Tao Te King
Tien Cong Tran
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The way that can be talked about is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
"Nothing" is the name of the origin of Heaven and Earth.
"Being" is the name of "the mother" of all things.
So, in eternal Nothing, we should look at the wonderfulness of the Way.
In eternal Being, we should look at its outer aspects.
These two flow from the same source, though differently named; and both are called mysteries.
Mysterious and more mysterious.
That is the door of all wonders.
When the entire world recognizes beauty as beauty, there is ugliness.
When the entire world recognizes good as good, there is evil.
Indeed, "nothing" and "being" give birth to each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short exhibit each other.
High and low set measure to each other.
Voice and sound harmonize each other.
Back and front follow each other.
Therefore, the sage manages his affairs by "non-doing", and spreads his teaching by "non-talking".
The Way makes all things and denies nothing; it gives birth to them, but lays no claim to them; it does its work, but does not say by its work; it accomplishes his work, but does not dwell on things.
And yet it is just because he does not dwell on things that nobody can ever take them away from it.
Do not exalt the talented, and the people cease from rivalry and contention.
Do not prize goods hard to get, and the people cease from robbing and stealing.
Do not display what is desirable, and the people's hearts remain undisturbed.
Therefore, the sage's way of governing is: emptying the mind, filling the belly, weakening the will, toughening the bones.
In this way he will cause the people to remain without knowledge and without desire, and prevent the knowing ones from any doing.
Doing "non-doing", and everything will be in order.
The Way is like an empty bowl, which is never used up.
Fathomless, it seems to be the origin of all things.
It blunts all sharp edges; it unties all tangles; it harmonizes all lights; it unites the worldly dusts.
Hidden in the deeps, yet it seems to exist forever.
I do not know whose child it is; it seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.
Heaven and Earth are not sentimental; they treat all things as straw-dogs.
The sage is not sentimental; he treats all his people as straw-dogs.
Between Heaven and Earth, there seems to be a bellows: it is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible; the more it works, the more it produces.
No amount of words can fathom it: Better look for it in the middle.
The never-dying spirit of the cave is called the mysterious mother.
The doorway of the mysterious mother is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Lingering like a veil barely seen, it has only a hint of existence; and yet it is inexhaustibly used.
Heaven lasts long, and Earth abides long.
What is the secret of their durability?
Is it not because they do not live for themselves that they can live so long?
Therefore, the sage wants to remain behind, but finds himself at the head of others; reckons himself out, but finds himself safe and secure.
Is it not because he is selfless that his self is realized?
The man of the highest goodness is like water.
Water knows how to benefit all things without striving with them.
It stays in places loathed by all men.
Therefore, it comes near the Way.
In choosing your dwelling, know how to keep to the earth.
In cultivating your mind, know how to dive in the abyss.
In dealing with others, know how to be in relation to benevolence.
In speaking, know how to keep faithfulness.
In controlling the affairs of the state, know how to maintain good governing.
In working, know how to be suitable to ability.
In acting, know how to be suitable to time.
If you do not strive with others, you will be free from error.
You hold to fullness, and it is better to stop in time!
You keep on beating and sharpening a sword, and the edge cannot be preserved for long.
You fill your house with gold and jade, and it can no longer be guarded.
You put on airs by your riches and honor, and you will only reap a crop of calamities.
Here is the Way of Heaven: When you have done your work, retire.
In keeping the spirit and the vital soul together, are you able to maintain their perfect harmony?
In gathering your vital energy to attain suppleness, are you able to play the role of a newborn babe?
In washing and clearing the mysterious mirror, are you able to purify it of all dross?
In loving your people and governing your state, are you able to do nothing?
In the opening and shutting of heaven's gate, are you able to play the feminine part?
Enlightened and seeing far into all directions, can you at the same time know nothing?
Rearing, feeding, rearing without claiming for its own, doing the work without claiming doing it, raising without being master.
This is mysterious Virtue.
Thirty spokes converge upon one hub; but it is the center hole that is the use of the cart.
We shape a lump of clay into a vessel; but it is the empty space within the vessel that is its use.
We make doors and windows for a chamber; but it is the empty space within it that is its use.
Thus, while the beings are profitable, the non-being is useful.
The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors cloy the palate.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Rare goods tempt men to do wrong.
Therefore, the sage takes care of the belly, not the eye.
He prefers what is within to what is without.
"Welcome disgrace as a fright. Prize calamities as your own body."
Why do we say "welcome disgrace as a fright"?
Welcome denotes "in the low place": Getting "welcome" is a fright, and so is losing it!
That is why we say "welcome disgrace as a fright".
Why do we say "prize calamity as your own self"?
Because our self is the very source of our calamity.
If we have no self, what calamities can we have?
Hence, only he who is willing to give his self for the sake of the world is fit to be entrusted with the world.
Only he who can love to give his self for the sake of the world is worthy of being the steward of the world.
Look at it but you cannot see it; its name is formless.
Listen to it but you cannot hear it; its name is soundless.
Grasp it but you cannot get it; its name is incorporeal.
These three attributes are unfathomable; therefore they mingle into one.
Its upper side is not bright; its under side not dim.
It continues endlessly, it is unnamable.
Until it returns beyond the realm of things, it is called the formless form, the non-material image; it is called the vague.
Confront it and you do not see its face!
Follow it and you do not see its back!
He who keeps with this timeless Way can dominate present events.
To know the timeless origin is to go into the Way.
In ancient times the wise men of the Way were subtle, divine, comprehensive and too profound to be known.
Because they are unfathomable, we try to describe their picture as following:
Hesitant like one crossing a stream in winter.
Timid like one afraid of his neighbors on all sides.
Serious like a guest.
Thawing like ice on the point of melting.
Simple like an uncarved block.
Hollow like a cave.
Muddled like muddy water.
Who knows he is muddled and settles down, then quietly and gradually becomes clear?
Who knows to move from inertia and gradually become living?
He who keeps the Way does not want to be full.
Precisely because he is never full, he can always remain hidden, and does not become new.
Attain to utmost emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to stillness.
While all things are stirring together, I only contemplate the return; all things flourish, but each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to be still; that is to return to one's destiny.
To return to one's destiny is to return to the constant Way.
To know the constant Way is called enlightenment.
If one does not know the constant Way, one is blind and runs into disasters.
If one knows the constant Way, one is all-embracing.
If one is all-embracing, one is just.
To be just is to be king.
King is Heaven.
Heaven is the Way.
The Way is eternal.
It is safe all life.
The best ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.
When sincerity is not enough, there is lack of faith.
With the ruler who is cautious and scanty of words, when his work is done and things are accomplished, all the people say, "We ourselves have naturally achieved it!"
When the great Way was abandoned, there appeared benevolence and righteousness.
When intelligence arose, there appeared the great lying.
When the six relations lost their harmony, there appeared filial piety and paternal kindness.
When darkness and disorder began to reign in a kingdom, there appeared the loyal ministers.
Drop sagacity, abandon intellection, and the people will be benefited a hundredfold.
Drop benevolence, abandon righteousness, and the people will return to filial piety and paternal kindness.
Drop shrewdness, abandon profit, and robbers and thieves will cease to be.
These three, being external adornments, are not enough.
Therefore, there must have something to which the people attach themselves: see the pure, embrace the unadorned, diminish the self and curb the desires.
Give up learning, and you will have no more worry.
How great is the difference between "yes" and "no"?
What is the distinction between "good" and "evil"?
Must I fear what others fear?
What abysmal nonsense this is!
All men are joyous and beaming, as though feasting upon a sacrificial ox, as though mounting a spring terrace.
I alone am placid and get no mark, like a babe that has not yet smiled.
I alone am forlorn as one who has no home to return to.
All men have more than enough.
I alone appear to possess nothing.
What a fool I am!
What an obscure mind I have!
All men are shining.
I alone am dull.
All men are sharp.
I alone am blunt, riffling like the endless ocean, rambling like the ceaseless wind.
All men have their things.
I alone am stubborn and stupid.
But wherein I am most different from others is in knowing to prize my nourishing mother.
Great Virtue shows itself only in following the Way.
The Way is something elusive and evasive.
Elusive and evasive, and yet it contains within itself an image.
Elusive and evasive, and yet it contains within itself a substance.
Unfathomable and hidden, and yet it contains within itself an essence.
The essence is very real, and contains within itself an unfailing sincerity.
Throughout the ages its name has been preserved because through it we see the beginning of all things.
How do I know the beginning of all things?
Bent but then whole.
Curled but then straight.
Empty but then full.
Worn but then new.
Little but then gain.
Much but then doubtful.
Therefore, the sage embraces the One, and becomes an example for the world.
He does not make a show of himself, hence he shines.
He does not justify himself, hence he becomes known.
He does not boast of his ability, hence he gets his credit.
He does not brandish his success, hence he endures.
He does not compete with anyone, hence no one can compete with him.
Indeed, the ancient saying "Bent but then whole" is not an empty word.
If you have really attained wholeness, everyone will flock to you.
Few words fit Nature.
For a whirlwind does not last a whole morning, nor does a sudden shower last a whole day.
Who is their author?
Heaven and earth.
Even Heaven and earth cannot make their things last long; how is it possible for the works of men?
Hence, he who cultivates the Way is one with the Way; he who practices Virtue is one with Virtue; and he who loses the Way is one with Loss.
To be one with the Way: the Way welcomes it.
To be one with Virtue: Virtue welcomes it.
To be one with Loss: Loss welcomes it.
If it is not enough to get faith, there is no faith.
One on tip-toe cannot stand.
One astride cannot walk.
One who displays himself does not shine.
One who justifies himself has no glory.
One who boasts of his own work has no merit.
One who is proud of himself will not endure.
From the point of view of the Way, these things are called "unwanted food and extraneous growths," which are loathed by all things.
Hence, a man of the Way does not set his heart upon them.
There was something chaotic and yet complete in itself, born before Heaven and Earth.
Silent and empty, standing alone and unchanging, pervading everywhere and inexhaustible, it may be regarded as the mother of the world.
I do not know its name, so I simply call it "the Way".
I reluctantly call it "the great."
To be great is to go on.
To go on is to go far.
To go far is to return.
Hence, "The Way is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. Man is great." Thus, man is one of the great four in the universe.
Man follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Way, the Way follows Nature.
The heavy is the root of the light.
The still is the master of the active.
Therefore, the sage, travelling all day, never separates himself from the baggage-wagon.
Though there are splendid sights to see, he stays quiescently in his own place.
Why should a king of ten thousand chariots display his lightness to the world?
To be light is to be separated from one's root; to be active is not to be master.
Good walking leaves no track behind it.
Good speech leaves no mark to be picked at.
Good calculation makes no use of counting-slips.
Good shutting makes no use of bolt and bar, and yet nobody can undo it.
Good tying makes no use of cord, and yet nobody can untie it.
Hence, the sage is always good at saving men, and therefore nobody is forgotten; always good at saving things, and therefore nothing is wasted.
This is called illumination.
Hence, good men are teachers of bad men.
Bad men are the property of good men.
Not to revere one's teacher, not to cherish one's property, is to be on the wrong road, however intelligent one may be.
This is called the essential and the mysterious.
To know the masculine, to keep to the feminine, that is to be the brook of the world.
To be the brook of the world is to move constantly in the path of Virtue without swerving from it, and to return again to infancy.
To know the white, to keep to the black, that is to be the model of the world.
To be the model of the world is to move constantly in the path of Virtue without erring a single step, and to return again to infinite nothingness.
To know the glorious, to keep to the humble, that is to be the fountain of the world.
To be the fountain of the world is to live the abundant life of Virtue, and to return again to the uncarved block.
When the uncarved block stops being uncarved, it becomes useful vessels.
When the sage uses them, they become officials.
Hence, "A great tailor does not cut."
If anyone wants to take the world and directs it at his will, I do not see how he can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel, which cannot be directed at one's will.
To direct it is to fail.
To grasp it is to lose it.
Some things go ahead, some follow, some breathe slowly, some breathe fast, some are strong, some are weak, some grow in strength, some decay.
Therefore, the sage avoids "very", "too" and "extreme".
He who knows how to guide a ruler in the path of the Way does not try to override the world with force of arms.
It is in the nature of arms to turn against its wielder.
Wherever armies are stationed, thorny bushes grow.
After a great war, bad harvests follow.
After victory, to protect efficiently one's own state, one should not to rely on force.
Victory without claiming ability.
Victory without claiming success.
Victory without being proud.
Victory but saying it is not one's will.
Victory with no longer relying on force.
A thing at its strength begins to become old; this is against the Way; what is against the Way will soon cease to be.
Good weapons are instruments of evil.
Even things seem to hate them.
Therefore the man of the Way does not set his heart upon them.
A superior man prefers the left side when at home, prefers the right side when in war.
Weapons are instruments of evil.
They are not the instruments of the superior man.
He uses them when he has no choice.
He prefers peace and quiet.
To him victory is not beautiful.
To glorify a victory is to rejoice over killing men.
If one rejoices over killing men, one will not conquer the will of the world.
Many people have been killed, one should weep over them with sorrow.
A victory is also a funeral.
The Way is always nameless.
Small as it is in its uncarved block, it is inferior to nothing in the world.
If only a king or a prince could abide with it, all things in the world will render homage to him.
Heaven and Earth are in harmony and send down sweet dew.
Without being commanded to do so, the people live in peace and order.
When the original diversifies, different names arise.
When names arise, one should know it is time to stop.
To know when to stop is to be free from danger.
The Way is to the world what a great river or an ocean is to the streams and brooks.
He who knows men is intelligent.
He who knows himself has insight.
He who conquers men is strong.
He who conquers himself is vigorous.
He who knows how to be enough is rich.
He who goes on assiduously is a man of steady will.
He who does not lose his dwelling endures long.
He who dies but perishes not has a long life.
The great Way is all-pervading, it can reach the right or the left.
All things depend on it, and none is excluded.
It does its work, but it makes no claims for itself.
It clothes and feeds all things, but it makes no claims to be their master.
Because it does not have desire, it may be called "the little."
All things return to it as to their home, but it does not lord over them: Thus, it may be called "the great."
It is just because it does not attempt to be great that its greatness is fully realized.
He who holds the great image will attract all things to him.
They flock to him and receive no harm, for in him they find peace, security and happiness.
Music and dainty dishes make a passing guest pause.
But being said in the words, the Way is tasteless, flavorless, not seen, not heard, but it cannot be used up.
In order to shrink it, it must first be stretched out.
In order to weaken it, it must first be made strong.
In order to throw down it, it must first be set on high.
In order to obtain it, it must first be given.
That is subtle and wise.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The weak overcomes the strong.
The fish cannot leave the deep.
The useful instruments of the nation must not be displayed to the people.
The Way does not do, but does do (does not do nothing).
If kings and princes can cling to it, all things will change by themselves.
When they change and tend to stir, it is time to keep them in their place by the aid of the nameless uncarved.
It is the uncarved that curbs the desires.
Without desires, there will be stillness; the world will be in peace by itself.
The man of high virtue has no virtue; therefore he is virtuous.
The man of low virtue never loses virtue; therefore he is not virtuous.
The man of high virtue does not do and has nothing to do.
The man of low virtue does and has something to do.
The man of high benevolence does, and has nothing to do.
The man of high righteousness does, and has something to do.
The man of high propriety does and is not responded, therefore he rolls up his sleeves and forces people to follow him.
Hence, losing the Way, man resorts to Virtue.
Losing Virtue, man resorts to benevolence.
Losing benevolence, man resorts to righteousness.
Losing righteousness, man resorts to propriety.
Propriety is the merest husk of faith and loyalty, and the beginning of disorder.
Foreknowledge is the flower (outside beauty) of the Way, and the beginning of foolishness.
Therefore, the great man sets his heart upon the thick rather than the thin, upon the fruit rather than the flower.
Hence, he drops what is without and keeps what is within.
In the remote past there were those who attained the One.
Attaining the One, heaven is clear.
Attaining the One, earth is calm.
Attaining the One, God is holy.
Attaining the One, the cave is full.
Attaining the One, ten thousand creatures come into life.
Attaining the One, kings and princes become sovereign rulers of the world.
All of them are what they are by virtue of the one.
If heaven were not clear, it would fall to pieces.
If earth were not calm, it would quake.
If God were not holy, he would cease from being.
If the fountain were not full, it would dry up.
If ten thousand creatures did not come to life, they would perish.
If kings and princes were not supreme, they would stumble and fall.
Hence, humility is the root of greatness.
The high is built upon the foundation of the low.
That is why kings and princes style themselves "the solitary one," "the little one," and "the worthless one".
Is this not enough to prove that humility serves as root?
Therefore extreme honor means no honor.
Do not wish to shine like jade and be aloof like stone.
Return is the movement of the Way.
Weakness is the use of the Way.
All things under heaven are born from being.
Being is born from non-being.
When a man of high learning hears the Way, he diligently practices it.
When a man of ordinary learning hears the Way, he seems to remember it and not to remember it.
When a man of little learning hears the Way, he laughs loud.
If this man did not laugh, the Way would not be enough to be the Way.
Hence, the men of old have truly said:
"The Way that is bright seems dull.
The Way that advances seems to move backward.
The Way that is smooth seems rugged.
High Virtue seems like an abyss.
Great whiteness seems spotted.
Abundant Virtue seems deficient.
Rigorous Virtue seems shabby.
Real essence seems empty.
Great squareness has no corners.
Great vessel takes long to complete.
Great voice has no sound.
The great image is formless."
The Way is hidden and nameless.
Yet it alone knows how to render help and to fulfill.
The Way gives birth to one.
One gives birth to two.
Two gives birth to three.
Three gives birth to ten thousand things.
All things carry the yin on their backs and embrace the yang in their arms.
They are harmony with each other because of these two null ethers.
What is more loathed by men than to be "solitary," "little," and "worthless"?
Yet these are the very names the kings and lords call themselves.
Therefore, one may gain by losing; and one may lose by gaining.
What ancients taught I repeat: "A man of violence will die an unnatural death."
Whoever said this is my teacher.
The softest in the world surpasses the hardest in the world.
Only Nothing can enter into no-space.
Hence, I know the advantages of non-doing.
The teaching of no-word, the beneficial of non-doing, - a very few in the world know.
As for your name and your self, which is the dearer?
As for your self and your wealth, which is the more to be prized?
As for gain or loss, which is more painful?
Thus, extreme love leads to great cost.
Much storage leads to heavy loss.
To know when to have enough is to be immune from disgrace.
To know when to stop is to be preserved from danger.
Only thus can you last long.
The greatest perfection seems imperfect; yet its use is inexhaustible.
The greatest fullness seems empty; yet its use is endless.
The greatest straightness seems bent.
The greatest skill appears clumsy.
The greatest eloquence seems stammering.
Active overcomes cold.
Calmness overcomes heat.
Tranquillity is the norm of the world.
When the world is reigned by the Way, the galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings.
When the world is wayless, war horses breed themselves on the suburbs.
There is no greater calamity than not knowing "enough".
There is no greater evil than will to gain.
Therefore "enough" of knowing "enough" is constant "enough".
Without going out of your door, you are aware of the world.
Without looking out of your window, you see the Way of Heaven.
The farther one goes, the less one knows.
Thus, the sage knows without going out, sees without looking, and achieves without doing.
By learning, one advances day by day.
By practicing the Way, one reduces day by day.
Reducing and reducing, until you reach the state of non-doing.
Non-doing, and yet not not doing.
To win over the world, one must "have no work".
If one still has work, one will never be able to win over the world.
The sage has no heart of his own, but takes the heart of the people as his own.
He is good to the good; he is also good to the not-good: for Virtue is good.
He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
In the midst of the world, the sage recoils.
For the sake of the world he keeps his heart nebulous.
All the people strain their ears and eyes: he treats them as innocent children.
"Out" is life; "In" is death.
Three in ten are followers of life.
Three in ten are followers of death.
Three in ten live as man but act in the realm of death.
How is this?
Because they all crave life.
It is said that he who knows well how to live meets no tigers or rhinoceroses on his road, and comes into the battlefield untouched by the weapons.
For, in him, a rhinoceros would find no place for his horns, a tiger no place to lay his claws upon, and a weapon no place to lodge its point.
How is this?
Because there is no room for death in him.
The Way gives birth [to all things]; Virtue nourishes; matter shapes; environment perfects.
Therefore all things without exception revere the Way and honor Virtue, although they are not commanded, but left to do so naturally.
Hence, the Way gives birth; Virtue nurses, grows, fosters, shelters, comforts, nourishes, and guards.
It gives birth but does not claim as its own; it does but does not claim its doing; it grows but does not claim to be master.
This is called hidden Virtue.
The world has its root.
This root is the mother of the world.
If you know the mother, you know her children.
If you know the children, you should go back and hold on to the mother.
In so doing, to the end of your days you will incur no risk.
Block all the passages, shut all the doors: to the end of your days you will not be worn out.
Open the passages, multiply your activities: to the end of your days you will remain helpless.
To see the small is to have insight.
To hold on to weakness is to be strong.
To use the lights, to return to insight, not to bring calamities upon oneself, this is the way of cultivating the constant.
If only I had a slight wisdom, I should walk in the great Way, and my only fear would be to stray from it.
The great Way is very smooth and straight; and yet the people prefer circuitous paths.
Nowadays people like circuitous paths, even though these paths bring many evil crimes.
The court is extremely elegant; but the fields are extremely weedy and wild, and the granaries are extremely empty.
They wear gorgeous clothes, they carry sharp swords, they surfeit themselves with food and drink, they possess more riches than they can use.
This is boastful robbery.
And it is indeed against the Way.
What is well planted cannot be uprooted.
What is well embraced cannot slip away.
The descendants will carry on the ancestral sacrifice from generation to generation.
Cultivate Virtue in your own person, and it will be genuine.
Cultivate it in the family, and it will be more than sufficient.
Cultivate it in the village, and it will last long.
Cultivate it in the state, and it will flourish abundantly.
Cultivate it in the world, and it will become universal.
Hence, a person must be perceived as person; a family as family; a village as village; a state as state; the world as world.
How do I know about the world?
It is through this.
One who is enriched with Virtue is like the new-born babe.
Wasps and poisonous serpents do not sting him.
Nor fierce beasts seize him, nor birds of prey maul him.
His bones are tender, his sinews soft, but his grip is firm.
He has not known the union of the male and the female, but he grows in his wholeness, and his spirit is at its highest point.
He screams all day long without getting hoarse, because he embodies supreme harmony.
To know harmony is to be constant.
To know the constant is to have insight.
To hasten life is harmful.
To use the belly to direct the ether is to suppress it.
Things become big, thus they will be old soon.
That is against the Way.
To be against the Way is to die soon.
He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.
Blocking all the passages; shutting all the doors, blunting all edges, untying all tangles, harmonizing all lights, uniting the worldly dusts.
This is called the mysterious One.
Hence, you cannot have it by nearness, by distance, by benefit, by harm, by praise, by dislike.
Therefore, it is the most prized of the world.
You govern a state by straightness.
You engage in war by rare operations.
It is by non-doing that you win the world.
How do I know that this is so?
By the fact it is so.
The more restrictions and inhibitions there are in the world, the poorer the people become.
The sharper the weapons the people possess, the more disordered the nation is.
The more skills the people have, the more strange things happen.
The more articulate the laws and rules, the more thieves and robbers there are.
Therefore, the sage says:
I do not do, and the people transform themselves.
I love quietude, and the people become straight by themselves.
I do not engage myself in anything, and the people grow rich by themselves.
I have no desires, and the people return to simplicity.
Where the government is dull, the people are simple.
Where the government is sharp, the people are deceitful.
Bad fortune is what good fortune leans on.
Good fortune is what bad fortune hides in.
Who knows the ultimate end of bad fortune and good fortune?
Is there the right?
The right changes into the strange.
The good changes into the monstrous.
Long indeed have the people been ignorant.
Therefore, the sage squares without cutting, sharpens without disfiguring, straightens without straining, enlightens without dazzling.
In governing a people and in serving Heaven, there is nothing like frugality.
To be frugal is to return early.
To return early is to accumulate an abundance of Virtue.
Accumulating an abundance of Virtue, everything can be overcome.
Overcoming everything, the unknown height is reached.
He who has reached an unknown height can reign a state.
He who reigns a state from its root can last long.
This is the Way of the deep root and the firm foot, of the of long life and not-getting-old.
Governing a big state is like cooking a small fish.
When a man of the Way reigns over the world, demons no longer have spiritual powers.
Not that the demons have no spiritual powers, but the spirits themselves do no harm to men.
Not that the spirits do no harm to men, but the sage himself does no harm to his people.
If the sage and his people refrain from harming each other, Virtue will return.
A great country is like the low stream.
It is where the world flows together.
It is the feminine of the world.
The feminine always conquers the masculine by her quietness; she is in a lower place by her quietness.
Hence, if a big state is below a small state, it will win over the small state.
If a small is below a big state, it will win over the big state.
The one wins by lowering itself; the other, by remaining low.
What a great state wants is simply to embrace and protect more people.
What a small country wants is simply to participate and to submit its patron.
Thus, each gets what it wants.
But it behooves a big state to lower itself.
The Way is the shelter of all things, the treasure of the good, and the refuge of the bad.
A beautiful word may bring admiration.
A precious deed may bring a high rank.
That a man is not good is not a reason that he should be cast away.
Hence, at the enthronement of an emperor, or at the appointment of the three ministers, the offering of jade and four-horsed carriages is not as good as the kneeling presentation of the Way.
Why did the ancients prize the Way?
Is it not because they said that "by virtue of it he who seeks finds, and the guilty are forgiven"?
That is why it is such a treasure to the world.
Carry out no-work.
Taste the tasteless.
Make the small big.
Make the little much.
Render Virtue to enmity.
Plan the difficult when it is still easy.
Accomplish the great when it is still small.
Difficult things in the world can be achieved in what is easy.
Big things in the world can be achieved in what is minute.
Thus, the sage never does big things, yet by that he is capable of achieving them!
He who promises lightly must rarely fulfill it.
He who thinks a thing easy will find it difficult.
Therefore, the sage, who regards everything as difficult, meets with no difficulties in the end.
What is still is easy to keep.
What does not manifest yet is easy to deal with.
What is fragile is easily broken.
What is small is easily scattered.
Deal with a thing before it occurs.
Repair a thing before it is in disorder.
A tree as big as a man's embrace springs from a tiny sprout.
A nine story tower begins with a basket of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles starts from where one stands.
To do is to fail.
To grip is to lose.
Therefore the sage does not do and so does not fail, does not grip and so does not lose.
In handling affairs, people often fail just at the point of completion.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning, then there will be no failure.
Therefore, the sage desires no-desire, does not prize rare goods, learns non-learning, helps the masses return from their ignorance.
He wants to help all creatures to live by their own nature, and does not interfere with them.
In the old days, those who were well versed in the practice of the Way did not try to make the people know, but rather to keep them in the state of simplicity.
Why are the people hard to govern?
Because they are clever.
Therefore, he who governs his state with cleverness is its malefactor.
He who governs his state without resorting to cleverness is its benefactor.
To know these two principles is to possess a rule and a measure of governing.
To know the rule and the measure is mysterious Virtue.
Deep and far-reaching is mysterious Virtue!
It leads all things to return to great harmony.
How do the river and the sea become the king of all streams?
Because they place themselves in low positions, they are the kings of all streams.
Therefore, to reign over the people, one must use humble words.
To wish to stand in front of the people, one must put oneself in back of them.
Therefore the sage is above the people, and they do not feel the heaviness of his weight; he stands in front of them, they do not feel hurt.
Therefore all the world is glad to adore him without getting tired of him.
Just because he contends with nobody, nobody contends with him.
All the world says that my Way is great, but seems queer, like nothing on earth.
But it is just because my Way is great that it is like nothing on earth.
If it were like anything on earth, it would have been small from the very beginning.
I have three treasures, which I hold fast and watch over closely.
The first is compassion; the second is frugality; the third is not daring to be first in the world.
Being compassionate, I can be brave; being frugal, I can be generous; daring not be first, I can be the chief.
If a man forsakes compassion for courage, forsakes frugality for expansiveness, forsakes the rear position for front position, he is only courting death!
Compassionate to engage in war, one wins; in defense, one is secure.
When Heaven wants to help a man, it takes compassion to protect him.
A good warrior is not forceful.
A good fighter is not belligerent.
The best conqueror does not confront the enemy.
The best employer is under employees.
This is called non-striving Virtue.
This is called using the forces of others.
This is called being identified with the sublimity of old Heaven.
The strategists have a saying: I dare not be a host, but rather a guest; I dare not advance an inch, but rather retreat a foot.
This is called going without marching, rolling up one's sleeves without baring one's arms, capturing the enemy without confronting him, holding a weapon that is invisible.
There is no greater calamity than to underestimate the enemy.
To underestimate the enemy is to lose your treasure.
Therefore, when opposing troops meet in battle, victory belongs to the grieving side.
My words are very easy to understand, and very easy to practice.
But the world cannot understand them, nor practice them.
My words have a root.
My deeds have a lord.
Because people are not aware of this, they do not understand me.
Those who understand me are few, those who follow me are honored.
Therefore, the sage wears coarse clothes, while keeping the jade in his bosom.
If we know that we do not know, this is a high insight.
If we do not know that we know, this is sickness.
When we are sick of our sickness, we will cease to be sick.
The sage is not sick.
He is sick of his sickness; thus he is not sick.
When the people no longer fear power, it is a sign that a great power is coming.
Do not constrict their dwelling, nor lay heavy burdens upon their life.
Only when you do not weary them, they will not be wearied of you.
Therefore, the sage knows himself, but makes no show of himself; loves himself, but does not exalt himself.
He prefers what is within to what is without.
He who is brave in daring will be killed.
He who is brave in not daring will survive.
Of these two kinds of bravery, one is beneficial, while the other is harmful.
Some things are hated by Heaven, but who knows the reason?
Even the sage does not know it.
It is Heaven's Way not to contend but win, not to speak but respond, not to be summoned but come, to be relaxed but lay good plans.
Heaven's net is vast, sparse-meshed, and yet nothing can slip through it.
When the people are not afraid of death, why scare them with the specter of death?
If you could make the people always afraid of death, and when someone persisted in breaking the law, then we might arrest and execute him, and who would dare to break the law?
Is not the great executor always there to kill?
If we want to do the killing for the great executor, this is like to chop wood for a master carpenter.
To chop wood for a master carpenter: we would be lucky indeed if we did not hurt our own hand.
The people are starving.
It is because those above them are taxing them too heavily.
That is why they are starving.
The people are hard to govern.
It is because those above them have a lot of interference.
That is why they are hard to govern.
The people make light of death.
It is because those above them live an extravagant life.
That is why they make light of death.
Only he who works not for life knows to value life.
When a man is living, he is soft and supple.
When he is dead, he becomes hard and rigid.
When a plant is living, it is soft and tender.
When it is dead, it becomes withered and dry.
Hence, the hard and rigid belongs to the company of the dead; the soft and supple belongs to the company of the living.
Therefore, a mighty army will not win, just as hard tree is ready for the axe.
The mighty and great are below; the soft and weak are above.
Is the Way of Heaven similar to a stretched bow?
The upper part is pressed down, while the lower is raised.
The overfull part is reduced, the deficient part is supplemented.
The Way of Heaven is to reduce what is overfull and to supplement what is deficient.
The way of man is different: it reduces what is deficient and supplements what is overfull.
Who, except the man of the Way, can put his excessive riches to the service of the world?
Therefore, the sage does his work without saying it is done by him, accomplishes his task without dwelling upon it.
He does not want his merits to be seen.
Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water; but, for attacking the hard and strong, there is nothing like it!
For nothing can take its place.
The weak overcomes the strong, and the soft overcomes the hard.
This is something known by all, but practiced by none.
Therefore, the sage says: To receive the blame of a country is to be the lord of its soil-shrines.
To bear the calamities of a country is to be the king of the world.
Indeed, the truth sounds like its opposite!
When a great resentment is healed, there will still remain a scar.
Can this be a desirable situation?
Therefore, the sage, holding the left-hand tally, performs his part of the covenant, but lays no claims upon others.
The virtuous man holds to the tally; the virtueless man worries about collecting money of the people.
The Way of Heaven has no favoritism, but often is on the side of the good man.
[Suppose] there is (we establish) a small country with a small population.
Therefore there are enough tools of war for a troop or a battalion, but the people have no use for them.
So the people mind death and refrain from migrating to distant places.
Even though there are boats and carriages, they do not ride them; even though there are weapons and armor, they do not carry and wear them.
The people return to the use of the knotting cords.
They find relish with their food, beauty with their clothing, peace with their houses, and merriment with their ways of living.
There is another country in the neighborhood.
The two countries are so close that they are within sight of each other and the crowing of cocks and barking of dogs in one place can be heard in the other.
Yet throughout their lives the two peoples do not travel to and fro.
Sincere words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not sincere.
Good men are not argumentative, the argumentative are not good.
One who knows is not erudite; the erudite one does not know.
The sage does not take to hoarding.
The more he lives for others, the fuller is his life.
The more he gives, the more he abounds.
The Way of Heaven benefits and does not harm.
The Way of the sage works and does not compete with anyone.