The 77th verse of the Tao Te Ching suggests thinking about the surpluses we can put back into circulation to decrease deficiencies that exist elsewhere in our world. Lao-tzu asks you and me to put the wisdom of this verse to work in our personal lives by seeing what we have but don’t need as an opportunity to be “Tao people.” Lao-tzu isn’t asking our government, political leaders, or captains of industry, but us personally: “What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?” The answer is, only the man or woman of the Tao. When there are enough of us, there will be a pool from which we Tao-centered people emerge to govern. Then we’ll put into place the way of living offered in this verse.
It’s fairly simple to understand a surplus of money or possessions, but the word actually symbolizes much more. For example, there’s the surplus of joy you feel that you can offer to yourself and your family. Then there’s the excess of intellectual prowess, talent, compassion, health, strength, and kindness you can share with the world. Whenever you see deficiencies in joy, abundance, educational opportunities, perfect health, or sobriety, make your own surpluses available. Lao-tzu urges you to look at what’s deficient and be an instrument of increasing, rather than a collector of more, which marginalizes and divides the oneness that is all of life.
Reduce what’s in excess in your life and then offer it where it can be utilized. Begin with your stuff: clothing, furniture, tools, equipment, radios, cameras, or anything that you have too much of. Don’t sell it; rather, give it away (if you can afford to). Don’t ask for recognition for charitable acts—simply behave in harmony with the Tao by reducing your surplus. Then think about your intangible abundance of health, joy, kindness, love, or inner peace, and seek ways to offer those glorious feelings to those who could benefit from your bounty.
Just as nature fills voids by maintaining the cyclical balance necessary to our world, be an instrument of increasing where you observe deficiencies. Practice giving by dedicating a portion of your earnings to be used to ease deficits, for as Lao-tzu points out, “The master can keep giving because there is no end to his wealth.” If you can’t offer money to those who are less fortunate, say a silent blessing for them. Offer a prayer when you hear an ambulance or police car siren. Look for opportunities to fill the empty spaces in other people’s lives with money; things; or loving energy in the form of kindness, compassion, joy, and forgiveness. Be a man or woman of the Tao!