Tao Te King
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The spirit one can talk about is not the eternal spirit, and what youcan name is not the eternal name. Nameless-Tao is the beginning of theheavens and the Earth. If you name it-it is no more than Matter.
Therefore: he who conceives of nature freely grasps this Spirit andhe who strives for material things is left with only the shell. Spiritand matter are both one in their origin, yet different in appearance. Thisunity is a mystery-truly the mystery of all mysteries, the gate to allspirituality.
Only when man recognizes beauty as such does ugliness become reality.Only when man recognizes goodness as such does evil become reality. Because:being and nothingness began as one. Weight and weightlessness cannot existalone. Distance and brevity prove each other and so do height and depth.Tune and voice abound together and past and present flow into one. Thereforethe Sage remains in serenity whatever happens and silently does his teaching.As matters proceed, the Sage is not irritated. He works but wants no possessions.He acts but does not linger at single things. He creates but does not hangon a single word and because he is not tied to It, he will never miss It.
Not to give preference to the high and mighty will deter the envy ofthe people in order. To demonstrate no desire will give them peace in theirhearts. Therefore, when the Sage governs, he frees his people of passionatewishes and offers serenity to their souls. The Sage weakens greedy curiosityand strengthens the backbone of the upright. So does he master true serenityin good government.
The Spirit is free of things yet inexhaustible in its impact. The Spiritis like the creator of all being. He dulls the sharp meanness that clarifiesall confusion. He unifies in kindness. He knows the oneness of man withall dust. The Spirit is eternal. I know not when it began. It almost seemedto have preceded the Lord Itself.
Heaven and earth know no preference. They look upon all beings as uponwooden animals. The sage knows no preference. He looks upon people as ifthey were made of wood. The space between heaven and earth is like an oceanof wind and the emptiness of which creation follows creation. Words cannotdescribe it. It must be perceived by one's inmost self.
The Spirit of the deep never dies. It is the eternal mother: The gatewaythrough which wind The ever-protecting roots of heaven and earth. It iseternal becoming, effortless creation.
Heaven and earth endure forever. Why do Heaven and earth endure eternally?Because they live not for themselves But for eternity. So does the Sagewithdraw In order that his inner Self may advance. He loses his Self topreserve his self. Is it not that he fulfills his Being by giving up hisbeing?
Generosity is like the Waters. It is a balm to all beings and rejectsnone. It dwells in places shunned by the masses, and therefore close tothe Spirit. Generosity seeks out in dwellings the humble, in thinking depth,in giving love, in speaking truth, in ruling justice, in work knowledgein all our deeds the proper time. Generosity does not reject and thereforewill not be rejected.
The full decanter if carried will spill over, The knife in use willlose its edge. Treasures of gold and gems are difficult to protect. Wealthand rank when joined by arrogance will now perish. To fulfill one's tasks,to find acceptance and then to retire to loneliness, is the true spiritualway.
Who finds union of mind and heart will reach immortality. Who mastershis passions and turns them to deeds of kindness, is greater than a King.Who cleanses and clears his soul becomes free of vice. Who governs in loveand justice is a benefactor even in mere contemplation. He is fearlessshould even the heavens come down. Who has insight in the depths of Times,may have not knowledge, yet supreme wisdom. To work and conserve, to workwithout greed for possessions, To work and let others use the produce,To encourage and not dominate, That I call deep virtue.
Thirty spikes run into one hub: yet in the emptiness of the wheel liesits essence. From clay a jar is formed: yet in its emptiness lies the essenceof the container. Rooms are made by cutting windows and doors into thewalls, yet in its emptiness lies the essence of the room. The visual mattercan be observed but it is the Invisible that constitutes its true being.
Fine colors blind eyes to true reality Fine Tones shut out the othersounds. Fine spices deaden the taste. Races and hunts disturb a gentlesoul. Gems and gold seduce the heart. The Sage follows not the eyes butthe soul, Not the senses but the essence.
Forgiveness is to be shunned like a disgrace. Ambition for honors isa burden like the body. Forgiveness denigrates; one lives in hope to obtain,in fear of losing it. Ambition for honors is a burden like the body. Thebody is burdensome. If I had no body I would be burdenfree. Who honorsthe community as himself is worthy of her. Who loves the community as himselfmakes her his own.
We search for it yet see it not; it is the invisible. We listen forit, yet hear it not; it is the untouchable. Its trinity is inseparable.We recognize it only as one, innerbound.
Its distance is incomprehensible, its depth can not be fathomed. Eternallycreative, it can not be defined. It goes back to Nothingness. It can becalled: The incomprehensible Mysterious. You walk towards it and find noteven its Beginning. You follow it and there is no End. Who understandsthe Spirit of the old Sages masters his own time, and thru them the veryroot of all time. Such is the continuum of the Spirit.
The great sages of antiquity were wise and intuitive. It is difficultto comprehend their depth. They were cautious like men who are crossingan ice covered river, Cautious like people wary of certain neighbors. Reservedas only guests are. Relenting like melting ice, plain as uncut timber,open like a valley. Dark as deep water. Who can as they interpret the turbulentthru serenity? Who can as they thru their own lives revive the dead souls?Who is filled with serene thoughts desires no other fulfillment, Who desiresno other fulfillment is not attacked by novelties of the day. Such mancan be of simple status yet reach perfection.
Who ascends the peak of Emptiness Will reach serenity. All Beings doI see arise and then return whence they came. To return to one's originmeans to acquiesce. To acquiesce means to have fulfilled one's destiny.To fulfill one's destiny means to have comprehended eternity. To comprehendeternity means to be enlightened. Not to comprehend eternity means to besubject of passions, and that is evil. Comprehending eternity makes onemagnanimous. Magnanimity makes one just. To be just is Kingly. The Kinglyis Heavenly. The Heavenly is the Spiritual. The Spirit is Immortal. Andthus the ephemerality of the body can not harm us.
When a ruler is truly great the people hardly notice his existence.Some of their successors were admired, some were feared, some were despised,Rulers without faith in the people lost the people's confidence. The greatrulers did not aggrandize themselves, They performed their tasks and thepeople felt: We are among ourselves.
Where the great Spirit is in decline, there is much talk of love andliberty. Where the great Spirit is in decline, there is much talk of prudenceand equality. Where peace is absent in the family, there is much talk offamily devotion. When suppression darkens the lands, everywhere there istalk of loyalty and obedience.
Pretend not to saintliness, nor to smartness and the people will prosper!Talk not of Humanity nor of absolute Justice and the people will returnto family devotion. Give up the great profits as well as your Luxuriesand there will be fewer thieves and robbers. In all these things the pretenseis harmful. Therefore one must retain the lasting virtues: To retain Simplegoodness, humility and moderation.
Give up the Booklearning and you may win serenity. The difference betweenyes and certainty, how meaningless -but that between good and evil, howimmeasurably great. The world venerates Booklearning, I can not participate.Perhaps this is limitless delusion. The people glory in their festivals,as if on top of a great tower. I alone am silent, as no message had reachedme of there events, like a child that yet can not smile, deserted, homeless.They all overflow, I alone seem empty. O my foolish heart: I am confused.They appear unperturbed, I alone step in the dark. They appear exuberant,I alone am sad, sad as the sea. Torn apart like a vagrant. They are imbuedwith usefulness, Only I am clumsy like a peasant, I am different from them,Yet I am on my knees before Creative Nature.
True Virtue is born of Reason, The essence of reason is unfathomableand incomprehensible. The faces of reason can not be discerned, The worldthat appears in reason, no one knows how, Impenetrable is the darknesswhere the heart of Being dwells, This being is Truth itself and Faith itself.From eternity to eternity, they will never perish. Who saw the beginningof All. The beginning All, one knows only thru the perennial Spirit.
What is half will become perfect. What is crooked will become straight.What is empty will be filled. What is old will be rejuvenated. Who haslittle, will receive in plenty. Who has much, will be deprived. The Sageembraces the All and becomes the Idol of the World. He does not look outfor himself, and thus he glories. He does not please himself, and thusthe world possesses him. He does not flaunt his accomplishments, and thusthe world venerates him. He strives not to be on top, thus he will be elevated.He does not attack, and the world around him is still. Truly: Everythingflows freely into the seeker of perfection.
To speak sparingly is the natural course. A whirlwind lasts not throughoutthe morning. A spray rain lasts not the day. Such it is between heavenand earth. And such it is with man. Who dedicates himself to reason willbecome one with reason. Who dedicates himself to virtue, will become onewith virtue. Who gives to evil will become one with evil. Who is one withreason, will be embraced by reason. Who is one with virtue, will be embracedby virtue. Who joins evil will be one with evil. Who has no faith, willnever inspire faith.
No one can stand solid when on his toes. No one can run with spreadlegs. Who admires himself will not be venerated. Who is pleased with oneself,the world will not praise. Who praises himself, merits little appreciation.Who pushes for the top, will not be elevated. For the Spirit he is a leftover,an odd growth on the body. The people will look upon him in disdain, Andthose who live by reason will not emulate his like.
There is a Being of Perfection, incomprehensible. It ever was, stilland formless, before they came, stars and earth. Unchangeable and alone,unencumbered, whirling thru Time. I name it, Creative Nature. It has noname, shall I call it Tao, the Spirit? Or the substance, the infinite?The infinite in unlimited attributes? The great Distant, that forever returns!Tao is great, the Heavens are great. The Universe is great. May the rulerbe in tune with the Spirit. Four things are great in the world, May theruler be one of them. Man is under the law of the earth, the earth underthe law of the Universe, The universe under the law of Tao and Tao is theLaw itself.
Serenity is wiser than superficiality, dignity is master of turbulence.The sage does not step off the path of serenity. He is not distracted byunruly passions, angered in contemplation nothing can perturb him. Woe,if the ruler of the land considers himself more important than the realm.His follower loses, who succumbs to frivolity, His dominance loses, whois driven by passions.
An experienced wanderer needs neither guideposts nor paths. A goodmathematician needs no counting board. A good orator needs no false arguments.A good locksmith needs no key. The Sage is a good helper of man and neverdespairs. Such is his enlightenment. The Sage is the teacher of the confused,and values his pupil. Who does not honor his teacher, Who does not valuehis pupil, lacks wisdom in spite of his knowledge. Such is true Spirituality.
Whoever is manly and strong, yet gentle of deeds, becomes the streamof the world, remains in steadfast virtue and returns to nature like achild. Whoever feels in himself the Light and fights Darkness becomes asymbol for the World. Whoever becomes a symbol for the world, steadfastin virtue, returns to the very substance of Being. Whoever feels his ownHeight still lives in humility, becomes like a fertile valley. Whoeverbecomes a valley of the world, is of eternal virtue and returns to thevery substance of Being. Man is like uncut timber, only intuitive insightbrings about perfection. The Sage in his virtue is the first in his community.A true ruler has no need of aggression.
Whoever wishes to rise by conquest will fail. The true goal in lifeis spiritual and can not be conquered by force. The aggressor destroysit. The conqueror loses it. Mankind is forever in change, Some run ahead,soon they fall back. Some are powerful, soon they weaken. Some are fiery,soon they are cold. Some are victorious, soon defeated. The Sage is notmoved by earthly ambitions, he avoids self aggrandizement, he avoids selfelevation.
Whoever advises the ruler in the spirit of Tao will avoid rule by forceof arms: force begets force. Where armies are arrayed against each other,grow thistle and thorn. Wars are the parents of hunger and misery. TheSage wants peace, nothing else, he aspires never for conquest. He is victoriousin restraint, victorious with arrogance, victorious without presumption,victorious without demonstration and offense. Whoever seeks military adventureswill perish in them. Such is the fate of rapaciousness. Such is the fateof materialism.
Victorious in restraint, victorious with arrogance, victorious withoutpresumption, victorious without demonstration and offense. Whoever seeksmilitary adventures will perish in them. Such is the fate of rapaciousness.Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, hateful, itmay be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have the Tao do not liketo employ them. The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand themost honourable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp weaponsare instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior man;-heuses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm and repose are whathe prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable. To considerthis desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men; and he whodelights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom. Onoccasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position; onoccasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in command of the armyhas his place on the left; the general commanding in chief has his on theright;-his place, that is, is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning.He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterestgrief; and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to thoserites.
The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name. Though in its primordialsimplicity it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying)it as a minister. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it,all would spontaneously submit themselves to him. Heaven and Earth (underits guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, withoutthe directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a name. When it once has thatname, (men) can know to rest in it. When they know to rest in it, theycan be free from all risk of failure and error. The relation of the Taoto all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streamsfrom the valleys.
He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is intelligent.He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty.He who is satisfied with his lot is rich; he who goes on acting with energyhas a (firm) will.
He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continueslong; he who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.
All-pervading is the Great Tao! It may be found on the left hand andon the right. All things depend on it for their production, which it givesto them, not one refusing obedience to it. When it gives to them, not onerefusing obedience to it. When its work is accomplished, it does not claimthe name of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment, andmakes no assumption of being their lord;-it may be named in the smallestthings. All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not knowthat it is it which presides over their doing so;-it may be named in thegreatest things. Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplishhis great achievements. It is through his not making himself great thathe can accomplish them.
To him who holds in his hands the Great Image (of the invisible Tao),the whole world repairs. Men resort to him, and receive no hurt, but (find)rest, peace, and the feeling of ease.
Music and dainties will make the passing guest stop (for a time).
But though the Tao as it comes from the mouth, seems insipid and hasno flavour, though it seems not worth being looked at or listened to, theuse of it is inexhaustible.
When one is about to take an inspiration, he is sure to make a (previous)expiration; when he is going to weaken another, he will first strengthenhim; when he is going to overthrow another, he will first have raised himup; when he is going to despoil another, he will first have made giftsto him:-this is called 'hiding the light (of his procedure).' The softovercomes the hard; and the weak the strong. Fishes should not be takenfrom the deep; instruments for the profit of a state should not be shownto the people.
The tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do. If princes and kings were able to maintain it, all things would of themselves be transformed by them. If this transformation became to me an object of desire, I would express the desire by the nameless simplicity.
Simplicity without a name. Is free from all external aim. With no desire, at rest and still, All things go right as of their will.
(Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the Tao)did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them (in fullestmeasure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (soughthow) not to lose them, and therefore they did not possess them (in fullestmeasure). (Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributesdid nothing (with a purpose), and had no need to do anything. (Those who)possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing, and had need to beso doing. (Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking)to carry it out, and had no need to be doing so. (Those who) possessedthe highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it out, and hadneed to be so doing. (Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) proprietywere (always seeking) to carry it out, and had need to be so doing. (Thosewho) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) toshow it, and when men did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marchedup to them. Thus it was that when the Tao was lost, its attributes appeared;when its attributes were lost, benevolence appeared; when benevolence waslost, the proprieties appeared. Now propriety is the attenuated form ofleal-heartedness and good faith, and is also the commencement of disorder;swift apprehension is (only) a flower of the Tao, and is the beginningof stupidity. Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid andeschews what is flimsy; dwells with the fruit and not with the flower.It is thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other.
[*Note: 'leal-heartedness' = loyal-heartedness.]
The things which from of old have got the One (the Tao) are
Heaven which by it is bright and pure; Earth rendered thereby firmand sure; Spirits with powers by it supplied; Valleys kept full throughtheir void; All creatures which through it do live; Princes and kings whofrom it get The model which to all they give.
All these are the results of the one (Tao).
If heaven were not thus pure, it soon would rend; If earth were notthus sure, 'twould break and bend; Without these powers, the spirits soonwould fail; If not so filled, the drought would parch each vale; Withoutthat life, creatures would pass away; Princes and kings, without that moralsway, However grand and high, would all decay.
Thus it is that dignity finds its (firm) root in its (previous) meanness,and what is lofty finds its stability in the lowness (from which it rises).Hence princes and kings call themselves 'Orphans,' 'Men of small virtue,'and as 'Carriages without a nave.' Is not this an acknowledgment that intheir considering themselves mean they see the foundation of their dignity?So it is that in the enumeration of the different parts of a carriage wedo not come on hat makes it answer the ends of a carriage. They do notwish to show themselves elegant-looking as jade, but (prefer) to be coarse-lookingas an (ordinary) stone.
The movement of the Tao By contraries proceeds;
And weakness marks the course of Tao's mighty deeds.
All things under heaven sprang from it as existing (and named); thatexistence sprang from
It as non-existent (and not named).
Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, earnestlycarry it into practice. Scholars of the middle class, when they have heardabout it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it. Scholars of the lowestclass, when they have heard about it, laugh greatly at it. If it were not(thus) laughed at, it would not be fit to be the Tao. Therefore the sentencemakers have thus expressed themselves:-
'The Tao, when brightest seen, seems light to lack: Who progress init makes, seems drawing back; Its even way is like a rugged track. Itshighest virtue from the vale doth rise; Its greatest beauty seems to offendthe eyes; And he has most whose lot the least supplies. Its firmest virtueseems but poor and low; Its solid truth seems change to undergo; Its largestsquare doth yet no corner show; A vessel great, it is the slowest made;Loud is its sound, but never word it said; A semblance great, the shadowof a shade.'
The tao is hidden, and has no name; but it is the Tao which is skilfulat imparting (to all things what they need) and making them complete.
The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three producedall things. All things leave behind them the obscurity (out of which theyhave come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they haveemerged), while they are harmonised by the Breath of Vacancy. What mendislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as carriages withoutnaves; and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use forthemselves. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished,and others are diminished by being increased. What other men (thus) teach,I also teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death. Iwill make this the basis of my teaching.
The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest;that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice.I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words, andthe advantage arising from non-action.
Or fame of life, Which do you hold more dear? Or life or wealth, Towhich would you adhere? Keep life and lose those other things; Keep themand lose your life:-which brings Sorrow and pain more near? Thus we maysee, Who cleaves to fame Rejects what is more great; Who loves large storesGives up the richer state. Who is content Needs fear no shame. Who knowsto stop Incurs no blame. From danger free Long live shall he.
Who thinks his great achievements poor Shall find his vigour long endure.Of greatest fullness, deemed a void, Exhaustion ne'er shall stem the tide.Do thou what's straight still crooked deem; Thy greatest art still stupidseem, And eloquence a stammering scream.
Constant action overcomes cold; being still overcomes heat. Purityand stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
When the Tao prevails in the world, they send back their swift horsesto (draw) the dung-carts. When the Tao is disregarded in the world, thewarhorses breed in the border lands. There is no guilt greater than tosanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented with one'slot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiencyof contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes place)under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Tao ofHeaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the less he knows.Therefore the sages got their knowledge without traveling; gave their (right)names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends withoutany purpose of doing so.
He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase(his knowledge): he who devotes himself to the Tao (seeks) from day today to diminish (his doings). He diminishes it and again diminishes it,till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this pointof non- action, there is nothing which he does not do. He who gets as hisown all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end).If one take trouble (with that end), he is not equal to getting as hisall under heaven.
The sage has no invariable smind of his own; he makes the mind of thepeople his mind. To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to thosewho are not (to me), I am also good,-and thus (all) get to be good. Tothose who are sincere (with me), I am sincere; and to those who are notsincere (with me), i am also sincere;-and thus (all) get to be sincere.The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mindin a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their eyes and earsdirected to him, and he deals with them all as his children.
Men come forth and live; they enter (again) and die. Of every ten threeare ministers of life (to themselves); and three are ministers of death.there are also three in every ten whose aim is to live, but whose movementstend to the land (or place) of death. And for what reason? Because of theirexcessive endeavours to perpetuate life. But I have heard that he who isskilful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels on theland without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon. The rhinocerosfinds no place in him into which to thrust its horn, not the tiger a placein which to fix its claws, nor the weapon a place to admit its point. Andfor what reason? Because there is in him no place of death.
All things are produced by the Tao, and nourished by its outflowingoperation. They receive their forms according to the nature of each, andare completed according to the circumstances of their condition. Thereforeall things without exception honour the Tao, and exalt its outflowing operation.This honouring of the Tao and exalting of its operation is not the resultof any ordination, but always a spontaneous tribute. Thus it is that theTao produces (all things), nourishes them, brings them to their full growth,nurses them, completes them, matures them, maintains them and overspreadsthem. It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them; itcarries them though their processes and does not vaunt its ability in doingso; it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over them;-thisis called mysterious operation.
(The Tao) which originated all under the sky is to be considered asthe mother of them all. When the mother is founded, we know what her childrenshould be. When one knows that he is his mother's child, and proceeds toguard (the qualities of) the mother that belong to him, to the end of hislife he will be free from all peril. Let him keep his mouth closed, andshut up the portals (of his nostrils), and all his life he will be exemptfrom laborious exertion. Let him keep his mouth open, and (spend his breath)in the promotion of his affairs, and all his life there will be no safetyfor him. The perception of what is small is (the secret of) clear-sightedness;the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength.
Who uses well his light. Reverting to its (source so) bright, Will fromhis body ward all blight, And hides the unchanging from men's sight.
If I were suddenly to become known, and (put into a position to) conduct(a government) according to the Great Tao, what I should be most afraidof would be a boastful display. The great Tao (or way) is very level andeasy; but people love the by-ways. Their court(-yards and buildings) shallbe well kept, but their fields shall be ill-cultivated, and their granariesvery empty. They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes, carry a sharpsword at their girdle, pamper themselves in eating and drinking, and havea superabundance of property and wealth;-such (princes) may be called robbersand boasters. This is contrary to the Tao surely!
What (Tao's) skilful planter plants can never be uptorn; What his skilfularms enfold, From him can ne'er be borne. Sons shall bring in lengtheningline, Sacrifices to his shrine. Tao when nursed within one's self, Hisvigour will make true; And where the family it rules What riches will accrue!The neighbourhood where it prevails In thriving will abound; And when 'tisseen throughout the state. Good fortune will be found. Employ it the kingdomo'er, And men thrive all around.
In this way the effect will be seen in the person, by the observationof different cases; in the family; in the neighbourhood; in the state;and in the kingdom. How do I know that this effect is sure to hold thusall under the sky? By this (method of observation).
He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tao) is likean infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will notseize him; birds of prey will not strike him. (The infant's) bones areweak and its sinews soft, ut yet its grasp is firm. It knows not yet theunion of male and female, and yet its virile member may be excited;-showingthe perfection of its physical essence. All day long it will cry withoutits throat becoming hoarse;-showing the harmony (in its constitution).
To him by whom this harmony is known, (The secret of) the unchanging(Tao) is shown, And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne. All life-increasingarts to evil turn; Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn, (False)is the strength, (and o'er it we should mourn.)
When things have become strong, they (then) become old, which may besaid to be contrary to the Tao. Whatever is contrary to the Tao soon ends.
He who knows (the Tao) does not (care to) speak (about it); he whois (ever ready to) speak about it does not know it. He (who knows it) willkeep his mouth shut and close the portals (of his nostrils). He will blunthis sharp points and unravel the complications of things; he will temperhis brightness, and bring himself into agreement with the obscurity (ofothers). This is called 'the Mysterious Agreement.' (Such an one) cannotbe treated familiarly of distantly; he is beyond all consideration of profitor injury; of nobility or meanness:-he is the noblest man under heaven.
A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war maybe used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's own (only)by freedom from action and purpose. How do I know that it is so? By thesefacts:-In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increasesthe poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit thatthe people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; themore acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivancesappear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves androbbers there are. Therefore a sage has said, 'I will do nothing (of purpose),and the people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keepingstill, and the people will of themselves become correct. I will take notrouble about it, and the people will of themselves become rich; I willmanifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to the primitivesimplicity.'
The government that seems the most unwise, Oft goodness to the peoplebest supplies; That which is meddling, touching everything, Will work butill, and disappointment bring.
Misery! -happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness! - miserylurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come in the end? Shall wethen dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turnbecome distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. Thedelusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a longtime. Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with itsangles): (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). Heis straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but doesnot dazzle.
For regulating the human (in our constitution) and rendering the (proper)service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation. It is only bythis moderation that there is effected and early return (to man's normalstate). That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of theattributes (of the Tao). With that repeated accumulation of those attributes,there comes the subjugation we know not what shall be the limit; and whenone knows not what the limit shall be, he may be the ruler of a state.He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long. His case islike that (of the plant) of which we say that its roots are deep and itsflower stalks firm; -this is the way to secure that its enduring life shalllong be seen.
Governing a great state is like cooking small fish. Let the kingdombe governed according to the Tao, and the manes of the departed will notmanifest their spiritual energy. It is not that those manes have not thatspiritual energy, but it will not be employed to hurt men. It is not thatit could not hurt men, but neither does the ruling sage hurt them. Whenthese two do not injuriously affect each other, their good influences convergein the virtue (of the Tao).
What makes a great state is its being (like) a low- lying, down-flowing(stream);-it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small states) underheaven. (To illustrate from) the case of all females:-the female alwaysovercomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sortof) abasement. Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to smallstates, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselvesto a great state, win it over to them. In the one case the abasement leadsto gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favour. The greatstate only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small stateonly wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets whatis desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself.
Tao has of all things the most honoured place. No treasures give goodmen so rich a grace; Bad men it guards, and doth their ill efface.
(Its) admirable words can purchase honour; (its) admirable deeds canraise their performer above others. Even men who are not good are not abandonedby it. Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of Heaven,and he has appointed his three ducal ministers though (a prince) were tosend in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill both the hands, andthat as the precursor of the team of horses (in the court-yard), such anoffering would not be equal to (a lesson of) this Tao, which one mightpresent on his knees. Why was it that the ancients prized this Tao so much?Was it not because it could be got by seeking for it, and the guilty couldescape (from the stain of their guilt) by it? This is the reason why allunder heaven consider it the most valuable thing.
(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting; toconduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste withoutdiscerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great, and a few asmany; and to recompense injury with kindness. (The master of it) anticipatesthings that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that wouldbecome great while they are small. All difficult things in the world aresure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all greatthings from one in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while henever does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatestthings. He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he whois continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult. Thereforethe sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so never has anydifficulties.
That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has givenindications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; thatwhich is brittle is easily broken; that which is very small is easily dispersed.Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance; order shouldbe secured before disorder has begun. The tree which fills the arms grewfrom the tiniest sprout; the tower of nine storeys rose from a (small)heap of earth; the journey of a thousand li commenced with a single step.He who acts (with an ulterior purpose) does harm; he who takes hold ofa thing (in the same way) loses his hold. (But) people in their conductof affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of success.If they were careful at the end, as (they should be) at the beginning,they would not so ruin them. Therefore the sage desires what (other men)do not desire, and does not prize things difficult to get; he learns what(other men) do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men havepassed by. Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and doesnot dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
The ancients who showed their skill in practising the Tao did so, notto enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and ignorant. Thedifficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge.He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it; whilehe who does not (try to) do so is a blessing. He who knows these two thingsfinds in them also his model and rule. Ability to know this model and ruleconstitutes what we call the mysterious excellence (of a governor). Deepand far reaching is such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessoras opposite to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him.
That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage andtribute of all the valley streams, is their skill in being lower than they;-itis thus that they are the kings of them all. So it is that the sage, wishingto be above men, puts himself by his words below them, and wishing to bebefore them, places his person behind them. In this way though he has hisplace above them, men do not feel his weight, nor though he has his placebefore them, do they feel it an injury to them. Therefore all in the worlddelight to exalt him and do not weary of him. Because he does not strive,no one finds it possible to strive with him.
All the world says that, while my Tao is great, it yet appears to beinferior (to other systems of teaching). Now it is just its greatness thatmakes it seem to be inferior. If it were like any other (system), for longwould its smallness have been known! But I have three precious things whichI prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy;and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With thatgentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinkingfrom taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highesthonour. Now-a-days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold;economy, and are all for being liberal; the hindmost place, and seek onlyto be foremost;-(of all which the end is) death. Gentleness is sure tobe victorious even in battle, and firmly to maintain its ground. Heavenwill save its possessor, by his (very) gentleness protecting him.
He who in (Tao's) wars has skill Assumes no martial port; He who fightswith most good will To rage makes no resort. He who vanquishes yet stillKeeps from his foes apart; He whose hests men most fulfil Yet humbly plieshis art. Thus we say, 'He ne'er contends, And therein is his might.' Thuswe say, 'Men's wills he bends, That they with him unite.' Thus we say,'Like Heaven's his ends, No sage of old more bright.'
[Note: hests are commands, orders.]
A master of the art of war has said, 'I do not dare to be the host(to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive).I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot.' This is calledmarshalling the ranks where there are no ranks; baring the arms (to fight)where there are no arms to bare; grasping the weapon where there is noweapon to grasp: advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy. Thereis no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is nearlosing (the gentleness) which is so precious. Thus it is that when opposingweapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers.
My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practise; but thereis no one in the world who is able to know and able to practise them. Thereis an originating and all- comprehending (principle) in my words, and anauthoritative law for the things (which I enforce). It is because theydo not know these, that men do not know me. They who know me are few, andI am on that account-(the more) to be prized. It is thus that the sagewears (a poor garb of) hair cloth, while he carries his (signet of) jadein his bosom.
To know and yet (think) we do not know is the highest (attainment);not to know (and yet think) we do know is a disease. It is simply by beingpained at (the thought of) having this disease that we are preserved fromit. The sage has not the disease. He knows the pain that would be inseparablefrom it, and therefore he does not have it.
When the people do not fear what they ought to fear, that which istheir great dread will come on them. Let them not thoughtlessly indulgethemselves in their ordinary life; let them not act as if weary of whatthat life depends on. It is by avoiding such indulgence that such wearinessdoes not arise. Therefore the sage knows (these things) of himself, butdoes not parade (his knowledge); loves, but does not (appear to set a)value on, himself. And thus he puts the latter alternative away and makeschoice of the former.
He whose boldness appears in his daring (to do wrong, in defiance ofthe laws) is put to death; he whose boldness appears in this not daring(to do so) lives on. Of these two cases the one appears to be advantageous,and the other to be injurious. but
When Heaven's anger smites a man, Who the cause shall truly scan?
On this account the sage feels a difficulty (as to what to do in theformer case). It is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it skillfullyovercomes; not to speak, and yet it is skilful in (obtaining) a reply,does not call, and yet men come to it of themselves. Its demonstrationsare quiet, and yet its plans are skilful and effective. The meshes of thenet of Heaven are large; far apart, but letting nothing escape.
The people do not fear death; to what purpose is it to (try to) frightenthem with death? If the people were always in awe of death, and I couldalways seize those who do wrong, and put them to death, who would dareto do wrong? There is always One who presides over the infliction of death.He who would inflict death in the room of him who so presides over it maybe described as hewing wood instead of a great carpenter. Seldom is itthat who undertakes the hewing, instead of the great carpenter, does notcut his own hands!
The people suffer from famine because of the multitude of taxes consumedby their superiors. It is through this that they suffer famine. The peopleare difficult to govern because of the (excessive) agency of their superiors(in governing them). It is through this that they are difficult to govern.The people make light of dying because of the greatness of their laboursin seeking for the means of living. It is this which makes them think lightof dying. Thus it is that to leave the subject of living altogether outof view is better that to set a high value on it.
Man at his birth is supple and weak: at his death, firm and strong.(so it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early growth, aresoft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered. Thus it is that firmnessand strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness, theconcomitants of life. Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forcesdoes not conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the outstretchedarms, (and thereby invites the feller.) Therefore the place of what isfirm and strong is below, and that of what is soft and weak is above.
May not the Way (or Tao) of Heaven be compared to the (method of) bendinga bow? The (part of the bow) which was high is brought low, and what waslow is raised up. (So Heaven) diminishes where there is superabundance,and supplements where there is deficiency. It is the Way of Heaven to diminishsuperabundance, and supplements where there is deficiency. It is the Wayof Heaven to diminish superabundance, and to supplement deficiency. Itis not so with the way of man. He takes away from those who have not enoughto add to his own superabundance. Who can take his own superabundance andtherewith serve all under heaven? Only he who is in possession of the Tao!Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as his; heachieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:-he does not wishto display his superiority.
There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yetfor attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that cantake precedence of it;-for there is nothing (so effectual) for which itcan be changed. Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes thehard, and the weak the strong, but no one is able to carry it out in practice.Therefore a sage has said
'He who accepts his state's reproach, Is altars' lord; To him who bearsmen's direful woes They all the name of King accord.'
Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.
When a reconciliation is effected (between two parties) after a greatanimosity, there is sure to be a grudge remaining (in the mind of the onewho was wrong). And how can this be beneficial (to the other)? Therefore(to guard against this), the sage keeps the left-hand portion of the recordof the engagement, and does not insist on the (speedy) fulfillment of itby the other party. (So), he who has the attributes (of the Tao) regards(only) the conditions of the engagement, while he who has not those attributesregards only the conditions favourable to himself. In the Way of Heaven,there is no partiality of love; it is always on the side of the good man.
In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that,though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men,there would be no employment of them; I would make the people, while lookingon death as a grievous thing, yet not remove elsewhere (to avoid it). Thoughthey had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them;though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasionto don or use them. I would make the people return to the use of knottedcords (instead of the written characters). They should think their (coarse)food sweet: their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings placesof rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment. There shouldbe a neighboring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogsshould be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the peopleto old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it.
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. Those who areskilled (in the Tao) do not dispute (about it); the disputatious are notskilled in it. Those who know (the Tao) are not extensively learned; theextensively learned do not know it. The sage does not accumulate (for himself).The more that he expends for others, the more does he possess of his own;the more that he gives to others, the more does he have himself. With allthe sharpness of the Way of Heaven, it injures not; with all the doingin the way of the sage he does not strive.