Tao Te King
Lao Tse
Chinese (WB, MWD) - English by
Agnieszka Solska, 2005

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The Tao you can tell is not the true Tao.
The names you can name are not the true names.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of the myriad things.
Always desireless you see its very essence.
Always desiring you see its outer edge.
The source of these two is the same
Yet they are differently named.
They are called the mystery,
Mystery upon mystery,
The gateway to the essence of all.



To everyone in the world
Beauty seems beautiful because there is ugliness.
Goodness seems good because there is wickedness

Thus having and not having beget one another.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
The long and the short give rise to each other.
The high and the low support each other.
The voice and the sound harmonize each other.
Front and back follow one another.

Thus the sage manages affairs without taking action
And spreads his teaching without using words.
The myriad things flourish where he is
And he does not forsake them.
The sage creates but he does not possess.
He toils but expects no praise.
He does his work but does not dwell on his achievements.
It's because he does not dwell on them
That his achievements lasts.



Do not glorify the skilled
And people won't wrangle.
Do not treasure rarities
And people won't steal.
Don't flaunt objects of desire
And people's hearts will not be disturbed.

When the sage rules,
He keeps people's minds blank and their stomachs full.
He weakens their ambitions but strengthens their bones.
He keeps people free from knowledge and desires
So the ones who do have knowledge are afraid to act.
If he acts without taking action
There is nothing that is not right.



Tao is empty yet when used, it is never used up.
The unbounded source of the myriad things!
It blunts the sharp edges.
Untangles the knots.
Dims the bright light.
Unites wordly dust.
Perfectly hidden, yet ever present.
I do not know its origin.
It seems to have existed before the creator himself.



Heaven and earth are impartial.
The myriad things have no lasting value for them.
The sage, too, is impartial.
The people have no lasting value for him.

The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows.
Though empty, it does not collapse.
Work it and it will always yield more.
Waste your breath and your strength is soon gone.
It is better to hold firm to the core.



The valley spirit never dies.
She's called a mystery, a woman.
The mystery, the gate of a woman
Is called the source of heaven and earth.
Enduring forever, she does not cease.
Drawn upon, she does not wear out.



Heaven endures, earth lasts forever.
How are they able to do so?
They do not live for themselves so they live on.
Thus the sage stays at the back
Yet finds himself at the front.
Unconcerned about himself, he survives.
Unconcerned about his goals, does he not attain them?



The highest good is like water.
Water benefits the myriad things and does not contend.
It flows to the low places that people disdain.
Therefore it becomes like Tao.

The value of a house is in its location.
The value of a mind - in the clarity of thought.
The value of companionship - in kindness.
The value of words - in truthfulness.
The value of governing - in justice.
The value of a doing a job - in effectiveness.
The value of taking an action - in timeliness.

If there's no contention, there is no blame.



Fill a pot to overflowing
And you you'll wish you had stopped in time.
Hone a sword to the very sharpest
And it won't stay sharp for long.
Fill your halls with gemstones
And you won't be able to guard them.
Be proud with wealth and status
And you will cause your own fall.
Withdraw when your work is done.
This is the way of heaven.



Keeping your heart and your spirit together
Can you maintain their unity?
Controlling your breath and making it soft
Can you become like a newborn child?
Washing and cleansing your inner vision
Can you make it perfectly clear?
Tending the people and ruling the state
Can you refrain from interfering?
As the gates of destiny open and close
Can you play the role of the woman?
A your mind probes and explores the whole universe
Can you remain ignorant?

To give life and to nourish,
To make yet not possess,
To toil yet expect no praise,
To guide yet not dominate:
This is called the secret virtue.



Thirty spokes join together in a wheel's hub,
It is the center hole that makes the wheel useful.
We shape clay to fashion jugs;
It is the hollowness within that makes a jug useful.
We cut doors and windows in a house wall;
It is these empty spaces that make the house useful.

Thus things are valuable because of what they have
And they are useful because of what they lack.



Too much color dazzles the eye.
Too much noise deafens the ear.
Too much flavor deadens the taste.
Excessive hunting disturbs the mind.
Excessive wealth disquiets the heart.

Therefore the sage trusts his instincts, not his eyes.
He heeds the former, ignores the latter.



Praise and condemnation both cause dismay.
Honor and great pain are bound up together.

Why do praise and condemnation both cause dismay?
Praise makes us low.
We're dismayed when we get it.
And we're dismayed when it's taken away.
That's why praise and condemnation both cause dismay.

Why are honor and great pain bound up together?
I'm bound to be in pain because I care about myself.
If I did not care about myself, what pain could I suffer?

If you respect the world as you respect yourself
You're ready to tend the world.
If you care about the world as you care about yourself
You're ready to rule the world.



Look! It cannot be seen;
It's called the obscure.
Listen! It cannot be heard;
It's called the soundless.
Feel it! It cannot be grasped:
It's called the bodiless.
These three defy scrutiny.
Intermingled, they blend into one.

Above it is not bright.
Below it is not dark.
Reverting to nothingness.

It's an occurrence of no occurrence.
It is a form that takes no form.
Elusive like a shadow.
Intangible like haze.
Confront it! It has no face.
Follow it! It has no back.

If you grasp the ancient Tao
You can rule the realm of today.
If you know the ancient beginnings
You know the essence of Tao.



The ancient followers of Tao were shrewd and discerning.
Their knowledge was arcane, beyond comprehension.
There are no words that describe them well.

Cautious, as if fording a frozen river.
Watchful, as if dreading foes on all sides.
Courteous, like a guest.
Yielding, like ice on the thaw.
Simple, like uncut wood.
Wide open, like a valley.
Obscure, like murky water.

Who can keep murky water still and cause it to clear?
Who can make what's inert active and bring it to life?

Those who follow Tao have no wish to become full.
Thus they can wear out with no need to be renewed.



Empty yourself to the utmost.
Remain perfectly calm.
The myriad things arise together
I watch their return.
They flourish, then each goes back to its root.

To go back to the root is to find tranquility.
To find tranquility is to come back to life.
Coming back to life is what is constant.
To know what is constant is to be enlightened.
Not to know what is constant is to court disaster.
When you know what is constant you embrace everything.
When you embrace everything you are just.
When you are just you are kingly.
When you are kingly you follow nature.
Following nature you follow Tao.
Following Tao you last through all time.
Till the end of life, you will suffer no harm.



Of the best leaders people barely know they exist.
Next come the ones people love and praise.
Then the ones they fear.
Then the ones they disdain.
Those who don't trust receive no trust.

The best leader is sparing in his use of words.
When his task is accomplished, when his work done.
Everyone says: "We did it ourselves."



When Tao is forgotten
There is kindness and justice.
When cleverness and learning arise
There is great duplicity.
When conflict breaks out in the house
There are loving parents and children.
When the country falls into chaos
There are loyal ministers.



Give up being great, forget being clever
And people will benefit enormously.
Give up being kind, forget being just
And love will return to the family.
Give up being sly, forget being greedy
And there'll be no more thefts or robberies.

Yet as a lesson
These three are incomplete.
The essential part to be added is this:
Become plain and simple
Like uncut wood.
Restrain your ambitions,
Restrict your desires.



Give up studying and you will have no distress.

Is there a difference between "yes" and "no"?
The good and the evil - are they alike?
Ought I to fear what others fear?
Confusion reigns; it is without end.

All around, people make merry
As if holding a festival in spring,
As if about to gorge at a feast.
I alone remain still and reveal nothing
Like an infant yet unable to smile.
I am forlorn, with no place to go.
Others possess enough to spare,
I alone seem to have nothing.
I seem like a fool; I'm utterly confused.
Other people are bright; so bright.
I alone am dark; so dark.
Other people are smart; so smart,
I alone am dull; so dull.
Ever drifting like the restless ocean,
Blown about like the ceaseless storm.
Other people pursue their goals,
I alone seem foolish and aimless.
Only I am a stranger; I'm unlike the others.
I take nourishment only from the mother.



It is the mark of great virtue to follow Tao alone.

What can one say of Tao?
It is elusive; it's like a shadow,
It is intangible; it is like haze.
Elusive like a shadow, yet it holds ideas within.
Intangible like haze, yet it holds entities within.
Mysterious and dim, yet it holds spirit within.

Throughout all time
Its name has been retained.
Thus we can view the origin of all things.
How do I know the origin of all things?
I do because of what's within me.



Be broken and you'll become whole.
Be fallen and you will stand tall.
Be empty and you will fill up.
Be worn and you'll become new.
Have little and you will gain.
Have much and you'll be confused.

Therefore the sage clings to the One
And serves as a guide for the world.
He does not flaunt himself, so he shines bright.
He does not insist on being right, so he is renowned.
He does not brag, so he succeeds.
He does not boast, so he lasts long.
He contends with no one,
So no one can contend with him.

The ancients used to say:
"Be broken and you�ll become whole."
Are these but hollow words?
If you are truly whole everything will come to you.



Nature is sparing of words:
High winds do not last all morning.
A cloudburst does not last all day.
What makes them happen?
Heaven and earth.
If heaven and earth cannot sustain their works
How can people sustain theirs?

Therefore if you follow Tao you become like Tao.
If you follow virtue you become like virtue.
If you forsake Tao you become forsaken.

Those who are like Tao
Are gladly welcomed by Tao.
Those who are like virtue
Are gladly welcomed by virtue.
Those who are forsaken
Are gladly welcomed by forsakenness.

Those who don't trust receive no trust.



Those who stand on tiptoe do not stand firm.
Those who walk in long strides do not walk well.
Those who flaunt themselves do not shine bright.
Those who insist on being right are not renowned.
Those who brag do not succeed.
Those who boast do not last long.
To the follower of Tao they're loathsome.
They're like leftover food or pointless pursuits.
The person of Tao turns away from them.



There is something, complete and embracing all,
Born before heaven and earth took form,
Soundless and void,
Standing alone, unchanging,
Moving ahead, unceasing.
It seems to be the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name so I call it Tao.
Compelled to give it a name, I would call it Great.

Being great, it reaches far.
Reaching far, it flows everywhere.
Flowing everywhere, it returns to its source.

Indeed, Tao is great.
Heaven is great.
Earth is great.
Mankind is great, too.
These four are great in the universe
And mankind is one of them.

Mankind follows the rules of the earth.
The earth follows the rules of heaven.
Heaven follows the rules of Tao.
Tao follows its own rules, too.



Being solid is the foundation of lightness.
Being calm is the ruler of haste.

Thus, the sage, when traveling all day,
Never parts with his luggage.
Seeing beautiful sights,
He remains unconcerned and calm.

Will the ruler of the myriad chariots
Let himself be frivolous?
If he's frivolous he will lose his foundations.
If he's rash he will lose rulership.



Those who are good at walking
Leave no tracks in the ground.
Those who are good at speaking
Speak without flaws.
Those who are good at counting
Require no tally.
Those who are good at shutting
Use no locks
Yet whatever they close
Cannot be opened.
Those who are good at tying
Use no ropes
Yet whatever they tie
Cannot be untied.

Thus the sage is always good at taking care of people
And abandons no one.
He's always good at looking after things
And abandons nothing.

This is called
Following what's bright.

The good are the teachers of those who are not good.
Those who are not good are the raw material for the good.
Those who do not respect their teachers
And don't care for their resources
However clever they may be, they're utterly confused.

This is called the essence of mystery.



Be aware of what's masculine in you,
But preserve what is feminine in you,
And serve as a conduit for the world.
When you serve as a conduit for the world
Your true virtue will never be gone.
And you'll return again to the state of a newborn child.

Be aware of what is bright in you,
But preserve what is dark in you,
And serve as a guide for the world.
When you serve a guide for the world
Your true virtue will never falter,
And you'll return again to the state of boundlessness.

Be aware of what's praiseworthy in you,
But preserve what is base in you,
And serve as a valley for the world.
When you serve as a valley for the world
Your true virtue will grow ample enough,
And you'll return again to the simplicity of uncut wood.

Divided, the wood becomes a rod.
Used by a sage, the rod becomes a ruler's staff.
A great ruler keeps things whole; he does not divide.



Those who wish to conquer the world and act upon it
Do not achieve their goals - this is what I have found.
The world is a perfect vessel.
It cannot be acted upon.
Those who act on it destroy it.
Those who grab at it lose it.

Because with things:
Some lead and some follow,
Some blow hot and some blow cold,
Some grow in strength and some weaken,
Some expand and some collapse.

That is why the sage rejects the excessive,
Rejects the elaborate,
And rejects the superfluous.



When the follower of Tao assists the ruler,
He'll advise him
Not to conquer the world with the force of arms.
Such actions will certainly rebound.
Thistles spring up where armies camp.
Bad harvests follow in the wake of great wars.

Attain your goal, then stop
And do not abuse your force.
Attain your goal without boasting.
Attain your goal without bragging.
Attain your goal without pride.
Attain your goal without gain.
Attain your goal without violence.

What expands too much is bound to collapse.
This is not the way of Tao.
What goes against Tao soon declines.



Fine weapons are the portents of evil.
Creatures seem to detest them.
So the people of Tao keep away from them.

In times of peace the wise favor the left side.
In times of war they favor the right.

Weapons are the portents of evil.
Not the tools of the wise.
Compelled to use them,
They do so without zeal.
Winning a victory,
They do not relish in it.
Those who delight in victory
Delight in the slaughter of people.
Those who delight in slaughter
Cannot attain their goals.

On happy occasions the left is the place of honor.
On mournful occasions - the right.
The rites of war are like the funeral rites:
The generals stand on the left,
The commander-in-chief on the right.

When multitudes are killed the mourners should grieve.
A war victory should be celebrated like a funeral.



Tao is invariably nameless.
Simple like uncut wood, it seems insignificant
Yet no one in the world can command it.
If kings and lords could follow it
The myriad things would salute them,
Heaven and earth would unite
And soft dew would fall,
People would live in harmony
Without any need for laws.

Begin to cut, begin to rule
And names will appear.
When names abound dividing must stop.
The Tao of the world is like rivers flowing into the sea.



Those who know others are clever.
Those who know themselves are enlightened.
Those who conquer others have strength.
Those who conquer themselves are powerful.
Those who are contented have wealth.
Those who move ahead have purpose.
Those who don't run away from their posts endure.
Those who die but don't perish live on.



Great Tao flows like a flood.
It can go left and right.
The myriad things depend on it for life
And it does not forsake them.
It does its work but lays claim to no merit.
It shields and nourishes the myriad things
And does not act as their lord.
Always desireless it may seem insignificant,
Yet the myriad things return to it
And it does not act as their lord.
Thus it may seem to be great.
The sage, too, does not strive to be great
So he is able to achieve greatness.



Embrace the great idea
And the whole world will come to you.
It'll come to you and suffer no harm.
It'll find no peril but contentment and peace.
Travelers stop for food and for music
Yet it is said of Tao
That it is tasteless and bland.
When you look at it, there's not enough of it to see.
When you listen to it, there's not enough of it to hear.
Yet, when you use it, you can't use it up.



If you wish to make something small
You have to expand it.
If you wish to make something weak
You have to strengthen it.
If you wish to make something fall
You have to promote it.
If you wish to make something gone
You have to provide it.
This is called
Darkening what's bright.

What's soft and weak defeats what's hard and strong.
Fish should not be taken away from the ocean.
Sharp weapons of the state
Should not be shown to the people.



Tao invariably takes no action
Yet there is nothing left undone.
If kings and lords could follow it
The myriad things would transform by themselves.
And should they wish to take action once more
I'd quiet them
With nameless simplicity.
The nameless simplicity
Is like uncut wood:
It has no desires.
Without desires there is tranquility
And heaven and earth become stable by themselves.



Highest virtue does not follow virtue;
That is why it has virtue.
Lowest virtue does not stray from virtue;
That is why it lacks virtue.

Highest virtue takes no action
Yet it lacks reasons for doing so.
Lowest virtue takes action
Yet it has reasons for doing so.
Highest compassion takes action
Yet it lacks reasons for doing so.
Highest justice takes action
Yet it has reasons for doing so.
Highest ritual takes action
Yet if someone does not respond
It shows its fist to them and makes them comply.

When Tao is renounced there is virtue.
When virtue is renounced there is compassion.
When compassion is renounced there is justice.
When justice is renounced there is ritual.

Ritual is but a shadow of sincerity.
It's the beginning of confusion.
Foreknowledge is but a husk of Tao.
It's the beginning of ignorance.

Therefore those who are great
Dwell in the solid core and not in the shadow.
They dwell in the fruit, not in the husk.
It is the fruit they choose, the husk they spurn.



In days of old these became whole:
Having become whole, heaven became clear.
Having become whole, earth became stable.
Having become whole, spirits became vibrant.
Having become whole, valleys became full.
Having become whole, the myriad things became alive.
Having become whole, the nobles set the realm right.
This is what they achieved by becoming whole.

If heaven had not become clear
It would likely break open.
If earth had not become stable
It would likely collapse.
If spirits had not become vibrant
They would likely cease to exist.
If valleys had not become full
They would likely become exhausted.
If the myriad things had not become alive
They would likely die.
If the nobles had not become esteemed
They would likely fall.

Thus the nobles have the commoners as their root.
And the high rank has the low rank as its base.
And the high rank has the low rank as its base.
That is why "orphans," "lonely" and "worthless"
Are the names kings and lords use for themselves.
Do they not have the commoners as their root?
Too much honor is no honor.
They don't wish to glitter like gemstones.
They prefer to rumble like rocks.



Returning is the action of Tao.
Yielding is the function of Tao.
The myriad things arise from what there is.
What there is arises from what there is not.



When the best students hear of Tao
They follow it with all their might.
When average students hear of Tao
Sometimes they heed it sometimes they don't.
When the worst students hear of Tao
They laugh at it heartily.
Were it not laughed at,
Tao would not be what it is.

Thus it is said:
A path that is bright seems to be dim.
A path going forward seems to go back.
A path that is smooth seems to be uneven.
The highest virtue seems to be hollow.
The purest white seems to be sullied.
The amplest virtue seems insufficient.
The firmest virtue seems unsteady.
The genuine virtue seems to be fickle.
The greatest realm is without boundaries.
The finest talent matures late.
Harmonious music makes no noise.
The perfect form has no substance.

Tao is hidden and nameless.
Yet it is Tao that sustains all things
And brings them to completion.



Tao gave birth to the One.
One gave birth to the Two.
Two gave birth to the Three.
The Three gave birth to the myriad things.
The myriad things have their backs in shadows
Their faces bask in the light.
Through the blending of life forces they achieve harmony.
"orphaned," "lonely" and "worthless"
Are conditions which people detest
Yet the nobles describe themselves with those names.

Thus sometimes by losing we gain.
And sometimes by gaining we lose.

What others teach I also teach:
"The violent have earned their death."
This is the source of my teaching.



The soft things of the world can overcome the hard ones.
Those that have no substance can penetrate the solid.
Therefore I know non-action wins success.

Teaching without words,
Succeeding without action -
These are understood by the very few.



Your name or your life: which do you hold dearer?
Your life or your wealth: which truly has value?
Victory or loss: which truly gives pain?
If you care to a fault you will certainly suffer.
If you pile up your wealth you're bound to take a loss.
If you are contented you meet with no disgrace.
If you are able to stop you are free from danger.
You can then last through all time.



Greatest perfection seems to be flawed
Yet its usefulness is never impaired.
Greatest abundance seems to be void
Yet its usefulness never wears out.

Greatest honesty seems to be dishonest.
Greatest ingenuity seems to be inept.
Greatest eloquence seems like stammering.

Being in motion overcomes the cold.
Keeping calm overcomes the heat.
Those who remain calm and pure
Can set the world right.



When the world follows Tao
Carriage horses work on the farm fields.
When the world lacks Tao
War horses are bred outside city walls.

There is no greater fault Than having many desires,
No greater defect Than not knowing when one has enough.
No greater tragedy Than the desire to obtain.
Thus knowing when one has enough
Is to always have enough.



You don't need to step through the door
To know the whole world.
You don't need to look from the window
To see the way of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.

Thus the sage knows without traveling,
Understands without seeing,
Achieves without doing.



The followers of knowledge gain something each day.
The followers of Tao lose something each day.
They lose and keep losing till they start doing nothing.
Yet though nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

If you would conquer the world, refrain from meddling.
If you meddle you cannot conquer the world.



The sage does not have fixed ideas.
He lets the thoughts of the others become his own.
He is good to those who are good
And to those who are not good.
Virtue is good.
He is faithful to those who are faithful
And to those who are not faithful.
Virtue is faithful.
The sage lives united with the world
And he allows his thoughts to embrace all.
The people fix on him their eyes and ears:
He seems to behave like a little child.



Seeking life we find death.
There are thirteen passageways of life.
There are thirteen passageways of death.
People take those thirteen passageways of death
And their lives proceed toward death.
Why? People care too much about life.

It has been said:
Those who are good at staying alive
Meet no buffaloes or tigers in the wilderness,
They've no use for armor and weapons on the battleground.
A buffalo can find no place to mark in them.
A tiger can find no place to claw.
A weapon can find no place to cut.
Why? There is no place for death in them.



Tao gives life to all things.
Virtue nourishes them.
Material world gives them form.
Circumstances make them complete.

Therefore of the myriad things,
Each one reveres Tao
And each one pays tribute to virtue.
They do so without being ordered.
They do so of themselves.

Tao gives life to them.
Virtue nourishes and matures them.
It teaches them and protects them.
It rests them, supports them and guards them.
Tao gives life to them but it does not possess them.
It toils for them but expects no praise.
It guides them but does not dominate them.
This is the secret virtue.



The universe had a beginning.
This beginning is the mother of all.
When you know the mother,
You know her children, too.
When you know the children,
Go back to be with the mother
And throughout your life you will suffer no harm.

Close the passageways,
Lock the entryways
And throughout your life you will not get worn out.
Open the passageways,
Multiply your concerns
And throughout your life you will not be saved.

If you see the insignificant you have discernment.
If you can remain flexible you are strong.
Use the rays and return to the source of light.
Do not be the cause of your own distress.
This is the way of practicing the constant.



If my knowledge were really minute
While following great Tao,
I' only fear that I might drift from it.

Tao is easy to follow.
Yet people prefer to stray from it.
They keep the halls of authority in splendor,
But the fields remain untilled
And the granaries stand empty.
Clad in fineries, they carry sharp swords.
They eat too much and possess to excess.
What they do is thievery.
Thievery is not Tao.



What is firmly set up cannot be unsettled.
What is firmly embraced cannot slip away.
The ancestor worship continues without cease.

Practice virtue in your self
And your virtue will become genuine.
Practice virtue in your family
And your virtue will overflow.
Practice virtue in your district
And your virtue will last long.
Practice virtue in your country
And your virtue will abound.
Practice virtue throughout the world
And your virtue will spread wide.

So use the individual to judge the individual.
Use the family to judge the family.
Use the district to judge the district.
Use the state to judge the state.
Use the world to judge the world.

How do I know the way of the world?
I do because of what's within me.



The one who has virtue in its fullness
Is like a newborn babe.
Hornets and snakes do not sting him.
Savage beasts don't attack him.
Birds of prey don't pounce on him.

His bones are soft and his muscles weak
But his grasp is firm.
He knows nothing yet of mating
But his organ stirs
For his vigor is at its height.
He will cry all day
But his voice will remain loud.
For his harmony is at its height.

If you know harmony you know what is constant.
If you know what is constant you are enlightened.
If your mind forces your breath you misuse your strength.
You misuse your strength.

What expands too much is bound to collapse.
This is not the way of Tao.
What goes against Tao soon declines.



Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know.

Close the passageways,
Lock the entryways,
Blunt the sharp edges,
Untangle the knots,
Dim the bright light,
Unite earthly dust.

This is called
The secret unity.

Then there will be no way to like you
And no way to dislike you.
There'll be no way to assist you
And no way to harm you.
There'll be no way to honor you
And no way to shame you.
You'll then obtain the highest prize in the world.



To govern the state resort to what's regular.
To win a war resort to what's unusual.
But to conquer the world refrain from meddling.
How do I know of these methods?
I do because of what's within me.

The fewer the people's freedoms
the poorer the people become.
The more sharp weapons the people possess,
The greater disorder there is in the state.
The more diverse the people's skills,
The more unusual things they produce.
The more numerous the laws,
The more criminals there are.

Therefore, the sage says:
I take no action,
Yet people transform by themselves.
I prefer to remain calm,
Yet people by themselves become correct.
I refrain from meddling,
Yet people by themselves begin to prosper.
I have no desires,
Yet people by themselves become simple
Like uncut wood.



When the government is dull and not meddlesome
The people are pure and honest.
When the government is shrewd and meddlesome
The people are restless and poor.

Good fortune leans on disaster.
Disaster lurks in good fate.
Is there a way to end this?
Is there a norm of what's right?
What's normal becomes abnormal.
What's good becomes evil.
With each passing day people grow more confused.

That is why the sage is sharp but he does not cut.
He burnishes but he does not harm.
He straightens but he does not break.
He shines but he does not dazzle.



While ruling the people
And serving heaven
Build up a store.
If you've built up a store
You can adhere to Tao early.
If you've adhered to Tao early
You can amass virtue.
When you've amassed virtue
There is nothing you cannot do.
When there is nothing you cannot do
Your capacity has no bounds.
Having boundless capacity
You're ready to rule the realm.
Leaning on the mother of the realm
You can last through all time.
You've been firmly established.
You have a strong support.
This is the Tao of long life.
This is the Tao of farsightedness.



Rule a big country
The way you'd cook a small fish.

If Tao is used to govern the world
Evil spirits have no power.
Their power is not gone
But it does not harm the people.
Their power does not harm the people
And it does not harm the sage.
As they suffer no harm
Their virtues unite and return to them.



A big country is like a low-lying land.
It's like the meeting ground of the world.
It's like the female of the world.
The female always defeats the male with calmness.
Because she is calm, she remains low.

Thus if the big country is below the small country
It conquers the small country.
And if the small country is below the big country
It conquers the big country.
Thus some win by becoming low
And some win by remaining low.

What the big country wants
Is to unite people and nourish them.
What the small country wants
Is to serve people and find shelter for them.
Both can get what they want
If it's the big country that becomes low.



Tao is the source of the myriad things.
It is the treasure of those who are good.
It is the refuge of those who are bad.

Fine words can buy honor.
Fine deeds can serve as a gift.
Why reject those who are bad?

So when the emperor is installed,
And his ministers appointed,
Do not offer them precious stones and horses
But remain calm, offer the Tao.

Why did the ancients pay tribute to Tao?
Did they not use to say:
"Those who seek get what they seek thanks to Tao.
Thanks to Tao the offenders are saved"?
That is why Tao is the treasure to the world.



Act without taking action.
Be busy without busy-ness.
Taste what cannot be tasted.
Magnify the small
Multiply the few.
Repay injury with kindness.
Prepare for the difficult while it is still easy.
Work on the big thing while it is still small.

The difficult things of the world are initially easy.
The big things of the world are initially small.
The sage does not strive to achieve great things
So he is able achieve greatness.

Those who are quick to make promises
Are bound not to be trusted.
What may seem easy
Is bound to become hard.
The sage accepts his tasks as difficult.
Therefore they all become easy for him.



What is at rest is easy to hold.
What has not yet begun is easy to stop.
That which is flimsy is easy to shatter.
That which is tiny is easy to scatter.
Confront the events before they begin.
Set things in order before there is trouble.

A tree bigger than a grown man's embrace
Was once a tiny sprout.
A tower nine stories high
Was built on a lump of dirt.
A journey of a thousand miles
Begins right under your feet.

It's those who take action that fail.
It's those who hold on to things that lose them.
Therefore the sage takes no action,
And so he does not fail.
He doesn't hold on to things,
And so he doesn't lose them.
People always fail when their work is nearly done.
So be cautious when you start
And be cautious when you finish.
That is why the sage desires not to desire
And does not value rare things.
He learns what cannot be learnt
And returns to what others pass by.
He could help the myriad things
Follow their true nature
Yet he dares not do it.



The ancients who excelled at following Tao
Did not enlighten people
But kept them free from cleverness.

If people are too clever they are difficult to rule.
To rule the state with cleverness
Is to rob the state;
But to rule the state without cleverness
Is to benefit the state.

These are the two forms of rulership.
To remain aware of them is to have the secret virtue.
The secret virtue reaches far and touches all.
It leads all things back to the great accord.



How can rivers and oceans be king of one hundred valleys?
They excel in staying below them.
That is why they can become their king.

Thus if the sage wishes to be the people's master
He has to talk to them like their servant.
If he wishes to lead them
He has to follow behind them.
This way he can be their master
Without oppressing them.
He can precede them
Without blocking their way.
That is why the whole world is willing to praise him
And never tires of doing so.
He contends with no one,
So no one can contend with him.



The whole world says:
"What you teach is great yet unlike anything else."
It is its greatness that makes it unlike anything else.
Were it like everything else
It would have become trivial a long time ago.

I have three treasures which I hold and keep safe.
The first is compassion.
The second economy.
The third not daring to take the lead.
If you're compassionate you can be fearless.
If you're not wasteful you can be giving.
If you're afraid to lead you can attain the highest honors.

Today people renounce compassion and try to be brave.
They are wasteful in extreme and try to be giving.
They refuse to be follow and they try to take the lead.
They are certainly doomed.

Compassion gives you victory in battle
And strength in defense.
When heaven comes to your rescue
With its compassion it keeps you safe.



The best soldier is not violent.
The best fighter does not fly into rage.
The best winner does not engage the opponent.
The best employer does not put himself above others.

This is the virtue of non-contending.
This is the ability of managing people.
This is the finest way of matching heaven.



Experts in warfare have a saying:
"I dare not launch an attack.
I'd rather mount a defense.
I dare not advance a foot,
I'd rather retreat a mile."

This is called:
Moving forward without moving forward.
Removing the sleeves without baring the arms.
Being armed without holding a weapon.
Seizing the enemy without confronting him.

There is no worse disaster than to have no enemy.
If I have no enemy my treasure is as good as lost.
Thus when the battle begins
And the opponents are evenly matched
It is the grieving side that wins.



My words are easy to understand
And it is easy to follow them.
Yet they can be grasped by no one in the world
And there is no one who can follow them.

My words are of an ancient origin.
My actions are guided by reason.
Yet this remains unknown,
So I remain unknown, too.
Those who know me are few
This is what honors me.
The sage wears plain clothing.
His true wealth is concealed in his heart.



If you know that you're ignorant you are fine.
If you don't know that you're ignorant you are flawed.
Only when you recognize your flaws
Will you become flawless.

The sage is free from flaws.
He's flawless because he knows his flaws.



When people have no fear of what they should fear.
Something really fearsome will come on them.

Do not constrict their living space.
Do not reduce their means of livelihood.
If they�re not pestered they will not get weary.

Therefore the sage knows himself
But does not flaunt himself.
He loves himself
But does not exalt himself.
He chooses what truly has value,
Spurns what only seems that way.



The one whose courage comes from being fearless
Gets killed.
The one whose courage comes from being fearful
Stays alive.
Both kinds of bravery lead to benefit or harm.
If one of them heaven detests who knows the reason why?
Even the sage is unable to explain this.

The Tao of heaven excels at overcoming without competing,
At responding without speaking,
At drawing to itself without beckoning,
At laying plans without hurrying.

Heaven's weapons are crude, its targets strewn wide
Yet when it takes aim it won't miss the mark.



If people have no fear of death
It's pointless to threaten them with it.
If people were in constant fear of death,
And if anyone acting deviously
Were to be seized and executed,
Who would dare to do so?

The Master Executioner is always there to kill.
If you attempt to play his role
It is like trying to do the work of a master lumberjack.
The one who has no skill to do this work
Seldom escapes with his hands unhurt.



Why are the people starving?
Because those above them put heavy taxes on them
And eat up their grain.
That's why the people are starving.

Why are the people difficult to rule?
Because those above them are meddlesome.
That's why the people are difficult to rule.

Why are the people are unconcerned about death?
Because those above them care too much about life.
That's why the people are unconcerned about death.

It is better to disregard life
Than to exalt it too much.



Living people are supple and soft.
When they're dead they are rigid and hard.
Living plants are pliant and green.
When they're dead they�re unbending and dry.
Thus what's rigid and hard accompanies death
And what's pliant and soft accompanies life.

If a soldier's too strong, he will suffer defeat.
If a tree is too hard it will be cut down.
The strong and big go down.
The soft and weak go high.



The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
What is high is brought down.
What is low is sent high.
What's excessive is reduced.
What's insufficient is increased.

The Tao of heaven takes from those who have too much
And gives to those who are in want.
The people's way is not like that.
They take from those who are in want
And give to those who have too much.
Yet who is able to have enough to give it to the world?
Only the one who has Tao.

Therefore the sage toils but expects no praise.
He does his work but does not dwell on it.
He does not wish to make a display of his merit.



There is nothing in the world softer than water.
And there's nothing weaker.
Yet for attacking the hard and strong
There is nothing better.
There is no substitute for it.

What is weak defeats what's strong.
What is soft defeats what's hard.
This is something known to all.
Yet this knowledge is used by none.

That's why the sage declares:
"If you bear the country's dishonor
You become the lord of its shrines.
If you bear the country's misfortune
You become the king of the world."

True words seem to sound wrong.



When great enemies settle their quarrel
Some of their enmity will linger on.
Is there a way to set things right?
The sage abides by the agreement
And does not seek to assign blame.
People of virtue meet their obligations.
Those without virtue exact their claims.

The Tao of heaven does not take sides.
Yet it always stays with the good.



If a country is small its people are few.
Having tools in abundance, they're unwilling to use them.
Mindful of death, they do not venture far.
Having wagons and boats, they do not ride in them.
Having weapons and shields, they keep them out of sight.
To keep records they've returned to using knotted cords.

They relish their food,
Delight in their clothes,
Find peace in their homes,
And joy in their plain way of life.
Though the neighboring country is within sight,
And its roosters and dogs can be heard,
People live, grow old and die
Without ever leaving to visit their neighbors.



True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not true.
Good people do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The sage accumulates nothing.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the more he receives.

The Tao of heaven
Is to benefit, not harm.
The Tao of the sage
Is to act for others, not to contend with them.

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