Tao Te King
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura
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The Tao Eternal is beyond definition.
No name given can capture its eternality.
Nameless, it is the origin of the Kosmos.
Named, it is the beginning of all things.
Nothingness, it is the inner being of the Kosmos.
Thingness, it is the outer distinctions of the Kosmos.
These two, though different in names, arise from the same source:
The source called the Invisible.
Invisible beyond the invisible,
It is the entry into the myriad wonders of the Eternal Kosmos.
When the world recognizes beauty as beauty, ugliness arises.
When the world recognizes good as good, evil arises.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy define each other.
Long and short form each other.
High and low support each other.
Tone and voice accompany each other.
Before and after follow each other.
the sage lives in the state of non-action - of eternal balance,
And teaches by the precept of silence - and through his silent deed.
He accepts things as they arise,
Creates without possessing,
Performs without depending,
Accomplishes without claiming credit.
Because he does not claim credit for himself,
His virtues endure forever more.
When the learned is not over esteemed,
There will not be unnecessary competition amongst people.
When the treasure is not over valued,
There will not be acts of stealing amongst people.
When we do not show people things that stir up their wants,
Their minds will not be disturbed.
Therefore, the sage governs the people by
Restoring balance in value and worth, through
Emptying people's minds and filling their essence,
Weakening their ambition and strengthening their character,
Freeing them from knowledge and wants, and
Keeping the learned from over exercising their authority.
Act in accordance with the principle of non-action - of eternal balance,
Then order will arise of itself.
Empty of all doctrines,
The Tao is wisdom eternally inexhaustible.
Fathomless for the mere intellect,
The Tao is the law wherewith all things come into being.
It blunts the edges of the intellect,
Untangles the knots of the mind,
Softens the glare of thinking,
And settles the dust of thought.
Transparent yet invisible,
The Tao exists like deep pellucid water.
Its origin is unknown,
For it existed before Heaven and Earth.
The Kosmos is not humane;
Impartially, it treats all things as transitory.
The sage is not humane;
Impartially, he treats all people as transitory.
Manifesting the Tao Eternal,
The kosmic space is like a bellows.
Empty, yet inexhaustible,
The more one activates it, the more it generates.
Being full, too many words lead one nowhere;
Impartially, keep to the silent core of emptiness.
The Tao, the Spirit of the Valley, is immortal.
It is called the Primordial Female.
The Gate of the Primordial Female,
Through its opening and closing,
Performs the kosmic intercourse,
And is called the origin of Heaven and Earth,
Heaven is eternal and earth everlasting.
They thus endure forever,
Because they exist not for themselves
But for the whole, selflessly.
Whereby the sage,
Existing selflessly for the whole,
Puts himself behind and thereby finds himself foremost,
Holds himself outside and thereby finds himself inmost.
He has no self apart from the whole,
Wherefore he realizes the self that is the whole.
The highest good is like water,
Benefiting all but contending with none,
Flowing in low places which the masses disdain.
Hence, it is close to the goodness of the Tao.
In dwelling, be grounded,
In thinking, be deep,
In giving, be balanced,
In speaking, be truthful,
In governing, be orderly,
In working, be competent,
In action, be timely.
In following the virtues of water,
The sage contends with no one,
And therefore he invites no troubles in life.
To fill to the brim is to be out of balance,
Wherefore it is better to stop before overfilling.
To over-sharpen a sword is to be out of balance,
Wherefore its edge will not last long.
To line a hall with gold and jade is to be out of balance,
Wherefore no one can guard them.
If wealth and rank make a man haughty and clinging,
He will surely bequeath misfortune upon himself.
If success is achieved and honor bestowed,
Quietly withdraw from your position.
This is the Way of Heaven.
In accordance with the Tao Eternal,
Embrace your body and mind in oneness without any diremption.
Enliven your vital energy until it reaches the suppleness of a baby.
Cleanse your mind to eliminate all unclarity.
Love your people and lead your community without unbalanced action.
Be receptive as a gentle female in the rhythmic intercourse of the Kosmos.
Remain in the state of not-knowing
while achieving knowledge in all fields.
This is the spiritual virtue of the Kosmos:
Birthing life without possessing,
Nurturing life without expecting,
Rearing life without dominating.
Thirty spokes share a hub;
The usefulness of the cart
lies in the space where there is nothing.
Clay is kneaded into a vessel;
The usefulness of the vessel
lies in the space where there is nothing.
A room is created by cutting out doors and windows;
The usefulness of the room
lies in the space where there is nothing.
The benefit of things lies in the usefulness of nothing.
The five colors blind the inner eye.
The five tones deafen the inner ear.
The five flavors dull the inner tongue.
In pursuit of outer pleasures,
Racing and hunting madden the inner mind,
Rare goods obstruct inner progress.
The sage attends to that which is within, not that which is without.
He lives from the center, not from the periphery.
Honor and disgrace both startle people.
Undue significance is attached to such tribulations
as though they were matters of life and death.
Honor and disgrace both startle people,
Because honor means higher and disgrace means lower in the opinion of others.
they become startled with pleasure when honor is given,
And they become startled with displeasure when honor is taken away.
Undue significance is attached to such tribulations
as though they were matters of life and death,
For people think the physical self is real.
If people realize the unreality of the physical self,
How can they attach significance to such tribulations as honor or disgrace?
only one who values the world as oneself is fit to tend the world;
Only one who loves the world as oneself can be entrusted with the care of the world.
Looked at but not seen, it is thus called the invisible,
Listened to but not heard, it is thus called the inaudible,
Reached for but not grasped, it is thus called the intangible:
These three are beyond the reach of sense and reason,
Yet, in the moment of kosmic union,
They merge in spiritual awareness as the Universal One.
There is no above that is bright, nor below that is dark,
But only the infinite, forever indefinable, always reverting to nothingness.
it is called form of the formless, image of the imageless.
And it is known as the amorphous.
Confronting it, no head is seen from the front.
Following it, no rear is seen from behind.
Whereby one lives in the present in accordance with the Tao Eternal,
Thereby one comes to know the beginning of time.
This is called the Universal Law of the Tao.
The embodiment of the Tao Eternal,
The ancient masters are wondrously subtle and profoundly penetrating.
The depth of their being is unfathomable and beyond comprehension.
As their depth is unfathomable and beyond comprehension,
Only their appearance can be incompletely described:
The master is as alert as a person fording a winter stream,
As careful as a person watchful of his surroundings,
As respectful as a thoughtful guest,
As flowing as melting ice,
As plain as an unhewn log,
As empty as an open valley,
As inclusive as turbid waters.
Who could keep still until turbid waters become clear of their own accord?
Who could stay calm until still waters become alive of their own accord?
Those who embody the Tao do not desire to extend themselves to the fullest.
For, the Tao is balance,
and there is no fullest, no extreme.
Therefore, through balance, they refill their essence and renew their life force forevermore.
Attain utmost emptiness,
Maintain utter stillness.
Then, as ten thousand things arise together,
One will witness their returning to the source.
Though things abound in the universe,
They all return to the source.
Returning to the source is called stillness,
And stillness is called returning to destiny.
To return to destiny is to return to eternity,
And to know eternity is called enlightenment.
To act unawarely in the nescience of eternity
Is to bring disaster to your life.
To know eternity is to be all-inclusive,
To be all-inclusive is to be impartial,
To be impartial is to attain self-mastery,
To attain self-mastery is to be Heavenly,
And to be Heavenly is to be one with the Tao Eternal.
To be one with the Tao Eternal is to enjoy everlasting life,
Forever secure even after the enfolding of the physical self.
The supreme leader is one whose existence is barely known.
Next best is one who is loved and praised.
Next is one who is feared.
The last is one who is contemned.
No trust will ever be accorded to a leader who lacks integrity.
Therefore, with deep commitment,
Honor your words and trust the words of others.
Then, when the work is done and success achieved,
The people will say, "We did it ourselves."
When the inner truth of the Tao is lost,
The outer code of morality comes into being.
When cleverness reigns in the world,
Hypocrisy becomes rampant;
When discord arises in the family,
Filiality is emphasized;
When chaos befalls the nation,
Respect is accorded to loyal subjects alone.
Abandon the relative notions of holiness and wisdom,
And people will benefit a hundred-fold.
Abandon the outer codes of benevolence and rectitude,
And people will return to natural filiality and kindness;
Abandon the unbalanced acts of cleverness and profiteering,
And there will be no robbers or thieves.
By looking within,
Evince the inner self,
Embrace the unadorned truth;
Diminish the outer self,
Demolish the phantasmic desire.
Abandon the external search for knowledge,
Abolish the internal worry for illusory matters.
To cease unnecessary learning is to be free from unnecessary concerns.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much distinction is there between good and bad?
Must one fear what everyone fears or value what everyone values?
In all this, there is no universality, and thus no end to confusion.
Jolly are the masses in chasing after excitement,
As though feasting at a royal feast, or
Ascending a high tower on a spring day.
Quiet am I by abiding in the stillness of being,
Like a newborn babe as yet to even smile,
Being here and now, and having nowhere to go.
The masses all hoard more than they need.
Forgetful of possessing, I alone am bereft.
My mind is like that of a fool, for I know nothing.
The ordinary man is bright, while I alone seem dark.
The ordinary man is clear, while I alone seem muddled.
Without boundary, I am like the vast ocean,
Without restriction, I am like a gentle wind.
The masses all have things to do;
I alone remain stubbornly unoccupied.
Thus, I am uniquely different from the rest,
Honoring the Tao from which I take my sustenance.
The outer expression of great virtue
follows the inner subtlety of the Tao.
the inner subtlety of the Tao
is altogether elusive and ineffable.
Elusive and ineffable, yet there arises some image within;
Ineffable and elusive, yet there exists some thing within;
Cavernous and dark, yet there is some essence within;
This essence is entirely real; in it is Kosmic Integrity.
Hitherto, the name of Kosmic Integrity has endured,
And remains the Principle of Kosmic Creation and Decreation.
By what means do I know the Principle of Kosmic Creation and Decreation?
By means of Kosmic Integrity itself.
To yield is to prevail;
To bend is to straighten;
To be hollow is to be full;
To die is to regenerate.
To have little is to receive much;
To have much is to be confused.
The sage embraces the complementary oneness of existence,
And sets an exemplary pattern for the rest of the world.
He does not display his ability,
Therefore his being shines forth.
He is not self-righteous,
Therefore he becomes distinguished.
He does not take credit,
Therefore he becomes recognized.
He is not self-important,
Therefore he is made a leader.
He does not contend with the world,
Therefore the world does not contend with him.
The old admonition that "to yield is to prevail" is not an empty adage.
Truly, to yield is to prevail, and in prevailing, one returns to oneness.
To be silent is natural, for silence alone endures in Nature.
A whirlwind does not last the whole morning;
Nor does a downpour last the whole day.
Nature cannot make her commotion last;
Nor can human beings make their commotion last.
Therefore, in enduring silence, without commotion,
The master creates harmony with all humanity,
Sharing the experience of the Tao with those who embody the Tao;
Sharing the experience of virtue with those who practice virtue;
Sharing the experience of loss with those who lose virtue.
Thereby, in sharing the experience,
Those who embody the Tao enjoy his company;
Those who practice virtue enjoy his company;
Those who lose virtue enjoy his company.
The master is silent, for he knows the Tao and trusts the universe.
Therefore, be silent, then you will be enduring;
Trust, then you will be trusted.
A man who tiptoes cannot stand.
A man who straddles cannot walk.
A man who flaunts himself cannot shine.
A man who is self-righteous is not respected.
A man who is self-boasting is not acknowledged.
A man who is self-conceited is not promoted.
From the viewpoint of the Tao,
These behaviors are like excess food and excrescent flesh.
Creation abhors such imbalance,
And thus the man of the Tao does not abide in them.
Before the birth of Heaven and Earth is Being, formless yet complete.
Silent and still,
All one and unchanging, all present and unending,
It may be regarded as the Matrix of the Universe.
Its true name is unknown,
So we call it by its alias, the Tao,
And name it by its designation, the Great.
Being great, it extends without limit,
Extending without limit, it is far-reaching,
Being far-reaching, it returns to itself.
The Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
And Man is also great.
These are the four greatnesses of the Kosmos,
And of them Man is one.
Man patterns after Earth,
Earth patterns after Heaven,
Heaven patterns after the Tao,
And the Tao patterns after that which is natural.
Heaviness is the center of lightness.
Stillness is the master of commotion.
For this reason,
The sage may travel the whole day,
Yet stays centered, without leaving his heavy baggage cart.
Or he may enjoy a splendid view,
Yet stays serene, calmly transcending all outward pleasures.
Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots behave lightly before all under Heaven?
One who behaves lightly loses one's center.
One who behaves agitatedly loses one's mastery.
The master in his action is so complete
that he leaves no trace behind.
The master in his conversation is so balanced
that he leaves no discord behind.
The master in his thinking is so original
that he depends on no external authority.
The master in protecting people is so skillful
that, without any visible means, he renders all attempts for invasion ineffectual.
The master in uniting people is so adept
that, without any visible means, he renders all efforts for disunity ineffectual.
Thus, the master, without abandoning anyone, is always good at empowering people
And, without abandoning anything, is always good at utilizing things.
This is the all-embracing wisdom of the Tao.
Hence, the virtuous is the teacher of the non-virtuous,
While the non-virtuous serves as the lessons for the virtuous.
If you value not your teacher or cherish not your lessons,
No matter how intelligent and informed you are, you are greatly deluded.
This is the essential, subtle truth of the Tao.
Knowing the strength of the masculine principle,
Yet remaining in the lovingness of feminine virtue,
One becomes the stream of life to which other streams conjoin.
In thus becoming the stream of life for the world,
One comes to embody perennial virtue,
And returns to pristine innocence.
Knowing the purity of kosmic harmony,
Yet remaining in the impurity of worldly discord,
One becomes the standard of life by which other people can live.
In thus becoming the standard of life for the world,
One comes to reaffirm perennial virtue,
And returns to inner infinity.
Knowing the glory of public acclaim,
Yet remaining in the obscurity of personal humility,
One becomes the valley of life in which other people can repose.
In thus becoming the valley of life for the world,
One comes to fulfill perennial virtue,
And returns to undivided simplicity.
Undivided simplicity is reduced to mere usefulness through division.
Remaining undivided, the sage makes masterful use of the divided,
And is made the leader of an organization.
Thus, the great organization led by a sage is undivided and whole.
Those who want to take control of the world by force can never succeed,
For the world is a sacred vessel of dynamic energy, not meant to be controlled.
Those who try to forcibly control it will ruin it.
Those who try to forcibly keep it will lose it.
Because life is not a static entity but a dynamic process,
Sometimes one moves ahead and sometimes follows behind.
Sometimes one works hard and sometimes takes rest.
Sometimes one grows strong and sometimes grows weak.
Sometimes one is supported and sometimes is unsupported.
Wherefore, the sage, knowingly moving with the dynamic flow of life,
Avoids extremes, avoids extravagance, and avoids excess.
Those who assist national leaders by means of the Tao,
Never use military force to make their nations world powers.
No action is ever without a repercussion:
Wherever an army is stationed, there grow briars and brambles.
Wherever a battle is fought, there follows a famine.
A good general in the direst necessity of a war
Achieves his purpose of winning the war,
But never seeks to gain power over others.
achieve your purpose, but only if it is called for;
Achieve your purpose, but never be haughty;
Achieve your purpose, but never be boastful;
Achieve your purpose, but never be supercilious;
Achieve your purpose, but never be overpowering.
Whenever something reaches an extreme in strength, it will inevitably decline.
This is called the way against the Tao.
The way against the Tao always leads to an early demise.
Weapons are instruments of ill omen; all creatures abhor them.
Therefore, the man of the Tao never abides in them.
The virtuous man usually honors the left, the positive,
But, when called to be in a battlefield, honors the right, the negative.
Weapons are instruments of ill omen,
Not instruments of the virtuous man.
Therefore, when he is compelled to resort to them,
He uses them with utmost restraint and calmness.
He does not glorify victory, for glorifying victory means to take delight in killing.
And whosoever takes delight in killing will never find success in this world.
On occasions for celebration, the positive left is given priority,
On occasions for mourning, the negative right is given priority.
The lieutenant stands on the left, and the general on the right.
That is, they stand in accordance with mourning ritual.
The killing of masses of human beings we bewail with deep sorrow and grief.
The victory in battle we observe with rites of mourning.
The Tao remains eternally unnamable.
As undivided simplicity,
If it resides in an ordinary person,
nobody in the world can subjugate him;
If an influential person abides by it,
everybody in the world will be drawn to him.
When heaven and earth come together in harmony,
Showering the world equally with the sweet rain of undivided simplicity,
People cooperate voluntarily without any governing rules.
When simplicity is divided, names come into existence.
When names are already there, the process of further division should stop,
For to know when to stop
is to avoid the danger of complexity.
The Tao is to the world
what the ocean is to the rivers of the earth.
To know others is wisdom;
To know one's self is enlightenment.
To conquer others is power;
To conquer one's self is strength.
One who knows what is enough is wealthy;
One who does what is required is committed.
One who stays in one's destiny endures;
One who dies without perishing lives forever.
The Great Tao overflows everywhere in the universe.
It suffuses with life all beings that depend on it for their existence.
It accomplishes everything while remaining nameless.
It nurtures everything while claiming no mastership.
It desires nothing for itself, and is therefore called the Small.
It is the source whereto everything returns, and is therefore called the Vast.
Thus, the sage never thinks of claiming greatness for himself,
Yet, for this very reason, achieves true greatness.
From the great formless imagining the world emerges into existence,
Without obstruction, but with balance, harmony, and peace.
Music and feast provide fleeting pleasures in this ephemeral world.
The Tao in its utterance brings no such pleasures to the senses.
The Tao, when looked at, cannot be seen by the eye.
The Tao, when listened to, cannot be heard by the ear.
Yet, when used, it is forever inexhaustible.
What is ultimately to be compressed must first be expanded.
What is ultimately to be weakened must first be strengthened.
What is ultimately to be discarded must first be promoted.
What is ultimately to be taken away must first be given.
This is the subtle light of wisdom.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The weak overcomes the strong.
The fish should never leave the water.
The formed should never leave the formless.
The Tao does nothing,
Yet it leaves nothing undone.
If the leaders of the world abide by it,
All beings of their own accord will transform themselves.
If in the course of self-transformation discordant desires arise,
Calm them with the unnameable simplicity of the Tao.
If calmed with the nameless simplicity of the Tao,
Discordant desires of their own accord will disappear.
If discordant desires disappear and quietude is restored,
The world of its own accord will order itself.
The person of authentic virtue makes no issue of his virtue.
Therefore, he is virtuous, wholly and completely.
The person of inauthentic virtue makes much issue of his virtue.
Therefore, he is not virtuous, wholly and completely.
Authentic virtue is a matter of being, not of doing.
Therefore, the person of authentic virtue makes no claims for his virtuous action.
Inauthentic virtue is a matter of doing, not of being.
Therefore, the person of inauthentic virtue makes claims for his virtuous action.
Superior benevolence is a matter of doing.
Yet the person of superior benevolence makes no claims for his benevolent deeds.
Superior rectitude is a matter of doing.
And the person of superior rectitude makes claims for his righteous deeds.
Superior etiquette is a matter of doing.
But the person of superior etiquette,
If people do not conform to his standard,
Will pull their elbows and force them to conform.
When the Tao is lost, then comes virtue.
When virtue is lost, then comes benevolence.
When benevolence is lost, then comes rectitude.
When rectitude is lost, then comes etiquette.
Etiquette is but the attenuation of probity and the beginning of disorder.
Prescience is but a flower of the Tao and the beginning of nescience.
For this reason,
The person of character dwells in the depths within, not in the shallows without.
He dwells in the fruitful substance within, not in the flowery embellishment without.
He thus chooses the inner and discards the outer.
In ancient times, these attained wholeness:
Heaven attained wholeness and thereby became pure.
Earth attained wholeness and thereby became tranquil.
Spirits attained wholeness and thereby became divine.
Valleys attained wholeness and thereby became full.
Beings attained wholeness and thereby became alive.
Leaders attained wholeness and thereby all was put aright.
Everything is what it is by virtue of its wholeness.
Heaven without purity would rend.
Earth without tranquility would collapse.
Spirits without divinity would dissipate.
Valleys without fullness would desiccate.
Beings without aliveness would perish.
Leaders without magnanimity would fall.
Humility is the basis of magnanimity.
Modesty is the fundament of exaltation.
Those in high position call themselves powerless, unworthy, or destitute.
Is this not because they take humility as the basis of magnanimity?
There is no honor in displaying your honor.
Desire not either to be jingling like jade or to be stolid like stone.
Cyclic returning to the source is the rhythmic movement of the Tao.
Gentle spontaneity is the nature of its function.
All beings derive their beingness from Being, which is the Tao.
And Being arises in and as Nothingness, which is the Tao.
When a superior person hears the Tao,
He practices it committedly.
When a mediocre person hears the Tao,
He practices it sometimes, but just as often ignores it.
When an inferior person hears the Tao,
He roars with disparaging laughter.
If he did not laugh, it would not be the Tao.
Thus the age-old epigrams state:
The enlightening way appears dark.
The advancing way appears retreating.
The level way appears bumpy.
The highest virtue appears ordinary.
The purest goodness appears sullied.
The abundant virtue appears deficient.
The perfect virtue appears defective.
The most genuine appears insincere.
The greatest space has no corners.
The greatest talent ripens late.
The greatest voice is silent.
The greatest image is formless.
The Tao is hidden and has no name.
Yet the Tao alone bestows the power and fulfills the destiny of everything.
The Tao, the wholeness, gives rise to oneness.
Oneness gives rise to complementary unity.
Complementary unity gives rise to complementary trinity.
Complementary trinity gives rise to everything in existence.
Everything consists of the complementarity of yang in the center and yin surrounding it.
From the balanced interchange between the two arises equilibrium in disequilibrium.
Ordinary people hate nothing more than to be powerless, unworthy, or destitute.
Yet this is what people in high position call themselves.
This means, in accordance with the principle of complementarity,
That to lose is to gain and to gain is to lose.
Let me repeat what others have taught:
The strong and violent, being out of balance, do not die natural deaths.
This is the very foundation of my teaching.
The softest under heaven always prevails over the hardest.
For, having no fixed form,
It can penetrate even where there is no visible opening.
This is the power of balanced action through nonaction.
This is the benefit of balanced action through nonaction.
Nonaction teaches without words, and benefits without actions.
No power in the world can even come close to it.
Which is more precious, fame or health?
Which is more important, health or wealth?
Which is more painful, gaining or losing?
The more excessive is your attachment,
The greater is your suffering.
The more excessive is your possession,
The heavier is your loss.
To know what is enough is to be free from disgrace.
To know when to stop is to be free from danger.
Those who practice this will long endure.
Great perfection appears imperfect,
Yet there is no end to its process of perfecting.
Great fullness appears empty,
Yet there is no limit to its process of fulfilling.
Great uprightness appears bent,
Great mastery seems clumsy,
Great eloquence sounds awkward,
Yet they keep growing without limitations.
Movement overcomes stagnation.
Stillness overcomes discordance.
Movement and stillness in balance
Set the world in evolutionary order.
When the world follows the Tao,
Horses are used to fertilize the farm fields.
When the world does not follow the Tao,
Even mares are expended to breed in the battlefields.
When the individual follows the Tao,
Energy is used in his harmonious inner development.
When the individual does not follow the Tao,
Energy is expended in his continuous inner conflict.
There is no greater vice than giving in to greed,
No greater calamity than not knowing contentment,
No greater imputation than succumbing to covetousness.
Therefore, know and be content with what is enough,
Then you will always have enough.
Without going out the door,
You can know the ways of the world.
Without looking out the window,
You can know the ways of heaven.
The farther you go outward, the less you know.
Thus, the sage knows without going outward,
Understands without looking outward,
Accomplishes without acting outward.
The practice of ordinary learning increases complexity daily.
The practice of the Tao increases simplicity daily.
Simplicity leads to more simplicity,
Until it reaches the state of pristine nonaction.
Then nothing is done, yet nothing remains undone.
Thus, one who wins the world does so
By not meddling with it, through nonaction, with simplicity.
One who loses the world does so
By meddling with it, through action, with complexity.
The sage does not have a set mind.
His mind is unconditioned, and
He regards the minds of all people as his own.
He is good to those who are good.
He is good to those who are not good.
For his virtue is goodness itself.
He is in integrity with those of integrity.
He is in integrity with those without integrity.
For his virtue is integrity itself.
The sage, to serve this world,
In compassion merges his mind with all minds.
People rivet their eyes and ears upon differences amongst them.
The sage, with childlike innocence, sees one humanity in all.
Life is appearance; death is disappearance.
Three out of ten live a long life.
Three out of ten live a short life.
Three out of ten bring upon themselves an untimely death,
Because they cling too much to outer pleasures of life.
He who maintains a balanced life in accordance with the Tao,
Does not meet tigers or rhinoceroses in the wilderness,
Does not suffer attacks from the enemy in the battlefield.
Upon him the tiger has no place to fasten its claws,
The rhinoceros has no place to jab its horn,
The weapon has no place to pierce its blade.
Why is this so?
Because in him there is no room for death to enter.
The Tao begets existence.
Intelligence nurtures existence.
Substance forms existence.
Forces complete existence.
For this reason,
Everything in existence, without exception,
Reveres the Tao and honors Intelligence,
Not by any decree, but with utter spontaneity.
Thus, the Tao begets everything in existence,
And Intelligence nurtures it,
Giving birth without possessing,
Availing life without claiming,
Promoting growth without controlling,
These are the Profound Virtues of Kosmic Intelligence.
The universe has an origin, the Matrix of Creation,
Functioning as the Mother of the world.
If you know the Mother, you will know her children.
If you know her children while abiding with the Mother,
Though your body may be dissolved,
Your life-energy will remain inexhaustible.
Close the cracks, close the doors of the senses,
Then, till the end of your life you will not be drained of energy.
Open the cracks and react to external stimulations,
Then, till the end of your life you will not be saved from suffering.
To perceive the subtle is enlightenment.
To abide in gentleness is strength.
Use your inner light to return to enlightenment
And you will not inherit any harm.
This is called "learning the eternal lesson."
With clear, appreciative discernment,
I choose to walk the great way of the Tao,
And fear naught save going astray.
The great way is very smooth and straight,
Yet people prefer uneven and winding by-paths, and thus go astray.
Therefore, in the world that has gone astray,
While the courts are clean and decorated,
The fields are untilled and the granaries are empty.
If the ruler wears fancy clothes,
Carries around sharp swords,
Indulges in extravagant food and drink,
And possesses more riches than he needs,
He is indeed a brazen bandit.
This is contrary to the great way of the Tao.
What is firmly established within cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly embraced within cannot be disengaged.
The Tao, thus firmly established and embraced within you,
Will be respected for generations to come.
Cultivate the Tao in your character,
Then its virtues will be genuine.
Cultivate the Tao in your family,
Then its virtues will abound.
Cultivate the Tao in your community,
Then its virtues will endure.
Cultivate the Tao in your country,
Then its virtues will flourish.
Cultivate the Tao in the world,
Then its virtues will pervade.
Therefore, you can observe the virtues of the Tao,
In your character, if you cultivate it in your character;
In your family, if you cultivate it in your family;
In your community, if you cultivate it in your community;
In your country, if you cultivate it in your country;
And in the world, if you cultivate it in the world.
How can you know how the state of the world is?
Simply by thus observing.
He who embodies the fullness of the Tao is like a ruddy infant.
No poisonous wasps will sting him.
No fierce beasts will seize him.
No rapacious birds will maul him.
His bones are tender and muscles soft,
Yet his grip is tight.
He knows not of the union of male and female,
Yet, filled with vitality,
His manhood becomes vigorously erect.
He can howl all day without becoming hoarse,
Because he is the embodiment of perfect balance.
To know balance is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be illumined.
To overprotect life is to invite sure disaster.
To overuse the mind is to invite lopsided strength.
To overdevelop a thing is to invite early decay.
All are out of balance, and thus contrary to the Tao.
Being contrary to the Tao, things soon cease to be.
Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Close the openings of your senses,
Blunt the sharpness of your intellect,
Untie the tangles of your attachment,
Soften the brightness of your knowledge.
Be one with the dust of the world.
This is to be one with the Tao.
He who is one with the Tao cannot be courted, cannot be distanced, cannot be bought, cannot be harmed, cannot be honored, cannot be humiliated.
For this reason, he becomes the true treasure of the world.
Govern a nation with enduring justice.
Command troops with unpredictable moves.
Lead the world with empowering noninterference.
How do I know this to be so?
From witnessing the following:
The more restrictions there are in the world, the poorer people become.
The more weapons people possess, the darker nations become.
The more cunning and cleverness there is, the more there are anomalous things.
The more rules and regulations there are, the more there are thieves and robbers.
Therefore the sage says:
I take no action, and people are naturally transformed.
I delight in stillness, and people naturally do what is right.
I do not interfere, and people on their own prosper.
I have no greed, and people on their own return to simplicity.
When the government is inwardly contained and disciplined,
The people become wholesome and good.
When the government is outwardly demanding and exacting,
The people become tense and cunning.
Fortune rests on misfortune.
Misfortune hides in fortune.
There is no end to their perpetual cyclic interchange.
Likewise, there is nothing that is permanently fitting.
What is fitting eventually becomes unfitting.
What is proper eventually becomes improper.
Not knowing the complementarity inherent in cyclic interchange,
People's delusion of permanence tends to last for a long time.
Thus, knowing the dynamic balance existing in complementarity,
The sage chooses what is right without being divisive,
Points out what is true without being critical,
Straightens out distortions without overextending them,
Enlightens others without dazzling them.
In governing people and serving heaven,
There is nothing better than thrift.
Thrift means expeditiously regaining balance after expending resources.
Expeditiously regaining balance means continually accumulating virtue.
Continually accumulating virtue means increasingly becoming invincible.
Increasingly becoming invincible means knowing that everything is possible.
One who knows that everything is possible is fit to govern people.
The mother principle of governing people holds good for a long time.
This is called deepening the root and firming the foundation,
Which is the way of long life and lasting vision.
Governing a big country is like cooking a small fish.
The more you stir the pot, the less the fish stays intact.
If the world is guided by the Tao,
Even evil spirits are rendered spiritless.
Not that evil spirits are in themselves spiritless,
But their spirits do not harm people.
Not only do evil spirits not harm people,
But powerful rulers also do not harm people.
When no harm is done from either side,
Virtue accrues to both and all return to pristine oneness.
A great country is like a low-lying estuary,
A place where the myriad streams of the world come together.
She is also like a receptive female drawing in an eager male.
The female always conquers the male through her stillness,
Because she knows how to lie low through her stillness.
a great country can win over a small country by lying low.
A small country can also win over a great country by lying low.
Therefore, one may either win over or be won over by taking the lower position.
A great country only wants to embrace and nourish more people.
A small country only wants to be embraced and serve her benefactor.
Thus, both can achieve their ends by practicing humility.
Therefore, especially a great country must practice humility.
The Tao is the Innermost of all life,
The treasure of the virtuous who is centered therein,
And the refuge of the non-virtuous who has gone astray.
Beautiful words arising from the Tao will find an appreciative audience,
Noble deeds arising from the Tao will make great contributions to people,
And even if a person may have gone astray,
the Tao will not abandon him.
Therefore, on the day a new emperor is crowned or new ministers installed,
Rather than rushing to offer them discs of jade or teams of horses,
Simply be still and show them the Tao.
Why did the ancients esteem the Tao so highly?
Did they not say that with the Tao,
Those who seek find what they seek
and those who go astray are forgiven?
This is why the Tao is esteemed as the greatest treasure of the world.
Act from the still fulcrum of non-action,
Engage from the still fulcrum of non-engagement,
Experience from the still fulcrum of non-experience.
Regard the insignificant as significant,
Regard the minor as major,
Requite the unkind with kindness.
Meet the difficult while it is still easy,
Solve the major while it is still minor.
Difficult problems of the world always arise from easy ones,
Major issues of the world always arise from minor ones.
Therefore, the sage never deals with major issues,
Yet his action always leads to major accomplishment.
Those who commit lightly are seldom to be trusted.
Those who assume things to be easy are always met with difficulties.
Therefore, the sage assumes everything to be difficult,
And ends up having no difficulty at all.
That which has balance is easy to maintain.
That which has not arisen is easy to forestall.
That which is brittle is easy to shatter.
That which is minuscule is easy to scatter.
Therefore, manage problems before they arise;
Create order before disorder sets in.
A tree as large as the arms' embrace grows from a downy shoot.
A terrace nine stories high rises from a shovelful of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
One who acts from the delusion of grandiosity fails.
One who clings to the delusion of grandiosity loses.
The sage does not act from delusion, and therefore he does not fail,
Nor does he cling to delusion, and therefore he does not lose.
Because of the delusion of grandiosity,
On the verge of success, people often fail.
If they would take as much care at the end as at the beginning,
They would not fail in their affairs.
The sage does not desire what the masses desire;
He does not treasure what the masses treasure.
He studies what the masses do not study;
He returns to the source of knowledge ignored by the masses.
Thus, without acting in delusion,
The sage supports all beings as they naturally exist.
The ancients who mastered the Tao did not make the people sharp and clever.
Instead, they made the people simple and deep.
The people are hard to govern
When they are too clever and know too much.
To govern the people with cleverness is to bring about calamities.
To govern the people with simplicity is to bring about blessings.
To know these two alternatives is to have the standard of governance.
To understand the standard of governance is to have sublime virtue.
Sublime virtue is deep and far-reaching.
Though it runs counter to the common way,
It follows the great way of the Tao Eternal.
The reason the sea is king of a hundred streams is because it lies below them.
Therefore, it is called king of a hundred streams.
When the sage wants to guide the people, in speech he always lies below them.
When the sage wants to lead the people, in deed he always follows behind them.
even though he is above them, the people do not feel oppressed.
Even though he is ahead of them, the people do not feel obstructed.
Therefore, the people willingly and joyously put him in a leadership position.
Because he is above contention, the people never contend with him.
People say that my Tao is too immense and beyond compare.
However, because it is so immense, it is so different.
If it were not so different,
It would long ago have been reduced to something insignificant.
There are three treasures that I hold and cherish:
The first is tenderheartedness.
The second is thrift.
The third is daring not to be first in the world.
From tenderheartedness comes courage.
From thrift comes generosity.
From humility comes leadership.
If you try to be courageous without being tenderhearted,
If you try to be generous without being thrifty,
If you try to be a leader without learning humility,
You are courting your own self-destruction.
Venture with tenderheartedness and you will win the battle.
Defend with tenderheartedness and you will be invulnerable.
For tenderheartedness is the way Heaven guards you for your inner protection.
A good warrior is never pugnacious.
A good fighter is never angry.
A good winner is never combative.
A good commander is always humble.
This is called the virtue of non-contention.
This is called using the strength of others.
This is called perfect emulation of heavenly virtue.
The strategist par excellence says:
Dare not to be the aggressor but rather to be the defender.
Dare not to advance an inch but rather to retreat a foot.
This is called
Letting the opponent march toward nowhere to which to march,
Letting the opponent capture nothing to be captured,
Letting the opponent attack none to be attacked,
Letting the opponent arm with weapons for nothing for which to arm.
There is no greater calamity than underestimating your opponent.
To underestimate your opponent is surely to lose your treasures.
Therefore, when opposing forces are engaged in conflict,
The one who yields with caution will triumph in the end.
My words are very easy to understand and very easy to practice,
Yet the people of the world can neither understand nor practice them.
My words point to a source and my deeds a master,
Yet the people of the world know neither the source nor the master.
Thus, they know not who and what I am.
But for the few who know, I am precious.
Therefore, the sage may wear coarse clothes,
But will always hold a luminous treasure within.
Having knowledge, yet being aware of the unknown, is superior intelligence.
Not having knowledge, yet pretending to know, is intellectual stagnation.
To be aware of stagnation is to be free of it.
The sage is free of any stagnation,
because he is keenly aware of all stagnation.
Therefore, he is forever free of stagnation.
If people do not revere the Law of Nature,
It will inexorably and adversely affect them.
If they accept it with knowledge and reverence,
It will accommodate them with balance and harmony.
Therefore, the sage, in harmony with the Law of Nature,
Knows himself but does not flaunt his knowledge,
Loves himself but does not exalt his status,
Accepts where he is without complaint,
Enjoys what he does without dislike.
Thus, he rejects imbalance and disharmony,
And chooses balance and harmony.
Courage in daring action will lead to death.
Courage in caring action will lead to life.
Of these two, one is beneficial and the other harmful.
Heaven does not favor harmful courage,
Yet, there are few who really know the reason.
Thus, the sage does not make light of this truth.
He who abides by the way of Heaven
Triumphs without fighting,
Responds without chattering,
Reaches out without being asked,
Plans ahead without being impetuous.
Though its meshes may appear wide,
Through the vast net of heavenly law,
Nothing can ever slip.
If the people do not fear death,
For reasons of extreme poverty or suffering,
What is the point of threatening them with death?
If the people fear death,
And if the outlaws are captured and killed,
Who will dare to break the law?
Yet, the act of killing should always be
The exclusive province of the Great Executioner.
Therefore, to kill in place of the Great Executioner is
Like hewing wood in place of the master carpenter;
Few, if ever, will escape cutting their own hands.
Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
That is why.
Why are the people difficult to govern?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
That is why.
Why do the people think so little of death?
Because the rulers think too much of their own life.
That is why.
Those who do not overvalue their life are wiser than those who do.
Human beings are soft and supple at birth,
But stiff and hard at death.
All things in Nature are soft and pliant when alive,
But dry and withered when dead.
Thus, the stiff and hard is the companion of death,
And the soft and supple is the companion of life.
Therefore, an army that is unyielding will soon perish,
And a tree that is unbending will soon break.
The hard and unyielding is an inferior quality;
The soft and yielding is a superior quality.
The Way of Heaven is like the bending of a bow.
The upper is lowered, while the lower is raised.
The too long is shortened, while the too short is lengthened.
The Way of Heaven is the way of balance:
Take from that which has more
and give to that which has less.
The way of man is different:
Take from those who have less
and give to those who have more.
Who is so abundant that he can continue to give to the world?
Only the man who embodies the Tao and is thus inexhaustible.
Therefore, the sage, being the fulcrum of the world,
Benefits his people without proclaiming it,
Accomplishes his task without dwelling on it,
Enlightens his world without flaunting his wisdom.
Nothing under heaven is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet, for attacking the hard and strong,
Nothing is better and nothing is like it.
The yielding overcomes the unyielding;
the soft overcomes the hard.
Everyone under heaven knows this,
yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore, the sage says:
He who absorbs as does water the detritus of the people
is the worthy master of the nation.
He who flows as does water with the tides of the troubled land
is the worthy king of the nation.
Truth seems often paradoxical and against common sense.
After the reconciliation of great hostilities,
Lingering resentment always remains.
Can this be considered a true reconciliation?
Therefore, the sage returns injury with kindness.
He takes the position of a giver,
And does not make claims upon others.
The virtuous relates to the world as if he owes the world.
The non-virtuous relates to the world as if the world owes him.
Though the way of Heaven is impartial,
It always supports those who live in harmony with it.
Let there be small countries with few people.
Let the people take the matter of life and death seriously,
And let them not move too far from their birthplaces.
Even if there are complicated devices,
Let there be no necessity to use them.
Even if there are boats and carriages,
Let there be no reason to ride them.
Even if there are armors and weapons,
Let there be no occasion to display them.
Let the life be so simple that
The people return to tying knots for keeping records.
Let them be delighted with plain food, pleased with simple clothes, satisfied with modest homes, joyous with natural customs.
Though they may gaze across at a neighboring country,
hearing the barking of its dogs and crowing of its roosters,
they are so happy and satisfied where they are
that they will not visit one another until the end of their days.
Truthful words are not always beautiful.
Beautiful words are not always truthful.
Virtuous people do not argue at all.
Non-virtuous people argue incessantly.
Those who know are not full of information.
Those who are full of information do not know.
The sage does not hoard material goods.
The more he lives entirely for others, the richer his life becomes.
The more he gives to others, the more abundant his life becomes.
The way of Heaven is to benefit all but to harm none.
The way of the sage is to work for all but to contend with none.