To keep on filling

is not as good as stopping.

Overfilled, the cupped hands drip.

Better stop short than fill to the brim.

Over sharpen the blade,

and the edge will soon blunt.

Amass a store of gold and jade,

and no one can protect it.

Claim wealth, titles, honor and pride,

and disaster will follow.

Retire when the work is done.

This is the way of heaven.


The 9th verse of the Tao Te Ching teaches us humility. Our society has created a society full of greed. The commercials we see on T.V. tell us we will find happiness drowning ourselves in possessions. Our society promotes status, and to seek approval in all our deeds. The tainted concept of the American Dream has transformed the people of this country to live an ego centered life. Living through your ego, takes us further away from a Tao centered life.

This ego driven mentality is a cancer responsible for our current economic situation. We have been driven ourselves deep in to dept, in order to keep up with the Joneses. The dream of owning your own home, has caused many families to lose their homes. The banks in this country were not only given billions of dollars in bailout funds; they also took over millions of homes. We have fallen for the great lie; if we live with ego, pride, and greed we would find happiness.

The creative force of the Tao is beautifully balanced in the principle of humility, mirror and listen to the great Tao. Know when you have filled your hands with too much water. Know when to stop sharpening your blade to avoid dullness. If you find wealth, do not hoard it to yourself; share to better humanity.

Seek the pleasures in what you’re doing, rather than how it will benefit you. Enjoy the means, not the end. Living humility knows when to stop, step back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Center your life with the Tao, and dismiss your ego.

  1. johanna says:

    Hey, has it ever occured to you that Loa-tzu paraphrases bible verses? This bible verse closely matches the one above. ” Do not put away riches for yourself on Earth. Moth and rust can destroy them. Thieves can break in and steal them. Instead put away your riches for Heaven. There, moths and rust do not destroy them. Thieves do not break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your riches are.”

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      If you study religion from its earliest forms you will find all belief systems criss-cross one another. The story of a virgin birth, messiah, and the death and resurrection were part of earlier religions. The Tao Te Ching and the Bible share similar moral lessons. Don’t quote me on this but I believe the Tao Te Ching was written before the Bible. I am sure Rambling can correct me if I am wrong.
      In my research in theology; I believe there are many paths to the same destination.

  2. cary says:

    Yea, it was written between the 4th and 6th century BCE.

    Not to mention the bible quote kinda misses the point. The idea is to maintain balance, to be content with what is needed and no more. Not to seek wealth and riches in a later life but to not seek them at all.

  3. I think Lao Tse predates the bible by quite a bit. Even though the writings are from around 650BCE the origins go way back before then and originate from sages as far back as the Yellow Emperor around 3,000 BCE.

  4. […] My Descent into Madness summarizes this verse wonderfully. We must remember our humility. We must remember the idea of non permanence. He says: […]

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