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The true Tao escapes definition,
Likewise, Tao is unburdened by Name.
Heaven and Earth originated unburdened by Name,
However, Name serves well to create All Things.
Unburdened by desire, the essence of Tao unfolds.
With desire, its manifestations alone appear.
The same source serves both essence and manifestation.
While viewed differently, both are characterized by deep mystery.
Deep mystery - wondrous mystery -
A gateway to the very essence of existence.
Beauty becomes recognized as beauty,
As its difference from ugliness is seen.
Goodness and love become recognized,
As their difference from evil and hatred is felt.
The Relationship of:
- Being and non-being is known through life and growth.
- Difficult and easy is known through achievement and completion.
- Long and short is known through form and contrast.
- High and low is known through relationship and position.
- Sound and voice is known through amplitude and harmony.
- Front and behind is known through position and sequence.
Wu-Wei graces the affairs of the Sage -
Teaching gracefully, Without words.
Receiving all happening as natural,
Without needing to judge or control.
Giving life and animation to all experience
Without needing to dominate.
Accomplishing, Without expecting reward.
In never assuming importance,
When the Sage's work is complete,
It remains, everlastingly.
When neither the meritorious, worthy, gifted nor wise are exalted or
Fighting, quarreling and contention become unnecessary.
When treasure, rare objects and belongings are not accumulated, valued and prized,
The rewards of thievery cease to have meaning.
When desirable things are not seen nor displayed,
The hearts of people are not troubled, excited or confused.
The Sage governs himself and leads others by:
- Encouraging the heart to be open and free from desire.
- Providing sustenance for the stomach.
- Calming the will to strive for the sake of striving.
- Strengthening the body.
Thus, keeping all, innocent and free of knowledge and desire,
The Sage discourages the cunning from harmful action.
Action unforced -
Permitting all to just happen,
Tho' Tao is empty - its grace is inexhaustible
A deep and unfathomable source,
The ancestor of all there is.
Through the Tao: - Rough edges are smoothed.
- Hard knots are untied.
- Glare of light is softened.
- Busyness of life is tempered.
Tho' hidden deeply - it is ever present.
Its origin ? - A mystery to me.
It just seems to have been forever.
Nature is impartial -
While regarding All Things of the universe
Graces them with equality.
Likewise, the Sage is impartial -
While regarding all creatures as sacred,
Graces them with equality.
The universe - a moving bellows - Yin and Yang
always emptying - always full,
Endlessly working - endlessly yielding forth.
Understanding the nature of the universe
by words and by intellect,
Leads to exhaustion.
Hold instead to that intuition which,
Rising from the gut of mankind,
Resembles original nature.
The spirit of the valley is
Empty - Receptive - Eternal.
She is Yin - The Primal Mother.
At her door - the root of heaven and earth,
Which is continuous, without end.
Taking it, using it, drawing upon it,
It serves eternally - without fail.
The universe is everlasting.
Not existing for itself, but giving life to all,
It endures forever.
Thus, the Sage -
- Remaining behind and in the background,
Finds himself ahead and in the foreground.
- Staying detached,
Finds himself at one with all.
- Being selfless,
The highest good of mankind, is like water -
- Without competition, gives Life to All Things.
- Flowing, it seeks and dwells in places rejected by mankind.
Thus it approaches close to the Tao.
Accordingly, the Sage -
- In dwelling, Seeks closeness to the earth.
- In heart, Seeks that which is profound.
- In relationships, Seeks gentleness and kindness.
- In speech, Seeks sincerity and truthfulness.
- In government, Seeks justice, order and peace.
- In business, Seeks ability and competence.
- In movement and action, Seeks timeliness.
The Sage -
Remaining free from competition and contention,
Is without blame - beyond reproach.
Stop short of full,
Pour not to the brim.
Over-sharpen the sword,
And the edge will soon blunt.
Be surrounded with treasure,
And lie ill at ease.
Claim title and honor and wealth,
And downfall will follow.
With mission accomplished - withdraw.
Such is in harmony with Tao.
Embrace oneness - Maintaining a unity of mind, body and spirit?
Control the Ch'i -
By concentration, cause it to be soft, as a little child?
Clear and purify inner mystic vision -
Spotless and without blur, creating perfection?
Govern and lead - openly, honestly and simply
The governed barely sensing your effect?
Handle "life's-gate" experiences of birth and death -
Maintaining the receptive principle of Yin?
Be open to All Things - with true understanding
Remaining detached, taking no action, not interfering?
Give birth and nourish All Things -
Seeking neither to lay claim nor possess?
Act and work -
Seeking neither credit nor reward?
Lead and assist -
Seeking neither to master nor dominate?
To do this is the primal virtue -
The profound and mysterious Te.
While thirty spokes are the substance
of the cartwheel,
The empty space within the hub and between
the spokes permits the wheel to be useful
While clay is the substance of the vessel,
The empty space within permits the vessel
to be useful.
While doors and windows are cut
as the substance of the wall,
The empty space within these enclosures
permits them to be useful.
Form is generated by what IS.
Usefulness lies in what IS NOT.
Altogether, the five colors -
Confuse, overwhelm and blind the eye.
Altogether, the five sounds -
Confuse, overwhelm and deafen the ear.
Altogether, the five flavors -
Confuse, overwhelm and dull the taste.
Compulsive activity or pursuit of possessions -
Confuses, overwhelms and maddens the mind.
The Sage rejects the sensuous environment,
Being better guided by intuitive truth -
His inner nature.
Favor and glory as well as disfavor and disgrace,
All cause pain in equal measure. -
As disfavor and disgrace cause pain,
Possessing favor and glory -
The fear of its loss is ever present.
What we value and what we choose to fear
Are both contained within our body/selves.
We possess fear because we have a body/self.
Ceasing to acknowledge the body part of self,
Nothing of significance remains to be feared.
The leader -
In honoring and loving his responsibilities
as he honors and loves the body/self,
Can be entrusted with the leadership
of his domain.
Looking for it, it cannot be seen -
Being formless, it is called Yi, the invisible.
Listening to it, it cannot be heard -
Being soundless, it is called Hsi, the inaudible.
Grasping at it, it cannot be reached -
Being subtle, it is called Wei, the intangible.
These three; imperceptible, indescribable -
Mystically united and elusively perceived
as an undefinable oneness.
As the oneness ascends - no light appears.
As the oneness descends - no darkness is perceived.
Unceasingly, continually, form eluding definition,
Evasively reverting to spirit - to nothingness.
The form of formlessness.
The image of imagelessness.
The oneness remains nameless.
Meeting it, it has no part which is front.
Following it, it has no behind.
Encompassing the ancient Tao,
Present affairs are mastered.
Knowing the primal nature of mankind
and the universe,
Is to know the essence of Tao.
The ancient masters and rulers,
So subtle and mysterious,
profound and penetrating,
Too deep to directly comprehend -
May be known by their appearance,
Cautious - As if crossing a frozen stream.
Watchful - As if fearing danger all around.
Courteous - As if a visiting guest.
Yielding - As if ice about to melt.
Genuine - As if a piece of uncarved wood.
Receptive - As if an open valley.
Opaque - As if in muddy waters.
Waiting quietly while the mud settles,
Remaining still until the moment for action,
They, who embrace this Tao,
Obtaining just that which is sufficient,
AlI needs are satisfied.
Thus they long endure.
Let the mind be empty of preconceptions and distraction -
Permit a meditative quietness to prevail.
Observe the cycle of All Things -
Their birth and rise to activity,
And ultimate return to their generative roots.
Quietness, repose and tranquility characterize the return to the roots of creation.
Knowing it as the destiny of All Things -
An unchanging cycle, An eternal law of nature -
Is to be enlightened.
To know it not, is to court misfortune.
Knowing the eternal law is to be all embracing.
All embracing is to be impartial.
Impartial is to be noble.
Being noble is to be one with nature.
Being one with nature is to be in accord with the Tao.
Being in accord with the Tao -
Essence is everlasting.
Tho' body/self demise, the self is eternal.
The greatest leader is barely known to exist.
Next is one who is loved and acclaimed.
Then one who is feared.
Finally one who is despised.
The great leaders,
Having faith and confidence in others,
Receive faith and confidence in return.
In a quiet and calm manner, with few words,
See the task accomplished,
See the work complete.
A measure of great leadership -
When all feel the task was completed
of its own accord.
When the natural Tao is forgotten,
- Doctrines of humanity and codes of justice arise.
- Knowledge and wisdom appear with artifice
and hypocrisy close behind.
- Harmony departs from family relationships,
and deeds of filial piety and devoted
parenthood replace natural instincts.
- Civil disorder prevails and loyal politicians
become models of dutiful behavior.
Discard and abandon formalized wisdom and knowledge,
And hundredfold benefits accrue.
Discard and abandon conventionalized righteousness, duty and
And be graced with natural harmony.
Discard and abandon cunning skills - legalized profiteering,
And robbery as well as deception disappear
These three, of themselves insufficient -
- Original simplicity.
- Unadorned nature.
- Limited desire.
End the study of pretentiousness and surface formality,
And much sorrow, trouble and nuisance will cease.
The distinctions between yes and no, good and evil,
Between what people fear and fail to fear:
- Are often semantic.
- Are often contradictory.
- Are often false.
- Are often superficial.
While many may be content -
Partaking of party and feast,
Viewing the land from a-high in the springtime,
I alone am inert, without animation,
Like an infant who has yet to learn to smile.
Alas ! I am alone, with nowhere to go.
While others appear to have abundant possessions and grace,
I alone appear to have nothing.
I feel inferior, foolish and left out.
While others are clear, bright and confident,
I alone feel muddled, dull and confused.
While others look lively, penetrating and self assured,
I alone feel depressed, aimlessly adrift in sea
Blown by the winds on an ever changing course
While others seemingly have a purpose,
I alone feel awkward.
Wherein am I so different?
I alone value drawing my sustenance from the
mysterious Mother of Nature.
From Tao alone, follows Te,
The absolute manifestation of virtue.
The Tao, tho' so evasive, elusive, intangible -
Subtly within it, deep and obscure,
- Appear images, forms, entities.
- Appear the mystical essence.
The essence - so subtle, yet so real.
From the beginning of time it mysteriously
manifests itself, Providing a fleeting sense of primal power.
How else may Te be known but through this
essence of the Tao ?
The yielding bend but do not break,
Overcoming all, they are preserved whole.
Being bent, permits straightening.
Being empty and hollow, permits filling.
Being torn, tattered and depleted, permits renewal.
Having little, permits gain and possession.
Having much, permits confusion.
Therefore the Sage embraces unity.
Holding fast to the absolute oneness,
Manifests this as an example to the world.
Not flaunting himself, He becomes luminous to all.
Not bestowing himself with self-importance, He becomes both prominent and illustrious.
Not boasting of himself, He receives both recognition and credit.
Disdaining pride, His works endure.
Not striving to contend nor compete,
He attracts no contention - no competition
Thus, the Sage confirms -
To yield is to overcome, to preserve whole.
To yield is to gain All Things.
Nature is inaudible, yet it speaks distinctly -
A fierce storm lasts less than a morning,
Rain normally less than a day.
These, being of nature and short in duration,
Thus should the duration of violence in man
be no greater than these.
Hence: One who follows Tao, becomes one with Tao.
One who follows Te, becomes one with Te.
One who separates from Tao and Te,
becomes one with separation.
When one adheres to Tao, Tao adheres to him
When one adheres to Te, Te adheres to him.
When one adheres to separation, Separation adheres to him.
Separating from faith in one's own nature,
Is to lose understanding of the true nature
of heaven and earth.
Standing on "tip toe", one stands not firmly.
Straining in stride, one cannot walk far.
Flaunting of deeds, one is unfavorably noticed.
Being self-righteous, one is not respected.
Boasting of self, one's merit is unrecognized.
Glorifying of self, one loses the opportunity for greatness.
From the viewpoint of Tao
These represent imperfect Te,
Valued as are filth or disease.
Thus: Those who value the Tao may permit
themselves to avoid these things.
Being formless, yet mysteriously complete:
- Existing for all time.
- Silent without substance.
- Standing alone, changing not.
- Pervading all and unfailing.
- Regarded as the Mother of all there is.
Not having a name, I call it the Tao.
If needing to identify its nature by granting it a name,
Call it "The Great".
Being great it flows, extending itself endlessly.
Thus flowing, it is called far-reaching.
Being far-reaching, it ultimately returns
whence it started.
Just as Tao is great - the ultimate essence,
So, heaven is great - the creative essence, Clear and pure.
Earth is great - the receptive essence, Massive and stable.
Humanity is great - the harmonious essence,
Intelligent and sensitive.
Note then, that humanity is one of the four great essences.
While humanity is conditioned by earthly essence,
And earth is conditioned by heavenly essence,
And heaven is conditioned by the essence of Tao,
The Tao, conforms to its own nature.
As heaviness of character, honesty and generosity
Are the root of lightness, frivolity and quick wit.
So motion and activity spring from
Serenity, tranquility and quietude.
Thus the Sage:
Even while traveling and moving about all day,
Never loses his poise,
Departs, not from his true nature.
Tho' presented with magnificence, beauty,
grace, glory, honor, splendor, and comfort,
He remains calm, leisurely,
quiet and dispassionate.
The leader with great responsibility,
Conducting himself with frivolity,
Imperils himself, and he will fail.
Exercising hasty restless action,
He will lose mastery over himself.
Running perfectly, Neither track nor trace is seen.
Speaking perfectly, Neither slip nor flaw.
Calculating perfectly, Neither tally nor counter is needed.
The perfect door, needing neither bolt nor bar, Cannot be opened.
The perfect knot, needing neither rope nor twine
Cannot be untied.
Thus the Sage, Perfect in helping humankind, No one is rejected nor
Perfect in caring for All Things, Nothing is laid waste nor discarded.
In so doing, cunningly secures knowledge of the laws of nature,
And uses this knowledge in a Wu-Wei manner
As the perfect is the teacher of the imperfect,
The imperfect is a valuable experience for the perfect.
Either teacher - either student,
Not honoring the teacher,
Not loving and caring for the student,
Though learned and wise,
Is deluded and deceived.
Such is the subtle mystery.
Knowing the Yang, yet keeping to the Yin,
Like a valley stream receives All Things under the heavens.
Never departing from the eternal Te,
Returns to the innocence of childhood.
Knowing whiteness, lightness and glory, yet,
Keeping to blackness, darkness and humility,
becomes an example to the world.
Never deviating from the eternal Te,
Returns to the ultimate mysterious
Knowing honor and glory, yet,
Keeping to obscurity and humility,
becomes the receptive valley of the world.
Being proficient in the eternal Te,
Returns, as to an uncarved block.
As uncarved wood is cut -
The Tao is transformed into myriad things.
The Sage, in using it, attains awesome power.
A truly wise ruler is a careful carver,
Ruling as sparsely and carefully
as she carves.
Those who would conquer the world by making humankind and events
conform to their desire,
Never succeed -
For the sovereignty of the world is
subtle, sacred, spiritual.
Tampering with it, shaping or changing it,
Harms, mars, spoils and destroys it.
Reaching for it, grabbing or grasping at it,
It is gone - lost.
There exists constant alternation -
Advance - Retreat
Blowing Hot - Blowing Cold
Strength - Weakness
Rise - Fall
The Sage, therefore, avoids all extremes,
extravagances and excesses.
The wise leader of people, in following ,the Tao,
Conquers without using force of arms,
For it is in the nature of direct force to rebound
- violence begetting violence,
repaying the wielder in kind.
Knowing that forceful conflict produces
a battleground of thorns and bramble extending far beyond the point of conflict,
It is inevitable that conflict be followed by great famine and deprivation.
A wise leader effects the purpose at hand, and stops -
Not continuing the use of power for its own sake.
Achieving the purpose:
- Does not brag about it.
- Does not boast of it.
- Does not take pride in it.
- Considers any conflict an unavoidable and regrettable necessity.
- Does not delight in domination
Knowing that loss follows gain,
decay follows vigor
and that violence is not consistent with the Tao,
Then that which is inconsistent with the Tao,
Must in time, perish.
Arms and weapons,
Being instruments of destruction, Are despised by all.
They are avoided by followers of the Tao.
As instruments of evil, they are spurned by good leaders,
Being used with calm restraint only when no other choice prevails.
A good leader does not regard victory with rejoicing,
For to delight in victory is to delight
in the slaughter of people.
To delight in slaughter is to fail
in one's purpose.
In ancient social custom -
The left is the place of honor
for ceremonies at home.
At war, the place of honor is at the right.
Good omen and happy occasions favor the left.
Ill omen and such sad occasions as
funeral rites, favor the right.
Observe then with grief and sorrow the slaughter
accompanying victory of arms, for,
Victory of arms and funeral ceremony
truly share the same rite.
The Tao, eternal and nameless,
Is as an uncarved block -
Seemingly simple and insignificant,
Is inferior to nothing under the heavens.
If leaders were to embrace it within their own true natures,
Loyalty would come to them as effortlessly as
heaven and earth send the rains and dew.
There being no compulsion,
All would be in harmony.
Carving the block creates identity.
Identity causes names.
Names cause differentiation and distinction -
As names are perceived -
As distinctions among people arise -
Knowing when to stop, danger may be avoided.
Tao in the affairs of the world is as natural as the rivers seeking the seas.
To know and understand others, Is to have wisdom.
To know and understand oneself, Is to have wisdom and enlightenment.
To conquer others, Is to have physical force.
To conquer oneself, Is to have physical force as well as internal strength.
To be content with what one has, Is to be rich indeed.
To act with perseverance, Is to be strong willed.
To preserve one's natural essence, Is to endure.
To die, Is not to perish.
One's eternal presence is true longevity.
The great Tao, flowing everywhere,
May go this way or that,
To the left or to the right.
All Things depending upon it for existence,
It is generous, no grace is withheld.
Silently and freely fulfilling its purpose and destiny,
It lays no possessive claim.
Nourishing and protecting All Things,
It has no desire to be master over them.
Without desire, asking for nothing,
Some may call it "The Small".
However, All Things belonging and returning to it -
Tho' it lays no claim to master them,
It is called "The Great".
Thus the Sage
Never making a show of greatness -
Manifests true greatness.
Tao presence in mind,
Quietude, comfort and harmony appear.
As music pleasures the soul -
As fine food delights the senses -
Passing strangers take note, pause to enjoy.
Compare then the Tao -
Flavorless to the taste.
Unseen to the eye.
Unheard to the ear.
Tho' using it - it is inexhaustible.
Expansion grows from contraction.
Strength grows from weakness.
Construction grows from destruction.
Receiving grows from giving.
Being the subtle law of nature,
Softness and gentleness overcome the hard and the strong.
As fish are preserved by hiding in the deep,
Preserve your weapons of survival from the view of the Idle Curious.
Tao never does, Yet through it, All Things are done.
If leaders observed this, All would develop naturally.
Desire for active doing would be restrained by the inherent simplicity of Tao.
Being free of desire, Stillness and tranquility reign.
Of itself, All Things are at peace.
The person known to have superior Te,
Has it as a result of natural instinct.
Possessing true virtue, acting naturally - never overtly,
Has no inner need to be regarded as virtuous.
The person known to have inferior Te,
Needs to make an overt display of virtue. Being in truth without Te - acts with overt display,
So to appear virtuous to others.
The person known to have superior kindness and humanity,
Acts effortlessly, with natural instincts.
The person known to have a superior sense of strict justice and
Needs to act with overt display of power.
The person known to favor strict adherence to rite, ritual and
When taking action and failing to obtain a response,
Attempts to force adherence, using violence
Sequentially: If people stray from the Tao, They tend to emphasize
If Te is lost, They will rely on kindness and humanity.
That being lost, Strict justice and righteousness appear.
That, being of no effect, Resort to rite, ritual and ceremony.
Rite, ritual and ceremony are the mere shell of true faith and loyalty
The beginnings of disorder, chaos and confusion.
These human characteristics, being merely a superficial aspect of one's true essence,
Are a beginning of folly.
Thus the Sage:
Knowing what to accept and what to reject -
Dwells upon the substantial,
Not upon the superficial.
Upon the fruit, not the flower.
From ancient times, there was an understanding of All Things as a unified
Arising as from one.
Understanding and possessing this unity:
- Heaven attains purity and clarity.
- Earth attains stability and tranquility.
- Spirit attains life and essence.
- Valley attains fullness and fruitfulness.
- All Things attain creative life and growth.
- Leaders attain responsiveness.
All this - arising as from one, Is the true nature of things..
Were it not for:
- Purity and clarity, the heavens would cease.
- Stability and tranquility, the earth would crumble.
- Fullness and fruitfulness, The valley would become a barren desert.
- Creative life and growth, All Things would become extinct.
- Responsiveness to leadership, The leader would fail and his subjects suffer.
The humble is the stem upon which the exalted grows.
The lowly is the foundation for the mighty.
Leaders of old, recognizing their dependence upon the lowly and humble for their success,
Called themselves orphaned, needy, worthless.
True understanding, as is the chariot,
Is not recognizable or useful as such, from its parts;
Its recognition and use coming from its assemblage into a unified whole.
A true Leader will not spoil the unity of his empire,
By putting himself far above his subjects.
He will not jingle rare jade bells in front of his subjects,
Who themselves possess mere common stone chimes.
Returning to what was in the beginning,
Is the action of Tao.
Gentleness and yielding is the manner in which
Tao functions and employs itself.
All Things emanate from Being,
And being, most certainly emanates from
A wise person, hearing of the Tao,
Lets it become a central focus of life.
A mediocre person, hearing of the Tao,
Keeps to it or not, as the occasion, may suggest.
An inferior person, hearing of the Tao, Laughs aloud at it.
Truly, being inferior, had he failed to laugh at it -
It most certainly would not be worthy to be called the Tao.
Hence it is said:
- The bright way may seem dimly lit.
- The way ahead may seem like a retreat.
- The straight way may seem to be wavy and crooked.
- The highest virtue may seem to be devoid of substance.
- The pure may seem to be tarnished.
- The greatest Te may seem inadequate.
- The sturdiest Te may appear to be flimsy.
- The natural way may appear contaminated.
- The great square may appear with rounded corners.
- The greatest talent may be slow to mature.
- The most elegant music may be that which is faint.
- The greatest images may be without shape.
The Tao, hidden and nameless,
Nourishing All Things,
Brings them to fulfillment.
One, an undifferentiated unity, Comes from the Tao.
One, differentiated, becomes two - Yin and Yang, I and Not I.
Thence, are three realized - Such are Te, Ch'i and Shen.
And from three, All Things arise.
Of All Things -
In carrying the Yin and embracing the Yang,
Through the blending of these energies, Harmony is achieved.
People disdain being orphaned, needy and worthless,
Yet leaders and rulers, to appear humble, have so named themselves.
By diminishing themselves, they often gain -
By overt attempts to gain, they often lose.
As the ancient spiritual teachers have said,
The person living by violence,
Shall surely die by violence.
As water will wear away stone,
So the softest and most yielding will overcome the hardest and most obstinate.
Being without substance, it penetrates the spaceless.
Hence the value of the silent action - The actionlessness of Wu-Wei.
Indeed, few understand - Teaching without words,
Work without doing.
Does one's life and self character matter more than fame?
Is one's Life and self character treasured more than wealth?
Is loss of spiritual things more painful than gain of material things?
Being attached to things while grudging expense,
One ultimately pays most dearly.
Hoarding most heavily,
One ultimately loses most heavily.
One rarely suffers disappointment.
Knowing when to stop,
One is free from danger.
In this way, one is safe and can long endure.
Rare is that perfection which is not to some degree incomplete,
Yet its utility is not impaired.
Rare is the abundance which is not to some degree empty,
Its fullness, tho', is not exhausted.
Ultimate straightness often seems croaked.
Profound skillfulness and intelligence often appears clumsy and stupid.
Great eloquence often sounds as awkwardness and stammering.
Movement overcomes the cold, but calm subdues all heat.
The Sage, by his clarity, serenity and tranquility,
Becomes a model for All Things
under the heavens.
Of old -
When the land was in harmony with the Tao,
Horses were seen fertilizing and cultivating the land.
When the land was out of harmony with the Tao,
Horses were seen only on the battlefield.
The paramount temptation is desire for the possessions of others.
The paramount predicament is self-destructive harboring of discontent.
The paramount misfortune is greed for acquisition.
Mastering contentment within one's own nature,
Is to be truly content far all time.
Everything under heaven may be known by
Searching no further than one's doorstep.
All ways of heaven may be known
Despite shutters blacking the window's view.
The further one pursues knowledge by
traveling apart from the unity of the Tao,
The less is one's true knowledge and understanding.
Knows without searching about.
Understands without looking about.
Wu-Wei ! - Doing nothing, all is attained.
Increasing knowledge day by day,
Is the pursuit of learning.
Decreasing and simplifying day by day,
Is the pursuit of Tao.
Decreasing, subtracting, lessening, diminishing, Until inactivity is achieved.
Through this inactivity, this pure spontaneity,
All things happen - nothing is left undone.
All is won by foregoing interference with the nature of things.
The compulsion to actively manage All Things,
Brings about the loss of All Things.
Having an open and unconditioned mind -
Foregoing preconceived opinions and feelings -
The Sage regards the opinions and feelings
of the people as his own.
Being good and kind to the good and kindly -
Being good and kind to the evil and unkindly -
Goodness and kindliness are attained,
For Te is absolutely good and kind.
Being faithful and honest to the faithful and honest -
Being faithful and honest to the unfaithful, liar and cheat -
Faithfulness and honesty are attained,
For Te is absolutely faithful and honest.
Acting humble and shy,
may appear confused to an objective world.
But subtly, in a peaceful and harmonious manner,
Regarding all as his children,
Brings the world into a community of heart.
Aiming at life, death is achieved.
The limbs and apertures, forming thirteen companions during life,
The same thirteen, serve also as companions of death.
These thirteen companions of the life to death transition,
Serve as points of vulnerability -
Repaying the intense overtaxing of one's life force.
When walking about does not meet threats of danger.
In battle, is untouched by the warrior's weapons.
Not aiming at life -
Has no points of vulnerability,
- For the horns of the buffalo to pierce.
- For the claws of the tiger to tear.
- For the weapons of the warrior to enter.
He is beyond mortality.
As Tao gives birth to All Things, Te provides the nourishment to rear them - To shape them and form them - Permitting each to realize the capacity within. As Tao is revered and worshipped, Te is exalted and honored by All Things. Such, being neither requested nor demanded, Is the nature of things, Happening spontaneously, of its own accord.
Arising from the Tao,
By Te, are All Things nourished,
developed, cared for, sheltered, comforted, grown and protected.
In rearing All Things,
It seeks neither to lay claim nor possess them.
Acting as a help and guide,
It seeks neither credit nor reward.
It seeks neither to master nor control.
It is called profound and mysterious.
Being the essence, the universal beginning,
It is known as the Mother of All Things.
Knowing the Mother, the essence, the Tao -
All Things, being children of the Mother, are likewise known.
In truly knowing the children,
Better is the understanding of the Mother.
Harm and danger are forever elusive.
In silence and moderation of sensory disturbance,
Life's strengths are maintained.
In babble and meddlesome activity,
Life's burdens prevail.
Seeing the subtle and small is true vision.
Yielding, is the display of true strength.
Using wisely our worldly resources - the "Outer Lights",
The "Inner Lights" of true self are awakened and known.
Thus, eluding harm and danger,
Absolute and natural virtue prevail.
Possessing a modicum of awareness and insight,
Follow the straight path of the Tao.
A true fear might be in straying.
Being so safe and easy -
So visibly smooth and straight -
Its utter simplicity places it beyond belief.
By nature people seem compelled to
seek the devious by-paths.
So frequently are the highly visible palaces adorned in splendor,
While the fields are left to weed and the granaries stand empty.
Wearing elegant clothes, carrying sharp swords,
Glutting themselves with food and drink -
Possessing more than can be consumed -
All this, the province of robber barons,
Is far from the true path of the Tao.
Of the Tao:
. Being well planted, one is not uprooted.
Having a firm grasp, one will not slip.
Being honored by one's family from generation to generation,
Its Te is everlasting.
Of the Te:
Cultivated in one's self, it becomes genuine.
Cultivated in one's family, it becomes abundant.
Cultivated in one's community, it will multiply.
Cultivated in one's land, it will flourish.
Cultivated in the world, it universally pervades All Things.
As is the individual, so the individual is known.
As is the family, so the family is known.
As is the community, so the community is known.
As is the land, so the land is known.
As is the world, so the world is known.
Thus, from within one's self are All Things known.
Possessing Te in abundance,
One is as a newborn infant -
Protected from the sting of poisonous creatures,
Protected from being seized by fierce beasts or mauled by clawing birds.
Tho' its bones are tender and muscles weak, Its grip is strong.
Not yet knowing the union of male and female,
The potential for such union is evident -
Its vitality is high.
Able to cry aloud all day and night and not lose its voice,
Truly its natural inner harmony is supreme.
Aware of inner harmony, Eternal reality is known.
Aware of eternal reality, Insight and enlightenment emerge.
Constant living at one's peak of activity is to court disaster.
Compulsive intellectualization drains energy from the spirit.
Such vigor leads to exhaustion and decay and is not the way of the Tao.
Being contrary to the Tao, It must - soon perish.
Knowing - thus, not talking.
Talking - thus, not knowing.
- Quieting speech.
- Subduing sensations.
- Dulling sharpness.
- Releasing entanglements.
- Diffusing brightness.
- Uniting with the dust of the earth.
This is the primal and mystical unity.
Possessing this unity, the Sage:
Makes no friends or enemies -
Is moved by neither love nor hate -
Is unaffected by profit or loss,
By neither honor nor disgrace.
Thus he attains the highest of human states.
With justice and righteousness, Nations are well governed.
With cunning strategy, Wars are successfully waged.
Through Wu-Wei, All Things are mastered.
Intuitively, this is felt:
Prohibitions and restrictions being many -
Being burdened with ritual avoidance,
The people become poorer.
Weapons being in abundance,
The state increasingly abounds in wars, chaos and disorder.
Scheming and cunning artifice being commonplace,
Pernicious contrivances are invented -
Strange things happen.
Laws, rules, statutes and ordinances being many,
Thieves, bandits and dissidents increase and abound.
Thus the Sage says:
If I do nothing,
The people will spontaneously resolve contention.
If I love quietude,
The people will spontaneously become tranquil, honest and righteous.
If I cease interference,
The people will spontaneously prosper.
If I have no desires,
The people will spontaneously return to their original simplicity.
When the government governs little, ruling with a light hand,
The people are happy and content.
When the government governs much, ruling with severity,
The people are tense and contentious.
A continuing cycle -
Misery and calamity, being unsustainable,
Are precursors of happiness to come.
Likewise happiness, A precursor of misery and calamity.
At any moment, one rarely takes to heart the certainty of this cycle,
For the realization of certainty is itself uncertain.
With good turning to evil and evil to good,
What is right, what is wrong ?
No wonder mankind has been long astray.
The Sage, Knowing what is best, is just - Not forcing others to
Having integrity, does not injure others.
Being straightforward, is gently firm.
Emitting light without display,
Flows spontaneously toward his destination.
Establishing a reserve of vital energy, A precious Ch'i -
Heaven may be well served.
So doing -
Permits return to the essence of life,
In turn, nourishing and increasing an abundance of Te.
Overcoming all difficulty -
Gaining infinite capacity -
Being beyond all limitations -
Suitability for leading and serving nations is achieved.
Holding to the Tao, the government of nations may endure.
Having a firm foundation, Deeply rooted, abundantly strong,
The Tao of long life and durable vision is achieved.
Rule and govern All Things with gentleness,
In harmony with the Tao.
Thus does the power of evil spirits remain unfulfilled -
Neither does the good spirit of the Sage cause harm.
The Sage himself, being likewise protected,
Unity and perfect harmony prevail for all.
A great nation, like a river delta,
Receives the riches of the land.
In being receptive - possessing the Yin,
Receiving the Yang unto it,
Overcomes all by its very peacefulness and quietude.
A great nation, placing itself below a lesser,
Absorbs the lesser.
A lesser nation, submitting to a greater,
Conquers and wins adherence of the greater.
To absorb, conquer and win adherence,
- One must yield.
Those who triumph, do so by yielding.
A great nation prospers by absorbing,
A lesser by joining and participating.
For both to so benefit,
the greater nation needs be a yielding nation.
The Tao, being the source and pivotal support of All Things,
Is a treasure to the virtuous, a refuge for the unworthy.
Fine words, being worthy of honor,
Noble deeds, deserving of respect,
Even the evil and unworthy are not forsaken by the Tao.
Thus now, as in ancient days,
Upon coronations and important appointments of state,
A better gift than worldly things,
Is the quiet offering of the Tao.
The Tao, so prized from antiquity to this day,
Rewarding those spontaneously seeking it,
Freeing the spirit of evil ones,
Is of All Things, most highly treasured.
- Act without acting.
- Work without doing.
- Taste without tasting.
Small becomes great, few becomes many,
The unkind is rewarded with kindness.
Let simplicity emerge from complication.
Dealing with trouble while still mere bother,
Resolution emerges from potential difficulty.
Truly, dealing effectively with great problems,
Requires attention before those problems achieve great magnitude.
Thus the Sage, by never dealing with problems of great magnitude,
Glib promises can rarely be kept.
Ostensibly easy accomplishment rarely lacks difficulty of performance.
The Sage, ever mindful of difficulty,
Encounters no difficulty.
Remaining still, it is easy to hold.
Unmanifest and unforetold, there are no limits for the making of plans.
Being brittle, it is easy to shatter.
Being small, it is easy to disperse.
Deal then with formative troubles before catastrophic events occur -
Create order before confusion can begin.
The giant tree begins as a tiny sprout.
The high tower begins as a heap of earth.
The long journey begins as a single step from where one stands.
Overt acting causes harm and failure.
Overt grasping causes loss.
Thus the Sage,
Acting not, neither harms or fails
. Grasping not, does not lose.
How often people fail as, using overt action,
They are just about to succeed.
Being as careful at the end as at the beginning,
Not interfering with the natural course of things,
Failure is averted.
Therefore The Sage:
- Desires to have what is unwanted.
- Values not objects which are difficult to obtain.
- Learns spontaneously without overt "Learning".
- Returns to the tried and true of old,
So that All Things are restored to their own true nature.
Acting spontaneously from inborn direction,
He avoids overt action.
The ancient Sages, knowing the natural Tao,
Refrained from schooling others in intellectual enlightenment.
Calculative thinking and strict intellectual processes were discouraged,
For people were argumentative and difficult t< lead when so schooled.
Through intellect alone - harmful to all,
Through encouraging the simple and natural intuitive part of mankind - a blessing to all.
Understanding the difference between these,
A test and a standard exists.
Being able to apply this test and standard,
Is a profoundly mysterious virtue.
Being deep, penetrating and far reaching -
All Things return to their natural state,
Bringing the original complete harmony to all.
How much greater are the oceans and seas
Than the many lesser streams they rule.
The grand oceans and seas -
Obtaining their greatness and dominion, by being lower,
Receive thereby, the homage of hundreds of streams.
In order to be over people to guide them,
Places himself beneath them, serving them with humility.
In order to lead them,
Must follow behind them.
Accordingly, the Sage is truly over people,
Leading them without oppressing them.
Standing before them, protects them from harm.
All people, tirelessly lending him support,
Not competing with anyone,
None contend with him.
While being recognized and proclaimed as great by consensus of all
, Yet the Tao is indescribable.
Being indescribable by common standards,
It is great.
Were it so describable,
Its greatness would have long ago vanished.
From it, three great treasures are possessed,
To be embraced, guarded and kept secure.
The first is Tzu,
Characterized by gentleness, compassion, mercy and nurturing love.
The second, Chien,
By renunciation, frugality and economy which limits possession to no more than that which is truly needed.
When encompassing the third,
One rejects the need for worldly preeminence.
Possessing the first,
Is to possess courage.
It is possible to be generous.
No longer needing preeminence,
One becomes a leader.
Endeavoring to be courageous without compassion,
Endeavoring to possess without renunciation,
Endeavoring to lead all without following behind,
Is to surely court destruction.
Through gentleness, compassion, mercy and nurturing love,
The Sage wins in attack,
Is impregnable in defense.
Truly, heaven arms with love those whom it would not see destroyed.
The greatest warrior shuns the violence of war.
The greatest fighter shuns the display of anger.
The greatest conqueror shuns overt competition.
The greatest leader is humble with his people.
Thus is the power of non-contention.
Thus is the capacity to utilize people well.
Thus is the ancient ultimate unity with heaven.
Among great warriors, it is spoken:
It is more propitious to be the defender than the aggressor.
Better to retreat a foot than advance an inch.
This is known as:
Marching without the appearance of moving.
Preparing for conflict without the appearance of arming.
Arming without the appearance of weapons.
Confronting the foe without the appearance of attack.
To engage in war lightly -
To underestimate the foe,
These are catastrophes as severe as the loss of one's treasures -
Those abilities for compassion, renunciation
and the rejection of preeminence.
Thus, when a battle is joined,
Victory is achieved by the compassionate warrior,
Who delights not in conflict.
Being very easy to comprehend,
These teachings are simple to practice.
Yet, few are they who will release ego
sufficiently to achieve understanding,
let alone the ability to practice.
These teachings have their source in nature,
Their master is the Tao.
Not comprehending this,
People find great difficulty in understanding the Sage.
So, with few people really understanding him,
He is most highly valued.
Thus the Sage,
Tho' presenting a poor appearance, to the world,
Yet carries the riches of nature embedded in his core.
Knowing you know not, is strength -
A high attainment.
Not knowing, yet thinking you know, is sickness -
A dire defect.
Only with knowledge of this sickness as a sickness,
Can the defect be removed.
The Sage has no sickness - no defect.
Recognizing sickness as sickness, defect as defect,
He is free from these curses.
Be not irate should others fail to be awed by your attributes.
Having true importance, circumstances will ultimately bring proper recognition.
Imprison them not -
Harass and oppress them not,
Treating them compassionately,
You, in turn, will be so treated.
Thus the Sage,
Knowing his own power,
Does not overtly display it.
Does not exalt himself.
Rejecting external sensuousness,
He accepts the powers within his being.
That courage which is manifest by bravado and foolhardiness,
Leads to disaster and death.
That which is not so manifest,
Leads to life.
Be tween these two,
One benefits - one does not.
Even the Sage has difficulty in knowing why one of these brings destruction from above.
It is the way of nature -
- Not to compete, yet to achieve victory.
- Not to ask, yet to obtain an answer.
- Not to summon, yet be supplied all needs.
- Not to overtly plan, yet to achieve results.
Truly - the net of nature is cast far and wide.
Tho' its mesh be coarse,
Yet nothing escapes.
Should the people have no fear of death,
Threatening them with such a penalty,
Is the essence of futility.
Should the people fear death,
Be there any among them who would commit a crime,
Knowing death to be the penalty ?
Who then, is comfortable as the executioner ?
Is not nature the wisest judge regarding timeliness for one to die ?
To otherwise kill in defiance of nature
is to be as an apprentice carpenter performing complicated hewing for his master.
In performing a task unsuited to his natural level of skill,
He is certain to be injured.
People are starved of body,
When the government taxes to excess.
People are starved of spirit and become unruly,
When the government, by over-control, interferes with the natural rights of mankind.
Being so starved of both body and spirit,
Their leaders demanding so much of living life,
Little remains upon which to live.
People know better than to place too much value upon life.
At birth, as in life, mankind is gentle, soft and weak.
In death, he becomes hard and rigid.
All creatures and All Things -
While alive and growing are soft and supple.
When dead, become withered, tough, brittle and dry.
Hard, rigid, withered, tough, brittle and dry,
Being companions of death -
Gentle, soft, weak and supple are
Companions of life.
The hard weapon will be broken.
The hardwood tree will be cut down.
The hard and the mighty are cast down.
The soft and the weak are exalted.
As a bow is bent, so bends the way of nature.
That at the top,
Bent downward toward the center.
That at the bottom,
Bent upward toward the center.
The string -
If too long, is shortened,
If too short, is lengthened.
The Tao of nature strives for equilibrium.
That which is abundant is reduced.
That which is deficient is supplemented.
Mankind, on the other hand, will often -
Further reduce what is deficient,
Supplement that which is abundant.
The Sage alone -
Having abundance, offers it to the world.
Works quietly without arousing attention.
Acts without claiming recognition or reward.
Has no desire to reveal his superiority.
Flowing water -
Being softer and more yielding than all else under the heavens,
Has no equal in attacking and prevailing against that which is hard and resistant.
The supple, weak and yielding, thereby,
Conquer the rigid, strong and resistant.
While this is known by all mankind,
Few are they who can flow in this manner.
Thus the Sage -
By accepting the disgrace and humiliation of the community,
Is called a leader in the community.
By receiving the burdens and misfortunes of the nation,
Becomes a ruler of the nation.
Surely these words, while paradoxical, are true.
At the conclusion of a serious dispute,
It is rare that some resentment not remain behind.
To restore harmony, the Sage,
Keeping to the letter of the agreement with regard to his own obligations,
Never compels the other to fulfill his responsibilities.
Having Te, one would attend to obligations.
Without Te, one would press claims.
While it is the nature of Tao to be free of partiality,
Holding to the essence of the Tao,
The truly virtuous find the Tao abiding within.
A small, intimate, sparsely populated community,
Was thought by its ruler to be an ideal easily controlled state.
Labor saving devices and life's necessities,
Existing in abundance,
Were not used or needed.
Being satisfied with the quality of life,
There was no need to search for better things.
Having boats and carriages,
There appeared no use for them.
Having arms and weapons,
There was no occasion for their employment.
The commerce of the community required
no greater means than knotted cords
to ease the accounting of transactions.
Thus the people were:
- Satisfied with their food.
- Content with their clothing.
- Comfortable with their shelter.
- Happy with their customs and traditions.
Even though neighboring communities
were within sight and earshot of cocks and barking dogs,
They would leave each other in peace while they would grow old and die.
Truthful words are rarely pleasant and fine sounding.
Pleasant and fine sounding words are rarely truthful.
The good need not prove by argument.
To prove by argument is rarely good.
True wisdom rarely springs from learning.
Learning rarely is indicative of true wisdom.
The sage need never hoard.
Doing more for others, The more he gains.
Giving more to others, The greater is his abundance.
The Tao of heaven benefits without injury or harm.
The Tao of the Sage accomplishes without striving or contention.