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

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1

A Way become Way isn't the perennial Way.
A name become name isn't the perennial name:
the named is mother to the ten thousand things,
but the unnamed is origin to all heaven and earth.
In perennial nonbeing you see mystery, and in perennial being you see appearance.
Though the two are one and the same, once they arise, they differ in name.
One and the same they're called dark-enigma,
dark-enigma deep within dark-enigma,
gateway of all mystery.


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2

All beneath heaven knows beauty is beauty only because there's ugliness, and knows good is good only because there's evil.
Being and nonbeing give birth to one another,
difficult and easy complete one another,
long and short measure one another,
high and low fill one another,
music and noise harmonize one another,
before and after follow one another:
that's why a sage abides in the realm of nothing's own doing,
living out that wordless teaching.
The ten thousand things arise without beginnings there,
abide without waiting there,
come to perfection without dwelling there.
Without dwelling there: that's the one way you'll never lose it.


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3

Never bestow honors and people won't quarrel.
Never prize rare treasures and people won't steal.
Never flaunt alluring things and people won't be confused.
This is how a sage governs.
Fill bellies and empty minds,
strengthen bones and weaken ambition,
always keep the people from knowing and wanting,
then those who know are those who never presume to act.
If you're nothing doing what you do all things will be governed well.


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4

Way is empty.
Use it: it never needs filling.
An abyss so deep
it seems ancestor to the ten thousand things,
it blunts edges, loosens tangles, softens glare, mingles dust.
A clarity so clear it only seems real,
whose child could it be?
Apparently it precedes gods and creators.


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5

Heaven and earth are Inhumane:
they use the ten thousand things like straw dogs.
And the sage too is Inhumane:
he uses the hundred-fold people like straw dogs.
Is all heaven and earth
really so much like a bellows-chamber?
It's empty but never contracts,
just keeps bringing forth more and more.
Words go on failing and failing, nothing like abiding in its midst.


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6

The valley spirit never dies.
It's called dark female-enigma,
and the gateway of dark female-enigma
is called the root of heaven and earth,
gossamer so unceasing it seems real.
Use it: it's effortless.


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7

Heaven goes on forever.
Earth endures forever.
There's a reason heaven and earth go on enduring forever:
their life isn't their own so their life goes on forever.
Hence, in putting himself last the sage puts himself first, and in giving himself up he preserves himself.
If you aren't free of yourself
how will you ever become yourself?


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8

Lofty nobility is like water.
Water's nobility is to enrich the ten thousand things
and yet never strive:
it just settles through places people everywhere loathe.
Therefore, it's nearly Way.
Dwelling's nobility is earth,
mind's nobility is empty depth,
giving's nobility is Humanity,
word's nobility is sincerity,
government's nobility is accord,
endeavor's nobility is ability,
action's nobility is timing.
When you never strive you never go wrong.


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9

Forcing it fuller and fuller can't compare to just enough,
and honed sharper and sharper means it won't keep for long.
Once it's full of jade and gold your house will never be safe.
Proud of wealth and renown you bring on your own ruin.
Just do what you do, and then leave: such is the Way of heaven.


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10

Can you let your spirit embrace primal unity without drifting away?
Can you focus ch'i into such softness you're a newborn again?
Can you polish the dark-enigma mirror to a clarity beyond stain?
Can you make loving the people and ruling the nation nothing's own doing?
Can you be female opening and closing heaven's gate?
Can you fathom earth's four distances with radiant wisdom and know nothing?
Give birth and nurture.
Give birth without possessing and foster without dominating:
this is called dark-enigma Integrity.


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11

Thirty spokes gathered at each hub: absence makes the cart work.
A storage jar fashioned out of clay: absence makes the jar work.
Doors and windows cut in a house: absence makes the house work.
Presence gives things their value, but absence makes them work.


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12

The five colors blind eyes.
The five tones deafen ears.
The five tastes blur tongues.
Fast horses and breathtaking hunts make minds wild and crazy.
Things rare and expensive make people lose their way.
That's why a sage tends to the belly, not the eye, always ignores that and chooses this.


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13

Honor is a contagion deep as fear, renown a calamity profound as self.
Why do I call honor a contagion deep as fear?
Honor always dwindles away, so earning it fills us with fear and losing it fills us with fear.
And why do I call renown a calamity profound as self?
We only know calamity because we have these selves.
If we didn't have selves what calamity could touch us?
When all beneath heaven is your self in renown you trust yourself to all beneath heaven,
and when all beneath heaven is your self in love you dwell throughout all beneath heaven.


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14

Looked at but never seen, it takes the name invisible.
Listened to but never heard, it takes the name ethereal.
Held tight but never felt, it takes the name gossamer.
You can't unravel these three
blurred so utterly they've become one,
rising without radiance and setting without darkness,
braided together beyond name, woven back always and forever into nothing:
this is called formless form or nothing's image, called spectral confusion,
something you meet without seeing a front and follow without seeing a back.
Abiding in the ancient Way
to master what has now come to be
and fathom its ancient source:
this is called thread of the Way.


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15

Ancient masters of Way
all subtle mystery and dark-enigma vision:
they were deep beyond knowing,
so deep beyond knowing
we can only describe their appearance:
perfectly cautious, as if crossing winter streams,
and perfectly watchful, as if neighbors threatened;
perfectly reserved, as if guests,
perfectly expansive, as if ice melting away,
and perfectly simple, as if uncarved wood;
perfectly empty, as if open valleys,
and perfectly shadowy, as if murky water.
Who's murky enough to settle slowly into pure clarity,
and who still enough to awaken slowly into life?
If you nurture this Way, you never crave fullness.
Never crave fullness
and you'll wear away into completion.


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16

Inhabit the furthest peripheries of emptiness and abide in the tranquil center.
There the ten thousand things arise, and in them I watch the return:
all things on and ever on each returning to its root.
Returning to the root is called tranquility,
tranquility is called returning to the inevitable unfolding of things,
returning to the inevitable unfolding of things is called constancy,
and to understand constancy is called enlightenment.
Without understanding constancy, you stumble deceived.
But understanding constancy, you're all-embracing,
all-embracing and therefore impartial,
impartial and therefore imperial,
imperial and therefore heaven,
heaven and therefore Way,
Way and therefore enduring:
self gone, free of danger.


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17

The loftiest ruler is barely known among those below.
Next comes a ruler people love and praise.
After that, one they fear, and then one they despise.
If you don't stand sincere by your words
how sincere can the people be?
Take great care over words, treasure them,
and when the hundred-fold people see
your work succeed in all they do
they'll say it's just occurrence appearing of itself.


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18

When the great Way is abandoned we're faced with Humanity and Duty.
When clever wisdom appears we're faced with duplicity.
When familial harmony ends we're faced with obedience and kindness.
And when chaos engulfs the nation we're faced with trustworthy ministers.


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19

If you give up sagehood and abandon wisdom people will profit a hundred times over.
If you give up Humanity and abandon Duty people will return to obedience and kindness.
If you give up ingenuity and abandon profit bandits and thieves will roam no more.
But these three
are mere refinements, nowhere near enough.
They depend on something more:
observe origin's weave,
embrace uncarved simplicity,
self nearly forgotten,
desires rare.


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20

If you give up learning, troubles end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
And is there a difference between lovely and ugly?
If we can't stop fearing
those things people fear,
it's pure confusion, never-ending confusion.
People all radiate such joy,
happily offering a sacrificial ox
or climbing a tower in spring.
But I go nowhere and reveal nothing,
like a newborn child who has yet to smile,
aimless and worn out
as if the way home were lost.
People all have enough and more.
But I'm abandoned and destitute,
an absolute simpleton, this mind of mine so utterly
muddled and blank.
Others are bright and clear:
I'm dark and murky.
Others are confident and effective:
I'm pensive and withdrawn,
uneasy as boundless seas
or perennial mountain winds.
People all have a purpose in life,
but I'm inept, thoroughly useless and backward.
I'll never be like other people:
I keep to the nurturing mother.


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21

The nature of great Integrity is to follow Way absolutely.
Becoming things, Way appears vague and hazy.
All hazy and impossibly vague it harbors the mind's images.
All vague and impossibly hazy it harbors the world's things.
All hidden and impossibly dark it harbors the subtle essence,
and being an essence so real it harbors the sincerity of facts.
Never, not since the beginning - its renown has never been far off.
Through it we witness all origins.
And how can we ever know the form of all origins?
Through this.


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22

In yielding is completion.
In bent is straight.
In hollow is full.
In exhaustion is renewal.
In little is contentment.
In much is confusion.
This is how a sage embraces primal unity as the measure of all beneath heaven.
Give up self-reflection
and you're soon enlightened.
Give up self-definition
and you're soon apparent.
Give up self-promotion
and you're soon proverbial.
Give up self-esteem
and you're soon perennial.
Simply give up contention
and soon nothing in all beneath heaven contends with you.
It was hardly empty talk
when the ancients declared
In yielding is completion.
Once you perfect completion
you've returned home to it all.


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23

Keeping words spare: occurrence appearing of itself.
Wild winds never last all morning
and fierce rains never last all day.
Who conjures such things if not heaven and earth,
and if heaven and earth can't make things last,
why should we humans try?
That's why masters devote themselves to Way.
To master Way is to become Way,
to master gain is to become gain,
to master loss is to become loss.
And whatever becomes Way, Way welcomes joyfully,
whatever becomes gain, gain welcomes joyfully,
whatever becomes loss, loss welcomes joyfully.
If you don't stand sincere by your words how sincere can the people be?


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24

Stretch onto tiptoes and you never stand firm.
Hurry long strides and you never travel far.
Keep up self-reflection
and you'll never be enlightened.
Keep up self-definition
and you'll never be apparent.
Keep up self-promotion
and you'll never be proverbial.
Keep up self-esteem
and you'll never be perennial.
Travelers of the Way call such striving too much food and useless baggage.
Things may not all despise such striving, but a master of the Way stays clear of it.


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25

There was something all murky shadow, born before heaven and earth:
o such utter silence, utter emptiness.
Isolate and changeless,
it moves everywhere without fail:
picture the mother of all beneath heaven.
I don't know its name.
I'll call it Way,
and if I must name it, name it Vast.
Vast means it's passing beyond,
passing beyond means it's gone far away,
and gone far away means it's come back.
Because Way is vast
heaven is vast,
earth is vast,
and the true emperor too is vast.
In this realm, there are four vast things,
and the true emperor is one of them.
Human abides by earth.
Earth abides by heaven.
Heaven abides by Way.
Way abides by occurrence appearing of itself.


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26

Heavy is the root of light,
and tranquil the ruler of reckless.
A sage traveling all day is never far from the supplies in his cart, and however spectacular the views he remains calm and composed.
How can a lord having ten thousand chariots act lightly in governing all beneath heaven?
Act lightly and you lose your source-root.
Act recklessly and you lose your rule.


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27

Perfect travels leave no tracks.
Perfect words leave no doubts.
Perfect accounts need no counting.
Perfect gates close without locks and so cannot be opened.
Perfect knots bind without rope and so cannot be loosened.
A sage is always perfect in rescuing people and so abandons no one,
always perfect in rescuing things and so abandons nothing.
This is called the bequest of enlightenment,
so one who possesses this perfection is a teacher of those who don't,
and those who don't possess it are the resource of one who does.
Without honoring the teacher
and loving the resource,
no amount of wisdom can prevent vast confusion.
This is called the essential mystery.


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28

Knowing the masculine
and nurturing the feminine
you become the river of all beneath heaven.
River of all beneath heaven
you abide by perennial Integrity
and so return to infancy.
Knowing the white
and nurturing the black
you become the pattern of all beneath heaven.
Pattern of all beneath heaven
you abide by perennial Integrity
and so return to the boundless.
Knowing splendor
and nurturing ruin
you become the valley of all beneath heaven.
Valley of all beneath heaven
you rest content in perennial Integrity
and so return to the simplicity of uncarved wood.
When uncarved wood is split apart
it becomes mere implements.
But when a sage is employed
he becomes a true minister,
for the great governing blade carves nothing.


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29

Longing to take hold of all beneath heaven and improve it...
I've seen such dreams invariably fail.
All beneath heaven is a sacred vessel,
something beyond all improvement.
Try to improve it and you ruin it.
Try to hold it and you lose it.
For things sometimes lead and sometimes follow,
sometimes sigh and sometimes storm,
sometimes strengthen and sometimes weaken,
sometimes kill and sometimes die.
And so the sage steers clear of extremes, clear of extravagance, clear of exaltation.


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30

If you use the Way to help a ruler of people
you never use weapons to coerce all beneath heaven.
Such things always turn against you:
fields where soldiers camp turn to thorn and bramble, and vast armies on the march leave years of misery behind.
The noble prevail if they must, then stop: they never press on to coerce the world.
Prevail, but never presume.
Prevail, but never boast.
Prevail, but never exult.
Prevail, but never when there's another way.
This is to prevail without coercing.
Things grown strong soon grow old.
This is called losing the Way: Lose the Way and you die young.


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31

Auspicious weapons are the tools of misfortune.
Things may not all despise such tools,
but a master of the Way stays clear of them.
The noble-minded treasure the left when home and the right when taking up weapons of war.
Weapons are tools of misfortune,
not tools of the noble-minded.
When there's no other way,
they take up weapons with tranquil calm,
finding no glory in victory.
To find glory in victory is to savor killing people,
and if you savor killing people you'll never guide all beneath heaven.
We honor the left in celebrations
and honor the right in lamentations,
so captains stand on the left
and generals on the right.
But use them both as if conducting a funeral:
when so many people are being killed
it should be done with tears and mourning.
And victory too should be conducted like a funeral.


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32

Way is perennially nameless,
an uncarved simplicity.
Though small,
it's subject to nothing in all beneath heaven.
But when lords or emperors foster it,
the ten thousand things gladly become their guests,
heaven mingling with earth sends down sweet dew,
and the people free of mandates share justice among themselves.
When a governing blade begins carving it up, names arise.
Once names arise,
know that it's time to stop.
Knowing when to stop, you can avoid danger.
Way flowing through all beneath heaven:
it's like valley streams flowing into rivers and seas.


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33

To know people is wisdom,
but to know yourself is enlightenment.
To master people takes force,
but to master yourself takes strength.
To know contentment is wealth, and to live with strength resolve.
To never leave whatever you are is to abide,
and to die without getting lost - that is to live on and on.


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34

Way is vast, a flood
so utterly vast it's flowing everywhere.
The ten thousand things depend on it:
giving them life and never leaving them it performs wonders but remains nameless.
Feeding and clothing the ten thousand things
without ruling over them,
perennially that free of desire,
it's small in name.
And being what the ten thousand things return to
without ruling over them,
it's vast in name.
It never makes itself vast and so becomes utterly vast.


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35

Holding to the great image all beneath heaven sets out:
sets out free of risk, peace tranquil and vast.
Music and savory food
entice travelers to stop,
but the Way uttered forth
isn't even the thinnest of bland flavors.
Look at it: not enough to see.
Listen to it: not enough to hear.
Use it: not enough to use up.


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36

To gather
you must scatter.
To weaken
you must strengthen.
To abandon
you must foster.
To take
you must give.
This is called dusky enlightenment.
Soft and weak overcome hard and strong.
Fish should be kept in their watery depths:
a nation's honed instruments of power should be kept well-hidden from the people.


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37

Way is perennially doing nothing so there's nothing it doesn't do.
When lords and emperors abide by this
the ten thousand things follow change of themselves.
Desire drives change,
but I've stilled it with uncarved nameless simplicity.
Uncarved nameless simplicity
is the perfect absence of desire,
and the absence of desire means repose:
all beneath heaven at rest of itself.


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38

High Integrity never has Integrity and so is indeed Integrity.
Low Integrity never loses Integrity and so is not at all Integrity.
High Integrity does nothing
and has no motives.
Low Integrity does something
and has sure motives.
High Humanity does something
and has no motives.
High Duty does something
and has sure motives.
High Ritual does something,
and when no one follows along
it rolls up its sleeves
and forces them into line.
Lose Way, and Integrity appears.
Lose Integrity, and Humanity appears.
Lose Humanity, and Duty appears.
Lose Duty, and Ritual appears.
Ritual is the thinning away of loyalty and sincerity, the beginning of chaos,
and prophecy is the flowery semblance of Way, the beginning of folly.
This is why a great elder
inhabits thick rather than thin,
fruitful substance rather than flowery semblance,
always ignores that and chooses this.


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39

Ancients who realized primal unity:
Heaven realized primal unity
and so came to clarity.
Earth realized primal unity
and so came to tranquility.
Gods realized primal unity
and so came to spirit.
Valleys realized primal unity
and so came to fullness.
The ten thousand things realized primal unity
and so came to life.
Lords and emperors realized primal unity
and so came to rectify all beneath heaven.
It's their very existence:
without clarity heaven cracks open,
without tranquility earth bursts forth,
without spirit gods cease,
without fullness valleys run dry,
without life the ten thousand things perish,
without high nobility lords and emperors stumble and fall.
Nobility is rooted in humility,
and high founded on low.
This is why true lords and emperors call themselves
orphaned, destitute, ill-fated.
Isn't this rooted in humility?
Isn't it counting the world's praise as no praise,
refusing to tinkle like delicate jade bells or clatter like ponderous stone chimes?


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40

Return is the movement of Way, and yielding the method of Way.
All beneath heaven, the ten thousand things: it's all born of being, and being is born of nonbeing.


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41

When the lofty hear of Way
they devote themselves.
When the common hear of Way
they wonder if it's real or not.
And when the lowly hear of Way
they laugh out loud.
Without that laughter, it wouldn't be Way.
Hence the abiding proverbs:
Luminous Way seems dark.
Advancing Way seems retreating.
Formless Way seems manifold.
High Integrity seems low-lying.
Great whiteness seems tarnished.
Abounding Integrity seems lacking.
Abiding Integrity seems missing.
True essence seems protean.
The great square has no corners,
and the great implement completes nothing.
The great voice sounds faint,
and the great image has no shape.
Way remains hidden and nameless,
but it alone nourishes and brings to completion.


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42

Way gave birth to one,
and one gave birth to two.
Two gave birth to three,
and three gave birth to the ten thousand things.
Then the ten thousand things shouldered yin and embraced yang,
blending ch'i to establish harmony.
People all hate scraping by orphaned, destitute, ill-fated, but true dukes and emperors call themselves just that.
Some things gain by loss, and some lose by gain.
I only teach
what the people teach:
Tyranny and force never come to a natural end.
I've taken the people as my schoolmaster.


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43

The weakest in all beneath heaven gallops through the strongest, and vacant absence slips inside solid presence.
I know by this the value of nothing's own doing.
The teaching without words, the value of nothing's own doing: few indeed master such things.


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44

Name or self: which is precious?
Self or wealth: which is treasure?
Gain or loss: which is affliction?
Indulge love and the cost is dear.
Keep treasures and the loss is lavish.
Knowing contentment you avoid tarnish, and knowing when to stop you avoid danger.
Try it and your life will last and last.


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45

Great perfection seems flawed, but its usefulness never falters.
Great fullness seems empty, but its usefulness never runs dry.
Great rectitude seems bent low,
great skill seems clumsy,
great eloquence seems quiet.
Bustling around may overcome cold, but tranquility overcomes heat.
Master lucid tranquility and you'll govern all beneath heaven.


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46

When all beneath heaven abides in Way, fast horses are kept to work the fields.
When all beneath heaven forgets Way, war horses are bred among the fertility altars.
What calamity is greater than no contentment, and what flaw greater than the passion for gain?
The contentment of fathoming contentment - there lies the contentment that endures.


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47

You can know all beneath heaven though you never step out the door,
and you can see the Way of heaven though you never look out the window.
The further you explore, the less you know.
So it is that a sage knows by going nowhere, names by seeing nothing, perfects by doing nothing.


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48

To work at learning brings more each day.
To work at Way brings less each day,
less and still less
until you're doing nothing yourself.
And when you're doing nothing yourself, there's nothing you don't do.
To grasp all beneath heaven, leave it alone.
Leave it alone, that's all,
and nothing in all beneath heaven will elude you.


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49

A sage's mind is never his own:
he makes the hundred-fold people's mind his mind.
I treat the noble with nobility
and the ignoble too:
such is the nobility of Integrity.
I treat the sincere with sincerity
and the insincere too:
such is the sincerity of Integrity.
A sage dwells within all beneath heaven
at ease, mind mingled through it all.
The hundred-fold people devote their eyes and ears,
but a sage inhabits it all like a child.


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50

People born into life enter death.
Constant companion in life
and in death,
this body is the kill-site animating their lives.
And isn't that because
they think life is the fullness of life?
I've heard those who encompass the whole of life
could walk on and on without meeting rhinoceros or tiger,
could charge into armies without feeling shield or sword.
A rhinoceros would find nowhere to gore them,
a tiger nowhere to claw them,
a sword nowhere to slice them.
And isn't that because
for them there's no kill-site?


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51

Way gives birth to them and Integrity nurtures them.
Matter shapes them and conditions complete them.
That's why the ten thousand things always honor Way and treasure Integrity.
Honoring Way and treasuring Integrity
isn't obedience to command,
it's occurrence perennially appearing of itself.
Way gives birth to them and Integrity nurtures them:
it fosters and sustains them, harbors and succors them, nourishes and shelters them.
Giving birth without possessing,
animating without subjecting,
fostering without dominating:
this is called dark-enigma Integrity.


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52

There's a source all beneath heaven shares: call it the mother of all beneath heaven.
Once you fathom the mother you understand the child, and once you understand the child you abide in the mother,
self gone, free of danger.
If you block the senses and close the mind, you never struggle.
If you open the senses and expand your endeavors, nothing can save you.
Seeing the small is called enlightenment, and abiding in the gentle strength.
Wielding radiance return to enlightenment, then you're beyond all harm.
This is the cultivation of constancy.


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53

Understanding sparse and sparser still I travel the great Way, nothing to fear unless I stray.
The great Way is open and smooth, but people adore twisty paths:
Government in ruins, fields overgrown and graineries bare,
they indulge in elegant robes
and sharp swords,
lavish food and drink,
all those trappings of luxury.
It's vainglorious thievery -
not the Way, not the Way at all.


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54

Something planted so deep it's never rooted up,
something held so tight it's never stolen away:
children and grandchildren will pay it homage always.
Cultivated in yourself it makes Integrity real.
Cultivated in your family it makes Integrity plentiful.
Cultivated in your village it makes Integrity enduring.
Cultivated in your nation it makes Integrity abundant.
Cultivated in all beneath heaven it makes Integrity all-encompassing.
So look through self into self,
through family into family,
through village into village,
through nation into nation,
through all beneath heaven into all beneath heaven.
How can I know all beneath heaven as it is?
Through this.


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55

Embody Integrity's abundance and you're like a vibrant child
hornets and vipers can't bite,
savage beasts can't maul and fierce birds can't claw,
bones supple and muscles tender, but still gripping firmly.
Knowing nothing of male and female mingling
and yet aroused:
this is the utmost essence.
Wailing all day without getting hoarse:
this is the utmost harmony.
To understand harmony is called constancy,
and to understand constancy is called enlightenment.
To enhance your life is called tempting fate,
and to control ch'i with the mind is called violence.
Things grown strong soon grow old.
This is called losing the Way: Lose the Way and you die young.


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56

Those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know.
Block the senses and close the mind,
blunt edges, loosen tangles, soften glare, mingle dust:
this is called dark-enigma union.
It can't be embraced and can't be ignored,
can't be enhanced and can't be harmed,
can't be treasured and can't be despised,
for it's the treasure of all beneath heaven.


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57

You may govern the nation through principle
and lead armies to victory through craft,
but you win all beneath heaven through indifference.
How can I know this to be so?
Through this.
The more prohibitions rule all beneath heaven the deeper poverty grows among the people.
The more shrewd leaders there are the faster dark confusion fills the nation.
The more cleverness people learn the faster strange things happen.
The faster laws and decrees are issued the more bandits and thieves appear.
Therefore a sage says:
I do nothing
and the people transform themselves.
I cherish tranquility
and the people rectify themselves.
I cultivate indifference
and the people enrich themselves.
I desire nothing
and the people return of themselves to uncarved simplicity.


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58

When government is pensive and withdrawn people are pure and simple.
When government is confident and effective people are cunning and secretive.
Prosperity springs from calamity and calamity lurks in prosperity.
Who knows where it will all end
without leaders of principle?
And principle always reverts to sinister trickery,
virtue to depraved sorcery.
People have been confused for such a long long time.
That's why a sage is sharp but never cuts,
austere but never grates,
forthright but never provokes,
bright but never dazzles.


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59

To govern people and serve heaven
there's nothing like thrift.
Thrift means submitting early,
and submitting early means storing up Integrity.
Store up Integrity and nothing is beyond you.
Once nothing is beyond you,
no one knows where it will all end.
Once no one knows where it will end,
you can nurture a nation.
And nurturing the nation's mother too
you can last and last.
This is called rooted deep and solid,
the Way of long life and enduring insight.


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60

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.
Use Way to rule all beneath heaven and spirits never become ghosts.
When spirits don't become ghosts, ghosts do people no harm.
When ghosts do people no harm, sages do them no harm.
And once humans and ghosts do each other no harm, they return together to Integrity.


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61

A great nation flows down into
the place where all beneath heaven converges,
the female of all beneath heaven.
In its stillness, female lies perpetually low, and there perpetually conquers male.
A great nation that puts itself below a small nation takes over the small nation,
and a small nation that puts itself below a great nation gives itself over to the great nation.
Some lie low to take over, and some lie low to give over.
A great nation wanting nothing more than to unite and nurture the people and a small nation wanting nothing more than to join and serve the people: they both succeed in what they want.
Great things lie low and rest content.


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62

Way is the mystery of these ten thousand things.
It's a good person's treasure
and an evil person's refuge.
Its beautiful words are bought and sold
and its noble deeds are gifts enriching people.
It never abandons even the evil among us.
When the Son of Heaven is enthroned and the three dukes installed, parades with jade discs and stately horses can't compare to sitting still in Way's company.
Isn't it said that
the ancients exalted this Way because
in it whatever we seek we find,
and whatever seeks us we escape?
No wonder it's exalted throughout all beneath heaven.


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63

If you're nothing doing what you do,
you act without acting and savor without savoring,
you render the small vast and the few many,
use Integrity to repay hatred,
see the complexity in simplicity,
find the vast in the minute.
The complex affairs of all beneath heaven are there in simplicity,
and the vast affairs of all beneath heaven are there in the minute.
That's why a sage never bothers with vastness and so becomes utterly vast.
Easy promises breed little trust, and too much simplicity breeds too much complexity.
That's why a sage inhabits the complexity of things and so avoids all complexity.


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64

It's easy to embrace the tranquil
and easy to prevent trouble before omens appear.
It's easy for the trifling to melt away
and easy for the slight to scatter away.
Work at things before they've begun
and establish order before confusion sets in,
for a tree you can barely reach around
grows from the tiniest rootlet,
a nine-tiered tower
starts as a basket of dirt,
a thousand-mile journey
begins with a single step.
Work at things and you ruin them; cling to things and you lose them.
That's why a sage does nothing and so ruins nothing, clings to nothing and so loses nothing.
When people devote themselves to something they always ruin it on the verge of success.
Finish with the same care you took in beginning and you'll avoid ruining things.
This is why a sage desires without desire,
never longing for rare treasures,
learns without learning,
always returning to what people have passed by,
helps the ten thousand things occur of themselves by never presuming to work at them.


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65

Ancient masters of Way
never enlightened people.
They kept people simple-minded.
It's impossible to govern
once you've filled people with knowing.
Use knowing to govern
and you plunder the nation,
but use not-knowing to govern
and you enrich the nation.
Once you understand this, the pattern is clear,
and always understanding the pattern is called dark-enigma Integrity.
Dark-enigma Integrity is deep and distant, is the return of things
back into the vast harmony.


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66

Oceans and rivers become emperors of the hundred valleys
because they stay so perfectly below them.
This alone makes them emperors of the hundred valleys.
So, wanting to rule over the people a sage speaks from below them, and wanting to lead the people he follows along behind them,
then he can reign above without weighing the people down and stay ahead without leading the people to ruin.
All beneath heaven rejoices in its tireless praise of such a sage.
And because he's given up contention,
nothing in all beneath heaven contends with him.


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67

People throughout all beneath heaven say
my Tao is so vast it's like nothing at all.
But it's only vast because it's like nothing at all:
if it were like anything else
it would have long since become trifling.
There are three treasures
I hold and nurture:
The first is called compassion,
the second economy,
and the third never daring to lead all beneath heaven.
Courage comes of compassion, generosity comes of economy,
and commanding leadership comes of never daring to lead all beneath heaven.
But these days it's all courage without compassion, generosity without economy, and leading without following.
There's nothing but death in that.
To overcome, attack with compassion.
To stand firm, defend with compassion.
Whatever heaven sustains it shelters with compassion.


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68

A noble official is never warlike,
and a noble warrior is never angered.
A noble conqueror never faces an enemy,
and a noble leader stays below the people he wields.
This is called the Integrity of peacefulness, the power of wielding the people,
the fullest extent of our ancient accord with heaven.


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69

There was once a saying among those who wielded armies:
I'd much rather be a guest than a host,
much rather retreat a foot than advance an inch.
This is called marching without marching,
rolling up sleeves without baring arms,
raising swords without brandishing weapons,
entering battle without facing an enemy.
There's no greater calamity than dishonoring an enemy.
Dishonor an enemy and you'll lose those treasures of mine.
When armies face one another in battle,
it's always the tender-hearted one that prevails.


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70

My words are so simple to understand
and so easily put into practice
that no one in all beneath heaven understands them
and no one puts them into practice.
Words have their ancestral origins and actions their sovereign:
it's only because people don't understand this that they don't understand me.
And the less people understand me the more precious I become.
So it is that a sage wears sackcloth, keeping pure jade harbored deep.


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71

Knowing not-knowing is lofty.
Not knowing not-knowing is affliction.
A sage stays free of affliction.
Just recognize it as affliction and you're free of it.


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72

When the people stop fearing the fearsome something truly fearsome will descend upon them.
Don't hem them in
and choke their lives with oppression.
That's all.
Just let them be,
and they'll never tire of you.
A sage sees through himself without revealing himself,
loves himself without exalting himself,
always ignores that and chooses this.


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73

To infuse daring with courage means death.
To infuse caution with courage means life.
The one enriches you, and the other ruins you.
No one knows why heaven
despises what it despises,
that's why a sage inhabits the complexity of things.
The Way of heaven never contends
and so overcomes perfectly,
never speaks
and so answers perfectly,
never summons
and so arrives of itself,
stays calm
and so plans perfectly.
The net of heaven is vast, woven so vast and wide open nothing slips through.


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74

In their misery, the people no longer fear death, so how can you threaten them even with death?
Let the people fear death always,
then if we seize those who follow sinister ways
and put them to death,
no one will dare live such lives.
The Executioner's killing is perennial, it's true.
But to undertake the killing yourself -
that's like trying to carve lumber for a master carpenter.
Try to carve lumber for a master carpenter
and you'll soon have blood on your hands.


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75

The people are starving,
and it's only because you leaders feast on taxes
that they're starving.
The people are impossible to rule,
and it's only because you leaders are masters of extenuation
that they're impossible to rule.
The people take death lightly,
and it's only because you leaders crave life's lavish pleasures
that they take death lightly,
they who act without concern for life: it's a wisdom far beyond treasuring life.


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76

People are soft and weak in life,
hard and strong in death.
The ten thousand plants and trees are soft and frail in life,
withered and brittle in death.
Things hard and strong follow death's ways and things soft and weak follow life's:
so it is that strong armies never overcome and strong trees always suffer the axe.
Things great and strong dwell below.
Things soft and weak dwell above.


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77

The Way of heaven is like a drawn bow pulling down the high and raising up the low:
it takes away where there's abundance and restores where there's want.
The Way of heaven takes away where there's abundance
and restores where there's want,
but the Way of humankind isn't like that:
it takes away where there's want
and gives where there's abundance.
Only a master of the Way can give abundance to all beneath heaven.
Such a sage acts without presumption and never dwells on success:
great worth has no need to be seen.


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78

Nothing in all beneath heaven is so soft and weak as water.
And yet, for conquering the hard and strong, nothing succeeds like water.
And nothing can change it:
weak overcoming strong,
soft overcoming hard.
Everything throughout all beneath heaven knows this,
and yet nothing puts it into practice.
That's why the sage said:
Whoever assumes a nation's disgrace is called the sacred leader of a country,
and whoever assumes a nation's misfortune is called the emperor of all beneath heaven.
Words of clarity sound confused.


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79

You can resolve great rancor, but rancor always lingers on.
Understanding the more noble way,
a sage holds the creditor's half of contracts
and yet asks nothing of others.
Those with Integrity tend to such contracts;
those without Integrity tend to the collection of taxes.
The Way of heaven is indifferent, always abiding with people of nobility.


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80

Let nations grow smaller and smaller and people fewer and fewer,
let weapons become rare
and superfluous,
let people feel death's gravity again
and never wander far from home.
Then boat and carriage will sit unused
and shield and sword lie unnoticed.
Let people knot ropes for notation again and never need anything more,
let them find pleasure in their food and beauty in their clothes, peace in their homes and joy in their ancestral ways.
Then people in neighboring nations will look across to each other,
their chickens and dogs calling back and forth,
and yet they'll grow old and die without bothering to exchange visits.


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81

Sincere words are never beautiful and beautiful words never sincere.
The noble are never eloquent and the eloquent never noble.
The knowing are never learned and the learned never knowing.
A sage never hoards:
the more you do for others the more plenty is yours,
and the more you give to others the more abundance is yours.
The Way of heaven is to profit without causing harm,
and the Way of a sage to act without contending.


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