Master or Student? “Tao Te Ching” verse 27 for Artists

by | Mar 19, 2015 | 0 comments

I want to share with you a “Tao Te Ching” verse 27 for Artists which resonates with me. Mor often then not when I read this verse I find myself pondering master or student relationship.
Chapter 27*
Good traveling does not leave tracks
Good speech does not seek faults
Good reckoning does not use counters
Good closure needs no bar and yet cannot be opened
Good knot needs no rope and yet cannot be untied
Therefore sages often save others
And so do not abandon anyone
They often save things
And so do not abandon anything
This is called following enlightenment
Therefore the good person is the teacher of the bad person
The bad person is the resource of the good person
Those who do not value their teachers
And do not love their resources
Although intelligent, they are greatly confused
This is called the essential wonder
There is a lot to learn and apply in our life and art from this verse.
People tend to think that for someone to be good at something, they have to see the effort involved in it; will they be seeing the complex techniques applied or the hardship of the artist. Actually, it is the opposite.   
As a Tai Chi practitioner, I was always amazed to see how the moves of the true master are barely seen, but yet the power felt. It is the same with music. As my son is a pianist, I have watched how some of the audience seem to appreciate more the maneuvers, the speed, or the physical involvement of the performer, where the true music is heard when one doesn’t even notice the performer. This applies to Sumi-e painting as well…. the more effortless it looks, the more effective the painting is.

It is true, we have to strive to become masters in anything we do, but the most important thing is to understand that mastery doesn’t make us any different; better or worse from everything or anyone. 

Lao Tzu also advises that one of the important skills to master is teaching and learning as well.

“Therefore the good person is the teacher of the bad person……
The bad person is the resource of the good person….”

By “good and bad” Lao Tzu means more like complementary, the opposite and mutually affirming qualities of everything.

As the teacher is a resource, so is the student. I do find that I learn as much (if not more) as I teach in my Sumi-e classes about the master or student relationship.

* Translation by Derek Lin 





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