OK, so, I've written about the three jewels of Taoism before.  To recap, they're:


Today it's humility I'm looking at.

There it is, over on the left, there.  Unlike compassion and simplicity, humility is a six word chinese phrase, "bugan wei tianxia xian." 

I think it's pronounced "bu-gahn way tee-ahn-sha, shahn."  I'm still learning.   

It translates literally to  "not dare to be first in the world", but is more commonly known to be humility. 

I saved this one for last because frankly, it's the one I have the most trouble with. 

What sort of trouble?  All sorts of trouble. 

First, when I was a kid, I was a damned arrogant person.  

Sometimes, I still am.  

I'm fairly smart, and I know it.  I can be verbally quick, I read fast, I'm well-spoken, a good writer, too.     

And, I do like my share of attention. 

I struggle with that.  Because I genuinely do not believe that any of those things makes me deserving of special recognition, attention, nor better than anyone else.  I have plenty of things which are the very opposite of exceptional.  Sometimes, I overeat.  I can be a big showboat.  I'm often clueless, and selfish.

None of THOSE things makes me particularly worthy of being particularly shamed either.  I'm just a person with foibles, like anyone and frankly, everyone else.  

So why is humility a "jewel of the Tao", what makes it a worthwhile treasure? I think they key lies in that literal translation, of not daring to be first in the world.  Put another way, it means allowing that you are of this world, in it, part of it, one part among many.

Being one-among-many means that you don't have to compare yourself to others.  Life isn't a contest.  You don't win it.  You live it.  That means that it's okay if I'm not the skinniest I can be, or if I sometimes eat french fries which I could do without.  It also means that it's never too late for me to pick up a new technical skill, or write another book.  Sure, there are other people out there who maybe are in better shape, or have more knowledge than I do.  But they're not better than me.  I'm not worse than them.  Nor is it the other way around.  We're all just unique.  

A tree needs leaves, many leaves.  The first leaf it sprouts in spring is no better nor worse than the last to fall from it in winter.   

Knowing that is very liberating.  It engenders in me an immense love for other people.  I know that instead of worrying about being judged by them, or doing that judging myself, and thus buoying myself with vapid feelings of superiority, or damning myself with useless feelings of inferiority, I have another option.  Instead, I can allow that each of us is beautiful, a vital part of the same one immense thing.  

That feeling grounds me, makes me more present in the moment, and in my body. 

It's funny, as a Taoist, I'm a non-theist.  It's not that I don't believe in a God, or Gods, like an atheist, nor do I believe in one or many, like a theist or polytheist.  The issue is sort of irrelevant to me.  I like to say I'm spiritual, rather than religious.  But one thing I do have in common with many religious folks is a sense of humble submission.  I submit utterly to my experience of being indivisible from everything around me.  Alan Watts might say that I recognize I'm a function of the whole universe, just as any one wave is a function of the whole ocean. 

I'm grateful for that recognition.  When I can remember it, and experience it, it brings me a lot of peace.


AuthorMako Allen
Categories365 Gratitude