Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Chapter 7, The Master puts herself last

The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The Master puts himself last;
that is why he ends up ahead.
He is detached from all things;
that is why he is one with them.
Because he stays a witness to life,
he is perfectly fulfilled.

What has never been born can never die. This applies to the Tao and it applies to us, as manifestations of the Tao. We’re told that we are born and will die and we assume this to be true. But upon closer inspection, we see that it although it is true for the body and its constituent parts, the same cannot be so easily said about the “I”, the formless awareness that comprises our being.

In essence we are consciousness, which operates through the brain and body but which is never actually born into form; it remains elusive, intangible, like an invisible vapor. Scientists can scan the brain and highlight the areas in which consciousness appears to operate, but this is no more than observing footprints in the sand. It tells us no more about that elusive essence than the footprints tell us about the person who left them.

We are the microcosm of the macrocosm; the Tao is the vastness of the universe and the essence behind and within all manifested forms. It is infinite and eternal, and it was never born (in spite of the appearance and dissolution of matter), and thus it can never die. It has no desires for itself, because it doesn’t see itself as separate from anything. At the deepest level it is all one, so all works in harmony. This is as true for us as it is for that which we call the ‘Tao’, because we are not separate from it; we are it.

The Master, fully realizing that he is one with the Tao, can see beyond the illusion of being a separate self, a separate ego, which is little more than a cluster of memories, thoughts, habits and conditioning. Aligned with the effortless action of the Tao, he gives and gives with no regard to this notion of being a separate ‘self’. Being detached from the myriad things of phenomenal existence, he is at one with all things.

Many of us spend our whole lives trying to make ourselves happier, more fulfilled, successful and balanced. One of the biggest secrets in life is simply this: the way to true, lasting fulfillment is to take a step back from this compulsive, obsessive trap of self-interest. When we instead focus on helping and serving others, we align ourselves with the essence of the Tao, which is not about taking, seeking and acquiring, but is about creating, giving and nurturing.

The Master realizes that true fulfillment and joy does not come from focusing on what we can get out of life, but by focusing on what we can give to life. As another translation offers:

“Serve the needs of others and all your own needs will be fulfilled. Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.”

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