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The Tao that is the subject of discussion is not the true Tao.
The quality which can be named is not its true attribute.
That which was before Heaven and Earth is called the Non-Existent.
The Existent is the mother of all things.
Therefore doth the wise man seek after the first mystery of the Non-Existent, while seeing in that which exists the Ultimates thereof.
The Non-Existent and Existent are identical in all but name.
This identity of apparent opposites I call the profound, the great deep, the open door of bewilderment.
When the world speaks of beauty as being beautiful, ugliness is at once defined.
When goodness is seen to be good, evil is at once apparent.
So do existence and non-existence mutually give rise to one another, as that which is difficult and that which is easy, distant and near, high and low, shrill and bass, preceding and following.
The Sage therefore is occupied only with that which is without prejudice.
He teaches without verbosity; he acts without effort; he produces with possessing, he acts without regard to the fruit of action; he brings his work to perfection without assuming credit; and claiming nothing as his own, he cannot at any time be said to lose.
Avoiding distinctions of merit among the people prevents jealousy.
Not setting a value on rare things prevents theft.
Not seeking the things of peace keeps the mind in peace.
Thus the Sage governs by ridding the heart of its desires; giving the stomach due satisfaction, by resting the muscles and strengthening the bones, by preserving the world from a knowledge of evil and hence from its desire, and by making those who have such knowledge afraid to use it.
He cacts by non-action, and by this he governs all.
Tao is without limitation; its depth is the source of whatsoever is.
It makes shard things round, it brings order out of chaos, it obscures the brilliant, it is wholly without attachment.
I do not know who gave it birth; it is more ancient than God.
Neither Heaven nor Earth has any predilections; they regard all persons and things as sacrificial images.
The wise man knows no distinctions; he beholds all men as things made for holy uses.
The celestial space is like unto bellows¾though containing nothing that is solid, it does not at any time collapse; and the more it is set in motion, the more does it produce.
The inflated man, however, is soon exhausted.
Than self-restraint there is nothing better.
Like the river in the valley, the spirit is never dried up.
I call it the Mother-Deep.
The motion of the Mother-Deep I regard as the origin of the Heaven and the Earth.
Forever it endures and moves without design.
Both Heaven and Earth endure a long time.
The cause of their endurance is their indifference to long life.
This is why the subsist.
Thus the wise man, indifferent to himself, is the greatest among men, and taking no care for himself, he is nevertheless preserved.
By being the most unselfish he is the most secure of all.
The greatest virtue is like water; it is good to all things.
It attains the most inaccessible places without strife.
Therefore it is like Tao.
It has the virtue of adapting itself to its place.
It is virtuous like the heart by being deep.
It is virtuous like speech be being faithful.
It is virtuous like government in regulating.
It is virtuous like a servant in its ability.
It is virtuous like action by being in season.
And because it does not strive it has no enemies.
It is advisable to refrain from continual reaching after wealth.
Continual handling and sharpening wears away the most durable thing.
If the house be full of jewels, who shall protect it?
Wealth and glory bring care along with pride.
To stop when good work is done and honour advancing is the way of Heaven.
By conserving the natural and spiritual powers it is possible to escape dissolution.
By restraining the passions and letting gentleness have its sway it is possible to continue as a child.
By purging the mind of impurities it is possible to remain untainted.
By governing the people with love it is possible to remain unknown.
By continual use of the Gates of Heaven it is possible to preserve them from rust.
By transparency on all sides it is possible to remain unrecognized.
o bring forth and preserve, to produce without possessing, to act without hope of reward, and to expand without waste, this is the supreme virtue.
The thirty spokes of a carriage wheel uniting at the nave are made useful by the hole in the centre, where nothing exists.
Vessels of moulded earth are useful by reason of their hollowness.
Doors and windows are useful by being cut out.
A house is useful because of its emptiness.
Existence, therefore, is like unto gain, but Non-Existence to use.
Light will blind a man, sound will make him deaf, taste will ruin his palate, the chase will make him wild, and precious things will tempt him.
Therefore soes the wise man provide for the soul and not for the senses.
He ignores the one and takes the other with both hands.
Honour and shame are the same as fear.
Fortune and disaster are the same as the person.
What is said of honour and shame is this: shame is abasement, which is feared whether is be absent or present.
So dignity and shame are inseparable from the fear which both occasion.
What is said of fortune and disaster is this: fortune and disaster are things which befall the person.
So without personality how should I suffer disaster or the reverse?
Therefore by the accident of good fortune a man may rule the world for a time.
But by virtue of love he may rule the world for ever.
Ie. Plainness is that which cannot be seen by looking at it.
He. Stillness is that which cannot be heard by listening to it.
We. Rareness is that which cannot be felt by handling it.
These, being indiscernible, may be regarded as an unity - I H W, Tao.
It is not bright above nor dark beneath.
Infinite in operation, it is yet without name.
Issuing forth it enters into Itself.
This is the appearance of the Non-Apparent, the form of the Non-Existent.
This is the unfathomable mystery.
Going before, its face is not seen; following after, its back is not observed.
Yet to regulate one's life by the ancient knowledge of Tao is to have found the path.
The ancient wise men were skilful in their mysterious acquaintance with profundities.
They were fathomless in their depths; so profound, that I cannot bring them forth to my mind.
They were cautious, like one who crosses a swollen river.
They were reserved, like one who doubts his fellows.
They were watchful, like one who travels abroad.
They were retiring, like snow beneath the sun.
They were simple, like newly felled timber.
They were lowly, like the valley.
They were obscure, like muddy water.
May not a man take muddy water and make it clear by keeping still?
May not a man take a dead thing and make it alive by continuous motion?
Those who follow this Tao have no need of replenishing, and being devoid of all properties, they grow old without need of being filled.
Having emptied yourself of everything, remain where you are.
All things spring forth into activity with one accord, and wither do we see them return?
After blossoming for a while, everything dies down to its root.
This going back to one's origin is called peace: it is the giving of oneself over to the inevitable.
This giving of oneself over to the inevitable is called preservation.
He who knows this preservation is called enlightened.
He who knows it not continues in misery.
He who knows this preservation is great of soul.
He who is great of soul is prevailing.
Prevailing, he is a king.
Being a king, he is celestial.
Being celestial, he is of Tao.
Being of Tao, he endures for ever: for though his body perish, yet he suffers no hurt.
In the first age of mankind the people recognized their superiors.
In the second age they served and flattered them.
In the third age they feared them,
In the fourth age they despised them.
Where faith is lacking it does not inspire confidence.
How careful were they in their expressions!
When they had done a good thing they would say, "How very natural we are!"
When the great Tao is lost men follow after charity and duty to one's neighbours.
When wisdom has met with honours the world is full of pretenders.
When family ties are severed then filial duty and parental indulgence take their place
When a nation is filled with strife then do patriots flourish.
By giving up their self-righteousness and abandoning their wisdom the people would be immensely improved.
Forsaking Charity and Duty to the neighbours, they might revert to their natural relations.
Abandoning excellence and foregoing gain, the people would have no more thieves.
The cultivation of these things has been a failure, therefore they should go back whence they came.
And for you, do come forth in your natural simplicity, lay hold on verities, restrain selfishness, and rid yourself of ambition.
Dispense with your learning and save yourselves anxiety; the difference between certainly and perhaps is not much after all.
Do they help us to distinguish between good and evil? for one must always by careful of distinctions!
Alas! but the people will never be free of their folly.
They are filled with ambition, as the stallion ox is filled with lust.
I am singular in my bashfulness, I am devoid of ambition, I am undeveloped as a little child.
I am but a waif, a stray, a child without a home.
All others have an excess of good things, but I am as one abandoned.
How foolish and simple am I! I am bewildered.
Everyone sparkles with intelligence, I am alone in my obscurity.
The people are full of discernment; I alone am dull.
I am tossed about like the ocean; I roll am never at rest.
Everyone has something to do; I alone am incapable and without merit.
I alone am estranged from the people, but I glory on the breast of my mother!
The greatest virtue is in simply following Tao, the intangible, inscrutable.
Inscrutable, intangible, and yet containing forms.
Intangible, inscrutable, and yet containing things.
Profound and obscure, but having an essence, a veritable essence in which is consistence.
From eternity until now its nature has remained unchanged.
It inheres in all things from their beginnings.
How do I know of the origin of things?
I know by Tao.
Whosoever adapteth himself shall be preserved to the end.
Whosoever bendeth himself shall be straightened.
Whosoever emptieth himself shall be filled.
Whosoever weareth himself away shall be renewed.
Whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased.
Therefore doth the Sage cling to simplicity, and is an example to all men.
He is not onstentatious, and therefore he shines.
He is not egotistic, and therefore he is praised.
He is not vain, therefore he is esteemed.
He is not haughty, and therefore he is honoured.
And because he does not compete with others, no man is his enemy.
The ancient maxim, "Whosoever adapteth himself shall be preserved to the end," verily it is no idle saying.
Without doubt he shall go back to his Home in peace.
Moderate your speech, and preserve yourself.
A hurricane will not outlast the morning, a heavy rain will not outlast the day.
Who have the power to make these things but Heaven and Earth?
And if Heaven and Earth cannot continue them long, how shall a man do so?
If a man accords with Tao in all things, he is identified with Tao by that agreement.
A virtuous man is identified with virtue, a vicious man is identified with vice.
Whoever is identified with Tao, him do the Taoists receive with gladness.
Whoever is identified with virtue, him do the virtuous receive with gladness.
But whoever is identified with vice, him do the vicious gladly serve with vice.
For wherever confidence is lacking, it is not met with trust.
By standing on tiptoe one cannot keep still.
Astride of one's fellow one cannot progress.
By displaying oneself one does not shine.
By self-approbation one is not esteemed.
In self-praise there is no merit.
He who exalts himself does not stand high.
Such things are to Tao what refuse and excreta are to the body.
They are everywhere detested.
Therefore the man of Tao will not abide with them.
Before Heaven and Earth existed there was in Nature a primordial substance.
It was serene, it was fathomless.
It was self-existent, it was homogeneous.
It was omnipresent, nor suffered any limitation.
It is to be regarded as the universal mother.
I do not know its name, but I call it Tao.
If forced to qualify it, I call it the boundless.
Being boundless, I call it the inconceivable.
Being inscrutable, I call it the inaccessible.
Being inaccessible, I call it the omnipresent.
Tao is supreme, Heaven is supreme, Earth is supreme, the King is supreme.
There are in the universe four kinds of supremacy, and their rulership is one.
Man is ruled by the Earth, the Earth is ruled by Heaven, Heaven is ruled by Tao, and Tao is ruled by itself.
Weight underlies lightness, quiescence underlies motion.
Therefore the Sage never loses his gravity and quiescence from day to day.
Though glorious palaces should belong to him, he would dwell in them peacefully, without attachment.
Alas that a king with many chariots should conduct himself with frivolity in the midst of his kingdom!
By levity he loses his ministers, and by inconstancy his throne.
A good walker makes no dust after him.
The good speaker incurs no discussion.
The good reckoner needs no arithmetic.
The good keeper needs no bolts or bars, and none can open after him.
The wise man is constant and a good helper of his fellows. He rejects none.
He is a continual good preserver of things. He disdains nothing.
His intelligence is all-embracing.
Good men instruct one another; and bad men are the material they delve in.
Whoever, therefore, does not honour his teacher and cherish his material, though he be called wise, is yet in a state of delusion.
This is no less important than strange.
He who, being a man, remains a woman, will become an universal channel.
As an universal channel the eternal virtue will never forsake him. He will re-become a child.
He who, being in the light, remains in obscurity, will become an universal model.
As an universal model the eternal virtue will not pass him by. He will go back to the all-perfect.
He who, being glorious, continues in humility, will become an universal valley.
As an universal valley the eternal virtue will fill him. He will revert to the first essence.
This first essence is that which, being differentiated, gives rise to innumerable vessels of life.
A wise man, by embracing it, becomes the wisest of governors.
A liberal government is that which neither disregards not hurts anyone.
When a man who wishes to reform the world takes it in hand, I perceive that there will be no end to it!
Spiritual vessels are not fashioned in the world.
Whoever makes destroys; whoever grasps loses.
For perforce if one advances another is left behind; if one blows hot another will blow cold; if one be strengthened another will be weakened; is one be supported another will be undermined.
Therefore the Sage gives up all enthusiasm, levity, and pomp.
The man who aids the King by use of Tao forces the people into submission without resort to the use of arms. He will not regard the fruit of his actions.
Prickly briars and thorns flourish where battalions have quartered.
Bad years follow on the heels of armies in motion.
The good soldier is brave when occasion requires, but he does not risk himself for power.
Brave is he when occasion requires, but he does not oppress.
Brave is he when occasion requires, but he does not boast.
Brave is he when occasion requires, but he is not mean.
Brave is he when occasion requires, but he does not rage.
Things become old through excess of vigour. This is called Non-Tao; and what is Non-Tao is soon wasted!
Weapons, however ornamental, are not a source of happiness, but are dreaded by all.
Therefore the man of Tao will not abide where such things are.
A respectable man at home sets the place of honour at his left hand; but the warrior on going forth to battle gives honour to the right hand. For weapons are things of ill omen, and the man of enlightenment does not use them except when he cannot help it.
His great desire is peace, and he does not take joy in conquest.
To joy in conquest is to joy in the loss of human life.
He who joys in bloodshed is not fit to govern the country.
When affairs are prosperous the left side is preferred, but when things are adverse the right is esteemed.
The adjutant-general is therefore on the left side, while the general-in-chief is on the right.
This I perceive is the manner also observed at a funeral!
He who has occasion to kill many people has cause for deep sorrow and tears.
Therefore a victorious army observes the order of a funeral.
Tao the absolute has no name.
But although insignificant in its original simplicity, the world does not presume to bemean it.
If a king could lay hold on it, the world would of itself submit to him.
Heaven and Earth would conspire to nourish him.
The peopole without pressure would peacefully fall into their own places.
If he should dispose them by titles and names, he would be making a name for himself.
Yet he would wisely stop short of the name, and thus avoid the evil of distinctions.
Tao is to the world what the streams and valleys are to the great rivers and seas.
He is wise who knows others.
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He is strong who conquers others.
He who conquers himself is mighty.
He is rich who is well satisfied.
He walks fast who has an object.
He who fills his place remains secure.
He who dies without being corrupted enjoys a good old age.
Mighty Tao is all pervading.
It is simultaneously on this side and on that.
All living things subsist from it, and all are in its care.
It works, it finishes, and knows not the name of merit.
In love it nurtures all things, and claims no excellence therein.
It knows neither ambition nor desire.
It can be classed with the humblest of things.
All things finally revert to it, and it is not thereby increased.
It can be mentioned with the greatest of things.
Thus does the wise man continually refrain from self-distinction.
Attain to the Great Idea, and all the world will flock to you.
It will flock to you and will not be hurt therein, for it will rest in a wonderful peace.
Where there is a festival the wayfarer will stay.
To the palate the Tao is insipid and tasteless.
In regarding it the eye is not impressed.
In listening to it the ear is not filled.
But in its uses it is inexhaustible.
When Nature is about to withhold a thing it is sure first to increase it.
When about to weaken it is first sure to strengthen.
When about to debase it is certain first to exalt.
When about to deprive it is first sure to give.
This is what I call the covert agreement.
The soft and the weak overcome the hard and the strong.
As a fish out of water is in danger, so a nation is in peril when its armaments are revealed to the people.
Tao remains quiescent, and yet leaves nothing undone.
If a ruler or a king could hold it, all things would of their own accord assume the desired shape.
If in the process of transformation desire should arise, I would check it by the ineffable simplicity.
The ineffable simplicity would bring about an absence of desire, and rest would come back again.
Thus the world would regenerate itself.
The superior virtue is not recognized as such, and it is therefore the very essence of virtue.
The inferior virtue has the distinction of virtue, therefore it lacks the essence.
The superior virtue is spontaneous, and makes no claim to merit.
The inferior virtue is designing, and lays claim to recognition.
The higher benevolence acts without pretension to merit.
The inferior justice acts, and also makes pretensions.
The inferior expediency is designing, and therefore no one honours it.
Therefore does it bare its arm and assert itself by force.
Thus it transpires that when virtue is lost, benevolence takes its place.
When benevolence is lost, justice ensues.
When justice is lost, then expediency follows.
But expediency is the mere shadow of what is right and true, and it is portentous of confusion.
Superficial virtue is the mere tinsel of Tao, and the fool makes use of it.
But the truly great man establishes himself on that which is solid, and will not lean upon a shadow.
He keeps to the real, and avoids display.
He rejects the one, and takes the other with both hands.
Certain things have, by unity, lasted from most ancient times, namely:-
The transparency of Heaven;
The steadfastness of Earth;
The incorporeality of spirits;
The watery plenitude of valleys;
The life of all creations;
The government of kings and princes;
All these endure by unity.
But for the cause of its transparency Heaven would be in danger of obscuration.
But for the cause of its steadfastness the Earth would be in danger of disintegration.
But for the cause of their incorporeality spirits would be in danger of decease.
But for the cause of their plenitude the valleys would be in danger of sterility.
But for the cause of their vitality all creation would be in danger of destruction.
But for the cause of their honour and greatness princes and kings would be in danger of an overthrow.
Herein we see how honour is derived from that which is without distinction; and how greatness rests upon, and is sustained by, that which is insignificant.
Hence do princes and kings call themselves "orphans," "solitary men," and "chariots without wheels."
Do they not thereby acknowledge their authority to be vested in, and supported by, their superiors?
Who can deny it?
Surely "a chariot without wheels" is no chariot at all!
It is as hard for a man to be isolated like a single gem as to be lost in the crowd like a common pebble.
The path of the Tao is backward.
The characteristic of Tao is gentleness.
Everything in the universe comes from existence, and existence from non-existence.
When a wise man hears the Tao, he follows it.
When one of average mind hears it, he holds to it a while and presently loses it.
When a foolish man hears it, he only laughs at it.
If it were not held in derision by such men, it could not rightly be called Tao.
Therefore, as the verse-makers would say:-
Who shines with Tao is lost in shade;
His path in Tao is retrograde,
And all his actions are obscure.
The highest virtue has no name,
The greatest pureness seems but shame;
True wisdom seems the least secure.
Inherent goodness seems most strange;
What most endures is changeless Change;
And squareness doth no angles make.
The largest vessel none can gird; The loudest voice was never heard;
The greatest thing no form doth take.
For Tao is hidden, and it has no name; but it is good at beginning and finishing.
Tao emaned the One; the one emaned the Two; and the two emaned the Three.
From the Three all things have proceeded.
All things are backed by the Unmanifest and faced by the Manifest.
That which unites them is the immaterial breath.
Orphanage, isolation, and a chariot without wheels are shunned by the people; but kings and great men appropriate these names to themselves.
For things increase by being deprived; and being added to they are diminished.
That which people teach by their actions I make use of to instruct them.
Those who are violent and headstrong, for example, do not die a natural death.
They teach a good lesson, and so I make use of them.
The gentlest thing in the world will override the strongest.
The Non-Existent pervades everything, though there be no inlet.
By this I comprehend how effectual is non-action.
To teach without words and to be useful without action, few among men are capable of this.
Which is neared to you, your name or your person?
Which is more precious, your person or your wealth?
Which is the greater evil, to gain or to lose?
Great devotion requires great sacrifice.
Great wealth implies great loss.
He who is content can never be ruined.
He who stands still will never meet danger.
These are the people who endure.
He who sees that his highest attainments are always incomplete may go on working indefinitely.
He who sees his greatest possessions to be inadequate may go on acquiring forever.
His highest rectitude is but crookedness.
His greatest wisdom is but foolishness.
His sweetest eloquence is but stammering.
Action overcomes cold; inaction overcomes heat.
With virtue and quietness one may conquer the world.
When Tao is in the world, horses are used in the pastureland.
When Tao has left the world, chargers are reared in the wilderness.
There is no greater sin than indulging desire.
There is no greater pain than discontent.
There is nothing more disastrous than the greed of gain.
Hence the satisfaction of contentment is an everlasting competence.
A man may know the world without leaving his own home.
Through his windows he can see the supreme Tao.
The further afield he goes the less likely is he to find it.
Therefore the wise man knows without travelling, names things without seeing them, and accomplishes everything without action.
Bodily and mental distress is increased every day in the effort to get knowledge.
But this distress is daily diminished by the getting of Tao.
Do you continually curtail your effort till there be nothing left of it?
By non-action there is nothing which cannot be effected.
A man might, without the least distress, undertake the government of the world.
But those who distress themselves about governing the world are not fit for it.
The wise man has no fixed opinions to call his own.
He accommodates himself to the minds of others.
I would return good for good; I would also return evil for evil.
Virtue is good.
I would meet trust with trust; I would likewise meet suspicion with confidence.
Virtue is trustful.
The wise man lives in the world with modest restraint, and his heart goes out in sympathy to all men.
THe people give him their confidence, and he regards them all as his children.
Men go forth from Life and enter into Death.
The Gates of Life are thirteen in number; and the same are the Gates of Death.
By as many ways does life pass quickly into Death. And wherefore?
Because men strive only after the Sensuous Life.
It has been said that one who knows how to safeguard Life can go through the country without protection against the rhinoceros and tiger.
He may enter into battle without fear of the sword.
The rhinoceros finds no place wherein to drive his horn.
The tiger finds no place wherein to fix his claws.
The sword finds no place wherein to thrust itself.
Why is this?
It is because he has overcome Death.
Tao brings forth and Teh nourishes.
All things take up their several forms, and natural forces bring them to perfection.
Therefore all things conspire to exalt Tao and to cherish virtue.
But this regard of Tao and Teh is not in deference to any mandate.
It is unconstrained, and therefore it endures forever.
For Tao produces all things, and Teh nourishes, increases, feeds, matures, protects, and watches over them.
To produce without possessing; to work without expecting; top enlarge without usurping; this is the absolute virtue!
That from which the universe sprang may be looked upon as its Mother.
By knowing the Mother you have access to the child.
And if, knowing the child, you prefer the Mother, though your body perish, yet you will come to no harm.
Keep your mouth shut, and close up the doors of sight and sound, and as long as you live you will have no vexation.
But open your mouth, or become inquisitive, and you will be in trouble all your life long.
To perceive things in the germ is intelligence.
To remain gentle is to be invincible.
Follow the light that guides you homeward, and do not get lost in the darkness.
This I call using the eternal.
Ah that I were wise enough to follow the great Tao!
Administration is a great undertaking.
The great Tao is extremely simple, but the people prefer the complex ways.
While the palace is extremely well appointed, the fields may be full of tares, and the granaries may be empty.
To dress grandly, to carry sharp swords, to eat and drink excessively, and to amass great wealth, this I call stylish theft.
That it is not Tao is certain.
He who plants rightly never uproots.
He who lays hold rightly never relinquishes.
His posterity will honour him continually.
Whoever develops the Tao in himself will be rooted in virtue.
Whoever develops the Tao in his family will cause his virtue to spread.
Whoever develops the Tao in his village will increase prosperity.
Whoever develops the Tao in the kingdom will make good fortune prevail.
Whoever develops Tao in the world will make virtue universal.
I observe myself, and so I come to know others.
I observe my family, and all others grow familiar.
I study this world, and others come within my knowledge.
How else should I come to know the laws which govern all things, save thus, that I observe them in myself?
The man who is saturated with Virtue is like a little child.
Scorpions will not sting him, wild beasts will not seize him, nor will birds of prey pluck at him.
His young bones are not hard, neither are his sinews strong, yet his grasp is firm and sure.
He is full of vitality, though unconscious of his sex.
Though he should cry out all day, yet he is never hoarse.
Herein is shown his harmony with Nature.
The knowledge of this harmony is the eternal Tao.
The knowledge of the eternal Tao is illumination.
Habits of excess grow upon a man, and the mind, giving way to the passions, they increase day by day.
And when the passions have reached their climax, they fall.
This is against the nature of Tao.
And what is contrary to Tao soon comes to an end.
He who knows the Tao does not discuss it, and those who babble about it do not know it.
To keep the lips closed, to shut the doors of sight and sound, to smooth off the corners, to temper the glare, and to be on a level with the dust of the earth, this is the mysterious virtue.
Whoever observes this will regard alike both frankness and reserve, kindness and injury, honour and degradation.
For this reason he will be held in great esteem of all men.
The righteous man may rule the nation.
The strategic man may rule the army.
But the man who refrains from active measures should be the king.
How do I know this:-
When the actions of the people are controlled by prohibited laws, the country becomes more and more impoverished.
When the people are allowed the free use of arms, the Government is in danger.
The more crafty and dexterous the people become, the more do artificial things come into use.
And when those cunning arts are publicly esteemed, then do rogues prosper.
Therefore the wise man says:-
I will design nothing: and the people will shape themselves.
I will keep quiet; and the people will find their rest.
I will not assert myself; and the people will come forth.
I will discountenance ambition; and the people will revert to their natural simplicity.
A free and generous government gives the people a chance to develop.
When a government is rigid and exacting the people are cramped and miserable.
Misery is but the shadow of happiness.
Happiness is but the cloak of misery.
When will there be an end to them?
If we dispense with rectitude, distortion will assert itself; and what was good in its way will give place to what is evil.
Verily the people have been under a cloud for a long time.
Therefore the wise man is full of rectitude, but he does not chirp and carve at others.
He is just, but he does not admonish others.
He is upright, but he does not straighten others.
He is enlightened, but he does not offend with his brightness.
In ruling men and in serving Heaven there is nothing like moderation.
By means of it one attains to his first estate.
When this is attained a man is possessed of an indefinite store of virtue.
With such a store of virtue he will overcome everything.
And of this mastery there will be no limit.
Thus, without hindrance, he may possess the Kingdom.
Such a man has the mother-constitution, and will endure indefinitely.
He is like the plant whose roots are deep and whose stem is firm.
Thus may a man live long and see many days.
The state should be governed as we cook small fish, without much business.
Bringing the Tao to the governing of the Kingdom will give rest to the shades of the dead.
Not that the Spirits will be inactive, but they will cease to trouble the people.
But what is of more importance, the wise ruler of the people will not hurt them.
And in so far as they do not interfere with one another, their influences conspire to the general good!
The kingdom, like a river, becomes great by being lowly; it is thereby the centre to which all the world tends.
It is similar in the case of woman:
She conquers man by continual quietness.
And quietness is the same as submission.
Therefore a great state, by condescension to those beneath it, may gain the government of them.
Likewise a small state, by submission to one that is greater, may secure its alliance.
Thus the one gains adherence, and the other obtains favours.
Although the great state desires to annex and to nourish others, yet the small state desires to be allied to and serve the greater.
Thus both will be satisfied, if only the greater will condescend.
Tao is the secret guardian of all things.
It enriches the good man and forfends the evildoer.
Its counsel is always in season; its benevolence is always in demand.
Even those who are not good it does not forsake.
Therefore, when the Emperor takes his throne and appoints his nobles, he who comes before him bearing the insignia of a prince and escorted by a mounted retinue is not to be compared with one who humbly presents this Tao.
For why did the ancients hold it in such esteem?
Was it not because it could be had without much seeking, and because by means of it man might escape from sin?
For this it was esteemed the greatest thing in the world.
Acting without design, occupying oneself without making a business of it, finding the great in what is the small, and the many in the few, repaying injury with kindness, effecting difficult things while they are easy, and managing great things in their beginnings, is the method of Tao.
All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and the great things in that which is small.
Therefore the wise man can accomplish great things without even attempting them.
He who lightly assents will seldom keep his word.
He who accounts all things easy will have many difficulties.
Therefore the Sage takes great account of small things, and so never has any difficulty.
What is small is easily held.
What is expected is easily provided for.
What is brittle is easily broken.
What is small is soon dispersed.
Transact your business before it takes shape.
Regulate things before confusion begins.
The tree which fills the arms grew from a tender shoot.
The castle of nine storeys was raised on a heap of earth.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Whoever designs only destroys.
Whoever grasps, loses.
The Sage does not act thus, therefore he does no harm.
He does not grasp, and therefore he never loses.
But the common people, in their undertakings, fail on the eve of success.
If they were as prudent at the end as they are at the beginning, there would be no such failures.
Therefore the Sage is only ambitious of what others despise, and sets no value on things difficult to obtain.
He acquires no common learning, but returns to that which people have passed by.
Thus he aims at simple development in all things, and acts without design.
The ancients who practiced the Tao did not make use of it to render the people brilliant, but to make them simple and natural.
The difficulty in governing the people is through overmuch policy.
He who tries to govern the kingdom by policy is only a scourge to it; while he who governs without it is a blessing.
To know these two things is the perfect knowledge of government, and to keep them continually in view is called the virtue of simplicity.
Deep and wide is this simple virtue; and though opposed to other methods it can bring about a perfect order.
That by which the great rivers and seas receive the tribute of all the streams, is the fact of their being lowly; that is the cause of their superiority.
Thus the Sage, wishing to govern the people, speaks of himself as beneath them; and wishing to lead them, places himself behind them.
So, while he is yet above them, they do not feel his weight; and being before them, he yet causes no obstruction.
Therefore all men exalt him with acclamation, and none is offended.
And because he does not strive, no man is his enemy.
All the world avows that while my Taoism is great, it is yet incompetent!
It is its greatness which makes it appear incompetent.
If it were like others, it would long ago have been recognized as incompetent.
But I hold fast to three precious things, which I also cherish.
The first is gentleness.
The second is economy.
The third is humility.
With such gentleness I can be daring.
With such economy I can be generous.
With such humility I can be great in service, as a vessel of honour.
But in these days men forsake gentleness and become only obtrusive.
They abandon economy and become only excessive.
They relinquish humility and strive for precedence, and thus for death.
Gentleness is ever victorious in attack and secure in defence.
Therefore when Heaven would preserve a man it enfolds him with gentleness.
The good commander is not imperious.
The good fighter is not wrathful.
The greatest conqueror does not wage war.
The best master governs by condescension.
This is the virtue of not contending.
This is the virtue of persuasion.
This is the imitation of Heaven, and this was the highest aim of the ancients.
A great warrior has said, "I dare not be the host, I would rather be the guest; I dare not advance an inch, I would rather retire a foot."
Now this I call filling in without marshalling the ranks; baring the arms without preparing to fight; grasping the sword without unsheathing it; and advancing upon the enemy without coming into conflict.
There is nothing so unfortunate as entering lightly into battle.
For in doing so we are in danger of losing that which is most precious.
Thus it happens that when opposing forces meet in battle, he who feels the pity of is assuredly conquers.
Easy are my words to know, and also to practice.
Yet none is able to understand nor yet to practice them.
For there is a remote origin for my words, and a supreme law for my actions.
Not knowing these, men cannot know me.
Those who know me are few, and by them I am esteemed.
For the wise man is outwardly poor, but he carries his jewel in his bosom.
To know one's ignorance is the best part of knowledge.
To be ignorant of such knowledge is a disease.
If one only regards it as a disease, he will soon be cured of it.
The wise man is exempt from this disease.
He knows it for what it is, and so is free from it.
When men do not have a right fear of present dangers, they run into extremes of peril.
Let them beware of enlarging the house, being wary of present conditions.
If they do not despise it, no such weariness will arise.
This is why the Sage, while possessed of self-knowledge, does not parade himself.
He loves, but does not value himself highly.
Thus he can put away pride, and is content.
He whose courage is expressed in daring will soon meet death.
He whose courage is shown in self-restraint will be preserved.
There are, then, two kinds of courage; the one is injurious and the other of advantage.
But who is to say why one of them should incur the judgement of Heaven?
That is why the Sage finds it difficult to act.
The celestial Tao does not strive, and yet overcomes everything.
It does not speak, yet is skilful in replying.
It does not call, yet things come to it readily.
It is quiet in its methods, yet its plans are thoroughly effective.
The net of Heaven has large meshes, and yet nothing escapes it!
When the people do not fear death, of what use is it to overawe them with it as a penalty?
And if they were always held in fear of death, and I could lay my hand upon all evil doers and slay them, would I dare to do it?
There is always the Great Executioner!
For one to usurp that office is like a novice cutting out the work of a great architect.
Such a one rarely fails to cut his own hands!
The people suffer from famine on account of the heavy taxation put upon them.
This is the cause of their need.
The people are difficult to govern because of the overbearing of their superiors.
This is the cause of their trouble.
The people make light of dying because of the great hardships of trying to live.
This is the reason for their indifference to death.
Therefore to keep living in obscurity is better than making overmuch of it.
Man at his birth is supple and tender, but in death he is rigid and strong.
It is the same with everything.
Trees and plants in their early growth are pliant and soft, but at the end they are withered and tough.
Thus rigidity and strength are concomitants of death, but softness and gentleness are companions of life.
Therefore the warrior who relies on his strength cannot conquer death, while the powerful tree becomes a mere timber support.
For the place of the strong and the firm is below, while that of the gentle and yielding is above.
Like the bending of an archer's bow is the Tao of Heaven!
It brings down that which is high, and raises up that which is depressed.
It takes away where there is excess, and gives where there is deficiency.
The Tao of Heaven makes all things equal.
This Tao is not of man.
Man takes from the needy to add to his own excess.
Who is he that, having a superabundance, can bring it to the service of the world?
Only he who has the Tao.
This is why the wise man acts without expectation of reward, and completes his task without claiming merit.
For thus he hides his wealth.
Nothing on earth is so weak and yielding as water, but for breaking down the firm and strong it has no equal.
This admits of no alternative.
All the world knows that the soft can wear away the hard, and the weak can conquer the strong, but none can carry it out in practice.
Therefore the Sage says: He who bears the reproach of his country is really the lord of the land. He who bears the woes of the people is in truth their king.
The words of truth are always paradoxical.
When a compromise is effected after a long dispute, one of the parties retains a grudge: how can this be called a good settlement?
Therefore the wise man takes his part of the bond, and does not insist upon having the other.
The virtuous man attends only to his engagements in the bond, while the man without virtue contrives for his own advantage.
The Tao of Heaven has no favourites; it always aids the good man.
If I had a small kingdom and but ten or a hundred men of ability, I would not administrate with them.
I would teach the people to look upon death as a grievous thing, and then they would not go abroad to meet it.
Though they had boats and carriages, yet they would not go away in them.
Though they had armour, yet they would never have occasion to wear it.
The people would return to the use of the quipu.
They should find their coarse food sweet, think their plain clothes grand, regard their homes as places of rest, and take delight in their own simple pleasures.
Though the neighbouring state could be seen by us, and the crowing of the cocks and the barking of the dogs could be heard,
Yet my people would grow old, and die before ever feeling the need of having intercourse with it.
Sincere words are not grand.
Grand words are not faithful.
The man of Tao does not dispute.
Those who know it are not learned.
The learned do not know it.
The wise man does not lay up treasure.
The more he expends on others, the more he gains for himself.
The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.
This is the Tao of Heaven, which penetrates but does not injure.
This is the Tao of the wise man, who acts but does not strive.