Tao Te King
Lao Tse
Chinese - English by
Lok Sang Ho, 2002

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I am indebted to all the earlier translators of Laozi, many of whom had translated in a beautiful language and had succeeded in conveying much of the essence of Laozi's teachings. I am particularly indebted to Prof. James Hsiung of New York University, Prof. Yew-kwang Ng of Monash University, and Prof. Laurence Wong of Lingnan University for reading through my manuscript and offering very useful suggestions and advice.

Naturally, different translators had interpreted Laozi differently in places. I am lucky in that I have the benefit of referring to all these different interpretations, dwelling on them, and in the end unlocking many puzzles that had remained in many of the existing translations.

My task is simple: to preserve the meaning of Laozi, to write in plain language, and to let the world know that Daodejing is a practical, down-to-earth guide for any one who aspires to live a rich, peaceful life in harmony with nature and others.

Lok Sang Ho
Hong Kong
September 1, 2002

The Living Dao is Living

It is not bound by the text of this or that
version of Laozi.

Names are but names.
Languages are only languages.

The translator seeks the truth,
the way of living,
that will bring peace to the mind and the world.

In this he is confident
he is one with Laozi.

Joseph Conrad, in his famous Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus, wrote that the role of the artist is no different from that of the thinker or that of the scientist. Like the latter, he is after the Truth, but whereas the scientist seeks the truth about the physical world, the artist seeks the Truth about the human mind. "The artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom: to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition¡­" Conrad believes this Truth is universal, and that it lies within each of us. He spoke of "the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity¡ªthe dead to the living and the living to the unborn." By this he testifies to the universality of human nature. But certainly there is more to human nature than the hopes and fears and the joys and sorrows that he talked about. Thus the aim of art lies "not in the clear logic of a triumphant conclusion; it is not in the unveiling of one of those heartless secrets which are called the Laws of Nature. It is not less great, but only more difficult."

In the same way, Laozi(often spelled as Lao-Tzu), who wrote the Daodejing, tried to describe the indescribable. The truth about the human mind, and about the universal mind, cannot be sought from without. It must be sought from within us. This understanding is a gift, and is not acquired. Indeed, those who try to seek that truth from without are bound to fail. Indeed, we need to unlearn to rediscover the gift. From this perspective it is amazing how much in common there is in Laozi and in Conrad. And it is just as amazing how much common ground there is in the teaching of the Buddha and in that of Laozi.

Laozi used words sparingly, truthful to his belief that words easily become superfluous. People may be misled by words to think in crooked ways. This is also exactly the message of Zen(or "Chan") Buddhism*. He would rather use words that trigger the reflective mind. As his subject is really indescribable, he would use symbols. The proliferation of symbolism in the Daodejing is remarkable. "The Valley Spirit"(##) is a case in point. In Chinese, the valley provides the image of having a capacity to accept criticisms and alien views. There is the expression "xuhai ruo gu"(####), which means literally "humble and receptive like the valley." The mystical female is another example of symbolism. The door of the mystical female, which chapter 6 called the "root of heaven and earth," stands for the source of abundance. Laozi tells us that humility is the origin of creative ideas and a rich life.

The images in Laozi are very effective, but they require imagination. Unfortunately, imagination can go wild, and often times, translators and readers are bewildered by the mystical use of language.

To understand Laozi, we have to understand that he offers a practical way of life, not a mystical recipe to immortality. Paradoxically, however, this practical way of life offers a glimpse to the eternal world. Watch Conrad's closing remarks in the Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus: "behold¡ªall the truth of life is there: a moment of vision, a sigh, a smile¡ªand the return to an eternal rest." Compare this language "a sigh, a smile" with the famous episode when the Buddha communicated with one of his disciples. He took up a flower, smiled, and the understanding about life was instantaneously and spontaneously communicated to and realized by that disciple. Then of course there is that famous verse from William Blake: "To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour." Truthfulness is eternal.

Consider Laozi's Chapter 70, in which he says "What I say is easy to understand and easy to practice yet few people under heaven understand and practice it." Compare this with the opening sentence in Chinese Zen (Third Patriarch)Master Sengcan's (##) Song of the Truthful Mind (###) which reads "The supreme way is not difficult, so long as people refrain from preferences." (####,####) The importance of the undiscriminating mind is clear in Chapter 49: "If people are good, I shall be good to them. If people are not good, I shall also be good to them. This way I am really good. If people are truthful, I shall be truthful to them. If people are not truthful, I shall also be truthful to them. This way I am really truthful." The Sage's mind is uncalculating and free from all pretences like an infant's. Again quoting from Sengcan "All tendencies to go to one extreme or to the other arise from the calculating mind."(####,####.)

What is, then, this practical way of life that Laozi recommends? It is a life in unison with nature. To be with nature is to forget about the narrow self that limits our potential for development. If something is done, one who follows the Dao would not say: "It is me who achieved it." One would not take any credit because, in the first place, there is no concept of me or I as a separate, independent existence. Moreover, one would only be doing things that one's inner nature calls upon and enables one to do.

To be with nature one will realize a subtle joy, and this joy is not something to be reaped in the next world. Some people think that Daoist philosophy is "out of the world" but it is really very much "of the world." In Chapter 80, Laozi saw a world in which people enjoy their foods and beautiful dresses, live happily in peace, and take delight in their traditions.

Consider Chapter 59, in which Laozi says, "To rule over men or to serve heaven nothing works as well as following the farmer's example. The farmer does his preparatory work early. To be like him, one must pay attention to the accumulation of virtue. That way one can overcome all difficulties. That way one's ability knows no limit. That way one can sustain a nation." Chapter 64 advises: "People often fail in their tasks when they are about to accomplish them. If only they take the same care in the end as they do in the beginning, they will avoid many failures." These are of course very practical, and certainly this-worldly, words of advice.

Because Laozi used his words so sparingly, and because the Chinese language is such that one word can carry multiple meanings, it is easy to be misled. But Laozi never worried about this problem, because after all the insight has to come from within. So he is sure that those who sincerely seek the truth will see the truth("The door will open up to whoever knocks," as Jesus says). Still, we should avoid jumping to conclusions. For example, the word # is often translated into quietness. But it also means ## "still," "undisturbed," or "rest." There is reason to believe that Laozi referred to stillness more than to quietness here, since quietness comes from without and stillness of the mind comes from within. Keenly aware of the enlightenment that comes from within, Conrad also talked about the "eternal rest." Both Laozi and the Buddha talked about seeing reality as it is when the mind is not disturbed.** Another confused and confusing word is # as used in Chapter 25. # is commonly translated into king. But in the context Laozi really meant the man who follows the Dao. A king who does not follow the Dao cannot be great. This should be very clear from the last line in Chapter 25, in which he says: "The (great) man emulates the (great) Earth. The (great) earth emulates the (great) Heaven, The (great) heaven emulates the (great) Dao. The (great) Dao emulates the (great) Nature."

The Daodejing is difficult to read because the language sometimes breaks grammatical rules in order to read smoothly. For example, in Chapter 13, the phrase #### should be understood as ####. In Chapter 4, #### should be read as ####. Sometimes, in favor of brevity, Laozi deliberately left out some words. But in the context what he really means should be clear. Disappointingly, some translators took it literally and often missed the context. This is the case with Chapter 52, in which he advises that as long as we understand that we are the sons and daughters of nature and do our role to respect nature and the good earth as we would respect our mother, we will not run into disaster. He then says that blocking the passages and shutting the doors we would be fine while clearing the passages and opening the doors we would be doomed. What he really means from the context is that if we respect nature we will not run into disaster, even if the passages are blocked, but if we forget our role as sons and daughters of nature we would run into trouble.

Laozi wants to address the common human weaknesses. He says things that seem extreme, with the attention of shocking readers into self-reflection. Chapter 12 and Chapter 65 are cases in point. In Chapter 12, he tells us that "Just as the five colors that we see can blind us, so the five sounds that we hear can deafen us, and the five tastes can dull our sense of taste." In my translation I added the word "can" to make it sound less extreme. It is likely that the original language sounds extreme because Laozi wanted brevity and/or a shocking effect to make people think.

In Chapter 65 Laozi says, "The ruler who rules with his acquired knowledge is likely to hurt the nation. The ruler who rules not with his acquired knowledge is likely to benefit the nation." Certainly we cannot agree that all acquired knowledge is bad for a nation. But the fact is that many people think that they are very clever, and that they can use their knowledge to make great strides. Laozi warns against that kind of arrogance. The word "likely" is not in the text of Daodejing. But it is clear that he does not really condemn education and knowledge acquisition (See Chapter 71, for example). After all he wrote using words that he had learnt as a child. So putting in the word "likely" should preserve his real meaning and help avoid misunderstanding. It is in this spirit that I conducted my translation. Whenever I added words that are not in the original text, however, I would put in a footnote and explain.

For the convenience of the reader I have taken the liberty to add a small title to each of the "chapters" to capture the essence of message. It is my fervent hope that Laozi's message be put across to as many people as possible. I can say that Laozi did not write the Daodejing as a Chinese, but as a member of the human race. I hope that readers will see the Daodejing not as a sample of Chinese philosophy, but as an exploration to the meaning and value of life itself from someone whose inner reflections are unusually sharp and downright honest.

November13, 2001, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

* Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word "chan,"(#) which is itself the transliteration of the Sanskrit term dhyana.

** There is a famous episode wherein the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui-neng, upon hearing two observers debate over whether it was the wind that was moving or the flag flying in the wind that was moving, pointed out that the observers were themselves confused, their minds having been moved by what was observed.


The Nameless Eternal Dao

Ways that can be spelled out.
Cannot be the eternal way.
Names that can be named
Must change with time and place.

Emptiness is the origin of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of everything that had a birth.

Appreciate Emptiness, that we may see the nature of the Dao's versatility;
Appreciate Existence, that we may see the extent of the Dao's possibilities.

These two, Emptiness and Existence, came from the same source.
Though they bear different names, they serve the same mystical cause.

A mystery within a mystery,
Such is the gateway to all versatility.



Relativity and the Meaning of Existence

People under heaven
see beauty in what they call "beauty."
that way they know of the "ugly."

Similarly people see good in what they call "good,"
That way they know of the "bad."

Existence and Emptiness are concepts
that make sense by comparison.
Similarly, long lends meaning to short, and high to low.
Harmony is produced when sounds combine in unison.
Because the fore goes, so the back follows.

Thus the Sage would not act as if he could act on his will.
He teaches the unspoken teaching.
No word is ever spoken, yet living things thrive.
No ownership is claimed, though Nature begets all creation.
Humility is maintained even as achievement is made.
No credit is claimed even as work is done.
Because no credit is claimed, so no credit is ever lost.



The Art of Government

The wise ruler treats able men
the same as he would treat others.
In so doing he avoids strife.
He plays down precious goods.
In so doing he discourages the
emergence of thieves.
He makes an effort to stem the
emergence of objects of desire.
In so doing he ensures that his citizens' minds
Will not be thrown into disarray.

Thus the Sage's governance
Satisfies the real needs of people,
While emptying their minds of desires;
Builds up the inner strengths (bones) of people
While weakening their vain ambitions.

He would preserve the natural simplicity
of his citizens'minds and reduce their desires.
In so doing the clever people will learn
that their contrivance will not work.
Because the Sage does nothing but following
the law of nature
Nothing will deviate from their natural and orderly places.



The Character and the Benefits of the Dao

The Way (Dao) is like water that simmers slowly,
Perpetually emitting its energy without boiling over.

It is like a deep, deep pool in the mountains,
Unfathomable yet could well harbor the origin of all life forms.

It can blunt sharp angles,
Resolve disputes,
Soften light that otherwise dazzles,
Re-establish concordance where there is discord.
Unfathomable, who would know its existence?

Today I know of no child of anyone
Who resembles our ancient forefathers.
(Who followed the Dao).



The Impartial Laws of Nature

Heaven and earth are unkind.
They treat everything like the straw dogs used in sacrifice.
The Sages too are unkind.
In their eyes everyone is no different from a straw dog.

Within the bounds of Heaven and Earth,
There is plenty of space,
Much like there is space within a bellows.
Hollow but unyielding is this space.
The more you work on it,
The more air comes out.

Words are superfluous and soon reach their limits.
It is far better to adhere to
impartiality and the middle way.



Humility As the Basis of a Rich Life

The receptive, humble spirit
("the valley spirit") lives on.
It is known as the Mystical Female.
The doorway of the Mystical Female is known as
the root of heaven and earth.
From it, imperceptibly yet relentless,
Runs the energy.



Selflessness as a Way of Life

Heaven and earth last.
It is so because they do not give birth to themselves.

Similarly the last thing in the Sage's mind
is to propagate his body.
Paradoxically, that is why his body advances.
The body to the Sage is like any external object.
For this very reason his body perpetuates.
Is it not true that because he is selfless,
That he realizes his true self?



Undiscriminating Benevolence

The superior good man is like water.
Just as water enlivens all living creatures and
never contests with them,
dwelling in places disdained by others,
So the superior good man is prepared to situate himself where
nobody wants.
In this way he is close to the Dao.

To live on the good earth,
To cherish good thoughts,
To do a good turn to others,
To speak the good truth,
To let good governance find its right place,
To put the good ability to work,
To set in motion the good times,

Such is the way to live without contesting with others.
Such is the man free from complaints and anguish.



Knowing When to Stop

Holding a full load of what you desire in your hands
Is not as wise as putting it down.
Sharpening a knife edge to the extreme,
And it may chip off in use.
To have a house full of gold and jade,
And you will only invite thieves.
To succumb to conceit and arrogance upon getting wealth and status,
In the end you will regret it.
Retire once a task has been accomplished
And you are in consonance with Heaven's Way.



Mind Training

Can you concentrate your mind and soul,
and not lapse a minute?
Can you keep your breath soft and smooth,
just as an infant would?
Can you cleanse the eye of your mind,
and keep it free from a speck of dust?
Can you love your citizens and govern your country,
selflessly and according to the Dao?
If you were asked to guard the Gate of Heaven,
would you be totally impartial?
Can you understand the four dimensions of the universe,
and be free from self-guided reasoning?

To give birth to life, and
To nurture it, yet claiming no ownership;
To act, yet without being arrogant,
To bring up life, yet not determining its destiny:
That is the Mystical Virtue.



The Enlightened Spirit of Not Clinging

Thirty spokes make a wheel.
Forget about the spokes,
And we have the use of the wheel.

Working clay in the right way can produce a bowl.
Forget about the clay,
And we have the use of the bowl.

Carve a room off the side of a hill,
Forget about the hill,
And we have the use of the room.

We lay our hands on all kinds of materials for our advantage.
Yet we do not possess any of these materials
when we actually use their services.



Emancipation from the Enslavement of the Senses

Just as the five colors that we see can blind us,
So the five sounds that we hear can deafen us,
And the five tastes that we taste can dull our sense of taste.

As we hunt and chase after a moving target, our minds go wild.
So goods that are difficult to get
become hurdles in our life journey.

For this reason the Sage seeks to fill only the true needs("the needs of the
Rather than to satisfy his senses("the needs of the eyes").
He gives up the one,
And gains the other.



Selflessness Brings Inner Peace

When the emperor bestows his favors,
one feels wary;
When the emperor unleashes his anguish,
one also feels wary.
In the same light we should be wary of our body.

Why is it that favor, or anguish from the emperor
makes us wary?
Because we are under him, it is natural
that we are wary when we gain or lose his favor.

Why is it that we should be wary of our bodies?
If we own our body, it is natural
that we are wary if something should happen to our bodies.
If we disown our bodies, there will be nothing to fear!

We should give our bodies up to the world,
As if they could be entrusted to all under heaven.
Love is based on giving our bodies up to the world,
As if they could be entrusted to all under heaven.



The Ancient Path

When we cast our eyes upon it
yet cannot see it,
We call it yi (literally "flat", "peaceful", or "delighted")
When we turn our ears to it
yet cannot hear it,
We call it xi (literally "rarefied")
When we stretch our hands to reach it
yet cannot touch it,
We call it wei (literally "infinitesimally small")
Since we cannot distinguish these three,
we equate them as one.

Its upper side does not dazzle like strong light.
Its under side does not dim like darkness.
It is beyond description,
And easily confused as nothing.
Its shape is shapeless.
Its appearance is that of nothing,
We call it the "as if."
When we greet it, we cannot see its face.
When we follow it, we cannot see its back.
(Since reality is impossible to track down)
I should only follow the Path walked by the ancient Sages.
That is how I can deal with situations of the now.
Knowing to follow the way of the ancient masters,
Can already be called following the Way.



The Early Masters

The masters of the Dao in ancient times
had mystical, versatile, and unfathomable understanding.
As it is unfathomable,
Only a proximate description is possible.

They are prepared at all times,
as if taking on a river journey in winter.
They are alert and watchful,
as if they were wary of the surroundings.
They are respectful,
as if they were the guests of someone.
They are accommodating,
as if they were ice about to melt.
They are unpretentious,
as if they were the embodiment of simplicity.
They are open-minded,
as if they were a hollow valley.
They are murky,
as if they were a muddy stream,
They are unsettled,
as if they were an open sea;
They never stopped,
as if they were the winds of the earth.

Is there anyone who can be like
a murky stream cleaning up when given a rest?
Is there anyone who can be like
calm air gathering motion and becoming alive again?
The man who shuns full gratification of their desires,
is the man who has this ability.
He can rejuvenate.



Rediscover the Eternal

Be after the Truthfulness of Emptiness;
Stick to the absolute stillness of the mind.
You will see all the living things around you in a new light.
You will observe their real, original faces.

All things under heaven with their diversity
shall fall back to their proper places and
shall rediscover their origins.
Going back to one's origin is the same as stilling the mind.
It can also be known as the Rediscovery of Life.
The Life Rediscovered is the Eternal.
Knowing the Eternal is true understanding.

One who does not know the Eternal
foolishly creates all kinds of ills for oneself.
One who knows the Eternal is accommodating and receptive.
Being accommodating and receptive is giving up possessiveness.
Giving up possessiveness, one becomes kingly and enlightened.
To be kingly and enlightened is heavenly;
To be heavenly is to follow the Dao.
Following the Dao one will become immortal.
Such a man will never die even though his body passes away.



The Unseasoned Mind Knows the Eternal

The Supreme stays with the one who is least clever.
Others, who merely pays tribute to the Supreme verbally,
stay further away from the Supreme.
Still others, who fear the Supreme,
are more distant from the Supreme.
Still others, who live in defilement of the Supreme,
are the worst.
There are people who believe inadequately.
There are people who do not believe at all.

Take things easy and spare your words.
When what needs done gets done
People will say "How natural and easy it is!"




When the Way has been abandoned,
The talk about kindness and fairness emerges.
When clever people abound,
Fraudulence and pretentiousness become commonplace.

When there is discord in the family,
People will learn to become better parents and better children.
When the country falls into disarray,
Ministers who faithfully serve the country arise.



Live Naturally and Simply

When we stop talking about the Sages
and simply banish contrivance and clever reasoning
That is the time people will really benefit greatly.

When we stop talking about kindness and fairness
That is the time people rediscover their natural filial piety
and their parental instincts.

When people forget about their clever ways
and the pursuit of ease and comfort,
There will be no more thieves.

I cannot say adequately about these three things,
So I will add:
See simplicity;
Espouse simplicity;
Reduce your wild thoughts;
Reduce your desires.
When you have learnt how not to learn,
You will be free from worries.



The Calculating Mind Versus the Truthful Mind

What is the difference between saying yes because you agree
and saying yes because you want to please?
What is the difference between good and evil?
When everybody avoids something,
Does it mean it must be avoided?
How ridiculous all this is!
This mode of thinking takes one far from the ultimate Truth!

The crowds are busily involved with their daily routines.
As if they are attending a feast,
or walking up a beautiful terrace in Spring.
I alone am deserted.
The future seems unknown,
Just as an infant's future is unknown.

I appear to be tired in a directionless journey.
When everybody appears to have more than enough
I alone seem like someone who have lost everything.

Is my mind that of a fool?
People in their mundane worlds look bright.
I on the other hand look dull.
People in the mundane worlds look clever,
I on the other hand look boring.
My mind is unsettled like the open sea
and never restless like the wind.

Everyone has his properties and status.
I alone look poor and lonely.
I am different from the crowd.
I alone value drawing my nutrients from Mother.



The Mark of the Virtuous

To tell the virtuous from all the others.
You only need one criterion:
does he follow the Dao?

The substance of the Dao is impalpable and intractable.
While it is impalpable and intractable,
It manifests itself in the phenomenal world,
And it is not without substance.

While it is shadowy and empty,
It shows itself in the spiritual realm.
The spiritual essence of the Dao is
both truthful and dependable.

From the ancient times till now
The name of the Dao has persisted,
And it has pleased the wise masters.
How do I know about these wise masters?
I use the criterion mentioned above.



The Enlightened Way of Life

When something is bent, it is ready to be put straight;
When someone is wronged, one is ready to be redressed;
When a container is empty, it is ready to be filled;
When something gets old, it is ready to be renewed;
When you have just a little, you are ready to get more;
When you have got a lot, you are ready to be confused.

For this reason the Sage espouses one universal formula.
Do not be prejudiced by your own views, and your will see;
Do not think that you are right, and you will know the truth;
Do not boast about your achievements, and you will achieve;
Do not be self-contented; and you will grow.
Because (in-seeking growth) one never need to struggle
or to contest with others,
One will never need to fear that one's achievements will be
contested away by others.

The ancient saying that "When something is bent it is
ready to be straightened" certainly is not idle talk.
To be whole, just follow the one formula.



The Dao Will Not Fail the Serious Seeker

To live with sparse words is to live with nature.

Occasional winds and showers will not last through the day.
Who is responsible for this result?
Heaven and earth.
Even heaven and earth take breaks.
So certainly should men.
(Why should anyone then talk too much?)

(Rather then just talk)
Those who follow the way will find the way.
Those who live virtuously will have a virtuous life.
Those who live not seeking the way will lose the way.
For those who seek the way, the way will seek them out.
For those who seek virtue, virtue will seek them out.
For those who do not find the way,
The way will not find them either.
Some people do not believe adequately.
Some people do not believe at all.



Excesses Deviate from the Dao

He who stands on tip-toe cannot really stand.
He who takes big strides cannot really walk.
He who sees only through his own point of view cannot see clearly.
He who thinks he is always right will not see the truth.
He who boasts of his own achievements will achieve nothing,
He who is self-contented will not grow.

Such people to the Dao are like those who eat too much or do too much,
They will be fed up with what they eat or what they do.
Hence those who follow the Dao will not fall into the "too much" mode.



The Dao Emulates the Great Nature

In the beginning, before the formation of heaven and earth,
Something had already existed amid the confusion.
This lonely existence was totally independent of anything else,
And it would not change,
It only moved in its own way tirelessly.
Only it could have been the mother of heaven and earth.
I do not know its name,
I would just call it "the Dao."
I could also call it "the great something."
This great something has now about disappeared
from the world as we know it.
It has been getting more and more remote from us.
It has become more and more contrary from the
world as we know it.

The Dao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
The man who knows the Dao (the Way) is great.
In the domain we know there are four "greats."
The man who knows the Dao is one of them.

The great man emulates the great Earth.
The great earth emulates the great Heaven,
The great heaven emulates the great Dao.
The great Dao emulates the great Nature.



Keeping One\'s Weight

We keep our weight, so we will not lose our roots.
We keep our serenity, so we will not lose our poise.
For these reasons when the Sage travels all day,
he does not part from his heavy luggage wagon.
He sits quietly, untouched by the magnificent views.
What a pity it is then to see the lord of ten thousand chariots
losing his weight in front of his people!
If one loses one's weight, one also loses one's base.
If one loses one's serenity, one also loses one's poise.



The Perfect Man

Perfect deeds leave no tracks behind it.
Perfect speech leaves no flaws to find fault with.
Those adept in counting do not require counting chips.
Those adept in sealing require no door latches,
yet what is sealed cannot be opened.
Those adept in tying need produce no knots,
yet the strings cannot be untied.

The Sage who is adept in saving people will abandon no one.
He is adept in saving creatures and will abandon no creature.
This is known as the Tradition of the Light.

The perfect man is the teacher of the imperfect.
The imperfect man is the assets of the perfect.
Those who do not value their teachers,
And those who do not take good care of their own assets,
However clever they are, they are really lost.
This is a key point that is often not understood.



Great But Humble

Keep one's place however humble, while knowing one's
real strength.
Stay low, like the rivers that gather water from the higher grounds.
Be that lowly river:
Depart not from the eternal virtue,
Emulate the unpretentiousness of infants.

Keep one's color, though it be black,
while knowing about the white.
Be an example for the world.

Be an example for the world,
Do not disgrace the eternal virtue,
Emulate the Eternal.

Take the blames from the world without complaint,
Yet never forgetting the need for honor,
Be the lowly valley of the world.
This way, the eternal virtue is fulfilled.
And simplicity is restored.

Simplicity is valuable.
From simple substances we have all our useful tools.
When simple men are used by the Sages,
They become great statesmen.

Great people never go out of their way to make themselves great,
Just as the great artists will not do superfluous things
to draw the attention of others.



Guard Against Vain Ambitions and Excesses

Someone who sets out to win the world and
contrives to make his way will never make it.
The world is holy, and is beyond contrivance and possession.
He who contrives to win will only lose.
He who only aspires to possess will be dispossessed.
The Sage never contrives to do anything and so he fails in nothing.
He never possesses anything and so he never loses anything.

Among the living things, some lead, while others follow.
Some sigh, while others shout.
Some display their strengths, while others show their weaknesses.
Some lend support, while others destroy.
In contrast, the Sage will discard the excessive, the
extravagant, and the extreme.



Good Deeds Beget Good Results

The person who through the Dao helps a ruler
Will advise against using sheer military force to conquer the world.
Such military activity will invite its own counter-effects.
For where the military force goes,
farmlands will give way to thorns and brambles.
In the wake of military conquest,
A year of misfortune inevitably follows.

Good results are the natural outcome of good deeds.
They are not achieved by force or contrivance.
In the face of good results,
One must not indulge in conceit;
Nor must one boast about one's success;
Nor must one succumb to pride.
Remember that good results follow the natural law.
Good results are not brought about
by forcing the course of events.

Anything that has seen the prime of its age
will soon get old.
Going past the prime is going against the Dao.
Going against the Dao, one soon perishes.



Do Not Glorify Military Victories

Fine weapons are ominous objects
And are detested by all living things.
For this reason the man who follows the Dao
will stay away from them when possible.

The refined man respects life in his daily life.
(he "follows the left").
If he should resort to military force, he unavoidably
destroys life (he "follows the right").

Weapons are ominous objects and are never
the instruments of a refined person.
If ever he cannot avoid using them,
he must not make a big thing out of it.
Even if he wins the war,
he must not glorify the victory.
He who glorifies military victories
takes pleasure in killing.
He who takes pleasure in killing
will not win the support of the world.

Auspicious events are symbolized by the left;
Ominous events are symbolized by the right.
The next-in-command should take the left seat;
The chief-in-command should take the right seat.
This is to say that a military victory should be
treated like a ceremony to honor the dead.
For those who kill, let us shed our tears upon them.
Upon winning a war, let us pay tribute to
those who die with the rites of mourning.



The Nameless Way

The Dao has always been nameless and simple.
Though humble, it is never subservient to anyone under heaven.
Still, if kings and barons would follow the Dao steadfastly
All the living things on earth would benefit and pay them homage.

It is the interaction of heaven and earth
that brings rain to all the living things.
Heaven and earth are not at the command of anyone.
Yet all living things benefit from their actions.

Humans since the beginning of time
have established all kinds of traditions and have named names.
Should they then not know when to stop?
Those who know when to stop know no death.

Just as the rivers and valleys bring water to the sea,
So the Dao brings all living things to the Ultimate.



Real Strength and Endurance

He who knows others is wise,
He who knows himself is wiser.
He who conquers others is strong.
He who conquers himself is stronger.

He who knows what is adequate lives a rich life.
He who overcomes difficulties knows what he wants.
He who will not lose his place endures.
He who dies and yet lives lasts.



The Great Dao

The Great Dao is all-encompassing.
Its influences pervade all directions.
All living things depend on it.
But the Dao works quietly.
It accomplishes yet makes no claims.
It provides clothing and nourishments
yet does not take command over anything.
Ever aspiring for non-existence,57
It can be called little.
Providing a home to all the living things
yet claiming no ownership,
It can be called great.

Exactly because the Dao never takes itself as great,
It is truly great.



The Dao Does Not Attract Followers

He who holds the great sign
Attracts a great following.

He who helps the followers avoid harm
Enjoys great peace.

Music and good food can stop passers-by on their way.
The Dao, on the contrary, offers only a bland taste.
It can hardly be seen or heard.
Yet if one uses it, it is inexhaustible.



Refined Understanding

In order to fold, one must first unfold;
In order to weaken, one must first strengthen;
In order to banish, one must first establish;
In order to deprive, one must first provide.

The following is called refined understanding:
That the weak will outperform the strong.

Just as fish should stay inside their deep pools.
So the best gadgets and tools of a country
should not be displayed in front of others.



Stillness of the Mind and Refined Action

The Dao neither contrives to do something
nor abstains from doing anything.

If only the kings and barons would follow the Dao,
all the living things would be transformed.

If the transformed living things
should contrive to do anything,
I would restrain them
with the natural simplicity of the Unnamed.
I would have them freed from desires.
Freedom from desires is achieved by stilling the mind.
Everything under heaven will then fall back into their natural places.



Refined Way of Life

The refined virtuous never attempts to be virtuous.
For this reason they are truly virtuous.
The unrefined virtuous always adheres to what is virtuous.
For this reason they are not really virtuous.

The refined virtuous will not contrive to do anything
and do not act for gain.
The unrefined virtuous contrives to act
and does so for gain.

The refined kindly man lives a kindly life not for benefit.
The refined fair man acts fairly and does so for benefit.
The refined gentlemanly person acts gentlemanly
and expects to be so treated.
If he is not treated the way he expects,
he would push away and thrust aside his counterpart.

The man who has lost the Dao
finds refuge in being virtuous.
The man who has lost the virtuous way of life
finds refuge in being kindly.
The man who has lost the kindly way of life
finds refuge in being fair.
The man who has lost the fair way of life
finds refuge in being gentlemanly.

Ceremony and gentlemanly behavior
is the result of the thinness of faith and trust,
and is the origin of many ills.

Learning to tell what is "virtuous" and "fair"
is merely the showy flower(not the fruit) of the Dao.
It could be the beginning of folly.

The fully grown person chooses a life
that offers substance and satisfaction,
not one that is thin and superficial.

He knows what he opts for and what he gives up.



The Universal Formula

There is one universal formula that always works:
The sky had followed the universal formula,
and it became clear.
The earth had followed the universal formula,
and became calm and safe.
The gods follow the universal formula,
and they have become effective.
The valleys follow the universal formula,
and they now harbor copious vegetation and creatures.
The living things follow the universal formula,
and they live;
When barons and kings follow the universal formula,
they become the object of emulation by their peoples.
All these achievements are due to the universal formula.

If the sky were not clear it could be torn apart.
If the earth were not calm and safe
it could burst into chaos.
If the gods were not effective
they could wear out.
If the valleys were not copious
they could become empty.
If the living things could not live
they would be doomed.
If barons and kings could not keep their high and respected positions,
they could be toppled.

The noble must be based on the ignoble.
The highly positioned must be buttressed by the lowly.

Barons and kings call themselves
the "lonely one" the "widowed one", or the "under provided one".
Don't these practices demonstrate loud and clear
that it is through the lowly
that kings and barons hold their positions?

Merely counting the number of carriages
will not give you any carriage.
It is no use showing the shiny look of jade
if the substance is merely an ordinary stone.



The Uncommon Dao

The reverse of expectations is the Dao in action.
The weak in appearance is the Dao in application.

All living things are born of interactions in the world of existence.
Interactions in the world of existence are born of emptiness or



The Dao and Its Real and False-Followers

Superior men, hearing about the Dao,
Will work diligently under its guidance.
Mediocre men, hearing about the Dao,
Remembers and then forgets about it.

Inferior men, hearing about the Dao,
Laughs and jeers at it.
If people do not laugh or jeer at it,
It is unlikely to be the Dao.

Thus it is said:

Those whose mind shines with the Dao
Appear to be dull and stupid.

Those who make progress along the Dao
Appear to be falling behind.
Those who go astray
Appear to be following the Dao.

The truly virtuous are humble like a valley,
The truly stainless souls appear sullied.
A man with many virtues
appears to be inadequate.
Those who are establishing their virtues
look like thieves.
The truthful look like good quality turned bad,
An infinite space will have no corners.
A man who is a great instrument never
aspires or strives to be such.
A big voice sounds like it is soft.
A big symbol has no shape.

The Dao is hidden and nameless.
Yet nothing is better than the Dao
In lending support and helping people accomplish.



Harmony through the Dao

The Dao gives birth to the One.
The One gives birth to the Two(yin and yang).
The Two give birth to the Three(heaven, earth, and man).
The Three give birth to all things as we know them.
All living things bear the female nature
And espouse the male nature.
In interacting with each other
these two natures result in a new harmony.

It is well known that people generally hate
to be lonely, widowed, or under-provided.
Yet kings and people who wield power
call themselves lonely, widowed, or under-provided.

Things may benefit people through imposing losses on them,
And may hurt them through bestowing apparent benefits.

I teach the same kind of people that others teach.
But by a single maxim that I teach, that
"Those who use sheer force to make their ways
Will not die a good death"
I should become the teacher of all teachers.



The Benefits of Being Empty

The most gentle and the most flexible of the world
Certainly outperforms the strongest and the hardest.

What appears intangible and without substance
Can penetrate the narrowest gaps.
From this we can appreciate the benefits of not contriving.

The wordless teaching, and the benefits of not contriving,
Certainly find no match under heaven.



Knowing When to Stop

Which is the dearer,
Fame or the body?

Which means more,
The body or wealth?

Which can be called an ill,
To gain or to lose?

Greater cost comes with greater craving.
Greater loss comes with greater accumulation.

He who knows what he needs
will attract no dishonor.
He who knows when to stop
will come to no grief.
Such people can have a lasting life.



Natural Stillness

The greatest accomplishment appears incomplete,
Yet it can meet the needs of the most demanding occasions.

The greatest fulfillment appears to be weak and restrained.
Yet its use is limitless.

What is most straight appears to be bent.
What is most dexterous appears to be clumsy.
The most skilled of debaters use words sparingly.

Motion overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes hot.

Clearing up the muddiness of the mind
By allowing it to settle down to its natural stillness,
Will restore all things to their proper places.



Knowing One\'s True Needs

When things under heaven follow the Dao,
Horses will roam freely,
and their droppings will be found anywhere.
When things under heaven have departed from the Dao,
The horses will be reared in special stables away from the city.

No wrong is greater than having objects to crave for.
No disaster is greater than not knowing one's true needs.
No greater ill is invited than by craving to possess.
Thus, the satisfaction from knowing one's true needs
and asking for no more is eternal.



The Truth Lies Within

Without stepping out of the door,
One can know the universal truth that pervades the universe.
Without peeping through the window,
One can see the Dao of Nature.
He who goes to a distant land
in search of the Truth
Will only distant himself from the Truth.

The Sage knows it all without traveling afar.
He is illuminated without seeing with his physical eyes.
He accomplishes without ever contriving to accomplish.



How to Win the Hearts of People

The more we learn,
The more things are plowed into our minds;
The more we follow the Dao,
The more things are taken out of our minds.

As we take more and more things out of our mind,
We finally arrive at the state of losing the sense of contriving and action.
At that point we be in the state of non-action.
At that point all actions will be done in the state of non-action.

To win the hearts of all under heaven,
We must always leave people alone.

If we do not leave them alone,
We will not win their adherence.



The Mind of Equanimity

The Sage does not have a fixed mind different from that of others.
He takes the mind of any of his people as his own mind.
If people are good, I shall be good to them.

If people are not good, I shall also be good to them.
This way I am really good.

If people are truthful, I shall be truthful to them.
If people are not truthful, I shall also be truthful to them.
This way I am really truthful.

The Sage keeps an undiscriminating mind
for the sake of all under heaven.
While people use their eyes and ears to discriminate,
The Sage's mind is always unsuspecting and innocent
like an infant's.



The Natural Right to Live

Anyone who is born dies.
If 13 people are born
All 13 people will eventually die.
From birth to life,
From life to death,
The great earth will afford the places to live and to die
for exactly 13.
Why is this so?
It is because the mind cherishes the belief
that living is a privilege and not a natural right.

I have heard that those who are good at conserving and preserving life
Seldom meet tigers and horned animals when they move around.
If they should join the military forces,
They would not have the need to combat.
Horned animals will have no way to cast their horns on their bodies,
Nor will tigers find a place to lay their claws.
Even soldiers' swords will not hurt them.

Why is this so?
Because such people will never die.



The Dao and the Virtue

The Dao gives them birth.
The Virtue rears them.
They get their shapes from substance.
They become what they are from the working of various forces.
For these reasons all living things pay homage to the Dao,
And respect the Virtue.

The stately status of the Dao and that of the Virtue
Are such that they are at the command of no one,
And are always in their natural states.

The Dao gives birth;
The Virtue rears them;
Raises and nourishes them;
Brings them up and lets them down;
Claims no ownership even though it brings them to life.
The Dao accomplishes but is never arrogant;
It lets them grow but never dictates their fates.
This is known as the Mystical Virtue.



Guard and Stay With Mother Nature

Everything under heaven has a beginning.
That beginning we take as our mother.
Now that we know our mother,
We can begin to know our role as sons(and daughters).

Since we know our role as sons(and daughters),
We must guard and stay with our mother,
This way, even if our bodies perish,
We will never die.

Let the passages be blocked.
Let the doors be closed.
(So long as we stay with our mother,)
Till the end of life no worry need bother us.

(If we do the contrary,)
Then even though the roads are opened up,
And help is available,
Till the end of our lives we will still be doomed.

To be able to see the small things is to be illuminated;
To adhere to the principle of flexibility and
suppleness is to be strong.
Let people use their own light
to illuminate and restore their understanding.
Let them leave nothing to regret about when their bodies perish.
This is called the gradual realization of the Eternal.



Arrogance at the Dao

What makes me know what I know,
And adhere to the Dao
Is the fear of departing from it.
The Dao is level and straight.
Yet people prefer to go on their devious paths.

When the court is busy with granting honors to its dignitaries,
And not caring for the fields that are overgrown by weeds,
While the granaries are empty;
When the officers of the nation dress themselves up beautifully,
And carry sharp swords with an air of superiority and power;
While excessive dining and drinking
go hand in hand with excessive consumption and waste,
You know this is arrogance at the Dao.
This is certainly not the Dao.



Live and Work Respectfully

Those skilled in building will build sturdy buildings.
Those skilled in hugging will hug fast.
Because they are serious and excel in what they do
they are remembered and honored by all their descendents.

He who applies the same seriousness to serve his own body has true virtue.
He who applies the same seriousness to serve his family
has virtue beyond himself.
He who applies the same seriousness to serve his village
has virtue that grows further afield.
He who applies the same seriousness to serve the nation
has virtue that is profuse.
He who applies to same seriousness to serve all under heaven,
has virtue that pervades the world.

Thus we see our body as our body is;
See our family as our family is;
We see our village as our village is;
See our nation as our nation is;
And we see everything under heaven as everything is.
How may we know the nature of everything under heaven?
With this (same and serious attitude).



Be Receptive Like an Infant; Be Congruent with the Eternal

To be receptive to the benefit of the Virtue,
Like an infant is receptive to the mother,
One would be spared of the stings and bites
from bees, scorpions, and snakes;
One would be spared of being harmed
by fierce beasts;
And of being clawed by the predatory birds.

To be so receptive,
Then even if one has weak bones and soft sinews
One can grip things firmly.

People do not realize that
the union of the male and female with moderation
Represents energy at its height; and that
Being together all day sounding natural calls
and not losing voice through screaming
Represents harmony at its best.

To know the harmony of the universe is
be congruent with the Eternal;
To know the Eternal is to be illuminated.
To preserve and to promote life is to bring good fortune;
To let the mind take command of the life-breath is to be strong.

Any living thing that indulges in excesses soon gets old.
Indulging in excesses is against the Dao.
Going against the Dao, one soon dies.



Inner Peace and the Mystical Union

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

Block the passage of exchange with the outside world.
Close the doors;
Blunt the protruding points;
Absolve the disputes;
Tone down the dazzling light;
Receive outside stimuli with an equanimous mind.
This is called the mystical union.

With a non-possessive mind100 we get together;
With a non-possessive mind we separate.
With a non-possessive mind we experience what seems advantageous to us;
With a non-possessive mind we experience what seems disadvantageous;
With a non-possessive mind we experience high positions;
With a non-possessive mind we experience low positions.
This way we achieve the most valuable under heaven.



The Laissez Faire Government

We rule a nation with the straight mind.
We deploy the military forces with surprises.
We win the hearts of all under heaven with non-intervention.
How do I know that this should be so, with this:

The more prohibitions that are imposed by the emperor,
The poorer the people become.
The more clever products that people own,
The less clever the nation becomes.
The more people use their tricks and knacks,
The more odd products there are, and
The more rules and laws there are,
It is likely that there are the more thieves and bandits.

The Sage says: "I do not contrive, and people
automatically become cultured and well-mannered.
I keep still, and people automatically become straight;
I do not intervene, and people automatically become rich;
I do not crave, and people automatically lead a simple life."



Good Life Under a Non-interventionist Government

When the government appears dull and boring,
The people enjoy a good and rich life.
When the government appears clever and innovative,
The people suffer a shortage.

What appears to be misfortune may pave the way for fortune.
What appears to be fortune may pave the way for misfortune.
Who knows the absolute?
The right that we know is often not right.
What is right may prove to be wrong.
What is good may prove to be bad.
Mankind has been lost in the maze since the old days.

The Sage has an open mind and is unpretentious.
He is incorruptible and will not succumb to bribery.
He is straight but is not arrogant.
He shines but not dazzles.



Be Prepared

To rule over men or to serve heaven
Nothing works better than following the farmer's example.

The farmer does his preparatory work early.
To be like him, one must pay attention to the accumulation of virtue.
That way one can overcome all difficulties.
That way one's ability knows no limit.
That way one can sustain a nation.
Virtue being the mother of a nation,
With virtue the nation can last a long time.
With deep roots and secure trunks, one is
on the way to a long life and a long view.



Governing a Great Nation According to the Dao

To govern a great nation
Is not much different from frying a small fish.

To govern a nation according to the Dao,
Even the demons will not show their influences.
Not that they have lost all their influences,
But their influences will do people no harm.
Not only do the influences of the evil spirits do people no harm.
The Sage will also do people no harm.
Since demons at one extreme,
through the Sage at the other extreme,
All do people no harm.
We can conclude that the Virtue has perfected its job.



No Hegemony in Foreign Relations

Big nations should be like a stream that flows low.
In relating to other nations under heaven.
They should be like a female animal.
Female animals often lie low and still.
By doing so they win over male animals.

Big nations that take on a lower profile than small nations
will win the adherence of small nations.
Small nations that take on a lower profile than big nations
will win the assistance from the big nations.
Big nations keep low and get what they want.
Small nations keep low and get what they want.
Big nations(with an abundance of land) want to have
a bigger population.
Small nations(with a shortage of land) want to have more jobs.

If big nations keep low, both the needs of big nations
and those of the small will be fulfilled.



The Dao as Treasure and Refuge

The Dao is the deepest learning for all living things,
It is the good man's treasure
and the bad man's refuge.

Fine words attract respect;
Fine deeds make people look gallant.
(Because of such fine consequences that are expected)
even men who are bad
may not be stingy with fine words and good deeds!

On the occasion of the enthronement of the Emperor
or at the installation of three ministers of the state, therefore,
It is far better to follow the Dao (which certainly
will bring good fortune) than to have a jade
disc displayed, leading a chariot of four horses.

In the ancient times those people who value the Dao
do not do so for the consequences,
or in order to achieve atonement for their sins.
For this reason they are truly honored by all under heaven.



The Natural, Selfless Way of Life

Act in the state of non-action;
Work but do not work for gain;
Taste but do not taste for the taste.

Never mind if it is big, small, many, or few,
Just repay injury with benevolence.

To do the difficult we start with the easy.
To do the great thing we start with the small.
All the difficult tasks under heaven must
begin with the easy parts.
All the great achievements under heaven must
begin with the small steps.
The Sage never sets out to do great things.
That way he accomplishes great results.

Those who make easy promises will not be trusted.
Those who say everything is easy
will often have difficulty accomplishing their tasks,
The Sage, on the other hand, takes on the easy tasks as
he takes on the difficult.
So in the end no difficulty will hold him up.



Fortitude and Living One\'s Inner Nature

When the situation is peaceful and orderly,
Maintaining peace and order is not difficult;
When the situation has not yet developed to a
mature stage, planning to change the outcome is easy;
What is brittle is easy to break;
What is minute is easy to scatter.
We set out to work before problems emerge.
We put things in order before they get out of order.

A tree that is big enough for one to embrace around
it grew from a tiny seed.
A nine-story pagoda begins from a heap of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles ("li") begins with the first step.

Those who work for gain in the end will be frustrated.
Those who hold on to something in the end will lose it.
The Sage never works for gain and so will never be frustrated.
He never holds on to anything so he never loses anything.

People often fail in their tasks when they are about
to accomplish them.
If only they take the same care in the end as they do in the beginning,
they will avoid many failures.

The Sage desires to be free of desires, so he will not
value goods that most people value;
He learns to unlearn,
so he will value things that most people do not value.
The Sage only hopes that all living things will live out their inner nature.
He will not dare to go against Nature.



Be Wary of Acquired Knowledge

In the ancient days the masters who succeed in following the Dao,
Rather than making people clever,
Would spare them from much acquired knowledge.

The reason why people may be difficult to rule over is that
they are too clever.
The ruler who rules with his acquired knowledge
is (likely) to hurt the nation.
The ruler who rules not with his acquired knowledge
is (likely) to benefit the nation.

Knowing the difference between ruling with acquired knowledge and
ruling with original knowledge
Is close to following the right formula.
Being always mindful of following the formula is the mystical virtue.
The mystical virtue is deep,
far from the crowds,
and opposite to what people expect.
Exactly because it is the reverse of what people expect,
it achieves great concordance.



Rule with Humility

The reason why the great rivers and the seas can claim
to be the kings of the hundred valleys
is that they lie low,
so the water in all valleys come to them.

The Sage who wants to be on top of his people must use humble words.
He who wants to lead his people must follow his people.
For these reasons, though the Sage is on top of his people,
his people are not burdensome.
Although he is ahead of his people,
his people will do him no harm.
He wins the heart of his people and
is never abandoned by the people.
Because he never struggles with anyone for favor,
none under heaven can out-struggle him.



The Three Treasures

All under heaven say that my Dao though great seems to be useless.
Exactly because it is great it seems to be useless.
If it seemed to be useful, in all likelihood
it would be small, not great.

I have three treasures that I keep and adhere to always.
The first is compassion.
The second is thrift.
The third is humility.

Because I am compassionate, I have courage.
Because I am thrifty, I am generous.
Because I am humble, my potential can be fully developed.

These days people have forgotten about compassion,
instead they are daring;
They have forgotten about thrift,
instead they are spendthrift;
They have forgotten about humility,
and they always want to be number one.
They are doomed.

He who fights a war with compassion will win the war.
He who defends with compassion will hold out against his enemy.
Heaven will help him and defend him with compassion.



The Virtue of Non-struggle

He who can offer wise counsel will not display his wisdom.
He who is a fine fighter will not lose temper.
He who is good in contests will not struggle with his contestants.
He who knows how to use people stays low and underneath them.
This is the virtue of non-struggle.
This is making use of others' full abilities.
This can be said to match heaven
And is really the best art handed down from the ancient days.



Humility and Adaptiveness in the Battlefield

Military strategists have this dictum:
"When I am not ready to take the role of the host (defend),
I will take the role of the guest (attack);
When I am not ready to advance an inch,
I will retreat a foot."
This is known as moving but not having a pattern of moving;
Pushing away, but not showing the arms to push with;
Dispelling, but not having visible enemies to dispel;
Taking command, but having no armies to take command over.

The greatest ill lies in slighting one's opponents;
Slighting my opponent, I could easily lose my treasure.

When two armies of equal strength meet in combat,
It is the army that considers itself weak that will win.



The Rarity of Dao Followers

What I say is easy to understand and easy to practice
Yet few people under heaven understand and practice it.
What I preach has a respectable ancestry,
What I do serves a lord well.
Yet few people are aware of this,
And therefore few understand me.
The fewer people know about me.
The rarer and the better positioned
are those who know and practice my teaching.
The Sage is like someone hiding a precious
jade piece underneath his clothes.



Rediscover What You Know in Your Nature

One who knows what most people do not know is superior;
One who forgets what one by nature knows is sick.
The Sage is free from this sickness.
Because he avoids the sickness, he is not sick.



Do Not Intimidate Others; Do Not Exalt Yourself

Truly reverence-inspiring
is he who displays nothing to intimidate his people.

Do not despise people for their humble residences;
Do not shun them for their modest births.
Because you do not despise and shun them,
They also will not despise and shun you.

The Sage knows himself and frees himself from prejudice.
He treasures and takes care of his own life but will not exalt himself.
He gives something up and gains something else.



Heaven\'s Plans

He who is brave enough to challenge the Dao perishes.
He who is brave enough to revere the Dao lives.
These two personalities, with their respective harms and benefits,
will invite favor or disfavor from heaven.
Does any one know the reason behind it?

The way of heaven, the Dao, is apt to win benefits
though it never struggles for any benefit.
He who follows the Dao, though he never asks for any favor,
receives the favor.
Results come of their own accord where results are due.
Without deliberating, heaven appears to have its plans.
Although its net appears to consist of course meshes,
No one can sneak through and escape the law.



Rely Not On the Death Penalty

People may not be afraid of death.
Why should we intimidate them with the threat of death?
If people are generally afraid of death,
And we are able to seize the exceptions and to kill them,
Why would anyone still disregard the death penalty?
The Lord of Killing does kill from time to time.
Yet anyone who kills in his place
is like someone who takes the place of the master carpenter
and uses his sharp tools.
It is unlikely that he can avoid hurting his own hands.



Government\'s Faults

People are hungry.
That is because the government imposes too many taxes.
People are difficult to rule over.
That is because the government contrives and wants to do too much.
People do not think much of death.
That is because the government makes life a privilege
instead of treating it as a natural right.

Those who makes living an unconditional right are good
in that they pay due respect to life.



Strengths and Weaknesses

People at birth are weak and supple.
People at death are strong and hard.

All living things including the trees and other
plants are supple and weak.
When they die, however, they all turn dry and hard.
Being hard and strong is the way of the dead.
Being soft and weak is the way of the alive.

Armed forces that show their strength will not win.
Trees that hold strong against the wind are likely
to be blown down.
To be strong is a disadvantage.
To be weak is an advantage.



The Way of Heaven

The Dao of Heaven is like pulling a bow.
The top end comes down and the bottom end goes up.
It takes away from those with surplus to spare
and gives to those who are short.

The way of Heaven takes away from those with surplus to spare
and gives to those who are short.
The way of men is just the opposite.
It takes away from those who are short
and offers to those who have more than enough.

The Sage does his work but is not arrogant.
He accomplishes but will not dwell on his accomplishments.
He does not want to show off his accomplishments.



Water and the Paradoxes of Life

Nothing under heaven is weaker than water.
Yet nothing however proficient in attacking the strong can win over water.
The reason is that nothing can lay a handle on water.

The weak overcomes the strong;
The soft overcomes the hard.
All under heaven know about this dictum
but few people can put it into practice.

That is why the Sage says:
"Those who take what other people discard as garbage
is the lord of Society.
Those who love the nation when it is in the grip of misfortune
can claim to be the king."
What is right often seems to be wrong.



Do Good Deeds; Blame No One

Trying to neutralize a wrong with another wrong will never work,
because there is bound to be some wrong left over.

To return grievance or wrong with benevolence is
the way to absolve a grievance.

The Sage only sees to it that what is agreed is carried out;
He will not lay the blame on anyone.
The virtuous one only enforces contracts.
The non-virtuous one imposes his will.

The Way of Heaven will not favor any one in particular,
But it will favor those who do good deeds.



A Peaceful, Rich, But Simple Life

For a small country with a small population,
Let there be no need to use labor-saving gadgets.
Let people love to die where they are born
and not want to migrate to a distant land.
Let there be no need to use boats for long trips.
Although the country has armed forces ready to protect the country,
Let there be no need to display the military strength.
Let the people find happiness in a simple life.

Let people enjoy their good foods and fine clothing.
Let them settle down peacefully and follow their traditions happily.
Let neighboring nations eye one another,
and hear the calls of poultry and dogs from the other nation.
Let their people find sufficiency in their own lands.
Till their death let there be no need to interact.



Doing One’s Duty

Truthful words may not be fine to hear.
Words that are fine to hear may not be truthful.

Good people will not want to argue
or to defend themselves by word of mouth.
Those who love to argue with others or to defend their beliefs
are likely to be not so good.

Those with insight need not be well versed in different things.
Those who are well versed in different kinds of knowledge may not really know.

The Sage does not set out to accumulate a fortune or merit.
Yet as he serves the people, he becomes richer;
and as he gives to people, he gets more.
The way of heaven is to benefit, not hurt.
The way of the Sage is to do his duty, and not to contest or struggle.

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