The Three Treasures

December 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

I recently met Saul Djanogly, a lay Rabbi who lectures on The Kabbalah of Money. Saul wondered if I would join him on a lecture about wealth and money as seen in the Jewish, Greco-Roman and Eastern traditions. It’s an interesting idea, and I started to re-read some of the Eastern classics looking at references to money. Looking at my old favourite the Tao Te Ching I came across these lines from Chapter 67,

I possess Three Treasures
to maintain and uphold

first is compassion
second is frugality
third is not presuming to be first under heaven

compassion leads to courage
frugality allows generosity
not presuming to be first
creates a lasting instrument

if I renounced compassion for valour
austerity for extravagance
reluctance for supremacy
I would die

compassion wins every battle
and outlasts every attack

what heaven creates
let compassion protect

Now I understand how frugality leads to generosity, because if I am frugal then I have created a surplus that I can share with others. I can also see how not presuming to be first, that is, not wishing to contend with others, leads to a ‘lasting instrument’, that is a personal power acquired through individual achievement and not by contending or opposing others. However why does compassion lead to courage? How does compassion win every battle?

We are here on a similar path to Jesus’ saying, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ The strong and aggressive do not prevail in the long term, and the soft and yielding win out over time. In the Taoist view softness and yielding are always compared to water which flows around everything and whose surface is easily broken. But we have recently seen the power of water in the floods at Cockermouth where trees were uprooted, cars lifted and floated downstream and ancient stone bridges were taken to pieces, all by the power of water.

I looked at some of the quotations in Red Pine’s translation, to see what older commentators had to say about compassion leading to courage.  Here are some,

Te-Ch’ing says, “Compassion means to embrace all creatures without reservation.”
Wang-an-Shih says, “Through compassion, we learn to be soft. When we are soft, we can overcome the hardest thing in the world. Thus we can be valiant.”
Wu Ch’eng says, “Compassion is the chief of the three treasures, All people love a compassionate person as they do their own parents. Hence he who attacks or defends with compassion meets no opposition.”
Mencius says, “He who is kind has no enemy under heaven.”
Su Ch’e says, “The world honours daring, exalts ostentation and emphasizes progress. What the sage treasures is patience, frugality and humility, all of which the world considers useless.”

So it is the softness of compassion that wins out in the end as it ‘outlasts every attack’. Therefore compassion both creates and allows courage. Since courage is an energy coming from the heart (cour) any feeling or thought that strengthens and encourages the heart, as compassion does, leads to a stronger heart, one that expresses itself valiantly.

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Entry filed under: Ancient wisdom.

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