Tao Te King
David H. Li
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Direction, as expressed, is no ordinary direction;
as named, no ordinary name.
Null identifies the universe at the beginning.
Ull identifies the mother of myriad matters.
Thus, visit Null to observe its intricateness.
Visit Ull to observe its limitlessness.
These two spring from the same source;
only their identifications differ.
Both are profound.
Profound upon profound, it is the portal to all intricacies.
For [people in] the world to know [only] beauty and what is beautiful is ugly;
to know [only] goodness and what is good is not good.
Ull and Null complement in generation,
difficult and easy complement in completion;
long and short complement in form,
high and low complement in norm;
voice and sound complement in harmony,
front and rear complement in company;
- they are ever so.
a sage practices laissez-faire governance and provides wordless instructions.
[A sage] neither interferes with myriad matters' generation,
nor takes possession of [their] cultivation,
nor expects approbation of [his/her] provision,
nor seeks acclamation for [their] accomplishments.
It is because [the sage] does not seek acclamation for [his/her] accomplishments that they do not disappear.
Where admiration is not bestowed upon the wise,
the populace will not compete for recognition.
Where premium is not placed on rare goods,
the populace will not engage in robbery.
Where desirable items are not on display,
the populace will not be tempted.
the sage governs by cleansing [the populace's] hearts,
filling their stomachs,
taming their will,
and strengthening their bodies
- to induce the populace, in time, not to indulge in knowledge nor to cultivate avarice.
So prepared, those with wisdom dare not offer schemes, and laissez-faire governance follows.
With that, no affair is beyond governance.
Direction is the hollow.
Regardless of use, it is inexhaustible.
So unfathomable, as if the source of all matters.
So deep, as if it exists.
I do not know whose offspring Direction is;
it precedes kings.
The universe is ignoble; it regards myriad matters as straw dogs.
The sage is ignoble; he/she regards the gentry as straw dogs.
Is the universe not a wind tunnel?
Inexhaustible at rest; dynamic at its fiercest.
More rules yield faster demise.
Laissez-faire is a better device.
The valley is undying.
It is the mystical womb.
The portal to the mystical womb is the root of the cosmos.
Continuous and unterminable, its use is inexhaustible.
The cosmos is long.
The earth is lasting.
The reason the cosmos is long and the earth lasting is that they exist not for self-perpetuation.
Unconcerned with self-perpetuation, they perpetuate.
Thus, the sage,
by queuing himself/herself behind others, ends in being ahead;
by being unconcerned, endures.
Is it not so that the sage, without self-interest, satisfies his/her self-interest?
Goodness at its best is like water.
Water benefits myriad matters but is not in competition with them.
Water stays at a level disliked by others, as if it were the Direction.
Wherever [the sage] stays, it is a good place;
whatever [the sage] thinks, it is good thought;
whomever [the sage] contacts, it is nobleness;
whatever [the sage] expresses, it is truthfulness;
however [the sage] governs, it is good administration;
whatever [the sage] does, it is good deed;
whenever [the sage] acts, it is timely action.
Being not in competition, [the sage] has no concern.
Filling to the brim is not as good as stopping short;
Polishing to the sharpest does not last long.
A roomful of gold and jade is hard to follow.
One prideful of wealth and fame sows the seeds of sorrow.
With mission accomplished, it is time to offer resignation.
This is cosmos's Direction.
Unite physically and mentally to embrace One.
Can one be not separated from it?
Channel energy toward tenderness.
Can one emulate the infant?
Cleanse the deep mirror within.
Can one be without blemishes?
Love the populace in governance.
Can one practice laissez-faire?
Open and close the cosmic portal.
Can one assume the feminine role?
Discern and deliberate.
Can one be ignorant?
Cultivate, but possess not;
Provide, but claim not;
Nurture, but dominate not.
This is the Profoundest virtue.
Thirty spokes share one hub.
The hollow in the hub expresses the carriage's usefulness.
With clay, a vessel is molded.
The hollow within expresses the vessel's usefulness.
With doors and windows, a room is formed.
The hollow within expresses the room's usefulness.
Thus, visible provides the facility; hollow expresses its usefulness.
Five colors blind the eye;
Five tones deafen the ear;
Five flavors dull the palate.
Prancing and hunting render one restless;
Rare goods render one senseless.
a sage aims at the stomach and not at the eye, discarding the latter in favor of the former.
Receiving favor and receiving disgrace are both causes for concern,
more so than being visited by a catastrophic disease.
Why are favors and disgraces causes for concern?
Favor is beneath one.
Receiving it is a cause for concern; losing it is a cause for concern.
Why [favors and disgraces] are more a cause for concern than being visited by a catastrophic disease?
When I have a catastrophic disease,
it is inflicted upon my body.
When I am beyond my body, how can I be visited by diseases?
when one values one's body for the good of the world,
one may be consigned with the world's care.
When one treasures one's body for the good of the world,
one may be vested with the world's care.
Looking at it, it cannot be seen - label it invisible,
Listening to it, it cannot be heard - label it inaudible,
Holding onto it, it cannot be held - label it intangible.
All three are beyond comprehension; they are One.
Looking up, it is dim.
Looking down, it is dark.
It lacks clarity,
it defies a name;
it returns to Null.
This is formless form, this is imageless image.
This is elusiveness.
Confronting it, one cannot see its head;
Following it, one cannot see its tail.
Seize Direction of the past - this is to manage the Ull of the present.
Know it from the beginning - this is to understand the Direction's rhythm.
One who understood Direction in olden days knew the tiniest, appreciated the profoundest, and was deep beyond [our] comprehension.
Since such a person is beyond [our] comprehension, he/she can only be described superficially:
as deliberate as approaching a deep channel in the winter,
as alert as keeping watch over bordering states,
as diplomatic as an envoy in presenting,
as graceful as ice in slow melting,
as simple as a block of uncarved wood,
as calm as a valley's mood,
as accommodating as muddy water,
as expansive as the sea,
as unending as the wind.
Who can calm the muddy to let it distill?
Who can motivate the serene to let it instill?
One who understands Direction never fills to the brim.
Not filled to the brim,
one is at ready to remove the old and substitute it with new.
Aim at the supreme hollow, reach for the utmost serenity.
Matters bloom in myriad diversity.
I watch for periodicity.
Matters blossom and return to their roots.
Returning to roots leads to serenity.
Serenity leads to regeneration.
Regeneration leads to normalcy.
Knowing normalcy leads to comprehension.
Not knowing normalcy, indiscretion leads to misfortune.
Knowing normalcy is all-accommodating;
All-accommodating is non-discriminating.
Non-discriminating is all-encompassing.
All-encompassing is the cosmos.
Cosmos is Direction.
Direction is long lasting.
[One who follows Direction] is unlikely to encounter danger throughout life.
At the highest level, one is unseen.
At the next level, one is liked and praised.
At the next level, one is feared.
At the next level, one is ridiculed.
One lacking in trustworthiness loses the [populace's] trust.
Carefree, one values one's words.
With work accomplished and business done, the gentry say: "We do this naturally."
When Grand Direction is not in evidence,
nobleness and righteousness come to the fore.
When cleverness and glibness are in view,
grand pretenses come to the fore.
When family relations are in disharmony,
filiality and parental love come to the fore.
When a state is in disarray,
loyal ministers come to the fore.
Renounce saintliness, shun cleverness - let the populace be better off by a hundredfold.
Renounce nobleness, shun righteousness - let the populace return to filiality and parental love.
Renounce scheming, shun profiteering - let robbers and thieves vanish.
The three are inadequate formulation.
Better channel [the populace] to Direction.
Welcome purity, embrace simplicity;
Minimize self-interest, reduce desire.
Renounce learning, eliminate apprehension.
Between obsequiousness and authoritativeness - what is the difference?
Between beauty and ugliness - is there a difference?
What others fear, do not be unfearful.
Uncultivated, it is because it is unfinished.
Other people are happily gathered, as if readying to partake in an exquisite banquet, to view a spring parade.
I stand alone, quietly, inconspicuously.
Innocently, as if an infant not knowing how to smile;
Aimlessly, as if a wanderer not knowing where to go.
Other people have much to spare;
I, alone, am bare.
Perhaps my foolish heart.
Common people glow;
I, alone, am in the dark.
Common people are alert;
I, alone, am stark.
Other people are skillful;
I, alone, am clumsy and bashful.
I am different from others;
I treasure being embraced by Mother.
The Grand Virtue's complexion resembles that of Direction.
Direction, as a matter substantive,
is sometimes indistinct and other times elusive.
Elusive and indistinct, there is image within;
Indistinct and elusive, there is matter within.
Minuscule and mysterious, there are particles within;
These particles are real; there is reality within.
From the present back to the past, its name is never unacknowledged;
it is the foundation of all matters.
How do I know that it is the foundation of all matters?
Accommodate and be whole, bend and be straight;
Keep low and be fulfilled, replace old and be new;
Seek little and gain, seek plenty and be bewildered.
Thus, the sage embraces One to set an example for the people of the world.
Not self-touting, one shines;
Not self-justifying, one reassures;
Not self-aggrandizing, one accomplishes;
Not self-serving, one endures.
When one is not in competition, people in the world cannot engage him/her in competition.
Is the old saying "Accommodate and be whole" but empty words?
It can be realized fully.
To be reticent is natural.
Thus, a whirlwind does not last all morning,
a downpour does not last all day.
Why is this so?
Because this is the universe.
Even the universe cannot sustain; can humans?
Thus, one who follows Direction manages with Direction,
One who follows virtue manages with virtue,
One who does not follow Direction nor virtue manages with neither
Direction nor virtue.
One who manages with Direction is welcome by those with Direction,
One who manages with virtue is welcome by those with virtue,
One who manages with neither Direction nor virtue is welcome by those without Direction or virtue.
One lacking in trustworthiness loses [the populace's] trust.
One who tiptoes to stand taller does not stand firm;
One who strides to walk faster does not walk long;
One who self-touts does not shine;
One who self-justifies does not reassure;
One who self-aggrandizes does not accomplish;
One who self-serves does not endure.
They, in relation to Direction, are the equivalent of leftover food and excess fat.
They are unattractive;
they are not held by those with Direction.
A matter is molded;
it comes into being before the universe, noiseless and formless.
It stands by itself, unwaveringly;
it is in motion, unendingly.
It may be the Mother to the universe.
I do not know its name.
Tentatively, [I] label it Direction and call it Grand.
Grand is unending motion;
unending motion is far-reaching;
Far-reaching is periodicity.
Direction is grand,
the cosmos is grand,
the earth is grand,
the human is also grand.
There are four Grands in the universe, and the human is one of them.
The human follows the earth,
The earth follows the cosmos,
The cosmos follows Direction,
Direction follows Nature.
Earnestness is the foundation of frivolity;
serenity is in control of rashness.
Thus, a gentleman, in the course of a day, does not depart from serenity and earnestness.
He refrains from extravagance [in public] and lives plainly at home.
Why would the sovereign of a ten-thousand-carriage state govern the world with frivolity?
Frivolity loses foundation; rashness loses control.
A good traveler leaves no trails;
A good speaker allows no slips;
A good planner needs no tallies;
A good carpenter needs no bolts in securing a door from opening;
A good packager needs no strings in preventing a knot from untying.
the sage cares for everyone and abandons no one,
cares for everything and abandons nothing.
This is unrevealed wisdom.
a good person serves as the teacher to a not-so-good person;
a not-so-good person serves as the mirror to a good person.
One who neither respects one's teacher nor cares for one's mirror, even if wise, will be bewildered.
This is the innermost intricacy.
Know steeliness, but prefer tenderness.
Be the brook to the world.
The brook to the world is never disunited from virtue.
It aims to return to infancy.
Know limelight, but prefer shadow.
Be the standard to the world.
The standard to the world never deviates from virtue.
It aims to return to the Infinite.
Know fame, but prefer humility.
Be the valley to the world.
The valley to the world is filled with virtue.
It aims to return to simplicity.
Simplicity dissipates when [a block] is carved into a vessel.
A sage diminishes when [he/she] is used as a leader.
Thus, a great system is not cut up.
One who plans to govern the people in the world with coercion is,
in my view, unlikely to succeed.
The people in the world are revered specimens,
They cannot be coerced; they cannot be dominated.
One who seeks to coerce is defeated;
One who seeks to dominate loses.
The sage practices laissez-faire.
Thus, the sage will not be defeated, the sage will not lose.
some lead and others follow;
some breathe slowly and others fast;
some are robust and others slim;
some play safe and others blast.
the sage discards extremes, discards extravagances, discards excesses.
One guided by Direction does not use military power to subdue the people in the world.
Where armies visit, thorns grow.
After a great war, famines follow.
One who knows war stops after the objective is reached.
He dares not flaunt power.
Reach objective, but boast not;
reach objective, but tout not;
reach objective, but show arrogance not;
Reaching objective is because there is no alternative;
Reaching objective does not call for flaunting power.
Matter withers after saturation.
This is not in line with Direction.
Not in line with Direction, early demise is the expectation.
Weaponry are not instruments of the good;
they are disliked by everyone.
One with Direction does not harbor them.
at home, takes the left position;
in war, the right position.
Weaponry are not instruments of the good;
they are not a gentleman's instruments.
Use them only because there is no alternative;
use them with restraint.
After victory, beautify it not.
One who beautifies [war] is one who delights in killing.
One who delights in killing is unfit to be entrusted with people of the world.
On celebratory occasions, prefer left;
On sad occasions, prefer right.
The adjutant stays left;
the commander-in-chief stays right.
Thus, treat war as funeral.
Those who have killed, return with remorse.
Treat victory as funeral.
Direction frequently needs no name.
It is simple.
It is small.
Still, it submits to nothing in the world.
Were a Duke or a Prince to embrace Direction,
myriad matters would submit on own volition.
With the cosmos and the earth in harmony, sweet dew accrues.
It self-regulates without the need of intervention.
As the system begins, names are assigned.
When names are assigned, know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts danger.
Direction in relation to people of the world is like the sea to rivers.
Knowing others is wisdom;
knowing self is discernment.
Winning over others shows prowess;
winning over self shows strength.
With contentment, one is wealthy.
With persistence, one shows determination.
Holding on without losing ground, one is strong;
Dying without giving up Direction, one lives long.
The Grand Direction permeates, left and right.
With myriad matters depending on it for growth, it declines none.
Accomplishing much, it accepts no limelight.
Nurturing myriad matters without claiming, it may be labeled Small;
Receiving myriad matters without claiming, it may be labeled Grand.
By not self-claiming Grand, it is thus Grand.
Whoever embraces the Grand Image attracts people in the world.
Attracting but not discriminating, they live in peace.
Hearing music and seeing food, visitors linger.
Direction, [as a subject] for discussion, is plain and flavorless.
Looking at it, it is invisible;
Listening to it, it is inaudible;
using it, it is inexhaustible.
Before contracting [an object], let it expand;
Before weakening [an object], let it solidify;
Before abandoning [an object], let it flourish;
Before seizing [an object], let it aggregate.
This is discernment at its micro best.
Tenderness overcomes bruteness.
Fish cannot survive away from water.
A state does not boast her weaponry before the people.
Direction is laissez-faire at all times; it is all-permeating.
Were a Duke or a Prince to govern with Direction,
Myriad matters would develop on own volition.
As self-development degenerates into avarice in complexity,
I suppress it with Direction's simplicity.
Suppressing with Direction's simplicity,
Without avarice, serenity visits with ease;
The world self-governs in peace.
By not displaying one's high virtue, one is virtuous;
By parading one's little virtue, one is not virtuous.
One with high virtue follows laissez-faire with carefree ease;
One with little virtue follows laissez-faire to parade one's virtue.
One with high nobleness practices nobleness with carefree ease;
One with high righteousness practices righteousness to parade one's righteousness.
One with high Conduct decrees;
With no followers, one uses force to twist others into following.
virtue comes to the fore when Direction is not in evidence,
nobleness comes to the fore when virtue is not in evidence,
righteousness comes to the fore when nobleness is not in evidence,
Conduct comes to the fore when righteousness is not in evidence.
Conduct comes to the fore when loyalty and trustworthiness lack;
it brings about confusion.
Foreknowledge addresses but Direction's superficialities;
it initiates folly.
a great man seeks fullness, not lack;
seeks substance, not facade.
He forsakes the latter [Conduct and foreknowledge] and accepts the former [loyalty, trustworthiness, and Direction].
Among those with One in the past:
The cosmos, with One, produced cleanliness;
The earth, with One, produced calmness;
A shen, with One, produced responsiveness;
The valley, with One, produced fullness;
Myriad matters, with One, generated;
A Duke or Prince, with One, at the center of the world was seated.
The cosmos, without One and without cleanliness, would be separated;
The earth, without One and without calmness, would be barren;
A shen, without One and without responsiveness, would be deserted;
The valley, without One and without fullness, would be depleted;
Myriad matters, without One and without growth, would stall;
Dukes and princes, without One and without being in the center, would fall.
humbleness is the root of esteem;
lowness is the foundation of height.
a Duke or Prince calls himself My Loneliness, The Isolated Person, The Ungracious Person.
Is this not humbleness as the root of esteem?
Is it not so?
Thus, the supreme honor requires no honor.
Aim not at jade's attractiveness, but at rock's solidness.
Periodicity is Direction in motion;
Frailty is Direction in application.
Myriad matters in the world are born out of Ull.
Ull is born out of Null.
a scholar with high intelligence follows it with diligence;
a scholar with average intelligence greets it with mixed seriousness and doubt;
a scholar with low intelligence ridicules it.
Direction will not be Direction without being ridiculed.
It is said:
A bright Direction appears unilluminating;
An advancing Direction appears retreating;
A straight-forward Direction appears uninviting;
Highest virtue appears as valley impoverished;
Purest white appears blemished;
Broadest virtue appears diminished;
Strong virtue appears slack;
Fine quality appears flawed;
The supreme square has no corners;
The supreme vessel is cast last;
The supreme sound is inaudible;
The supreme image is formless.
Direction is unrevealed and anonymous.
Through Direction, help is given and work is completed.
From Direction, One is born.
From One, Two is born.
From Two, Three is born.
From Three, myriad matters are born.
Myriad matters turn their backs on yin and embrace yang.
The complement of their energy produces harmony.
What people dislike are loneliness, isolation, and ungraciousness,
yet this is how Dukes and Princes self-address.
Thus, a matter expands through contraction;
contracts through expansion.
This is what others have taught me;
let me teach others the same: "A violent person does not die in place."
This is the theme of my teaching.
The world's tenderest is the master of the world's steeliest.
Null permeates Ull.
I thus know the benefits of laissez-faire.
Instructions without words and benefits of laissez-faire - few things in the world can top them.
Fame and health - which is dearer?
Health and wealth - which is more valuable?
Gain and loss - which is more damaging?
Excessive love demands large outlay.
Overabundant wealth results in heavy loss.
knowing contentment brings about no disgrace;
knowing moderation brings about no danger.
One lasts long.
Great Perfection appears flawed; its use is endless.
Great Fullness appears less; its use is limitless.
Great Straightness appears warped,
Great Dexteriousness appears handicapped,
Great Eloquence appears reticent.
Serenity wins over rashness; coolness wins over heatedness.
Serenity governs the world.
When the world is governed by Direction, horses haul manure.
When the world is not governed by Direction, mares foal near [war] location.
No calamity is greater than not being content;
No fault is greater than the desire to gain at any cost.
Thus, one who is content in being content is always content.
Without leaving home, one knows the world;
Without looking through the window, one discerns the cosmos's Direction.
The farther one moves about, the less one knows.
the sage knows without moving about,
discerns without looking through the window,
accomplishes with laissez-faire.
Aiming at study, one's avarice gains day by day;
Aiming at Direction, one's avarice loses day by day.
Losing [avarice] upon losing [avarice], one ends with laissez-faire.
Laissez-faire permeates everything.
To govern the world, one always practices laissez-faire.
Without laissez-faire, one is unfit to govern the world.
The sage has no preconceived notion at any time;
the people's notion is the sage's notion.
I treat a person, who is good, well;
I treat a person, who is not good, also well.
This is for goodness's sake.
I trust a person who is worthy of trust;
I also trust a person who is not worthy of trust.
This is for trustworthiness's sake.
The sage, in governing the world, holds back personal notions in favor of the people's.
The sage treats the people, focusing on themselves, as infants.
People are born and people die.
Three in ten live long;
Three in ten die young;
Three in ten move [prematurely] into death's realm.
Because they care for their lives too well.
Those who care for themselves, it is said, are unlikely to encounter rhinoceroses or tigers on land, or face weaponry and soldiers in war.
Rhinoceroses have no occasion to use their horns;
tigers have no occasion to use their claws;
soldiers have no occasion to use their bayonets.
Because they care for themselves to not move into death's realm.
Cultivated by Direction, reared by virtue;
formed by matter, completed by interaction.
Thus, myriad matters revere Direction and value virtue.
The reason Direction is revered and virtue valued is that they do not command but let myriad matters visit Nature.
virtue rears, nurtures, guides, comforts, protects, cares, shelters.
Cultivating without possessing,
providing without claiming,
nurturing without dominating,
This is the Profoundest Virtue.
The world has a beginning; it is the mother to the world.
By knowing the mother, one knows her children.
By knowing the children, one returns to their mother.
One is without danger in life.
Stuffing channels to block portals [to avarice], one is without concern in life.
Opening channels to facilitate contact [with avarice], one is without hope in life.
Seeing the tiniest is discernment.
Holding onto tenderness is strength.
Use one's light, reflect upon one's discernment, leave nothing to one's regret.
This is Eternal Direction.
This little I know:
In moving toward the Grand Direction, the only fear is moving astray.
The Grand Direction is straight forward; still, people go astray.
The court is not filled; the field is not tilled.
Storehouses are empty, but gorgeous gowns are aplenty.
Bearing sharp swords, tired of exquisite boards,
With wealth to the burst, they are bandits at their worst.
This is not Direction.
What is well planted will not uproot;
What is firmly held will not drop.
Descendants will not discontinue remembrance ceremonies.
Cultivating it in self, virtue is true;
Cultivating it in the family, virtue overflows;
Cultivating it in the village, virtue lasts;
Cultivating it in the state, virtue is abundant;
Cultivating it in the world, virtue is universal.
look at self through self;
look at the family through the family;
look at the village through the village;
look at the state through the state;
look at the world through the world.
How do I know the world?
Because it is so.
One possessing virtue may be compared to an infant.
Poisonous insects will not bite, ferocious animals will not pounce,
Fetching birds will not prey.
Though weak in bones and soft in muscles, his hold is firm;
Though ignorant of union, his instrument is turgid.
This is supreme energy.
Crying all day without turning hoarse, this is supreme harmony.
Knowing harmony is normalcy;
knowing normalcy is discernment.
Enriching oneself is ominous;
overexerting oneself is ruinous.
Matter withers after saturation;
This is not in line with Direction.
Not in line with Direction, early demise is the expectation.
One who knows is reticent; one who glibs is ignorant.
Stuff channels, block portals;
blunt sharpness, resolve conflicts;
harmonize brightness, mingle with dust.
This is the Profoundest Assimilation.
Thus, after gaining possession,
one does not patronize, nor slight, nor take advantage of, nor damage, nor treasure, nor debase.
Thus, one is treasured by the world.
Govern a state with orthodoxy;
fight a war with heterodoxy;
take the world with laissez-faire.
How do I know this is so?
The world is full of prohibitions, yet the populace is poor;
People are stacked with weapons, yet the states are in turmoil;
People are loaded with cleverness, yet strange schemes sprout;
Rules are stringent and well known, yet robbers and thieves abound.
Thus, the sage says:
Let me practice laissez-faire, and the populace self-develop;
Let me seek serenity, and the populace self-manage;
Let me be without fanfare, and the populace self-prosper;
Let me discard avarice, and the populace self-simplify.
When policies are broad, the populace live simply;
When policies are rigid, the populace complain roundly.
Facing disaster, is fortune not in the wing?
Experiencing fortune, is disaster not ready to spring?
Who knows the limit?
There is no norm.
Orthodoxy turns into heterodoxy, good turns into evil.
People have been bewildered long.
the sage is square without infringing upon others,
fair without harming others,
straight without imposing upon others,
bright without overshadowing others.
In governing people and in taking care of the cosmos, the best is restraint.
With restraint, one is ever ready.
Ever ready, one focuses on virtue.
Focusing on virtue, one overcomes everything.
Overcoming everything, one's limit does not come into being.
With one's limit not coming into being, one gains the state.
Having the foundation to governance, one lasts long.
This is deep root and solid foundation.
This is Direction - long lasting and long living.
Govern a large state is like frying a small fish.
With Direction embracing the world, ghosts become ineffective.
It is not because ghosts become ineffective;
it is because their effect becomes inoffensive.
Not only have ghosts become inoffensive;
The sage has also become inoffensive.
With the two not inflicting harm, the people are showered with virtue.
A great nation is like a down-stream - the feminine to the world, the rendezvous of the world.
The feminine frequently wins over the masculine with serenity.
Serenity is obsequiousness.
a great nation, obsequious to a small nation, gains the small nation;
a small nation, obsequious to a great nation, gains the great nation.
Thus, one is obsequious in order to gain.
Or, one is obsequious because it needs to gain.
A great nation is not to be too keen on conquering.
A small nation is not to be too keen on acquiescing.
Since each gains what each desires, it is better for the great nation to be obsequious.
to myriad matters, is an enclosure;
to people who are good, it is a treasure;
to people who are not good, it can reassure.
Good words gain people's respect;
good deeds gain people's admiration.
Why abandon people who are not good?
Thus, when a King is enthroned, three senior positions are filled.
Though there are precious jades and speedy stallions, the best present is Direction.
Why, through the ages, is Direction so valued?
Is it not because whoever seeks it gets it, and whoever is guilty, with it, receives amnesty?
That is why it is so valued by the world.
Govern with laissez-faire.
Act without fanfare.
Dine with the commonest fare.
Big begins as small; many accrue from few.
In tackling difficult tasks, first tackle those easy;
In tackling big tasks, first tackle those flimsy.
The difficult tasks of the world begin as easy;
The big tasks of the world begin as flimsy.
Thus, the sage, who never considers self big, completes many big tasks.
promise easily made leads to promise not fulfilled;
difficulty underestimated leads to difficulty multiplied.
Thus, the sage, in treating every task as difficult, encounters no difficulties.
Governing is easy when there is peace;
Planning is easy when there is time;
Nipping is easy when buds are young;
Reconciling is easy when issues are minor.
Handle matters before they come about;
Govern people before there is chaos.
A tree two-arms'-length wide grows from a seedling;
A tower nine stories high starts with a spadeful;
A journey a thousand miles long begins with a step.
The populace often fail when they are close to completing their tasks.
Be as deliberate at the end as at the beginning; then, there can be no failure.
Thus, the sage desires what others do not desire, and places no premium on rare goods.
[The sage] studies what others do not study,
and revisits people's faults.
[The sage] assists myriad matters to develop naturally but does not dare to interfere.
Men who knew Direction in olden days did not teach the populace to be clever, but teach them to be simple.
A populace that is clever is difficult to govern.
governing with cleverness robs a state;
governing not with cleverness benefits a state.
One who knows [the difference between] these two sets the standard.
Knowing the standard at all times is Profoundest Virtue.
Profoundest Virtue is deep; it is far.
Profoundest Virtue returns matters to naturalness, to the Grand Gentleness.
The sea is the king to hundreds of streams.
Because it is good at lying low, it can be the king to hundreds of streams.
Thus, a sage,
desirous of being the populace's superior, must be obsequious to them;
desirous of being in front of the populace, must follow them.
Thus, a sage,
sitting high, in no way burdens the populace;
standing in front, in no way harms the populace.
Thus, the world is happy to support [the sage] and is not tired of doing so.
Because [the sage] is not in competition, the people in the world cannot engage him/her in competition.
People in the world say that my Direction is grand as if without a referent.
It is because it is grand that Direction is without a referent.
Were it capable of being referenced, it would not be grand.
I have three treasures - embrace and safeguard them.
Three, daring not to be at the front of [the people] of the world.
With affection, one becomes courageous;
With restraint, one becomes tolerant;
Daring not to be at the front of the world, one is at the head.
One courts death if one
forsakes affection for courage,
forsakes restraint for tolerance,
forsakes humility for prominence.
in war, one wins;
in defense, strengthens.
When cosmos comes to the rescue, it shields with affection.
One good at commandership does not easily use force,
one good at war is not easily provoked,
one good at winning does not easily engage in combat,
one good at deployment is obsequious.
This is the virtue of non-engagement; this is the ability at deployment.
This is fully consistent with the cosmos.
A saying among warriors:
I dare not play host, I prefer playing guest;
I dare not advance an inch, I prefer retreating a foot.
This is formless formation,
this is defenseless advancement,
this is oppositionless encounter,
this is weaponless display.
No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy verges on losing my treasures.
Thus, when two equal-size armies are in combat, the one that is grieved wins.
My words are easy to understand and easy to put into practice.
But no one in the world understands [my words], and no one puts them into practice.
Words must be principled; actions must be justified.
Because these are not understood, I am not understood.
With few who understand me, fewer will put [my words] into practice.
Thus, a sage dresses simply but bears a jade.
Knowing that one does not know is best;
Not knowing but pretending to know is a fault.
A sage has no faults, because he/she is aware of his/her faults and works on these faults.
Because a sage is aware of faults and works on them, he/she has no faults.
When the populace is unafraid of threats, major threats loom.
Do not harass their neighborhood;
Do not interfere with their livelihood.
Thus, without interference, people will not interfere.
Thus, the sage knows self without self-touting, respects self without self-aggrandizement.
forsake self-touting and self-aggrandizement;
embrace self-knowledge and self-respect.
Courageous in accepting dare results in demise;
courageous in declining dare results in survival.
Between these two, there are advantages and disadvantages.
The cosmos has dislikes, but no one knows the reason.
It is hard even for the sage to explain.
The Direction of the cosmos,
though does not compete, is good at winning;
though wordless, is good at responding;
needs no invitation and comes on own volition;
and is at ease and is good at planning.
The cosmos's net is immense; it is loose but it does not miss.
When the populace are unafraid of death, what good is threatening them with death?
When the populace are afraid to die, hold devious ones and put them to death.
After that, who dares?
The official executioner is always there to do executions.
Doing executions by anyone else is like felling trees by other than an arborist.
A non-arborist, in felling trees, is unlikely not to hurt his hands.
Starvation in the populace is caused by excessive taxes.
Excessive taxes result in starvation.
Difficulty in governing the populace is caused by a governor's interferences.
Interferences result in difficulties in governance.
Indifference to death in the populace is caused by a governor's overindulgence.
A governor's overindulgence results in the populace's indifference to death.
One who does not overindulgence is wiser than one who overvalues one's life.
At birth, one is soft and tender;
at death, hard and stiff.
At the beginning, flora are tender and crisp;
at the end, brittle and dry.
Thus, hardness and stiffness symbolize death; softness and tenderness, life.
Thus, an army, hard and stiff, is annihilated; a tree, hard and stiff, is cut.
Hard and stiff are inferior; soft and tender, superior.
The cosmos's Direction is like extending a bow.
Aiming too high, it lowers;
aiming too low, it raises.
From the excessive, it takes;
to the insufficient, it augments.
The cosmos's Direction is to take from the excessive and augment the insufficient.
This is not so for the direction in humans, which is to take from the insufficient to augment the excessive.
Who is willing to augment [the insufficient of] the world with excesses?
Only ones with Direction.
a sage provides without expecting approbation,
accomplishes without seeking acclamation,
does without flaunting wisdom.
In the world, nothing is softer and weaker than water, yet, in combating the strong, nothing can win over it.
There is nothing to replace it.
The weak wins over the strong; the tender wins over the steely.
No one in the world is unaware of it, yet no one follows it.
Thus, the sage says:
"One accepting a state's disgrace is worthy of being her governor;
one accepting the state's misfortunes is worthy of being the king to the world."
Rightful words appear paradoxical.
Settling a major enmity, residual enmity remains.
Responding enmity with virtue - how can this be good?
Thus, the sage holds the left half [of a promissory block] but does not demand payment.
One with virtue acts like that creditor;
one without virtue acts like the tax collector.
The cosmos's Direction does not play favoritism.
It [simply] provides people with goodness all the time.
All sorts of utensils, not in use.
The populace value death, unwilling to move.
Vehicles available, not in use.
Weaponry available, not on display.
Tying knots for events.
Well fed, beautifully clad, serenely housed, happily serenad'd.
Neighboring states within sights.
Crowing and barking heard across states.
From birth to death, no interstate communication.
Sincere words are not pretty;
pretty words are not sincere.
Good people are not argumentative;
argumentative people are not good.
Learned people are not erudite;
erudite people are not learned.
A sage does not hoard.
The more he/she provides, the more he/she is enriched;
the more he/she gives, the more he/she gains.
The cosmos's Direction is to facilitate and not harm;
The sage's Direction is to provide and not compete.