The Twentieth Verse of the Tao Te Ching

Give up learning and you will be free
from all your cares.
What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the difference between good and evil?

Must I fear what others fear?
Should I fear desolation
when there is abundance?
Should I fear darkness
when that light is shining everywhere?

In spring, some go to the park and climb the terrace,
but I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Most people have too much;
I alone seem to be missing something.
Mine is indeed the mind of an ignoramus
in its unadulterated simplicity.
I am but a guest in this world.
While others rush about to get things done,
I accept what is offered,
earning little, spending less.

Other people strive for fame;
I avoid the limelight,
preferring to be left along.
Indeed, I seem like an idiot:
no mind, no worries.

I drift like a wave on the ocean.
I blow as aimless as the wind.

All men settle down in their grooves;
I alone am stubborn and remain outside.
But wherein I am most different from the others is
in knowing to take sustenance from the great Mother!


Author’s Commentary

Imagine a life where you’re not striving for anything. You have everything you need to be happy, and you are. You’re completely present in the now, never concerned about the future.

Sounds wonderful, no? What’s keeping you from living that way? What do you need to be happy? If you get it, will you finally be happy then?

Will the right amount of support be enough to make you happy? Is there a custody schedule that, if in place, would allow you to finally feel complete?

Lao Tzu is encouraging us to question our most fundamental perceptions of reality. “What is the difference between yes and no… good and evil? He’s pushing us to see that these are all concepts built upon judgments and misunderstandings.

We believe we are separate from the Tao and we need something outside of ourselves to be happy. The truth is that we are whole and complete exactly as we are, right now. The ego is responsible for believing otherwise, but it’s only a false belief which can be overcome and replaced with a more uplifting belief.

After all, what’s a belief? It’s just a thought you think over and over until it seems true enough. If you think about it all beliefs are limited. The purest belief anyone can have is “I exist”. Anything else is conjecture based on a limited perception of reality.

Believing you need something that you don’t have is obviously false. It’s a logical impossibility. If you truly needed it to exist, and didn’t have it, you wouldn’t exist. Since you do exist, you either don’t need it or you already have it, right?

We “fear desolation”, for instance, not having enough money to pay bills, etc., yet we are infinite, eternal, divine beings connected to all that is. The Tao knows nothing but abundance. Everything we ever need is always provided. It’s only our thoughts that convince us otherwise.

If you could negotiate with your spouse from a mindset of total presence in the now with an absence of wanting, would that change the dynamics of your negotiation?

If you could, you would be participating from a place of empowerment, acceptance, and surrender. Not surrendering as in waiving the white flag and giving up, but surrendering to the infinite sustenance from the great mother!

If you’re convinced that your spouse is your only source of abundance, guess what, that might just be your experience, at least until you change your beliefs.

Our beliefs are limited, but they are also self-affirming. In other words, your external circumstances are a reflection of your inner reality. Your inner reality is essentially composed of beliefs. If you believe you do not deserve abundance, your reality supports that belief.

You can constantly strive to change your circumstances, but action alone will get you nowhere. A change in your belief about what you deserve is necessary to effect change in your external reality.

If we can truly surrender to the belief that everything we need is always provided, we can live a worry-free existence. Personally, I’d rather that be the legacy I pass on to my kids than a material fortune.


Michael Cotugno, Esq.