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The Tao of Te or The Way of Power

Taoist philosophy, along with some Confucian concepts, regarding the proper use of power.
All phenomena arises from the Tao. While the Tao is most easily identifiable and readily observed in the flowing nature of water, it exists in all things. Within the Tao resides all answers to all inquiries. The proper cultivation of oneself therefore can be found by following the Tao or the path. The health of the culture depends upon and is created by each individual of the culture. If there is chaos and entropy in a system, one must look to the absence of health within the individual cells in an effort to rejuvenate the organism.

In matters of government, despite outward appearances, it is not the leader who possesses all of the power. A leader has been chosen by their people for their Te or virtue. They derive their power from the people. It is therefore the responsibility of the people to guide their leader and monitor the leader's use of power. Without their people a leader is like a boat without sails, a bird without wings.

In listening to the Tao one knows when to act, when to pause, when to move. Just as a tree, by naturally being aligned with the Tao, knows when to begin sending forth new shoots, so too does a wise person know when to exert their will.

Nature does not have to insist
Can blow for only half a morning
Rain for only half a day
And what are these winds and these rains but natural?
If nature does not have to insist why should man?

--The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu: Witter Bynner

In Confucian philosophy the Chun Tzu is one who is guided by their virtue (Te) and their respect for the whole of humanity. The Chun Tzu is an embodiment of Jen or the human~hearted qualities of universal love, empathy, compassion and benevolence.

The Chun Tzu is a highly principled person who acts for the good of all; their honorable intentions in alignment with the interests of the people. Having developed respect for self and for others, the Chun Tzu acts with authenticity and integrity in all matters with the genuine desire to be of infinite service to the world.

A leader with the qualities of a Chun Tzu is the ideal leader; they are trustworthy and they humbly listen to the needs of the people. They are guided by Li or a Confucian formula of etiquette that teaches humanity how to live a harmonious and orderly life through the use of right words, right manners and right relationships.

Knowing the proper and wise use of power, the Chun Tzu is able to avert disaster by adhering to their deep and abiding reverence for all citizens of all nations, of every color, race and creed. In this virtuous position, the Chun Tzu gives awareness to every detail with great attention to allow for the best possible outcome in all situations. The Chun Tzu then, acting from a place of love, can effectively and successfully move humankind towards peace and goodwill.

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

Scholars of Eastern religion and philosophy feel that the translation of Te into the term *power* misses the mark. Perhaps this is due to the Western definition of power which is often seen as a type of control: "He has all the power in the relationship" or, as related to one's monetary wealth.

In the Tao there exists a harmony that flows forth when one is aligned with nature and her laws. When an individual is in rhythm with the Tao they possess an inner awareness that guides them through life with grace and ease. There is a sense of knowing ones place in the universe, a feeling of connectedness to all beings, and the power of living a virtuous, humble and honest existence.

In Te there is power without the exertion of force. One does not act without considering the consequences of their actions. A gentle prodding to get to the root of a problem with an earnest effort to find the proper solution is Te in action. In the consideration of matters of immense gravity action is neither hasty nor harsh. One always endeavors to find the simplest and most peaceful response with as little interference as possible so as not to disrupt the natural order of the universe.

The Taoist concept of Wu-Wei (which also applies here) teaches us the power of flowing with the Tao. One follows the path of least resistance in wu-wei without the pressure of force, without the ego-driven desire to control. One's effectiveness becomes an effortless dance, each step guided by the Tao, a flowing rhythm of tranquil action.

If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.

The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.

Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.

--Tao Te Ching: No. 57 ~ Stephen Mitchell

Regarding Te 12.Feb.2003 11:19

<sound of the wind>

I believe "Te" is better translated as "virtue".

Meaning of "Te" 12.Mar.2007 17:43


I consider the meaning of the concept of "Te" to be "Integrity" because to me it is "being true to ones self" as well as being "virtuous" or good.

I have a siamese cat named Te, and trust me, it fits the little goofball. :)