Tao Te Ching – Chapter 50
Life and death are inseparable.
One is form, the other formless,
each giving way to the other.
One third of people concentrate on life
and ignore death.
One third obsess over death
and ignore life.
One third don’t think of either
and just pass on through.
Each clings to conditioned ideas
Each suffers.

Walking this Path
we become skillful
at living without suffering.
We do not fear attack
therefore an attacker
has already lost the advantage.
Life and death have become the same,
therefore even death cannot disturb us.



This chapter might be a combination of what were once two verses, perhaps joined because each refers to death in some manner. I somewhat understand the idea that life and death are part of the same process rather than the polar opposites we have been taught to see.

I don’t think Lao-Tzu is recommending a stoic approach to death, gritting our teeth and accepting it as inevitable. For me it is more like seeing that all life depends on death, but all death leads to new life – always. That is the unending process of the Tao. What that might mean for my own personal consciousness remains an unsolvable mystery. But on the physical level, nothing is ever destroyed or lost, only transformed. It stands to reason that consciousness, mysterious as it may be, is not exempt from that transformation. The more I identify with a greater Consciousness, the less I am disturbed by what I’ve learned to label, “death.”

2 thoughts on “Life/Death”

  1. Ah, ye ole Death. I heard someone recite a lovely poem this morning. It seemed soothing and Taoist and reminded me of your comment today.
    Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

    The Avowal

    As swimmers dare
    to lie face to the sky
    and water bears them,
    as hawks rest upon air
    and air sustains them,
    so would I learn to attain
    free fall, and float
    into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
    knowing no effort earns
    that all-surrounding grace.


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