Tao Te King
Lao Tse
Chinese (Wang Bi) - English by
Karl Kromal, 2002

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The Chinese text used for this translation is from Tao Teh Ching by John C. H. Wu, copyright 1961 by St. John's University Press, which itself was taken from Wang Pi's edition of the original text of Lao Tse (Lao Chieh Lao edition, compiled by Ts'ai T'ing Kan, printed privately in 1922).

In verse 73, the interpolated lines from verse 63 have been ignored.

Three Chinese-English dictionaries were consulted ...

1) the New Lin Yutang Chinese-English Dictionary, edited by Lai Ming and Lin Tai-Yi, copyright 1987 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Panorama Press Ltd.
2) the Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, Harvard UP, 1943
3) the Great Chinese Literary Dictionary, Taibei Chinese Culture University, 1984

...the latter two by the Transparent Language service (www.transparent.com).

The English is as true to the original text as possible, given my rudimentary Chinese and the cultural and temporal gap of 25 intervening centuries. Interpretation is minimal, in favor of literal translation (Nameless Simplicity, No Desire), although specialized phrases (doubled characters, idioms, administrative ranks) may well be incorrect. The meaning is clear enough, and the structure of the original lines is preserved.

Comments and corrections are encouraged, and I apologize in advance to those more qualified for the task.


The perceived Way is not the eternal Way.
The common name is not the eternal Name.

The Beginning of Heaven and Earth has no name.
The Mother of all things has a name.

Free of desire, behold its mystery.
Bound by desire, observe only its form.

These two are the same, but their forms bear different names.
Together, they are a mystery, subtle and profound,
the gateway to understanding.



Everyone under Heaven knows Beautiful;
this defines Beautiful as well as Ugly.
Everyone knows Good;
this defines Good as well as Bad.

Thus, Being and non-Being co-exist with each other,
Difficult and Easy complement each other,
Long and Short oppose each other,
High and Low merge with each other,
Sound and Noise blend with each other,
Front and Back relate to each other.

This is how the wise man can do without doing,
and teach without speaking.
All things are done without words.

Create and do not possess.
Govern and do not exploit.

Achieve the results and depart.
Depart to be remembered.



Do not esteem Wisdom, and people will not argue.
Do not covet unobtainable goods, and people will not steal.
Do not harbor desires, and peoples' hearts will not be confused.

Thus does the wise man govern.
Empty the mind and fill the stomach.
Weaken the ambition and strengthen the body.

Often, if people are ignorant, they have no motivation,
and when informed will not venture to act.

Govern without acting.
Rule without administration.



Tao is empty; and when used, never fills up.
It is Deep, like the ancestor of all things.

Round the edges,
end the separation,
merge with the light,
join with the dust.

It is clear, yet still seems to exist.

I do not know whose child it is.
It is older than the appearance of Ti.



Heaven and Earth are not benevolent,
treating all things as straw dogs.
The wise man is not compassionate,
governing all people as straw dogs.

Is Heaven and Earth not like a bellows;
Empty and straight, then active and fruitful ?

Words are often inadequate, unlike keeping the center.



The Valley Spirit does not die, and must be the Mystic Female.
The house of the Mystic Female must be the origin of Heaven and Earth.

Diffuse and ethereal, it works without effort.



Heaven is everlasting, Earth is enduring.

Heaven and Earth have existed since the dawn of time.
They do this not for themselves, and therefore endure.

Thus does the wise man retire, and therefore lead;
renounce himself to save himself.

Unselfishness is self-fulfillment.



The greatest Good is like water.
The Goodness of Water benefits all things without struggle;
like Tao, choosing places men avoid.

A good dwelling has land.
A good mind is profound.

Good relations are benevolent.
Good speech is true.
Good leaders take charge.
Good actions are skillful.
Good movement is well timed.

Heaven alone is beyond dispute, and therefore blameless.



Keeping your gains
is not as good as knowing when to stop.

Concealed weapons will not long protect you.
A house full of gold and jade cannot be guarded.
Wealth, riches and pride indeed bring misfortune.

Retire when the work is done.
This is the Way of Heaven.



Nourish your Spirit; can you accept all things without distinction ?
Focus your energy; can you be pliant as a new-born babe ?

Dispel the darkness; can you observe without criticizing ?
Love the people; can you govern without Knowledge ?
Reach Heaven's gate; can you do it without gentleness ?
Understand the goal; can you succeed without action ?

Produce and save.
Create and do not possess.
Govern, and do not exploit.
Lead, and do not kill.

This is Mystic Virtue.



Thirty spokes join at the hub,
but the space between them makes the cart useful.
Capacity defines a vessel,
but emptiness makes it useful.
Doors and windows define a house,
but emptiness makes the house livable.

Being defines a resource,
while non-Being governs its use.



The five colors make one's eyes blind.
The five tones make one's ears deaf.
The five flavors make one's palate dull.
The mad dash of the hunt makes one's heart wild.
Hard to obtain goods promote theft.

Thus is the wise man led by the mind, not the eye,
to choose the former over the latter.



Favor and Disgrace are both alarming.
Possessions are a great concern to one's Self.

Why say that 'Favor and Disgrace are both alarming' ?
Favor does not appear alarming, but loss of Favor is alarming.
This means that both Favor and Disgrace are alarming.

Why say that 'Possessions are a great concern to one's Self' ?
Whatever I own causes great worry, and affects my Self.
Compared to non-Self, what a great concern is Self.

Therefore, Self is governed by Possessions, rather than Heaven,
and can not be delivered to Heaven.

Self is governed by (self-) Love, rather than Heaven,
and can not be entrusted to Heaven.



Look; not seeing, call it invisible.
Listen; not hearing, call it silent.
Touch; not feeling, call it intangible.
These three fail to provide answers,
and are therefore combined into one.

It is above, but not recognized.
It is below, but not hiding.

A guideline without name, it returns to Nothing.
Its appearance has no shape, Nothing is its form.
It seems an illusion.

Approaching, it has no head.
Withdrawing, it has no back.

It continues its ancient ways,
controls the present,
knows the Primal Beginning.

This is the Way of Time.



In the beginning, those who worked the land
were modest and charming, with profound understanding.
Their depth was not easy to recognize.
And if not easy to recognize,
perhaps it is better just to describe their appearance.

They were crossing a river in Winter, so it seemed.
Respectful of their four neighbors. Solemn in appearance.
They always seemed thankful, as if pardoned just yesterday.
Their simple honesty was sincere, and broad as a valley.

Without a purpose, they appeared dull.
He who can be dull, has a quiet serenity.
He who is at peace, can withstand a lifetime of hard work.

He who keeps this Way can not ask for more;
and not asking for more, need not hide his achievements.



Let emptiness prevail.
Maintain deep silence.

All things arise.
I can observe their return.
They flourish, then each returns to its center,
returns to its unchanging center.
This implies a return to life.
A return to life is the Norm.

To know the Norm leads to understanding.
To ignore the Norm is absurd, and leads to disaster.

To know the Norm is Tolerance.
Tolerance is Justice.
To be Just is to rule.
Sovereignty comes from Heaven.
Heaven is the Way.
The Way is eternal.

The disappearance of the body is not to be feared.



The best rulers are barely known to their subjects.
The next best are loved and praised.
The next are feared.
And the worst are insulted.

The dishonest are not trusted.

Good advice is soon forgotten.
Once the results are achieved,
everyone takes credit.



When great Tao is neglected,
there will be artificial charity.

When wisdom and cleverness appear,
there will be great pretentions.

When the six family relations are not in harmony,
there will be filial compassion.

When politicians are confused,
there will be loyal ministers.



Renounce experts, forsake wisdom,
and people gain a hundred fold.
Renounce charity, forsake justice,
and people return to filial compassion.
Renounce cleverness, forsake profit,
and thieves and robbers disappear.

These three can not be stressed enough.
Instead, there are regulations !

Dress plainly, live simply,
with few possessions and few needs.



Be done with Knowledge and free of worry.

Is not 'Yes' the same as agreement ?
Do not Good and Evil occur together ?

People cannot control their fears,
and the foolishness is not yet over.

Most men are prosperous and happy.
They enjoy great strength, and climb the terraces in Spring.
I alone am silent, giving no sign,
as a new-born babe before its first breath;
exhausted beyond recovery.

Most men have energy to spare.
I alone seem lost, my foolish heart muddled.

Worldly men are clear and manifest;
I alone seem dim and confused.
Worldly men inquire and examine;
I alone am sad and depressed, indifferent as the ocean.
A constant wind has no equal.

Most men have ambition, while I alone am stubborn and provincial.
I alone am unusual among men, seeking the Mother's breast.



Tolerance is a Virtue.
Only Tao professes this.
Only Tao governs things thus.

Very elusive, very evasive; evasive and elusive.
Its Center takes material form, but is elusive and evasive.
Its Center contains images.
Elusive and evasive, its Center contains things.
Deep and Profound, its Center contains its Essence.
Its Essence is very real. Its Center is true.

From the Beginning to the Present, its name has been preserved.
It takes many names.

How do I know the many names it takes ?
By this.



Yield to be Whole. Bend to be Straight.
Keep low to be Full. Wear out to Renew.
Having little allows gain. Having much causes confusion.

Thus does the wise man embrace the One, and is a model under Heaven.

Not self-centered, and therefore discerning.
Not self-absorbed, and therefore distinguished.
Not boastful, and therefore effective.
Not proud, and therefore fit for leadership.

Because he avoids disputes, he avoids worldly conflict.
Hence the old saying 'Yield to be whole'.

How else can Emptiness speak ?
Indeed, keep whole and complete.



Strive to express oneself correctly.
Just as a windstorm does not last all morning,
a sudden rain does not last all day.

What controls this is Heaven and Earth.
Even Heaven and Earth cannot make it last, so how can men ?
Therefore conduct affairs according to the Way.

The Taoist identifies with Tao.
The virtuous man identifies with Virtue.
The failure identifies with Loss.

Whoever identifies with Tao, must also love Tao.
Whoever identifies with Virtue, must also love Virtue.
Whoever identifies with Loss, must also love Loss.

The dishonest are not trusted.



He who stands on tiptoe, does not stand firmly.
He who crosses over, does not proceed.

The self-centered are not discerning.
The self-absorbed are not distinguished.
The boaster is not effective.
The proud are not Leaders.

On the road, excess food means extra work.
Such things are undesirable, and the traveller avoids them.



Before the creation of Heaven and Earth,
there was something complete and without purpose.
Silent and desolate. Standing alone and unchanging. Cyclic and untiring.
Able to be the Mother beneath Heaven.

I do not know its Name. Its character is 'Tao'.
Powerful and Great; its Greatness spreads,
spreads into the distance, and from the distance, returns.

Hence Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. The King also is
The Middle Kingdom has four greats, and the King is one.

Man follows the ways of the Earth.
Earth follows the way of Heaven.
Heaven follows the way of Tao.
And Tao follows its own ways.



Heavy is the root of light.
Stillness is the master of impatience.

Thus the wise man travels all day, but does not leave his wagon.
Although there are glorious sights, he is relaxed and proper.

Why should the Lord of 10,000 chariots
conduct himself lightly under Heaven ?

Lightness leads to loss of roots.
Impatience leads to loss of control.



A good journey leaves no tracks.
A good speech has no mistakes.
Good counting uses no tally sticks.

Good closure requires no latch bolt, yet does not open.
Good joints need no rope, yet do not loosen.

Thus does the wise man help others, not forsake them;
improve things, not neglect them.
Thus is understanding passed on.

The better man is the lesser man's teacher.
The lesser man is the better man's occupation.

One who does not esteem his teacher,
one who does not cherish his profession,
though wise, will be greatly confused.

This is an important secret.



Know the Masculine but hold to the Feminine, and be a Valley under Heaven.
To be a Valley under Heaven, never stray from Virtue; revert to a new-born

Know the White, but hold to the Black, and be a Model under Heaven.
To be a Model under Heaven, do not be extreme; return to moderation.

Know Honor but keep Humble, and be a Valley under Heaven.
To be a Valley under Heaven, let Virtue be sufficient.
Return to Simplicity, gain a reputation for Simplicity.

The does the wise man become a Statesman, and perpetuate a Great System.



This desire to conquer the World and rule it, in my opinion, is futile.

The World is a spiritual entity, not able to be governed.
He who tries, fails. Even the most persistent do not succeed.

For some lead, and some follow.
Some sigh, and some bellow.
Some are strong, and some are weak.
Some rise, and some fall.

Thus does the wise man avoid extremes, avoid extravagance, avoid excess.



One who assists his Master with the Way,
will not foster war upon the World.
Such matters easily recoil.

Where Armies go, thorny brambles grow.
Bad years follow great armies.

The Good succeed and stop, not daring to hold by force.

Succeed, but do not gloat.
Succeed, but do not boast.
Succeed, but do not humiliate.

If you succeed and cannot stop, seek Victory without force.
Strength will wane.
This is not the Way; and what is not the Way will soon end.



Now, a great army is not a measure of good fortune,
but rather a hateful thing, which a Taoist avoids.

It serves its Master only as an expensive aid.
Employ War only as a costly assistant.

War is not a measure of good fortune.
It is neither a measure of a Monarch's status, nor something he need employ.
Calm and mild is better.

Victory is not to be glorified, and whoever praises it is happy killing
Alas, one who is happy killing people will not be remembered by the World.

Good Luck favors the left.
Bad Luck favors the right.
Stubbornly advancing troops serve the left.
Quickly advancing troops serve the right.

Speak of it as a sad ritual.
The slaughter of so many is a tragic sorrow.

Victory in battle is a sad ritual.



Tao has always been nameless;
an Uncarved Block, simple and small, but subject to none under Heaven.

All things will obey the Monarch who defends it.

Heaven uniting with Earth, as sweet dew falling.
People not commanded, but true to themselves.

First there were names, then more names.
It is time to stop.
Knowing when to stop avoids exhaustion.

Tao flows from Heaven, as Rivers flow into the Sea.



He who knows others is smart.
He who knows himself is wise.

He who triumphs over others has Power.
He who triumphs over himself has Strength.

He who has enough is Rich.
He who prevails has Will.
He who avoids Loss will survive.

He who dies knowing this, is blessed.



Great Tao is everywhere, to the left and to the right.
All things depend on it for life, and are not denied.
Nameless, it does its work.

It feeds and clothes all things, but is not their Master.
It has no desires, so its Name is little known.
All things return to it, but it is not their Master;
therefore its Name is Great.

All it does is not for its own Greatness.
Thus does it achieve Greatness.



Remember this pervasive image;
Falling from Heaven, falling unharmed, is the Great Peace.

Pleasure and Enticements tempt the passing visitor.
seems empty, mild, and without flavor.

Look, and there is nothing to see.
Listen, and there is nothing to hear.
Apply it, and there is no end.



What is to be closed, must first be opened.
What is to be weak, must first be strong.
What is to be poor, must first be rich.
What is to be taken, must first be given.

This is a subtle point.
The soft and weak overcome the hard and strong.

Fish cannot leave the deep.
The nation's wealth cannot enlighten men.



Tao does nothing, and there is nothing it does not do.
If a Monarch can uphold it, all things will reform naturally.

As they reform, and desires arose,
I would calm them with Nameless Simplicity,
for Nameless Simplicity lessens desire.

Not desiring promotes Peace beneath Heaven,
and things beneath Heaven will stabilize.



High Virtue is not Virtuous, and therefore has virtue.
Low Virtue is Virtuous, and thus lacks virtue.

High Virtue does not act, and governs by inaction.
Low Virtue acts, and governs by action.

Great Charity acts, but governs by inaction.
Great Justice acts, and governs by action.

Great Ritual takes action and gets no response,
then grabs you by the arm and expels you.

So, we lose the Way and turn to Virtue,
lack Virtue and look for Charity,
receive no Charity and seek Justice,
get no Justice and turn to Ritual.
Alas, Ritual is the shadow of true faith, and a source of confusion.

Divination is the flower of Tao, but the beginning of foolishness.
There do the Elders place their confidence, not with Ritual,
with the practical, not the imagined.

Therefore reject the latter, embrace the former.



Previously, things must have been as One.

Heaven must have been One to be Clear.
Earth must have been One to be Calm.
Spirits must have been One to be Alert.
Valleys must have been One to be Full.
All things must have been One to be Alive.
The Monarch must have been One to serve under Heaven.

Heavens not Clear would split,
Earth not Calm would crack,
Spirits not Alert would cease,
Valleys not Full would deplete,
Without Life, all things would expire,
A Monarch not highly regarded would be deposed.

For the Humble are the basis of the High,
the Inferior are the foundation of the Superior.

Thus does the Monarch regard himself as Orphaned, Widowed, and Unlucky.

Can Humility be the source of the problem ?
Better to count a carriage as no carriage,
and lie low like Rocks, rather than shine like Jade.



Action is the opposite of Tao.
Weakness is the function of Tao.

All things under Heaven were created from Something.
Something was created from Nothing.



When a great scholar hears of the Way,
he adopts it and practices it.
When a fair scholar hears of the Way,
he sometimes remembers and sometimes forgets.
When a poor scholar hears of the Way,
he laughs outright.

If he did not laugh, it would not be the Way.

Hence, these phrases ...

The simple way seems unwise.
The fruitful way seems useless.
The smooth way seems rough.

Highest Virtue is like a Valley.

Great honesty seems insulting.
Broad Virtue seems insufficient.
Good Reputation seems undeserved.
True Character seems uncertain.

Great principle takes no sides.
Great ability arrives late.
Good speech strives for clarity.
Great Form has no shape.

Tao is hidden and nameless,
but only Tao permits early results.



The Way creates one.
One creates two.
Two creates three.
Three creates all things.

All things carry Yin and embrace Yang; both forces blend.

Men dislike being Orphaned, Widowed and Unlucky, as the Kingship declares
Thus one may gain by losing, or lose by gaining.

What others teach, I also teach.
The strong need not die.

I teach survival.



Under Heaven, the weakest things overcome the strongest.

Non-Being requires no Space.

I know this; that non-action has advantages which it teaches without words.

Seek to attain the benefits of non-action under Heaven.



Fame or Life, which is dearer ?
Life or Goods, which is better ?

Gain or Loss, which is more trouble ?
For strong desires carry a high cost.
Amassed Wealth leads to great loss.

Showing restraint is not shameful.
Knowing when to stop
avoids exhaustion and maintains endurance.



Great Achievement appears deficient, but serves without fail.
Great Abundance seems modest, but provides without limit.

Great honesty appears devious.
Great intelligence seems dumb.
Great discussions are low-keyed.

Activity overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.

Peace and Quiet is proper under Heaven.



When there is Tao under Heaven, loose horses manure the fields.
When Tao is absent under Heaven, war horses are bred on the borders.

There is no misfortune so great as not recognizing excess.
There is no mistake so great as the desire to obtain.

Therefore feel content, be content, and stay content.



Without going out the door, you may know the things beneath Heaven.
Without looking out the window, you may behold Heaven's Way.

The further you go, the less you know.

Thus does the wise man know without going,
see without looking, achieve without doing.



By learning, each day brings increase.
With Tao, each day brings decrease.

Less and less, until there is nothing at all to do.
Nothing to do and nothing left undone.

To truly gain the World, do without affairs.
One who has affairs is not content until he has gained the World.



The wise man has no opinions,
so that he may understand the opinions of others.

To the Good, I am Good.
To the not Good, I am also Good.
Virtue is Good.

To the Honest, I am Honest.
To the Dishonest, I am also Honest.
Virtue is Honest.

The wise man is at peace with the World,
and from the World conceals his thoughts.

The wise man is everyone's child.



Life begets, Death receives.

The unborn are 3 in 10.
The dead are 3 in 10.
Mortal men active in life are also 3 in 10.

Now, what is the significance of the immortals?

There are stories about ones who survive.
They meet no tigers or rhinos on the road,
in war they go without armor.

Rhinos have nowhere to thrust their horns,
Tigers have nowhere to sink their claws,
Weapons have nowhere to pierce their blades.

So why are they untouched by Death ?



Tao creates, Virtue provides,
Matter assumes form, Power completes.
Thus do all things without exception honor Tao and praise Virtue.

Honor Tao. Praise Virtue.
Not by command, but continually and naturally.

Therefore Tao creates, Virtue provides,
by raising, nurturing, sheltering, nourishing, feeding, and clothing.

Create and do not possess.
Govern, and do not exploit.
Lead, and do not kill.

This is Mystic Virtue.



The World had a beginning, there is a Mother of the World.
Since we have the Mother, we can know the Child.
By knowing the Child, we can return to the Mother.

The disappearance of the Body is not to be feared.
Complete the exchange, close the door;
be done with a body that no longer serves.
Begin the exchange, relieve its troubles,
the death of the body cannot be prevented.
See these unimportant things clearly.

Accept Weakness, use its Emptiness,
Rejoin its Purity, regardless of the body's demise.

This is quite normal.



If I interpret the facts correctly,
following the Great Tao carries only this risk;
the Great Tao is very easy, but people prefer the hard way !

Government is divided. Farms are overgrown. Granaries are empty.
People wear fancy clothes and carry sharp swords,
tire of food and drink, spend money endlessly,
and are said to be corrupt.

Alas, this is not the Way.



What is well established is not uprooted.
What is well accepted is not cast off.
Thus will your children's children offer sacrifices forever.

Cultivated in the person, its virtue becomes genuine.
Cultivated in the home, its virtue multiplies.
Cultivated in the village, its virtue grows.
Cultivated in the nation, its virtue increases.
Cultivated in the world, its virtue becomes universal.

Thus does
a person judge a person,
a family judge a family,
a village judge a village,
a nation judge a nation,
a world judge a world.

How can I recognize an ideal world ?
By this.



One who has great Virtue is like a new-born child.

Wasps, scorpions and cobra snakes will not bite him.
Fearsome beasts will not take him.
Raptors will not attack him.

His bones are soft, his muscles are weak, but his grip is firm.
He knows nothing of physical love and yet stands complete; his Essence is
He cries aloud all day without growing hoarse, because he is at Peace.

To always know Peace, to always be Open, is an Omen of Long Life.
The Heart that grows Angry becomes Strong.
Strong things only decline.

That is not the Way,
and what is not the Way will soon end.



He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.

Complete the exchange, close the door.
Round the edges, end the separation,
merge with the light, join with the dust.
This is called Mystic Unity.

from then on, never need Temples,
from then on, never be dispersed,
from then on, never need money,
from then on, never be harmed,
from then on, never be Noble,
from then on, never be Humble.

And so be Exalted under Heaven.



Govern the country honestly, wage war by deceit.
Do without affairs to gain the world.

How do I know this is so ?
By this.

There is much fear and superstition in the world, and people are very poor.
There is much to gain, and politicians thrive in the confusion.
Clever people develop strange and unusual things.
Law and Order makes a great showing, while thieves and robbers abound.

Thus the wise man says;
If I do nothing, people will reform themselves.
If I keep quiet, people will correct themselves.
If I do not interfere, people will better themselves.
If I have nothing to gain, people will become honest.



When Government is subdued, people are simple and honest.
When Government is obtrusive, people are lax and careless.

Disaster acts upon Blessings.
Blessings are subject to Disaster.
Who knows where it all ends ?

It's not right.
Proper becomes improper.
Good turns Evil.
People lose their bearings.

Thus is the wise man
critical but not harsh,
calm but not cutting,
firm but not reckless,
bright but not blinding.



In governing men and serving Heaven, there is nothing like Economy.

Now, Economy means early preparation.
Early preparation means to value the accumulation of Virtue.

Value the accumulation of Virtue, and anything is possible.
When anything is possible, there are no limits.

When there are no limits, the Nation can be gained.
Gain the Mother of the Nation, and survival is assured.

This means deep roots, a solid foundation,
and a lifetime of following the Way.



Rule a great country as you would prepare delicacies.

Attain the Way under Heaven,
and its Demons will have no power.
Not that its Demons will have no power,
but rather their power will not harm men.
Not that their power will not harm men;
wise Men also will not harm men.

Neither will inflict harm.
Therefore Virtue will return.



A large country is a floodplain,
the confluence of the world,
the female of the world.

The female passively overcomes the male,
passively keeps low.

The large country that keeps below the small country, acquires the small
The small country that keeps below the large country, acquires the large
Therefore, either keep low to acquire, or keep low to be acquired.

The large country, not mistakenly, wants to expand its settlements.
The small country, not mistakenly, wants to join the affairs of men.
So together each gets what it wants.

The larger one quite properly keeps low.



The Way is the secret of all things.
Treasured by good men, it protects the bad.

Pleasing words may persuade.
Noble deeds can influence.
But of bad men, why abandon them ?

Therefore, at the coronation of the Son of Heaven,
at the installation of the three ministers,
although there be jade discs, followed by teams of horses,
nothing will compare to presenting this Tao.

Why has this Tao been treasured of old ?
Is it not said that to confess wrongdoing is to be forgiven ?
Therefore it is exalted under Heaven.



Govern without doing. Achieve without acting. Appreciate without

Great or small, many or few,
repay Injustice with Virtue.

Plan for difficulty while it is easy.
Handle the big things while they are still small.

Under Heaven, difficult affairs always begin as easy ones.
Under Heaven, great events always arise from small ones.

Thus does the wise man, in the end, do nothing great,
because he already is able to achieve great results.

Remember that quick agreement deserves little trust,
for 'very easy' always turns into 'very difficult'.
Thus does the wise man treat things as difficult,
so that in the end, nothing is difficult.



What is calm is easy to manage.
What has not yet spread is easy to contain.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Control it before it happens.
Contain it before it spreads.

A great tree comes from fine pollen.
A multi-level terrace rises from repeated layers.
A thousand mile journey begins with a footstep.

To act is to fail.
To keep is to lose.

Thus does the wise man not act,
and therefore not fail;
not keep, and therefore not lose.

People look for trouble, and often fail on the brink of success.
Care in the end, as at the beginning, ensures success.
Is this not what the wise man wants,
rather than expensive, difficult to obtain goods ?

Know without Learning, to restore people to the way they were.
Help all things to correct themselves, but do not presume to act.



At first,
those who knew the Way opposed enlightening people, considering it foolish.
People are more difficult to govern the more they know.

Thus a National government relying upon knowledge deceives the Nation.
When the National government does not rely upon knowledge, the Nation is

Those who know these two also apply this standard.
To always know to apply this standard is called Mystic Virtue.
Mystic Virtue is deep and profound, a return to the Harmony of Things.

The greatest Concord was in the Past.



The Ocean rules all Valleys because it lies below them,
and thus can be the King of all Valleys.

So the desire to be above the People requires speaking as if below them.
The desire to be before the People requires placing yourself behind.

Thus can the Wise Man be placed above, and the People are not burdened;
placed before, and the People are not harmed.

Thus does the world see Gladness, not Loathing.

He does not compete.
Therefore no one under Heaven competes against him.



Everyone under Heaven regards my Tao as Great, resembling nothing else.
Great, yes; that is the reason it resembles nothing else.
If it resembled anything else, it would have slight chance of survival.

I have three Treasures to hold and protect.
The first is Compassion.
The second is Economy.
The third is not presuming to be the First under Heaven.

Compassion permits Courage.
Economy makes Generosity possible.
Not presuming to be the First under Heaven is a quality of Leadership.

Now, abandon Compassion and consider Courage.
Abandon Frugality and consider Generosity.
Abandon Humility and consider Leadership.
Impossible !

Now, Compassion in battle leads to Victory; Compassion in Defense lends
Heaven will assist the commander who exhibits Compassion.



A good officer is not aggressive.
A good warrior is not angry.
A good victor is not partisan.
A good commander is humble.

This is the virtue of not competing.
This is the proper use of men's abilities.
This is the ultimate union with Heaven of old.



The Military has a saying:
I dare not be the Master, but rather a Guest;
I dare not advance an inch, but will retreat a foot.

This means ...
proceed without acting,
repel without arms,
repulse without resistance,
maintain without troops.

There is no misfortune so great as Light Resistance.
Light Resistance may cost me my Treasures.

Therefore, avoid military buildup.
Grief is the only Victor.



My words are very easy to understand, very easy to practice.
The World is unable to understand, unable to practice.

Words have a history, Deeds have a master.
Alas, only because of ignorance am I misunderstood.

Those who understand me are rare.
Those who imitate me are honorable.

Thus does the Wise Man bear rags on his back and Jade in his heart.



Understanding without Knowledge is Transcendence.
Knowledge without Understanding is an affliction.

Only by recognizing the affliction, are you not afflicted.

The Wise Man is not afflicted,
because he recognizes the affliction.
Thus he is not afflicted



When people do not respect authority, a greater authority appears.

Do not invade their homes.
Do not complicate their lives.
Only when they are not wearied, will they not be weary.

Thus is the Wise Man self-aware, but not self-absorbed;
self-confident, but not self-centered.

Therefore, give up the latter for the former.



Courage to act means death.
Courage not to act means life.
Of these two, one brings profit and one brings ruin, which Heaven loathes.

Who knows the reason why.

Heaven's Way is to succeed without struggle,
to respond without words,
to summon without commands.

Worship properly, but plan well.

Heaven's net is all-embracing.
Its mesh is wide, but overlooks nothing.



People do not fear Death.
If it cannot be avoided, why should Death be feared ?

It would seem that if people normally fear Death, and behave badly,
I should capture and execute them.

Who would dare ?

Normally, government executioners do the killing.
Now, to replace them is to substitute for skilled professionals.

In doing so, take care not to injure your own hand.



People are starving,
because their leaders consume too much in taxes;
that is why they are starving.

People are difficult to govern,
because of what their leaders do;
that is why they are difficult to govern.

People treat Death lightly,
because the demands of Life are so great;
that is why they treat Death lightly.

Meanwhile, those who do nothing to support themselves
are more esteemed than honorable lives.



At birth, a man is soft and weak.
At death, he is strong and powerful.

From grass to trees, all things begin life weak and frail.
At death, they are withered and dry.

Therefore, the Strong and Powerful are disciples of Death.
The Soft and Weak are disciples of Life.

Thus military strength does not ensure Victory.

A tree's strength is like the army;
the Big and Strong decline,
the Soft and Weak prevail.



Heaven's Way is like bending a bow.
The High are lowered and the Low are raised.
The excess is diminished, and the deficiency is repaired.

Heavens way is to reduce the excess and repair the deficiency.

Man's way is not correct,
to decrease the deficient and increase the excessive.
Whoever can accumulate excess should offer it to the World.

This is the only Way.

Thus does the wise man govern and not exploit,
accomplish the results and not remain.

It is not his desire to be considered Wise.



Under Heaven, nothing is so soft and weak as water;
but it attacks the strong and powerful, and none can withstand it.
Nothing can change this.

Weak triumphs over Strong, Soft triumphs over Hard.
Under Heaven there is no one who does not know this,
but no one is able to practice it.

Thus does the wise man say:
bear the Country's Humiliation, to be Sovereign of the Soil and the Grain;
accept that the Country is not auspicious, to be King under Heaven.

True words seem a paradox.



In resolving great Enmity, some hatred is sure to remain.
How can this be good ?

Thus does the wise man assume the debt, and not blame others.
There is Virtue in taking Responsibility.
There is no Virtue in taking everything.

Heaven's Way is impartial, but generally favors good men.



A small country with few people,
who are allowed the use of their Uncles' tools;
but they don't use them.

Let people honor the dead and not move far away.
Although there are boats and carriages, none are used.
Although there are excellent weapons, none are displayed.

Let people return to the use of reckoning cords from here on;
be pleased with their food, satisfied with their clothing,
content in their homes, and happy with their customs.

Adjacent lands within sight of each other,
within the sound of each other's chickens and dogs;
where people live long lives, and die never having met.



True words are not flattering.
Flattering words are not true.

The Good do not argue.
One who argues is not Good.

The wise are not learned.
The learned are not wise.

The wise man does not hoard.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he does with others, the better he becomes.

Heaven's Way is to help, not harm.
The wise man's Way is to act without strife.Source Materials

Karl Kromal � December 2002 | email: vnobles@stny.rr.com
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