“Knowing What Is Sufficient” and the Embodied Nature of Contentment in the Laozi and the “Neiye”

Abstract

The idea of contentment or sufficiency is an important theme throughout the Laozi 老子, and Western readings of this text have especially emphasized an understanding of contentment in terms of satisfaction with an existence free of excessive material possessions. Building on recent scholarship that suggests a close connection between the kind of early breath cultivation described in the “Neiye 內業” (“Inward Training”) chapter of the Guanzi 管子 and the form and content of the Laozi, this article explores how the concept of contentment or sufficiency is treated in both texts as an embodied phenomenon, often manifesting as a balance of psycho-physical energies. It argues that reading the Laozi on contentment in this light yields a more complete picture of how this concept functions there, concluding that this reading will be more helpful in thinking about wider ethical issues of materialism and acquisitiveness.

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Correspondence to Matthew Duperon.

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Duperon, M. “Knowing What Is Sufficient” and the Embodied Nature of Contentment in the Laozi and the “Neiye”. Dao 16, 205–219 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-017-9547-9

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Keywords

  • Laozi 老子
  • Neiye 內業
  • Contentment
  • Sufficiency
  • Embodiment