因此 我们的生活在持续流动的世界
finding our ways around everything that crosses our path,
not resisting even the most drastic of changes, including death.
我们无法抵御最为激烈的变化 包括死亡
But also, when we’d be contained, like water being kept in a jar,
当我们被困难限束 我们就如同装在罐中的水
we’d just be still and be the jar, until our circumstances change.
我们应当静待时机 顺应当下 直至情况转变
Lao Tzu argues in the Tao Te Ching that the soft overcomes the hard.
老子在《道德经》中论道 “柔弱胜刚强”
He takes water as a metaphor for this assertion; water is soft and flexible, but also has the
他用水打比方 水是柔顺而灵活的
power to erode the hardest materials like rock and metal.
I quote:
Everyone knows that the soft and yielding overcomes the rigid and hard, but few can put this knowledge into practice.
“弱之胜强 柔之胜刚 天下莫不知 莫能行”
End quote.
So, to be like water, we need to know how we can overcome the hard by being soft.
我们要像水一样 知道如何以柔克刚
First of all, Taoism is a philosophy about ‘not forcing’ anything.
首先 道教哲学提倡清静无为
In practice, we can see that using force is not only exhausting, it often doesn’t get us anywhere.
用蛮力不仅耗人精疲 也收效甚微
Now, this doesn’t mean that we should never use force in certain situations.
But in many cases, the soft approach is superior to using force, when it comes to long term
但长期而言 大多时候采用软处理比用蛮力好得多
results, as well as saving our energy, and maintaining a tranquil mind.
这不仅省力 同时也能够保留心态清净
This mechanism is best explained through examples.
A great example of the power of softness we can find in the movie Shawshank Redemption,
in which the protagonist Andy Dufresne is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary
主人公安迪被判无期 关押在肖申克监狱中
for murdering his wife and and her lover, even though he keeps saying that he didn’t do it.
After 19 years of imprisonment, he escapes and flees to Mexico.
受尽19年牢狱之苦 他终于越狱逃亡墨西哥
Andy uses soft and stealthy methods to reach his goals.
Probably because of his background as a banker, he’s able to think long term, and knows
或许因为他当过银行职员 他懂得从长计议
that small actions in the present will eventually lead to big changes in the future.
He also loved geology, which is, as the film puts it, “a study of pressure and time.”
他也喜欢地理 如电影所说 这是压力和时间的学问
By being friendly and helpful and using his intelligence, he’s able to become a trustee
of the corrupt and heartless prison warden Samuel Norton, and enjoys several privileges.
贪污又残忍的塞繆尔监狱长的信任 并且享受几项特权
By sending a letter to the state’s senate every week for six years, he’s able to get
通过六年来每周写信给州参议院 他最终
funding for a prison library.
Eventually, Andy escapes through a tunnel that he dug using a small hammer which he hid in a bible.
最终 Andy用藏在圣经中的小锤凿出通道并逃狱
It takes him 19 years to dig that tunnel; a project that he hides behind a poster of a pin-up girl.
凿通道花了他19年 他用女郎海报藏着这条通道
With his soft and patient approach, he did not only conquer a thick, concrete wall, but also the prison’s authority.
柔顺且具有耐心 他不仅战胜了粗厚的混凝土墙 还获得了监狱的权威
His escape, however, is explosive.
他的越狱 是爆炸性的
He rushes into the tunnel, gets on the other side, breaks a sewer pipe, crawls through
他钻过通道 到达另一边 打碎并爬过500码充满粪便下水道管
500 yards of excrement, cashes in, exposes the warden to the media, and flees to Mexico.
提取现金 揭露监狱长 逃往墨西哥
Thus, he doesn’t abstain from using force completely; he just saves it for the right opportunity,
因此 他并非全然放弃努力 而是节省气力 等待正确时机
that took him 19 years of softness to create.
To be like water means that we’re able to adapt to different circumstances.
Every situation has something positive to it.
In still water, the dust can settle so it becomes clear.
静止的水 土尘能够沉淀 水于是清
Streaming water passes different places and sceneries, and nurtures the things that it encounters.
水流经多地众景 泽育四周生机
In the yang-society we live in, we only seem to value one part of human existence, which
在我们生活的阳性社会 我们似乎只在乎
is the active part that revolves around achievement, speed, and success.
人类存在的意义中以成就 速度 成功为中心的积极部分
We get educated, take on a lot of responsibility in regards to work and family,
我们受到教育 为家庭和工作承担责任
Try to get rich and do it as quickly as possible,
and judge each other as ‘human doings’, rather than human beings.
以人积极作为来论其成败 而不是凭借人的质性
Being useless, or stupid, or ugly, or poor, is generally considered undesirable.
人们讨厌愚蠢 丑陋 以及贫穷
But if we master the flexibility of finding the positive in the negative,
we’ll realize that these undesired characteristics have positive aspects to them.
It’s just a matter of perception.
For example: being poor means less money and possessions to worry about,
比如 贫穷意味着没钱但也意味着不用费心于钱财安置
and being ugly means that we’re less likely to end up in a string of abusive relationships, and that
people like us for our personality instead of looks.
人们喜欢我们 是喜欢我们的为人而不是外表
In the Taoist work Zhuangzi, there’s a story about a crooked tree,
在道家著作《庄子》中 有一棵扭曲的树
which was so deformed compared to the straight trees, that lumberjacks labeled it useless, as it was unable to turn
这棵树很扭曲 以至于伐木工觉得这棵树毫无用处
into usable wooden planks.
Then, Zhuangzi came along,
and stated that the tree is actually very suitable as a place to relax.
Because the tree was seen as useless by the lumberjacks, it never got chopped down,
伐木工觉得这树没用 所以没有砍掉它
So, the longevity of the tree was due to its uselessness.
Being useless may not lead to a good reputation,
在我们的环境中 没用或许不是个好名声
and will probably evoke shaming and blaming by our environment.
But it also leads to less burdens, less pressure, and probably a much more relaxed life.
但是这样也没有太多负担与压力 生活更加轻松
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Moreover, water always seeks the lower places,
而且 水总是寻低处而流下
and makes the best out of circumstances that no one wants to be in.
于无人欲往之境 尽可能地适应境况
Life is characterized by softness, and softness is strength.
生命之本质便是柔顺 而柔顺也是力量
Soft things don’t break easily, because they can bend and yield, unlike the brittle and rigid.
柔软的物体不易碎 因为他们能够弯曲伸展 不像脆硬之物
Even the hardest of rock can be overcome by the gentleness of water,
and even the blowing of the wind.
Hence, a famous actor, philosopher, and martial artist once said:
因此 一位著名的演员 哲学家和武术家曾说
“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own,
“不拘于形 适应它 并兀自成长
and let it grow, be like water.”
顺水而流 如水一样”
Thank you for watching.