Das
Tao Te King
von
Lao Tse
English by
Henry Wei
http://www.sanmayce.com/

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1

Realization of Tao
T'i Tao


The Tao that can be stated is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.
The Unnameable is originator of Heaven and Earth.
The Nameable is mother of the ten thousand things.
Therefore,
Always be desireless, so as to discern Tao's wonderful essence;
Always have some desire, so as to discern its manifestations.
These two come out from the same source,
But are different in name.
Their identical nature is a mystery.
Mystery of mysteries -
That is the gate of all wonderful essence.



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2

Self-Culture
Yang Shen


When all the world knows beauty as beauty,
Then ugliness comes into being;
When all the world knows goodness as goodness,
Then evil comes into being.
Therefore,
Being and Non-Being condition each other;
Difficult and Easy give rise to each other;
Long and Short set off each other;
High and Low contrast each other;
Tone and Voice harmonize each other;
Front and Rear succeed each other.
Thus the Sage handles affairs non-assertively,
And imparts his teaching without words.
The ten thousand things grow apace,
But he does not let them down.
He produces but does not claim ownership;
He acts but does not presume on the result;
He achieves success but does not take the credit.
For the very reason that he takes no credit,
Credit does not separate from him.



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3

Peace to the People
An Min


Do not exalt the worthy,
So that the people will not contend.
Do not treasure hard-to-get objects,
So that the people will not become thieves.
Keep what is desirable out of sight,
So that their heart will not get excited.
Therefore, in ruling the people the Sage
Empties their hearts,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their aspirations,
Strengthens their bones.
He always makes them guileless and desireless,
And makes the guileful ones afraid to interfere.
Practice non-interference,
And there will never be any misrule.



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4

Source Non-Existent
Wu Yuan


Tao is hollow, yet its utility
Seems unlikely to reach the limit.
Profound indeed it is;
It seems to be the fount of all things.
It blunts the sharp;
It unravels the tangled;
It harmonizes with the light;
It mingles with the dust.
Calm like a deep pool it seems to remain.
I do not know whose son it is.
It apparently antecedes the Creator.



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5

The Utility of Hollowness
Hsu Yung


Heaven and Earth are not kindly;
They equate the ten thousand things with straw dogs.
The Sage is not kindly;
He equates the people with straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth,
Is it not like a bellows?
It is hollow, yet it never fails to supply.
The more it is worked, the more it gives forth.
Much talk often leads to exhaustion.
Better concentrate on the center.



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6

Perfection of the Symbol
Ch'eng Hsiang


The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
Hence comes the name Mysterious Female.
The gateway of the Mysterious Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuous like a thread it seems to exist;
Its utility is inexhaustible.



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7

Dimming the Light
T'ao Kuang


Heaven is eternal, Earth is durable.
The reason why they are eternal and durable
Is that they do not exist for themselves.
This is why they can long endure.
Therefore, the Sage putting himself behind,
Finds himself in front;
And placing himself beyond his concern,
Finds himself well preserved.
Is this not because he is unselfish?
For the very reason that he is unselfish,
He is able to find Self-fulfilment.



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8

Yielding Nature
I Hsing


A man of the superior type resembles water,
Whose goodness lies in benefiting all things without contention,
And staying in places detested by the masses.
This makes him closely akin to Tao.
The goodness of his abode is its low location.
The goodness of his heart is its cavern-like hollowness.
Benevolence is the goodness of his offerings.
Sincerity is the goodness of his speech.
The goodness of his rule means peace.
The goodness of his dealings means competence.
His moves are good because timely.
As he is not disposed to contend,
He causes little resentment.



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9

Practice of Placidity
Yun Yi


To hold and fill a vessel to brimful
Is not so good as to stop before the limit.
Hone a tool to its sharpest state,
And its keenness cannot be long preserved.
A hall filled with gold and jade
Can hardly be safeguarded.
To show pride in one's wealth and high rank
Is to pave the way for one's own doom.
Retire after achieving success and winning renown!
This is the Way of Heaven.



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10

It Can Be Done
Neng Wei


In harmonizing your hun and p'o to embrace the One,
Can you concentrate without deviating?
In attuning your breath to induce tenderness,
Can you become like a new-born babe?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic Mirror,
Can you make it free from all stain?
In loving the people and ruling the state,
Can you practice non-interference?
When the Heavenly Gate opens and closes,
Can you play the part of the Female?
When your light shines forth in all directions,
Can you ignore it with perfect equanimity?
To produce things and nourish them,
To produce but not to claim ownership,
To act but not to presume on the result,
To lead but not to manipulate, -
This is called Mystic Virtue.



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11

Utility of Non-Being
Wu Yung


Thirty spokes converge on the nave of a wheel:
It is where there is non-being (hollow space)
That the usefulness of the wheel lies.
Clay is molded into a vessel:
It is where there is non-being
That the usefulness of the vessel lies.
Doors and windows are hewn out to make a room:
It is where there is non-being
That the usefulness of the room lies.
Therefore, while being is valuable,
It is non-being that is useful.



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12

Examination of Desires
Chien Yu


The five colors blind man's eyes;
The five tones deafen man's ears;
The five flavors vitiate man's taste;
Racing and hunting make man's heart go wild;
Hard-to-get articles impede man's movement.
Thus the Sage cares for the belly, not the eye.
Indeed, he rejects this and adopts that.



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13

Abhorrence of shame
Yen Ch'ih


Favor and disgrace both seem startling.
Honor is great trouble if identified with the self.
What does it mean by saying
That favor and disgrace both seem startling?
Favor descends from superior to inferior.
The recipient seems startled upon getting it;
He seems no less startled upon losing it.
This is what it means by saying
That favor and disgrace both seem startling.
What does it mean by saying
That honor is great trouble if identified with the self?
The reason why I have great trouble
Is that I have a self;
If I am selfless and unselfish,
What trouble do I have?
Therefore, he who feels honored
In offering himself for the world,
Can be assigned the rule of the world;
He who loves to offer himself for the world,
Can be trusted with the world.



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14

In Praise of the Mysteries
Tsan Hsuan


What is invisible when looked at is called yi;
What is inaudible when listened to is called hsi;
What is elusive when grabbed at is called wei.
These three are not amenable to investigation;
Therefore, they mingle as One.
On rising, the One does not become bright;
On falling, it does not become dark.
Unnameable it goes on and on,
And again reverts to Non-Being.
This is called shape of the shapeless,
And form of the formless.
This is called winking-waning, as in a dream.
On greeting it, one cannot see its front;
On following it, one cannot see its back.
Taking hold of the Tao of antiquity
To cope with the problems of the present
Could make one know the ancient origins.
This is called the unbroken strand of Tao.



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15

Virtue Revealed
Hsien Teh


The good scholars of ancient times
Were keen, astute, mysterious, and intuitive.
They were so profound as to be incomprehensible.
Since they show themselves incomprehensible,
They must be depicted in some arbitrary way:
They were cautious as if fording a stream in winter,
Hesitant as if afraid of the neighbors around,
Dignified as if in the role of a guest;
They were easy-going, like ice about to melt,
Unpretentious, like wood in its virgin state,
Open-minded, like a valley,
And murky, like turbid water.
Who, being like turbid water, can remain calm,
So that quiescence will gradually lead to clarity?
Who can stay relaxed for a long while,
So that an impulse will gradually lead to Life?
He who conserves this Tao does not go to the limit.
For the reason that he does not go to the limit,
He can wear well and does not need renewal.



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16

Return to the Root
Kuei Ken


Empty the mind to the utmost extent.
Maintain quiescence with the whole being.
The ten thousand things are growing with one impulse,
Yet I can discern their cyclic return.
Luxuriant indeed are the growing things;
Yet each again will return to the root.
Returning to the root means quiescence;
Quiescence means renewal of life;
Renewal of life means in tune with the Immutable.
Knowing the Immutable brings enlightenment.
Not knowing the Immutable causes disaster.
Knowing the Immutable, one will be broad-minded;
Being broad-minded, one will be impartial;
Being impartial, one will be kingly;
Being kingly, one will attain the Divine;
Attaining the Divine, one will merge with Tao,
And become immortal and imperishable,
Even after the disappearance of the body.



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17

The Atmosphere of Simplicity
Ch'un Feng


The best rulers are not known to the people;
Then come those who are loved and praised;
Then those who are held in awe;
And lastly those who are despised.
When one's faith is inadequate,
It will not evoke faith from other people.
(Wise rulers) are wary and treasure their words.
When their task is accomplished and their work done,
All the people would say:
"We did it of our free will."



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18

Social Decadence
Su Po


The Great Tao having been abandoned,
There arise benevolence and righteousness.
With the emergence of wit and wisdom,
There comes into being monstrous hypocrisy.
When the six relatives fail to live in harmony,
There arise filial piety and parental love.
When the state falls into darkness and disorder,
There come into existence loyal ministers.



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19

Return to Innocence
Huan Ch'un


Forswear wisdom, discard knowledge,
And the people will gain a hundredfold.
Forswear benevolence, discard righteousness,
And the people will recover filial and parental love.
Forswear skill, discard profit,
And thieves and robbers will not appear.
These three steps are inadequate for culture.
They, therefore, have to encompass some others,
Such as:
Display plainness, embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness, and decrease desires.



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20

Different from the Madding Crowd
I Su


Forswear learning, and vexation will vanish.
Between an abrupt "Yes" and a gentle "Yea,"
How much is the difference?
Between the good and the bad,
How much is the difference?
What others fear, one should also fear -
What a silly notion!
Whither will it lead?
Merrily, merrily, the multitude is rejoicing,
As if feasting after the Great Sacrifice,
As if mounting the Terrace of Love.
I alone remain indifferent and show no emotion,
Like an infant as yet unable to smile.
Wandering aimlessly,
I look like a homeless tramp.
The multitude all have enough and to spare;
I alone seem to be left on the wayside.
Oh, my mind is indeed like that of an idiot!
So dull, so dull I feel.
The worldlings are bright and cheerful;
I alone feel gloomy and dismal.
The worldlings are smart and self-confident;
I alone feel disgusted and depressed.
Restless like the sea,
I drift along as if never able to settle down.
The multitude all have some worthy employment;
I alone am stubborn and worthless.
I alone differ from other people,
And love to draw nourishment from the Mother.



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21

Hollow Heart
Hsu Hsin


The inherent quality of Grand Virtue (Teh)
Always conforms only to Tao.
Tao is something dreamily winking and waning.
Waning, winking, it embodies forms;
Winking, waning, it embodies things.
It may seem receding afar and darkening,
Yet within it there is an essence.
This essence is very real.
Inside is something invariably vital.
From hoary antiquity to the present time,
Its effect has never gone awry,
And serves as witness to the Creator of all things.
How do I know the way of the Creator?
Through this (witness).



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22

Strength to the Humble
I Ch'ien


To be crooked is to become perfect;
To be bent is to become straight;
To be hollow is to become full;
To be worn out is to be renewed;
To have little is to receive more;
To have plenty is to be perplexed.
Therefore, the Sage embraces the One,
And serves as model for the world.
As he does not like to show off, he is enlightened;
As he is not prone to be self-righteous, he is distinguished;
As he does not blow his own horn, he acquires merit;
As he does not extol himself, he is fit to be a leader.
And it is precisely because he does not contend,
That no one under heaven can contend with him.
The ancient saying "To be crooked is to become perfect"
Surely is not an empty remark.
The world goes to him who is truly perfect.



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23

Emptiness and Non-Being
Hsu Wu


Nature is brief in its speech.
Thus a tempest does not last a whole morning,
Nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What is it that causes the wind and rain?
It is Heaven and Earth.
Even Heaven and Earth cannot be long in their outbursts.
How much the less can man in his!
Therefore, in the pursuit of Tao,
Those tending toward Tao will identify with Tao;
Those tending toward virtue will identify with virtue;
Those tending toward failure will identify with failure.
To those identified with Tao,
Tao will gladly extend welcome;
To those identified with virtue,
Virtue will gladly extend welcome;
To those identified with failure,
Failure will gladly extend welcome.
When one's own faith is inadequate,
It will not evoke faith from other people.



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24

Bitter Favors
K'u En


He who stands on tip-toe will totter;
He who takes long strides is a poor walker.
He who likes to show off is not enlightened;
He who is prone to be self-righteous is not distinguished;
He who blows his own horn will acquire no merit;
He who extols himself is not fit to be a leader.
From the standpoint of Tao, it can be said:
"Eating excessive food or to walk with a burden
May be disgusting to creatures."
People possessed of Tao, therefore, reject them.



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25

Symbol of the Great Origin
Hsiang Yuan


There is something formless and perfect,
Ever-existing, even before birth of Heaven and Earth.
How still it is!
How quiet!
Abiding alone and unchanging,
It pervades everywhere without fail.
Well may it be the mother of the world.
I do not know its name,
But label it Tao,
And arbitrarily name it Great.
Great means going incessantly;
Going incessantly means reaching far;
Reaching far means completing the cycle.
Therefore,
Tao is Great;
Heaven is Great;
Earth is Great;
Kingliness is Great.
In the cosmos there are four Greats,
And Kingliness constitutes one of them.
Man patterns after Earth;
Earth patterns after Heaven;
Heaven patterns after Tao;
Tao patterns after Innate Freedom.



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26

Gravity as a Virtue
Chung Teh


Heaviness is the root of lightness;
Quiescence is the master of hastiness.
Thus the Sage traveling all day
Will not stay away from his loaded cart.
Though glorious prospects are in view,
He remains serene in a transcendental atmosphere.
For what reason should it be
That a weighty person like the lord of ten thousand chariots
Would consider himself lighter than worldly vanities?
In making light of himself, he loses his ministers;
In being hasty, he loses his kingly command.



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27

Skillful Application
Ch'iao Yung


A good walker leaves no traces behind;
A good speaker leaves no blemishes for criticism;
A good counter does not use counting chips;
A good lock has no bolt, yet cannot be opened;
A good knot has no string, yet cannot be untied.
Thus the Sage (in his silent and subtle way)
Is always good in saving people,
Thereby leaving no people unsaved;
And always good in saving things,
Thereby leaving nothing unsaved.
This is called "Passing the light."
Hence the good man is the teacher of the bad,
And the bad is object lesson for the good.
He who does not honor his teacher,
Nor loves any object lesson,
Is lost in a great maze, clever though he may be.
Such is called Significant Subtlety.



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28

Return to Simplicity
Fan P'u


He, who knows the Male
And yet holds on to the Female,
Becomes the ravine of the world.
Being the ravine of the world,
He is always in union with Eternal Virtue,
And returns to the state of the new-born babe.
He, who knows the white (Yang)
And yet holds on to the black (Yin),
Becomes a model for the world.
Being a model for the world,
His Eternal Virtue becomes unerring,
And he returns to the Infinite.
He, who is aware of glory
And yet holds on to ignominy,
Becomes the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
His Eternal Virtue becomes sufficient,
And he returns to the state of virgin wood (simplicity).
The virgin wood, on being cut up, is used as implements.
Sages, who make use of the implements,
Become high officials and leaders.
The Supreme Ruler uses the wood without cutting it.



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29

Non-Action
Wu Wei


One might wish to get hold of the world,
And wilfully interfere with it.
In my view, this is bound to fail.
The world is a Divine Vessel.
It cannot be interfered with.
He who interferes with it spoils it;
He who grasps it loses it.
For among the creatures of the world,
Some are leaders, some are followers;
Some tend to condone, some to condemn;
Some are strong, some are weak;
Some are forward-looking, some are downcast.
The Sage, therefore, eschews the excessive,
Eschews the extravagant, and eschews the extreme.



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30

Moderate Use of Force
Chien Wu


He who uses Tao to assist the ruler of a people
Will not employ armed force to dominate the world.
For such a scheme is apt to boomerang.
Where armies are quartered,
Briers and brambles abound.
After a great war, famine inevitably happens.
Therefore,
A good-natured man attains his objective and stops;
He dares not grab by violence.
He wants to attain his objective,
But does not extol it,
Nor brag about it, nor take pride in it.
He attains his objective as if it could not be helped,
And does not use it to practice violence.
For things, after their prime, will begin to decay.
Decay indicates disregard of Tao.
Whatever disregards Tao soon vanishes.



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31

Banning the Use of Force
Yen Wu


Fine weapons are inauspicious instruments.
They are probably detested by the people.
Therefore, he who is possessed of Tao rejects them.
The superior man honors the left in time of peace;
In time of war he honors the right.
Weapons are inauspicious instruments;
They are not instruments for the superior man.
He uses them only under dire necessity,
And in this case priority is given to moderation.
He does not consider victory a fine thing.
Those who consider victory a fine thing
Are those who delight in slaughtering people.
Those who delight in slaughtering people
Can never gratify their ambition to win the world.
Therefore, the left is favored for felicitous occasions;
For mournful occasions, the right is favored.
The second-in-command stands on the left,
While the commander-in-chief stands on the right;
For according to funeral rites are they treated.
Mass slaughter is to be bewailed with grief and sorrow.
Victory is to be mourned with funeral rites.



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32

Holy Virtue
Sheng Teh


Tao is eternal and has no name.
Though P'u (Simplicity) may appear puny,
Yet the world dare not dominate it.
If kings and nobles can preserve it intact,
The ten thousand things will gladly pay them homage.
Heaven and Earth unite in harmony
To pour down showers of sweet dew,
To benefit all mankind graciously and evenly.
Institutions once begun, names come into being.
Names having come into being,
One should know where to rest.
To know where to rest is to forestall peril.
Tao differentiated in the world (will return to One),
Like streams and rivers flowing to the sea.



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33

Discriminating Virtue
Pien Teh


He who knows others is wise;
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others is strong;
He who conquers himself is valiant.
He who knows contentment is rich;
He who acts with determination has high aims.
He who has not lost his proper abode endures;
He who dies and yet does not perish becomes immortal.



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34

Natural Perfection
Ren Ch'eng


The Great Tao is all pervasive;
It could be on your right or on your left.
The ten thousand things depend on it for growth,
And it never lets them down.
It achieves success but is not possessive.
It enfolds and nourishes the ten thousand things,
Yet it does not claim ownership.
Always desireless and covetous of nothing,
It could be termed small.
But as the ten thousand things return to it,
And it does not care to be their lord,
It could be termed great.
Thus the Sage never in life tries to be great,
And for this very reason becomes truly great.



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35

Virtue of Benevolence
Ren Teh


Hold fast to the Great Form,
And wherever in the world you go,
You will meet with no harm,
But enjoy security, peace, and well-being.
Where there is music with good food,
The passers-by will pause and linger.
But Tao, on being set forth orally,
Is insipid and tasteless.
It is invisible when looked at,
And inaudible when listened to,
Yet its utility will never come to an end.



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36

Faint Light
Wei Ming


Wishing to restrict anything,
One must first expand it;
Wishing to weaken anything,
One must first strengthen it;
Wishing to abolish anything,
One must first set it up;
Wishing to take from anything,
One must first supply it.
This is called Faint Light.
The soft conquers the hard;
The weak conquers the strong.
Fish should not break forth from the deep;
Deadly weapons of the state must not be shown off.



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37

The Way of Government
Wei Cheng


Tao is eternal and devoid of action,
Yet there is nothing it does not do.
If kings and nobles can preserve it intact,
The ten thousand things will reform of themselves.
If after the reform they desire to be active,
I shall calm them with the Nameless Simplicity (p'u),
The Nameless Simplicity will induce desirelessness,
Desirelessness will tend to quiescence,
And the world will set itself on the right course.



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38

Discourse on Virtue
Lun Teh


Superior virtue is not virtue-conscious,
Therefore it has virtue.
Inferior virtue never forgets virtue,
Therefore it has no virtue.
Superior virtue does not interfere,
And has no motive to interfere.
Inferior virtue interferes,
And has a motive to interfere.
Superior benevolence interferes without motive;
Superior righteousness interferes from motive;
Superior propriety interferes,
And failing to evoke any response,
Lifts its arm and resorts to violence.
Therefore,
After the loss of Tao, virtue appears;
After the loss of virtue, benevolence appears;
After the loss of benevolence, righteousness appears;
After the loss of righteousness, propriety appears.
Propriety is a mere veneer of loyalty and sincerity,
And constitutes the prime cause of confusion.
Traditional knowledge is the flower (outward show) of Tao,
And has become the origin of folly.
Therefore, men of the heroic type abide by depth,
And stay away from shallowness;
Abide by the fruit and stay away from the flower.
Forsooth, they reject this and adopt that.



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39

Foundation of the Law
Fa Pen


Since antiquity, these have possessed the One -
Heaven in possession of the One has become clear;
Earth in possession of the One has become steady;
Spirits in possession of the One have become divine;
Valleys in possession of the One have become full;
Creatures in possession of the One have become alive;
Kings and nobles in possession of the One have become exemplary.
All the above became what they are in the same way.
Heaven without the One to make it clear
Is apt to crack;
Earth without the One to make it steady
Is apt to quake;
Spirits without the One to make them divine
Are apt to cease operation;
Valleys without the One to make them full
Are apt to become dry;
Creatures without the One to make them alive
Are apt to become extinct;
Kings and nobles without the One to make them exemplary
Are apt to lose their prestige and eminence.
Forsooth, the honorable is rooted in the humble,
And the high is founded on the low.
So kings and nobles call themselves orphaned, lonely, and unworthy.
Does not this indicate that the honorable is rooted in the humble?
Indeed, if a chariot is taken apart,
There will no longer be any chariot.
Desire not to be like polished jade,
But rather to be like rough rocks.



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40

Movement and Function
Ch'u Yung


Cyclic reversion is Tao's movement.
Weakness is Tao's function.
All things in the universe are derived from Being.
Being is derived from Non-Being.



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41

Similarity and Difference
T'ung I


The first-rate scholar, on hearing Tao,
Is diligent in practicing it;
The second-rate scholar, on hearing Tao,
Wavers between faith and forgetfulness;
The third-rate scholar, on hearing Tao,
Bursts into loud laughter.
If not laughed at, it would not be Tao!
Hence the following proverbs -
He who understands Tao seems confounded by it.
He who advances toward Tao seems retreating from it.
He who follows plain Tao seems treading on rugged ground.
Superior virtue appears to be hollow.
Perfect purity appears to be tainted.
Vast virtue appears to be inadequate.
Solid virtue appears to be infirm.
Genuine substance appears to be spurious.
Vast space is devoid of corners.
Great talent is late in maturing.
A high note can hardly be heard.
The Great Form has no sign.
Tao is hidden and has no name;
Yet only Tao excels in contributing to achievement.



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42

Tao and Transformation
Tao Hua


Tao gave birth to One;
One gave birth to Two;
Two gave birth to Three;
Three gave birth to the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry Yin and embrace Yang.
The two primordial breaths blend and produce harmony.
To be orphaned or lonely or unworthy
Is what all people detest;
Yet kings and nobles apply those terms to themselves.
Indeed, things sometimes benefit by an intended injury,
And sometimes receive injury from an intended benefit.
What others teach, I shall also teach:
"The strong and violent will die an unnatural death."
This will serve as my chief lesson.



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43

Universal Application
Pien Yung


The softest things in the world
Can match and overcome the hardest.
Non-being penetrates even the crackless.
Thus the value of non-interference is clear to me.
The teaching without words,
And the virtue of non-interference,
Can hardly be matched in the world.



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44

Self-Imposed Abstinences
Li Chieh


Which is more dear:
Fame or health?
Which is more valuable:
Health or wealth?
Which is more baneful:
Gain or loss?
Excessive love is bound to cause great expense.
Immense hoarding is bound to end in heavy loss.
He who knows contentment is free from disgrace;
He who knows when to quit will be free from peril.
He can endure a long time.



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45

Grand Virtue
Hung Teh


Great perfection seems imperfect;
Its utility will never deteriorate.
Great fullness seems hollow;
Its utility will be inexhaustible.
The most straight appears to be bent;
The most skillful appears to be awkward;
The most eloquent appears to be stammering.
Hastiness subdues cold;
Quiescence subdues heat.
Purity and quiescence are the norms of the universe.



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46

Moderation of Desire
Chien Yu


When the world goes in accord with Tao,
Horses are used for hauling manure.
When the world is out of keeping with Tao,
Horses are reared in the suburbs for war.
No sin is greater than yielding to desires;
No misfortune greater than not knowing contentment;
No fault greater than hankering after wealth.
Therefore, know contentment!
He who knows contentment is always content.



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47

Far Seeing
Chien Yuan


Without going out of doors,
One can know the world;
Without looking through the window,
One can realize the Way of Heaven.
The farther one goes,
The less one knows.
Therefore, the Sage knows without going out,
Discriminates without seeing,
And accomplishes without action.



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48

Forgetting Knowledge
Wang Chih


To learn, one increases day by day;
To cultivate Tao, one reduces day by day.
Reduce and reduce and keep on reducing,
Till the state of non-action is reached.
With non-action there is nothing that cannot be done.
Therefore, he who wins the world
Always resorts to non-action.
Once he resorts to action,
He will not be qualified to win the world.



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49

Trust in Virtue
Ren Teh


The Sage has no fixed state of mind;
His reflects the state of mind of the people.
To the good, I show goodness;
To the not good, I also show goodness;
Hence goodness is realized.
To the sincere, I show sincerity;
To the insincere, I also show sincerity;
Hence sincerity is realized.
While in the world, the Sage is very anxious
To harmonize his mind for the harmony of the world.
To him all the people turn their eyes and ears;
He treats them all alike as children.



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50

Importance of Life
Kuei Sheng


As life emerges, death enters.
The agents of life are thirteen;
The agents of death are likewise thirteen;
The thirteen also may make men move in a death spot.
Why so?
Because life is lived in too intense a manner.
I have heard that -
He, who is adept in guarding his life,
Will not come across rhinoceros and tigers,
When travelling on land;
And when in the armed forces,
Will not get wounded by deadly weapons.
In him the rhinoceros can find no place to butt,
Nor can the tiger find any place to claw,
Nor can the weapons find any place to injure.
Why so?
Because there is no death spot in him.



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51

Nourishing Virtue
Yang Teh


Tao produces all things;
Teh (virtue) rears them;
Material elements shape them;
Environmental forces perfect them.
That's why of the ten thousand things,
None does not honor Tao and exalt Teh.
Tao is honored and Teh is exalted,
Not in obedience to anyone's command,
But always in accord with Innate Freedom.
Thus while Tao produces things, Teh rears them,
Brings them up, develops them, perfects them,
Matures them, feeds them, and shelters them.
To produce but not to claim ownership,
To act but not to presume on the result,
To lead but not to manipulate -
This is called Mystic Virtue.



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52

Return to the Origin
Kuei Yuan


The world has a beginning as its mother.
Having got hold of the mother,
Know her children;
And having known the children,
Further hold on to the mother,
And you will survive the disappearance of the body.
Stop up the aperture of the vessel (tui),
And shut the doors (of the senses),
And you will not be devitalized all your life.
Open the aperture of the vessel,
And fulfill your carnal affairs,
And your whole life will be beyond salvation.
To be able to see the minute is to have keen vision;
To be able to remain docile is to be strong.
Make use of the light,
Withdraw its brilliance inward,
Cause no injury to your body -
This is called "Abide by the Immutable."



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53

Increasing Evidence
I Cheng


If I were determined, with the knowledge I have,
To walk along the Great Highway,
My only fear would be to stray from it.
The Great Highway is very safe and plain;
Yet people prefer the bypaths.
While the Court is very magnificent,
The fields have become very barren,
And the granaries have become very empty;
Yet officials are dressed in gorgeous garments,
Carry sharp swords,
Gorge themselves with sumptuous food and drink,
And possess a superabundance of precious articles.
Such patent robbery is the usher of other robberies.
Verily it goes contrary to Tao.



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54

Rectifying Viewpoints
Hsiu Kuan


Those adept in establishing themselves
Cannot be plucked up;
Those adept in the act of embracing
Cannot be made to relax their hold.
They are worshipped for generations in a row.
Cultivate Tao in one's person,
And its virtue will be genuine;
Cultivate Tao in one's family,
And its virtue will be overflowing;
Cultivate Tao in one's village,
And its virtue will be long enduring;
Cultivate Tao in one's state,
And its virtue will be abundant;
Cultivate Tao in one's empire,
And its virtue will be pervasive.
Therefore,
By one's person, one sizes up other persons;
By one's family, one sizes up other families;
By one's village, one sizes up other villages;
By one's state, one sizes up other states;
By one's empire, one sizes up other empires.
How do I know this is so with the empire?
By this.



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55

The Mystic Charm
Hsuan Fu


He who is profoundly endowed with virtue
May be compared to an infant.
Poisonous insects do not sting him;
Wild beasts do not seize hold of him;
Birds of prey do not pounce upon him.
Weak in bone and soft in sinews,
He yet has a firm grip.
Though ignorant of intercourse between the sexes,
His genital organ is yet firm and strong,
Indicating the plenitude of his vital essence.
He may scream all day,
Yet his voice does not become hoarse,
Indicating the plenitude of his inner harmony.
To know harmony is to accord with the Immutable;
To accord with the Immutable means enlightenment.
Improvement in health is a good omen;
Mental control of the breath means strength.
Things begin to decay after reaching the prime.
Decay indicates disregard of Tao.
Whatever disregards Tao soon vanishes.



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56

Mystic Virtue
Hsuan Teh


Those who know do not speak;
Those who speak do not know.
Stop up the aperture of the vessel,
Shut the doors of the senses,
Blunt the sharp,
Unravel the tangled,
Harmonize with the light,
Merge with the dust, -
This is called Mystic Assimilation.
Men with this attainment, therefore, are
Above endearment or estrangement,
Above enrichment or impoverishment,
And above exaltation or degradation.
Therefore they are highly honored by the world.



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57

Atmosphere of Innocence
Ch'un Feng


Use justice to rule a country;
Use strange tactics to conduct battles;
Use non-assertion to win the world.
How do I know this should be the case?
By this -
When the world abounds in prohibitions,
The people will become impoverished.
When men have plenty of weapons in hand,
The state will be in great confusion.
When men have plenty of techniques and skills,
Queer articles will crop up in abundance.
When laws and decrees are numerous and manifest,
Bandits and robbers will increase and multiply.
Therefore, the Sage has said -
I practice non-interference,
And the people reform themselves;
I love to be quiescent,
And the people become upright;
I do not assert myself,
And the people become wealthy;
I cherish no desires,
And the people become simple and innocent.



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58

Transformation Without Friction
Shun Hua


When the government is shrouded in gloom,
The people will be simple and honest.
When the government is sharp and officious,
The people will get disgusted and discontented.
Misfortune is what fortune leans on;
Fortune is where misfortune conceals itself.
Who can know the ultimate result?
Is there no justice?
Anyway, justice will become injustice again,
And good will turn into evil once more.
Mankind has been thus deluded for a long time.
That's why the Sage acts four-square,
But does not "cut" people to his own shape;
He has a high sense of integrity,
But is not offensive to people;
He is upright and straightforward,
But does not push people around;
He is bright and brilliant,
But does not outshine people.



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59

Adherence to Tao
Shou Tao


In ruling men and serving Heaven,
Nothing is comparable to a prudent economy.
A prudent economy means early preparation;
Early preparation means further accumulation of virtue;
Further accumulation of virtue can subdue everything;
The ability to subdue everything knows no bounds;
Knowing no bounds (in subduing opposition)
Can lead to the possession of a kingdom;
Possession of a kingdom along with its Mother
Can endure a long time.
This is called "deep roots and strong stalks."
It is the way to eternal life and everlasting vision.



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60

Maintaining One's Position
Chu Wei


Ruling a big country is like frying a little fish.
When Tao is made to prevail in the world,
Evil spirits will lose their supernal power.
Not that they lose their supernal power,
But rather that the supernal power does no harm to people.
Not only the supernal power does no harm to people,
The Sage (Ruler) also will do no harm.
As both do not mutually cause any harm,
Virtue reverts to all parties respectively.



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61

Virtue of Humility
Ch'ien Teh


A great country should assume a low position.
Being the hub of the world,
It should play the part of the Female.
The Female always employs quiescence
To subdue the Male, and takes a low position.
Therefore, a big country, stooping low,
Will win over a small country;
And a small country, staying low,
Will win over a big country.
Therefore, some stoop low to conquer,
And some stay low to conquer.
What a big country wants is merely
To absorb and support more people;
What a small country wants is merely
To enter a big country to offer services.
For each of the two to get what it wants,
The big country, therefore, should be lowly.



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62

Practicing Tao
Wei Tao


Tao is a mystery within all things.
It is a treasure to the good men;
To the bad men it gives protection.
Fine words may be shown at the market place;
Noble deeds may serve as gifts to people.
Some people may not be good,
But why should any of them be discarded?
Therefore, when an emperor is enthroned,
Or when the three chief ministers are installed,
Though they may have fine pieces of jade
Respectfully presented before the team of horses,
There is nevertheless nothing better for them
Than to sit (in meditation) and advance in Tao.
For what reason did the ancients prize this Tao?
Did they not say:
"With Tao one finds what one seeks,
And can get pardoned for one's offenses"?
Hence Tao is highly prized by the world.



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63

Origin of Favors
En Shih


Practice non-interference.
Assert non-assertion.
Taste the tasteless.
Regard small as great, little as much.
Requite evil with virtue.
Tackle difficult tasks while they are easy;
Perform great tasks while they are small.
Difficult tasks must be begun when yet easy;
Great tasks must be begun when yet small.
That's why the Sage, to the end of his days,
Does not have to tackle great tasks,
And for this very reason achieves greatness.
Promises lightly made show little good faith;
Duties neglected are bound to become difficult.
That's why the Sage assumes things to be difficult,
And never in life incurs any difficulty.



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64

Attend to the Insignificant
Shou Wei


What is secure can be easily maintained.
What is yet unmanifest can be easily tackled.
What is brittle can be easily broken.
What is puny can be easily scattered.
Act before any trouble starts.
Enforce order before disorder arises.
A big tree, whose girth fills a man's embrace,
Springs from a tender shoot.
A terrace nine stories in height
Rises from a heap of earth.
A journey one thousand miles long
Begins with the first step.
He who interferes will fail;
He who grasps will lose.
Therefore, the Sage does not interfere,
And incurs no failure;
He does not grasp,
And suffers no loss.
People in handling their affairs
Often fail when within an ace of fulfilment.
Be circumspect at the end as at the beginning,
And there will be no failure.
Therefore the Sage desires what is not desired (by others),
And does not treasure hard-to-get objects.
He learns what is not learned (by others),
And restores what the multitude has skipped.
He assists the natural trend of all things,
But dares not venture to tamper with it.



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65

Virtue of Innocence
Ch'un Teh


The ancients who were adept in following Tao
Used it not to develop the people's intelligence,
But to keep the people simple-minded.
People are difficult to rule,
Because they have too much knowledge.
Therefore, to use knowledge to rule a country
Inflicts a curse on the country;
Not to use knowledge to rule a country
Confers a boon on the country.
He who is aware of these two rules
Also sets a standard pattern (as the ancients did).
Awareness of the standard pattern is called Mystic Virtue.
As Mystic Virtue goes deep and reaches far,
And leads creatures to revert to their origin,
Then Great Concord will prevail.



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66

Apres Vous
Hou Chi


That rivers and seas can be kings of all valleys
Is because they are good in staying low.
That's why they can be kings of all valleys.
Thus the Sage wishing to be above the people
Always speaks as if he were inferior to them;
And wishing to lead the people,
Always places himself behind them.
So when the Sage occupies a high position,
The people do not feel any oppression;
And when he occupies a leading position,
The people do not receive any harm.
Therefore the world is glad to support him,
And never gets tired of doing so.
Because he does not contend,
No one in the world can contend with him.



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67

Three Treasures
San Pao


All the world says I am great
But rather odd and different from the ordinary.
Be it noted that greatness itself is the very reason
Why it appears rather odd and different from the ordinary.
If it had resembled the ordinary,
It would have become pettiness long ago.
I have three treasures.
Keep them and treasure them.
The first is compassion;
The second is frugality;
The third is:
Dare not be first in the world.
Because compassionate, a person can be courageous;
Because frugal, he can expand his scope;
Because he dare not be first in the world, he can develop his gifts of leadership.
Nowadays people are courageous without compassion,
Expand their scope without frugality,
And assume leadership without being humble.
They are doomed!
Compassion is invincible in offense,
And in defense invulnerable.
When Heaven wants to deliver a person from harm,
It grants him compassion as a protective charm.



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68

Harmony with Heaven
P'ei T'ien


A good warrior is not warlike;
A good fighter does not lose his temper;
A good conqueror is not pugnacious;
A good leader of men is humble.
This is called the virtue of non-contention,
Also called the use of other's strength,
Also called harmony with Heaven's Eternal Supreme Will.



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69

Mystic Application
Hsuan Yung


Military strategists have said -
I dare not be the host,
But prefer to be the guest.
I dare not advance one inch,
But prefer to retreat a foot.
This is called -
Marching as if without motion;
Brandishing arms as if having none;
Attacking as if without enmity;
Seizing as if without weapons.
No disaster is greater than belittling the enemy.
Belittling the enemy almost ruins my treasures.
Therefore, when two armies encounter each other,
The side that laments war will win.



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70

Difficult to Understand
Chih Nan


My teaching is very easy to understand,
And very easy to carry out.
Yet the world is incapable of understanding it,
And incapable of carrying it out.
My teaching has an ancient source,
My practices have a ruling principle.
As people are ignorant of this,
So they fail to understand me.
When those who understand me are few,
Then I am distinguished indeed.
That's why the Sage wears a coarse cotton robe,
To conceal the jade ornament worn on his bosom.



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71

Knowing the Disease
Chih Ping


He who knows what he does not know is superior.
He who does not know what he knows is diseased.
Only when a disease is recognized as a disease
Can the disease cease to be disease.
The Sage is free from disease;
He recognizes a disease as a disease,
Therefore he is free from disease.



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72

Self-Respect
Ai Chi


When people no longer fear authority,
Great Authority will come to them.
Do not pen them up in narrow surroundings;
Do not make them weary of life.
Only when they are not wearied,
Will they cease to be weary.
That's why the Sage has self-knowledge,
But does not display himself;
He maintains his self-respect,
But does not feel high and mighty.
Forsooth, he rejects this and adopts that.



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73

Natural Action
Ren Wei


Courage in daring leads to slaughter;
Courage in daring not leads to life.
Either may have its advantage or disadvantage.
When Heaven detests anything,
Who can know the reason why?
Thus even the Sage feels some difficulty here.
Heaven's way does not contend, yet excels in winning;
It does not speak, yet excels in making response;
It receives no summons, yet would come of itself;
It is patient and easy-going, yet excels in planning.
The net of Heaven spreads far and wide;
Though its meshes are large,
Yet it allows nothing to slip through.



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74

Subdue Delusion
Chih Huo


When the people are not afraid of death,
What avails it to scare them with death?
Assuming that they often do fear death,
And that any pervert can be seized and killed,
Who dares to do the killing?
It is the job of the Director of Death to kill.
To take over the job of the Director of Death
Is like wielding the hammer for the master-builder.
He who wields the hammer for the master-builder
Seldom escapes wounding himself in the hand.



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75

The Harm of Greed
T'an Sun


The reason why the people are starving
Is that the officials "eat their taxes" too much.
That's why the people are starving.
The reason why the people are difficult to rule
Is that the authorities resort to interference.
That's why the people are difficult to rule.
The reason why the people make light of death
Is that they are too eager for high living.
That's why the people make light of death.
Those who have nothing to make life pleasurable
Are worthier than those who value high living.



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76

Abstain from Hardness
Chieh Ch'iang


Man is soft and weak at birth;
At death he is hard and rigid.
The ten thousand things, herbs and trees,
Are soft and delicate when growing up;
In dying, they wither and look haggard.
Thus hardness and rigidity are companions of death;
Softness and weakness are companions of life.
Therefore armies, having become rigid, will not win;
Trees, having become rigid, will break asunder.
The big and rigid will be laid low;
The soft and weak will be lifted up.



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77

The Way of Heaven
T'ien Tao


The Way of Heaven,
Is it not like stretching the bow?
What is high is brought low;
What is low is pulled up;
What is superfluous is taken off;
What is deficient is strengthened.
The Way of Heaven takes from what has a surplus
To supply what has a deficit.
The way of men acts differently.
It takes from what has a deficit
To serve what has a surplus.
Who will use his surplus to serve the world?
Only the man who is possessed of Tao.
Thus the Sage acts but does not presume on the result;
He achieves success but does not claim any credit.
Doesn't this show that he dislikes showing off his worth?



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78

Trust in Faith
Ren Hsin


Nothing in the world
Surpasses water in softness and weakness;
Yet among things that attack the hard and strong,
None can do a better job than water.
Nothing can serve as its substitute.
Therefore the weak overcomes the strong;
The soft overcomes the hard.
Few in the world do not know this;
Yet nobody is able to put it into practice.
Therefore the Sage says:
He who bears the blame for the ignominy of his country
Can be called lord of the state;
He who bears the blame for the misfortune of his country
Can become king of the world.
Statements of the truth seem paradoxical.



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79

Observance of Obligations
Ren Ch'i


In allaying a great grievance,
There is bound to be some grievance remaining.
How can this be called good?
Therefore the Sage holds the left tally,
But does not urge the other party to keep his word.
Thus the virtuous seeks to preserve the contract;
The unvirtuous seeks to blame the other party.
The Way of Heaven has no preferences,
But always suits the good man.



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80

Independence
Tu Li


A state should be small in size and population.
It should teach the people not to use arms,
Even though arms may be found in abundance.
It should teach the people
To view death as a serious matter,
And not to move to a far-away place.
Though there are boats and carriages,
There is no occasion to use them;
Though there are arms and soldiers,
There is no occasion to stage public reviews.
The people are taught -
To resume the practice of tying knots;
To enjoy their daily food;
To wear beautiful clothes;
To enhance the comfort of their homes;
And to take delight in their social customs.
Neighbor states may be within sight of one another,
And the barking of dogs and the crowing of cocks
In one of them may be heard in the others,
Yet the people to the end of their days,
Do not maintain intercourse with their neighbors.



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81

Expressing the Essential
Hsien Chih


Truthful words do not sound sweet;
Sweet words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue;
Those who argue are lacking in goodness.
The seers of truth are not vast in learning;
People with vast learning are not seers.
The Sage does not hoard.
The more he serves the people,
The more he gains.
The more he gives to the people,
The more he possesses.
The Way of Heaven is to benefit, not to harm;
The way of the Sage is to act, not to contend.


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