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The Highest Good in Tao Te Ching’s Teaching Essay


The meaning of Tao Te Ching’s “The highest good is like water” has several similarities with the definition of the “highest good” in both Christianity and Confucianism. Tao Te Ching makes several comparisons between the highest good and water. All these comparisons are in one way or the other similar to some of the Christian and Confucianism values and teachings regarding this noble virtue. First and foremost, just like water, which is the source of nourishment to almost all the living creatures on earth, the highest good gives life to thousands of things without striving. In acting as the source of life to the various living organisms on earth, water does this rather effortlessly because it simply flows to all those areas where it is needed and provides nourishment to plants, animals, and human beings. In addition to giving life to thousands of things, the highest good also flows to places where people reject and, therefore, it is like the Tao (Tzu, 1997).

This comparison is directly related to the Confucianism belief that impurities usually lie in low areas where water normally collects. Moreover, the comparison is also related to the Taoist belief that the Tao dwells in these low areas. In Christianity, people are encouraged to be indiscriminate in all their charitable endeavors. The ‘highest good’ is, therefore, a virtue that requires a person or any other party seeking to attain it to be universal in their approach while helping others (Tzu, 1997). In this context, the term universal does not imply that the person has to travel all over the continent helping others. It simply requires that the person or party should not discriminate while extending their services (Tzu, 1997). This requirement is present in both Christianity and Confucianism where there is advocacy that followers should be indiscriminate while helping people who might be in need.

In addition to the aforementioned comparison of the ‘highest good’ in both Christianity and Confucianism, the underlying aspect that is being highlighted in this Taoist teaching is the approach used and the relationship that exists in Christianity, Confucianism, and Taoism. In many ways, the approach towards doing right to others is similar to the highest good as asserted by Tao in his comparison between this virtue and water. In addition to giving life to thousands and going to places where men reject, Tao also gives some direction about some of the values that should be practiced by human beings in their approach to doing right.

‘In dwelling, be close to the land.’ (Laozi, 2012). This simply implies that people should not stay disconnected from the main issues that face society as a whole. This is attributable to the fact that such closeness is essential in understanding the issues that need to be addressed and, therefore, incorporate them in all their benevolent efforts. This approach should be adopted by Christians, Taoists, and Confucianism who should always do the right. Besides, people should seek ground information regarding the real issues affecting people (Laozi, 2012).

‘In meditation, go deep in the heart.’ This line illustrates the importance when it comes to all the endeavors meant to enhance spiritual wellbeing in Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism. In carrying out endeavors such as meditation, human beings are encouraged to ensure that there is a closeness between them and promote personal reflection in others. While dealing with other people, it is recommendable to portray gentleness and kindness. All three religions advocate for a compassionate approach while dealing with other people. This, therefore, means that even in acts of benevolence, people should be guided by the need to be kind and gentle to others (Hohne, 2009). Honesty is also a virtue that is advocated by Tao. Furthermore, people are encouraged to be truthful in their speeches. Honesty is an important aspect that is accorded great weight in all three religions. On the same note, dishonesty is a sin. Therefore, while doing the right, human beings are encouraged to be honest in all their endeavors. In addition to honesty, another important aspect as far as doing right to others is concerned is a just approach that is encouraged across all religions (Hohne, 2009). Indeed, all three religions recognize the need for justice. In exercising their ruling, people should be just in their deeds and words.

Efficiency is an aspect that has been accorded great weight as far as righteous acts are concerned. In Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism, people are encouraged to be efficient in all their endeavors. Some of the key attributes concerning overall efficiency are the need for competency in all business dealings and other efforts that are meant to advance the common good to all mankind. In addition to the need for competency, it is advocated that people should be time conscious in all their undertakings (Hohne, 2009). Time is recognized as an important resource in Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism and, therefore, people in all these religions are encouraged to be mindful of their timing when engaging in various activities.

Finally, people are encouraged to avoid fighting and passing blame to others in case of any unfortunate occurrences. Fighting is regarded as a vice in all three religions because, in many instances, it is always counterproductive. Also, it erodes some of the economic gains made by the people (Tzu, 1996). It is also equally unproductive for people to engage in blame games whereby instead of taking responsibility for the faults committed, they end up blaming one another for unfortunate occurrences (Tzu, 1996).

All in all, ‘highest good’ is a virtue that has been significantly explored by Tao Te Ching in his assertions. It is regarded as the utmost virtue that human beings can choose to exercise. Therefore, it is an important aspect across all religions including Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism. In many ways, the highest good has been compared to water and the similarities between virtue and water have been explained exhaustively. In addition to that, Tao Te Ching offers various guidelines regarding the right conduct that should be observed by human beings. Right conduct incorporates justice to others, honesty, competency, peace, and personal responsibility. Tao Te Ching has done a lot in educating the society about living with others peacefully. In his assertions, he discusses the virtues that people require most to be able to coexist. This is founded on the fact that people need others for various reasons. Guiding and correcting others is a virtue that should not be overlooked.

References

Hohne, K. (2009). Tao Te Ching: The Poetry of Nature. London: Tao Books.

Laozi, L.T. (2012). Tao Te Ching: An All-New Translation. Seoul: Shambhala Publications.

Tzu, L. (1996). The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu. New York: Macmillan.

Tzu, L. (1997). Tao Te Ching. New York: Wordsworth Editions

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Highest Good in Tao Te Ching's Teaching." November 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-highest-good-in-tao-te-chings-teaching/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Highest Good in Tao Te Ching's Teaching'. 20 November.

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