Too Much Desire Tears The Heart

Free From Desire

This marks my first post in a series of posts that will highlight the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. I will be selecting some of my favorite poems and commenting on how we can apply this ancient knowledge to our lives.

The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text consisting of 81 brief poems or chapters. According to tradition, it was written around the 6th century BC by the sage Lao Tzu “Old Master”, a record-keeper from the Zhou Dynasty.

The text’s true authorship and date of composition or compilation are still debated. Many believe that it was a group of poets, who composed the text and made up the author Lao Tzu.

The Tao Te Ching is fundamental to the Philosophical Taoism. The word Tao means “path” or “way”, although in Chinese folk religion and philosophy it has taken on more abstract meanings. Taoism emphasizes: compassion, moderation, and humility.

Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, mans connection with the cosmos, longevity, wu wei (effortless action), liberty, immortality and spontaneity.

Tao Te Ching: Poem 12 “Substance”

Too much colour blinds the eye,
Too much music deafens the ear,
Too much taste dulls the palate,
Too much play maddens the mind,
Too much desire tears the heart.

In this manner the sage cares for people:
He provides for the belly, not for the senses;
He ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance.

The meaning I derive  from this passage is that we should not become attached to our peripheries. When we are attached to our physical senses we simply react when our peripheries have been affected. Living by reaction is not an ideal state of being, when we react we are not in control, we become stressed out, anxious, and frustrated. You will never be free from your worldly desires.

To not be a victim to our physical senses we must become centered in our consciousness. The more centered you become the more space you create between your inner self and your physical senses. This space allows you to just watch and be a witness to your inner world.

When you create enough inner space you quit reacting and you begin to respond. Responding to your situations is being in the present moment. Meditation is the key to create this inner space and the cultivation of your inner witness.

Reacting is living from memory (past), very mechanical. The thing we need to understand is that life is dynamic in nature; it is never the same, by reacting we never face a situation in the most appropriate manner,  it is always lacking a genuine quality.

When you are not consumed and attached to your physical senses you will have the mental clarity to see a situation for what it is. Your response will not be hindered by your past or future. Free from desire, you actually enjoy what “is”.

If you have any personal insights you would like to add, please join the conversation below and leave your comments.

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6 Responses to Too Much Desire Tears The Heart

  1. Hello Ivan,

    I am happy to meet you. The Tao Te Ching is very important to my life. The philosophy of compassion and moderation appeals to me on many levels.

    Something you said. “The more centered you become the more space you create between your inner self and your physical senses. This space allows you to just watch and be a witness to your inner world.”, gave me a new perspective on living in the moment. I could really see that when you are centered the greater the separation from those things that can impact you and cause you to react instead of accept.

    I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts.


    • Thanks so much for stopping by Nick :)..I really appreciate your thoughts :)…glad you liked the post…be well…and wishing you the best on your journey.

  2. What is the biggest thing that separates us from the animals? Intelligence. Living by reacting is wasting the biggest advantage we have as humans and that is our mind. You are absolutely right, life is dynamic. Every situation can be different. Therefore, we must adjust the way we think and react as we move along.

    Great article I enjoyed the poem. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much for contributing my site :)…yes we need to awaken the innate intelligence in everyone :)…hope your doing well…peace

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