MY DAO DE JING
(The Path of Love and Happiness)
Attempting my own translation of the Dao De Jing has been a daunting task. Every time I came up with an understanding of a specific chapter (based on the Chinese characters), when I read through it again a few months later I found how wrong I had been. How could I ever expect to write an interpretation that I be satisfied with?
As I looked into my own heart, I found a temporary answer. One thing that always stayed with me about the essence of the DDJ is the message of Love and Happiness. So, that the way Ie approached my own translation and commentary.
Throughout the years, many people have asked: hich translation of the Dao De Jing is the most accurate – the closest to what Laozi was actually saying??I fall back on Zhuangzi words: ow could I know that??br>
The Dao De Jing has been translated many times, and it amazing to me how many of the translators claim to be providing a literal or definitive translation. If there was actually a possibility of interpreting Laozi words accurately, then why would all the scholars and sinologists have come up with such a variety of interpretations?
I don claim to know what Laozi was actually saying, but I do know what his words are saying to me. There a sense of warmth in that, and all I can offer is my own warmth to you.
Dao may be accepted as “Dao”; that conflicts with the constant motion of Dao.
A name may be accepted as a “Name”; that conflicts with the constant motion of what is named.
Nameless – all living things began in the womb.
Named – all living things were born from the womb.
Constant motion without desires; this enables contemplation of what is yet to come.
Constant motion with desires; this enables contemplation of where it will all end up.
These both fit together while emanating by different names.
Fitting them together is said to be a mystery.
In addition to being mysterious, the many things that are not yet born provide an entrance.
When everyone in the world knows that beauty is exemplified by beautiful actions, what is seen as ugliness will end.
When everyone knows how pleasant it can be, they will no longer be cruel.
There would be nothing to prevent mutual enjoyment of life.
Success can be reached whether the process is difficult or easy.
Shapes are formed by both long and short lines.
A pit is filled by what is on the bottom and what is on the top.
Harmony is reached by using both the sound of individual notes and a blend of notes.
What is in the lead or what is in the rear are following something.
It’s naturally right for a wise person:
Not to interfere with another’s performance in their affairs, and not to use demanding words.
Then all living things will naturally arise on their own, and won’t be given a starting point.
They will take actions but won’t depend on the results.
They will succeed but won’t dwell on their success.
You see, it is only by not dwelling on their success
That they won’t depart from what they already have.
Don’t place a lot of value on being superior; then that will cause people not to argue with each other.
Don’t hold as precious objects that are hard to come by; that will cause people not to steal from one another.
Don’t be willing to pay too much attention to those desires; that will cause people not to be confused.
It’s just natural for a wise person to rule by:
Emptying their hearts;
Satisfying their stomachs;
Weakening their determination;
Strengthening their bones;
Constantly reminding people to accept ignorance while eliminating their desires.
That causes the kind of understanding that doesn’t require being foolishly adventurous;
Not being willing to act, but to contentedly stop.
Follow that procedure and there will be nothing that doesn’t cure problems.
Dao is constantly being emptied, and its usefulness comes from the fact that it can never be completely filled.
It began before any living cell.
It smoothes down the sharp edges.
It unties what is tangled.
It softens the harsh glare.
It settles the dust.
–It makes all the pieces of daily life in this world fit together.
It had a beginning or perhaps it has always existed.
My intellect doesn’t understand whose child it could be.
It seems to have preceded the first concept of existence.
The universe doesn’t have compassion for living things that act like straw dogs.
The wise person doesn’t have compassion for the general public who act like straw dogs.
Isn’t the vast space of the universe like a bagpipe?
It can be empty, yet it doesn’t collapse.
As it changes position, even more seems to issue out from it.
Many theories are given as to how it could eventually come to an end.
It doesn’t seem to guard what is in its middle.
The spiritual valley can never be extinguished.
It is correctly refered to as the mysteries of the receptive.
The entrance to mysterious receptivity is correctly refered to as the origin of the whole universe.
It is continuous and unbroken!
Its usefulness seems to persevere without effort.
The heavens increase; the earth endures.
The universe in this way has the ability to increase, and at the same time be something which endures.
Because it doesn’t exist solely for itself, it therefore has the ability to increase life.
It is natural for the wise person to:
Refuse to take her physical body any further, yet her body still moves forward.
Remain outside of her body, yet her body perseveres.
Doesn’t she seem to be unselfish?
That’s how she can attain true selfishness.
The foremost goodness is like water.
Water is good at benefiting all living things, even though there are arguments about how it could reside in places that most people hate.
In that way it is very close to being like Dao.
It is good at residing in the earth; the mind sees that goodness as bottomless.
It is good at giving through nature; words express that goodness with sincerity.
It is good at showing the right course of governing.
It is good at enabling all work to be completed; through motion goodness adjusts to the time.
Well then, there is really no reason for arguments.
Because there is nothing that is at fault.
Try to become prosperous, and the process of accumulation will never come to an end.
Try to keep moving swiftly, and not even a crowd of people will be able to provide protection.
Try to fill up a room with treasures, and no one would be able to guard them.
Someone who values their good luck and becomes arrogant will not be able to notice their own faults.
By working hard to try to satisfy your cravings, you will remove yourself even further from nature’s Dao.
By being loaded down with trying to manage your base instincts yet embracing your unity with all things, will you be able to not depart from either of them?
By focusing on the energy of your spirit until it becomes gentle, will you be able to be like an infant?
By eliminating the need to carefully examine every mystery you come upon, can you stop looking for flaws?
By loving people as though you were administering to them, can you be able to not expect to understand them?
By letting your spiritual gateway open and close, can you act with femininity?
By seeing clearly in every direction you might travel, can you still realize that you know very little?
Encourage the growth of life and nourish it.
Encourage life, but realize you’ll never possess it.
It increases, and yet you won’t regulate it.
This is known as mysterious De.
Fit thirty spokes into the hub of a wheel.
It is the space between the spokes that makes the wheel valuable; thus the vehicle can be put to use.
Bake clay and make it into cups.
It is the space within the cup that makes it valuable; thus the cup is useful.
Cut out doors and windows.
It is the space created by the doors and windows which makes them valuable; thus a house is useful.
Therefore, what has substance is beneficial.
What is without substance is useful.
The five colors make a person’s eye go blind.
Galloping and hunting make a person’s emotions go crazy.
Merchandise that is hard to find causes a person’s performance to be obstructed.
The five flavors make a person’s mouth over-stimulated.
The five notes cause a person to go deaf.
A wise person correctly:
Responds to the basic hunger of her body, not the enticements placed before her eyes.
In that way she would be able to ignore what is out of her reach, and appreciate what she has.
Being honored is a disgrace as it causes bondage.
Being valued will cause great discomfort to the body.
How can it be said that being honored is a disgrace?
Honor is based on subserviency.
Obtaining it causes bondage; losing it causes bondage.
That’s how it can be said that being honored is a disgrace as it causes bondage.
How can it be said that being valued will cause great discomfort to the body?
My own experiences in life have caused me to have anxiety about how I should act.
My own experiences in life have shown me that my body can be easily defeated.
Without a body, what would I have?
That anxiety, therefore, causes emphasis on the actions of the body and how it relates to the rest of the world.
That would seem to make us be willing to adapt to the world.
It’s through the love of the way my body can act in the world that I am willing to repeatedly change along with the world.
Look for it but you won’t see it;
It is said to be imperceptible.
Listen for it but you won’t hear it;
It is said to be intermittent.
Reach for it but you won’t be able to obtain it;
It is said to be slippery.
In these three ways it can’t be investigated.
Therefore, blend them together and allow them to act as one.
Seeing them as one shows us that:
What is superior doesn’t show itself clearly;
What is inferior doesn’t become uncertain.
Searching and looking everywhere!
You see that it can’t be named.
You have to go back to depending on the fact that it has no substance.
It is correctly described as having an appearance without shape.
Being devoid of content it appears to be like what would be called formless.
Look forward to following it and you don’t realize that you’re already behind it.
Attempt to graciously welcome it as your mentor and you don’t realize that its always been leading you.
You are holding onto Dao this very moment.
By taking control of this very moment you have it.
By understanding what has occured throughout history you can begin to correctly describe the progression of Dao.
Those in the past who were good at becoming scholarly had to find something subtly wonderful in what was enigmatic.
They tried to reach out and inquire into what couldn’t be understood.
So, it was only in what they couldn’t understand that they found a correct way of showing respect.
Hesitating? They walked as though they were crossing a stream in winter.
Undecided? They seemed as if in fear of their own neighbors.
Serious? They appeared as though they were guests.
Dissolving? They were like ice melting.
Natural? They appeared simple.
Like a vast empty space! They were as open as a valley.
Confused? They appeared muddy.
Who has the ability to be muddy then calmly wait to change slowly into clarity?
Who has the ability to be peaceful then move to change slowly into growth?
Safe were these Daoists who didn’t desire to become filled to the brim.
You see, it was only because they didn’t desire to be filled to the brim that they naturally acquired the ability to become weary and not accomplish their goals.
Arriving at emptiness is reaching an extreme.
Guarding what’s at neither extreme requires diligence.
All living things, side by side, appear suddenly;
Resting, as though waiting to return to something.
Nature and Dao go round and round, each one reverting to where they began.
That is called being quiet and calm.
It’s correctly described as returning to destiny.
Returning to destiny constantly.
This knowledge is always obvious.
Ignorance of it will always cause recklessness.
Recklessness will cause sudden calamities.
This knowledge will always allow endurance;
Endurance, then equanimity;
Equanimity, then sovereignty;
Sovereignty, then naturalness;
Naturalness, then connection to Dao;
Connection to Dao, then the disappearance of the body isn’t at jeopardy.
In order for someone to be extremely superior those beneath them must know of their existence.
Then those who feel inferior will soon try to get intimate with them and give praise to them.
Shortly thereafter they start fearing them.
Shortly thereafter they try to humiliate them.
When sincerity is lacking there can be no truthfulness.
Trying to use advantageous words.
The work gets accomplished through much effort and hard work, but let the common people proclaim that they did it naturally by themselves.
The reason Great Dao has been abandoned is because there is benevolence and righteousness.
As wisdom and intelligence spread then there is deception.
As families don’t experience harmony then there is filial piety.
As unconditional love within the households is misunderstood then there are proper servants.
Eliminate cunning intelligence; abandon critical judgements,
And people will benefit a hundred times over.
Eliminate skillful opportunism; abandon the heirarchy of profits,
And theives will have nothing to covet.
Eliminate deceptive disguises; abandon sources of anxiety,
And people will return to the innocence of childhood.
Just following these three statements is not enough.
Therefore, make sure there’s a place to add these:
Seek out what is pure.
Protect what is simple.
Get rid of learning and weighty thoughts will vanish.
An agreeable purr or a loud rebuff – how much distance is there between them?
Beauty or ugliness – how can they be differentiated?
If a person sets themselves up to be feared, they also cannot, because of that position, not fear other people.
Still groping in the darkness!
They have not yet found a core on which to center!
Everyone looks so splendid and magnificent, as if they were leaving the countryside to attend the Great Sacrifice festival, when in the spring they climb high terraces to observe the ceremonies.
I see myself as alone, as one who has not yet been given a sign; like a baby who hasn’t yet been conceived.
Like there’s no place where I belong.
Everyone else has more than they need.
I alone have left all that behind.
I have the mind of a foolish person.
Confused and disoriented!
A person involved in the world is so clear and bright; I alone seem to be bored!
A person involved in the world is always investigating the things around them; I alone am in darkness and confusion!
Uncontained! In a way that seems like the ocean.
Groping in the darkness! Seemingly without a place to stop.
Everybody else finds a way to be like one another; I alone see that as an entrance to stupidity as well as vulgarity.
My desires alone are so different from other people’s, yet I value being nourished by what created me.
The openness of De endures only Dao.
By correctly following Dao’s actions any living thing can only be shapeless; can only be formless.
In the middle there is an image of something!
In its core there is a living thing!
In its core there is a life force!
This life force is very real.
In its middle is the truth.
By what it truly is in this moment it can overcome the past.
Its name doesn’t go away because it’s compliant with many disciplines.
How is it possible for me to be able to understand that so many different disciplines can be naturally correct?
Because of this.
A shape that is flexible enough to be bent then reaches perfection.
A shape that starts out crooked can then becomes straightened.
That which is naturally empty then will become filled.
That which has been over-used to the point of being of no further use then will become refreshed.
That which has been diminished then will become amplified.
That which is multiplied then will cause suspicion.
It is correct for a wise person to securely hold onto unity because in that way the actions of the whole world will protect and guide him.
He doesn’t search for himself therefore he becomes perfectly attuned.
He doesn’t pay undue attention to himself therefore he becomes clear.
He doesn’t cut himself down therefore he experiences accomplishments in his work.
He isn’t willing to tell others how great he is therefore he has the ability to become better.
It’s only because he doesn’t argue that, therefore, no one has the ability to argue with him.
In the past it has been said:
One who is flexible enough to bend will reach perfection.
This almost described it!
Actually, perfection belongs to him.
Seldom are words spoken naturally.
A strong wind doesn’t last all morning.
A sudden rainfall doesn’t last all day.
Who can act like these manifestations of the universe, and not be willing to go on endlessly?
Can this be done with strong words that come from a person?
Therefore, follow along with the daily routine,
One who has Dao fits together with Dao.
One who has De fits together with De.
One who has loss fits together with their loss.
If one fits together with De, Dao adds to their De.
If one fits together with loss, Dao adds to their loss.
One who tries to start a fire doesn’t have firm footing.
One who analyzes himself doesn’t become prominent.
One who pays attention to himself doesn’t open up.
One who cuts himself down is without achievement.
One who brags about himself doesn’t grow.
Those who are influenced by Dao say:
Preparing too much food is wasted effort.
Any living thing might be hated.
Therefore, one who has desires will never rest.
In order to have a shape, what is undelineated must become pronounced.
What preceded the universe produced life.
Silent. Vacant. It stood alone and was unchangeable.
It was willing to become the source of the world.
It had not yet been perceived by a name.
The word we use for it now is Dao.
By its powerful actions I would choose to call it Great.
What is great is said to be overflowing.
What is overflowing is said to be constantly on the move.
What is constantly on the move is said to eventually return.
The heavens are great.
The earth is great.
Dao is great.
The king is also great.
Within the confines of a nation there are four ‘greats’, as the king must be considered one of them.
A person follows the mandate of the earth.
The earth follows the mandate of the heavens.
The heavens follow the mandate of Dao.
Dao follows the mandate of its own nature.
What is heavy acts as a starting point for lightness.
What is calm acts as a controling influence over impetuosity.
It is natural for a person of character to move about all day long without losing sight of his heavy baggage.
Although he may be surrounded by police, he takes a comfortable stance; as a result he seems to be clear and bright.
How is it that a king has ten thousand chariots, yet as for his own body, he moves lightly in the world?
When he is light he then loses his roots.
When he is impetuous he then loses control.
A good traveler is without tracks or footprints.
A good speaker is without discernable flaws.
A good mathematician doesn’t use tallies or chips.
A well-built door, without locks or bars, will remain closed.
A well-tied knot, without additional rope to secure it, cannot be untied.
It’s natural for a wise person to be good at rescuing others, but without abandoning character, without abandoning what is of true value.
This is called stretching the brightness.
Therefore a good person is a good person’s teacher.
An unkind person is a good person’s asset.
Don’t value the teacher;
Don’t love the asset;
And although you may have knowledge, it is very misleading.
This is correctly called a baffling requirement.
Know the ways in which you act aggressively; guard your passivity.
Become a conduit in the world.
Becoming a conduit in the world, your perpetual De will never leave you.
When your perpetual De never leaves, you will return to what you depended on as an infant.
Know the ways in which you receive honor; guard your disgrace.
Become a valley to the world.
When you become a valley to the world, your perpetual De will always be enough.
When your perpetual De is always enough, you will return to what is depended on by simplicity.
Know the ways in which you find clarity; guard your darkness.
Become a model for the world.
When you become a model for the world, your perpetual De will not be used as collateral.
When your perpetual De is not used as collateral, you will return to depending on what has no limits.
When simplicity is disseminated, it then can be used as a tool.
A wise person can employ this tool and in that way guide others.
So great new shapes can be formed without cutting.
If you want to make changes by capturing the world and controling its actions,
I can see that you won’t ever be done with it.
You see, the world is merely a tool for the manifestation of the heavens.
It would oppose your actions.
One who acts this way would destroy it.
One who tries to hold on to it would lose it.
All living things might at times leave footprints for others to follow, or might be followers;
Might at times be introspective, or at times blow hot air;
Might at times be strong, or at times be weak;
Might at times construct, or at times destruct.
It is correct for a wise person to forget about extremes, forget about greatness, forget about all these things.
When one who is an advisor to a person who wields power expresses Dao, he will recommend no need to use offensive weapons forcefully in the world.
That method shows that if you are endearing to others, they will treat you the same way.
Where an army finds a place to encamp, thistles and thorns are all that will grow there.
One who is kind will get results and then stop.
He doesn’t try to grab it all forcefully.
Getting results, and yet he won’t destroy anything in the process.
Getting results, and yet he won’t become arrogant.
Getting results, and yet he won’t lord it over others.
Getting results, and yet he won’t stop and bask in the glory of it.
This is correctly described as getting results without using force.
That method shows that if you are endearing to others, everyone will be increased.
A living thing may pretend to be stronger than they actually are, then they will age quickly.
This is correctly refered to as not being like Dao.
What is not like Dao will soon cease.
As for one who carries weapons, they are certainly ominous tools.
Living things probably hate him.
Therefore, one who has those desires won’t dwell in them.
A person of character would rather value being an inferior.
One who resorts to using weapons values his need to defend his honor.
Therefore, one who uses offensive weapons conflicts with the way a person of character would use those same tools.
Therefore, it is said that one who uses weapons offensively has very inauspicious tools.
If one has no choice but to use them, it should be done dispassionately.
One who must act as a superior won’t see it as beautiful.
If they see it as beautiful then they certainly find pleasure in killing another person.
You know, finding happiness in killing can never fulfill one’s ambitions in this world.
Therefore, it’s more auspicious to see an inferior position as being superior.
Those who see honor as being superior will be the ones to make funeral arrangements.
It’s only natural for one who must follow orders to take an inferior position.
One who is the highest commander must defend his honor.
Then he has to constantly be giving eulogies at a funeral.
Therefore, killing another person will lead to being in a state of grief at ones own guilt.
By defeating others he will always be at a funeral for someone.
Dao always remains undefinable.
So simple and ordinary.
Although incredibly small, the entire universe wouldn’t dare to make it a servant.
The most powerful of all human beings could easily guard it.
Any living thing could take it into themselves like a welcome guest.
When the heavens and earth are in mutual accord, there emerges a sweet dew.
None of the people order it, and yet within themselves they are equally bestowed.
They begin to fabricate a description.
A name – just as it has already been created, then also starts an understanding of when to stop.
Knowing when to stop precludes danger.
As an example of Dao’s influence in the world,
It can be likened to the way a small valley interacts with a river or the sea.
One who knows other people has understanding.
One who knows herself has clarity.
One who can conquer other people is powerful.
One who can conquer herself is strongest.
One who realizes that she has enough possesses abundance.
One who uses force must have a strong will.
One who doesn’t lose sight of where she is can last for a long time.
She will die eventually but doesn’t become forgetful in her old age.
Dao drifts about aimlessly!
It willingly goes to the left or to the right.
It is fully satisfied with a successful event, but isn’t willing to have a title.
All living things depend on it, but it’s not willing to act as their master.
Consequently, it is always without desires.
It is only willing to accept a title that is insignificant.
All living things depend on it, but it’s not willing to act as their master.
It is only willing to accept destiny as greatness.
It’s natural for a wise person to have the ability to accomplish great success.
Simply because she doesn’t act in a grand manner.
Therefore, she has the ability to achieve great success.
Verbally substantiate an image of greatness, and the whole world will flock to it.
Flock to it and not criticize it.
Secure and emancipated in greatness.
The pleasure of tantalyzing food will cause a passing traveler to stop.
Thus, words about Dao are hard to grasp!
They are without flavor.
Look for it – there’s not enough to be recognized.
Listen for it – there’s not enough to be learned about.
Yet it cannot be dismissed.
If you want to begin to absorb, you must have first opened up.
If you want to begin to be weak, you must first have been strong.
If you want to begin to depart, you must first have been connected.
If you want to begin to take, you must first have given.
These are correctly refered to as having a little insight.
What is soft and limp will conquer what is strong.
A fish cannot escape from deep waters.
In the whole country sharp weapons cannot be used to teach anyone.
Dao doesn’t ever interfere.
High officials have the ability to apply the laws to them, but all living things become transformed by themselves.
Transforming; and as desires arise they begin to be allayed due to their anonymous simplicity.
So, they also begin to be satisfied.
Satisfied as well as calm, all living things become settled within themselves.
Superior De is not virtuous; in that way it has De.
Inferior De hasn’t lost virtuosness; in that way it’s without De.
One with superior De doesn’t interfere, yet has no reason to act this way.
One with superior compassion takes action, yet has no reason to act this way.
One with a superior sense of justice takes action, and has a reason to act this way.
One who practices superior rituals takes action, yet nothing responds.
Then they get agitated and try to force reactions.
In that way they lose Dao and simply parody De;
They lose De and simply parody compassion;
They lose compassion and simply parody justice;
They lose justice and simply parody rituals.
So, one who is faithful to rituals has unsubstantial sincerity,
And is led by disorder.
One who advances their knowledge finds the blossom of Dao,
And is led by absurdity.
It’s just natural for a great person dwell in what is substantial, and not dwell in what is insubstantial;
To dwell in what is permanent, and not dwell on the blossom.
Therefore, let go of that and capture this.
These things in the past obtained the One:
The heavens obtained the One through clearness.
The earth obtained the One through stability.
The spirits obtained the One through supernatural powers.
The valley obtained the One through being filled.
The rulers obtained the One through acting in a way that brings everything in the world to a straight course.
It is said:
The heavens must not stop being clear or there would be anxiety that it would split apart.
The earth must not stop being stable or there would be anxiety that it would crumble.
The spirits must not stop having supernatural power or there would be anxiety that they would become impotent.
The valley must not stop being able to be filled or there would be anxiety that it will be glutted.
The rulers must not stop being valued for their high position or there would be anxiety that they would fall.
Some things must be valued, yet that is based on their devaluation.
Some things must be lofty, yet their foundation is built on what is below.
So, it’s only natural for rulers to speak about themselves as alone, isolated and “The One Without Grain”.
Is this how they devalue their own competency?
What a contradiction.
Therefore they cause their carriages to be counted while claiming they have none.
It is correct therefore for them not to want to shine like sparkling jade charms which attract attention.
Being hard and cold like a rock.
Reversal: that is Dao’s movement.
Flexibility: that is Dao’s usefulness.
Every living thing in the world
Lives and grows with reference to what they have;
Lives and grows with reference to what has vanished.
When an able student hears about Dao, he has the ability to work hard to get to the core of it..
When a mediocre student hears about Dao, he seems to be listening then seems to forget what he heard.
When a poor student hears about Dao, he has a great laugh about it.
If one is not willing to have a great laugh, they lack the principle of Dao.
Naturally the following statements arose:
The evidence of Dao conforms with dispersion;
The smoothness of Dao conforms with roughness;
The progress of Dao conforms with retreat;
The highest De conforms with an empty valley;
The greatest purity conforms with disgrace;
All-encompassing De conforms with lack;
What is determined to be De conforms with concealment;
What is deemed to be of true value conforms with inconsistancy.
A large square is without corners.
A large tool prolongs completion.
A large sound is only one of many notes.
A large image is without form.
Dao is praised as being indescribable.
A good beginning as well as a good ending.
Dao sprouted as one.
One sprouted into two.
Two sprouted into three.
Three sprouted into all the living things in the universe.
All living things suffer through darkness and embrace the light.
In the middle, life’s energy finds a way to act from the harmony of both.
A person’s stance might be to really hate being “alone, isolated and One Without Grain”.
Yet the nobility choose to call themselves by that title.
A living thing may be damaged by increase; or may profit by decrease.
Therefore, if a person realizes that their attitude can teach others,
In the evening they will consider and discuss things, teaching each other.
Therefore those who are aggressive and violent will die incomplete.
I’ll take these lessons as though they came from my father.
The most flexible things in the world are always in motion.
As for the most rigid things in the world, they are impenetrable since they are so dense.
In this way I can really understand the benefits of non-interference.
No words are able to teach how non-interference can be advantageous.
Few in the world have the ability to grasp that.
Fame or health – which one do you hold most dear?
Health or belongings – which would you rather increase?
Gain or loss – which one leads to illness?
Obsession can only lead to great expenditures.
Hoarding can only lead to much spoilage.
Therefore, being content with what you have is not disgraceful.
Knowing when to stop is not dangerous.
It would allow you to last for a long time without wearing yourself out.
A great accomplishment might seem to be lacking – its usefulness hasn’t declined.
A great fullness might seem to be washed away in an instant – its usefulness hasn’t ended.
Great skill might seem to be awkward.
Great gains might seem like retreats.
Great straightforwardness might seem distorted.
Moving quickly overcomes the cold.
Keeping still overcomes the heat.
A clairfying stillness occurs when everything in the world has been settled.
When the world has Dao, trained horses are set free to fertilize the countryside.
When the world is without Dao, army horses thrive in the outskirts of the city.
As for crime – nothing contributes to it more than wanting too much.
As for offending others – nothing is sadder than the desire to gain.
As for misfortune – nothing is greater than not being content with what you have.
Know that you already have enough, your actions are enough, and you’ll always be enough.
You don’t have to go out of the door to understand the world.
You don’t have to peek out the window to understand the nature of Dao.
If you set out to look for fulfillment from what is far away, you’ll discover very little fulfillment.
Naturally a wise person:
Doesn’t have to do much, but has understanding;
Doesn’t have to see much, but knows that it exists;
Won’t take action, but succeeds.
The actions of an educated person increase every day.
The actions of one who becomes like Dao decrease every day.
They keep decreasing and decreasing again to the point that there’s no reason to take actions.
Not purposely taking action, yet never without acting.
To take hold of the world, constantly be without working at it.
Chasing after it has to involve work – but never enough to take hold of the world.
A wise person is without a consistent mind;
In that way the minds of the common people act from their own hearts.
One who is good is good at that; one who is bad also is good at that.
De is good.
One who is truthful is sincere; one who lies also is sincere.
De is sincere.
A wise person is affected by the whole world,
Breathing in deeply the actions of the whole world into every recess of her heart.
All the common people concentrate with their ears and eyes.
Then the wise person connects intimately with all of them.
What sprouts to life descends to death.
Life has thirteen companions.
Death has thirteen companions.
And most people live their lives, even as they all move toward their death with their thirteen while they are on this earth.
Why is that?
Because they live their lives.
The prevailing sentiment is that it’s good to be one who stays alive.
To go into the wild mountains and not have to ward off a rhinocerous or tiger.
To enter the military and not have to wear armor.
The rhinocerous is without a place to thrust its horn.
The tiger is without a place to put its claws.
The soldier is without a place to stab his knife.
Why is that?
Because they are without death while here on this earth.
Dao gives them life; De nurtures them.
Living things give them shape, and tools help them prosper.
It’s natural for all living things to respect Dao and prize De.
Dao is respected.
De is prized.
Even if nothing gave them credit, they would always act from their own nature.
Dao gives them life.
They are nurtured, so they grow;
They are educated, so they mature;
When poisons appear, they are provided with protection.
Life is produced, but it won’t be possessed.
Actions arise, but they won’t be depended upon.
Growth occurs, but it must not be hampered.
This is the proper way to describe mysterious De.
The world came into being, and because of that action the world became like a mother.
Once the mother has already given birth, there can be understanding of what she created.
Once there is understanding of what she created, return to protecting her as a mother.
As the sense of self vanishes, there will be no danger.
Close her door by stopping her dissipation;
Live your whole life and not have to work hard.
Allow her dissipation by competing in affairs;
Live your whole life and not get there.
Paying attention to what is insignificant is said to take lucidity.
Guarding what is soft is said to take strength.
Use her brightness to return to depending on her lucidity.
There is nothing that will cast off your existence to disaster.
This is refered to as what is always veiled beneath the surface.
My own opinions have caused me to have a limited understanding of the operations of Great Dao.
It’s only going astray from what is right that I dread the most.
The way of Great Dao is so smooth, but people prefer to take the most difficult route.
They keep the palaces and courts so clean, yet the fields are overgrown with weeds and the granaries are totally empty.
They wear fashionable clothing, carry sharp weapons to protect their property, eat until they are glutted., and make sure they all have equal amounts of valuable possessions – more than they could possibly use.
Of course there will be thiefs!
Stealing is in opposition to Dao.
A good builder doesn’t destroy.
A good embracer doesn’t abandon.
Future generations would then be grateful to them forever.
By an individual’s progress – their De is then genuine.
By a household’s progress – their De then exceeds.
By the countryside’s progress – their De then increases.
By the city’s progress – their De is then productive.
By the world’s progress – their De is then sweeping.
With an individual – concentrate on the individual.
With a home – concentrate on the home.
With the countryside – concentrate on the countryside.
With the city – concentrate on the city.
With the world – concentrate on the world.
How is it possible for me to understand they are right with the world?
Because of these.
One who possesses the fullness of De can be compared to a newborn baby.
Bees, scorpions and poisonous snakes will not sting him.
Hunting birds and ferocious animals will not grab him.
His bones are weak, his muscles are soft, yet he can grasp objects with great strength.
He has no knowledge of sexual intercourse, yet his penis becomes enlarged: so extreme is his life force.
He can yell all day, yet he doesn’t get hoarse.
There is ultimate harmony in his expressiveness.
This harmony of expressiveness is said to be constant;
Knowing this harmony is said to be obvious.
Increasing life is said to be lucky.
Using the mind to control the natural energy of life is said to show strength.
A living creature who who pretends to be stronger than they are will quickly age.
This may be described as one who doesn’t follow Dao.
Don’t follow Dao and you’ll come to an early end.
One who understands won’t be willing to use words;
One who uses words won’t be willing to understand.
Shut off your dissipation.
Seal up your door.
Harmonize with your brightness.
Adapt to the dust in your life.
Blunt your sharpness.
Untangle your disorder.
This is correctly described as the mystery of putting the pieces together.
What can’t be obtained and held closely also can’t be obtained and cast off.
What can’t be obtained and used for profit also can’t be obtained and used for harm.
What can’t be obtained and valued also can’t be obtained and cheapened.
Therefore every action in the world is precious.
When dealing with those in society,
It should be unusual to have to resort to arms.
By being without an agenda the whole world can be grasped.
How is it possible for me to know this is as it should be?
Within the world there are so many restrictions, but the people wage an extensive revolt.
Then the people take up many sharp weapons, but society just grows darker.
A person can gain much knowledge, but surprising things will continue to occur.
As legal matters become more exacting, there will be more theives and bandits to deal with.
It’s only appropriate that a wise person would make these statements:
I’m without an agenda, and the people by themselves are fulfilled.
I don’t interfere, and the people by themselves transform.
I enjoy serenity, and the people deal with things themselves.
My desire is to crave nothing, and the people by themselves find simplicity.
When a trend is set of indecisiveness and melancholy, that’s when people store up things.
When a trend is set of inspecting and evaluating, that’s when those with power step in and divide property.
When there’s a calamity – good fortune is something to be leaned on.
When there’s good fortune – calamity is something that has to be surrendered to.
Who can understand when they’ve reached the peak of anything?
When there aren’t any trends being set – the mere idea of setting a trend seems strange.
What started out as being good might later seem misguided.
That can make a person lost and confused!
They thought that what occurred on one day would last forever.
It’s correct to use a sharp edge, yet not to slice anything off;
To use a pointed implement, yet not to pierce deeply;
To be straightforward, yet not to elaborate at length;
To shine your light, yet not to be dazzling.
When trying to cure people’s problems, the job of Nature is to be appropriately stingy.
You see, it’s only by that stinginess that it would become natural to make early preparations.
To naturally make early preparations has been correctly described as putting importance in accumulating De.
Putting importance in accumulating De results in being without anything that cannot be overcome.
Being without anything that cannot be overcome resluts in no one having a perception of their own limits.
One who has no perception of their own limits would even be willing to possess the country.
Possessing the country, their mother (Mother Nature) would be able to last for a long time.
This has correctly been described as inquiring into the reason a tree’s roots are strong enough to last for so long.
Living so long though old and worn.
Look for its Dao.
Ruling the largest nation can be like cooking a tender piece of fish if Dao is established in the world.
The demonic ghosts don’t have spiritual powers.
Not only do demons not have spiritual powers, those powers don’t hurt anyone.
Not only do those powers not hurt anyone, a wise person also wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Then a balance occurs where neither would cause harm to the other.
Therefore, De is intermingled with their reliance on each other.
One who is like a large nation is like the lowest depths of a river.
Like a female to everything in the world.
Like the unifier of everything in the world.
A female always uses stillness to subdue a male.
That which becomes still finds its proper place is to remain below.
Therefore, when a large nation remains below a small nation, it can capture the small nation.
When a small nation remains below a large nation, it can be captured by the large nation.
Therefore, perhaps what is below takes over, or perhaps what is below is taken over.
Therefore, one who is like a large nation merely wants to bring together and nurture people;
A small nation merely wants to enter into an involvement with people.
Eventually everyone ends up getting what they want.
As a result, one who is great finds their proper place is to remain below.
One who is connected with Dao
Pays attention to all living things,
Preserves the goodness in a person,
Provides a safe harbor for a bad person.
Beautiful words are willingly bought and sold.
Respectful conduct brings willing compliments from others.
If a person acts badly, is that a reason to abandon them?
Therefore, an established emperor installs the “Three Ministers.”
Although they have both jade jewelry, as well as being paraded on a chariot pulled by a team of four horses, it’s not as if they can sit back and make progress with these things.
In the past, how was it thought that one who had these things should prize them?
Isn’t this called asking to avoid being accused of guilt?
Therefore, every action taken in this world is so precious.
Act without considering it to be acting.
Work without considering it to be working.
Taste without considering it to be tasting.
Big or small, many or few,
Complaints are reported as well as virtues.
Plan for difficult times with what is easily changed.
Become large with what is thin.
All the difficulties in the world arise from what is easy to change.
All the greatness in the world arises from what is thin.
It’s natural for the wise person to end up not acting big, and in that way has the ability to achieve what is big.
You see, lightly making promises must show a lack of sincerity.
If what is big is considered to be small, that can increase a sense of ease; it must also increase difficulties.
It’s natural for a wise person to see how these comparisons can cause difficulty,
Therefore he ends up without difficulties.
That which is peaceful is easy to manage.
That which has not yet been decided is easy to plot a course for.
That which is soft and flexible is easy to style.
That which is within reach is easy to scatter.
These actions come from dealing with that which is without its own existence;
Curing problems before they have become chaotic.
A tree trunk large enough to wrap your arms around started to grow from a small shoot.
A building nine stories high began from a small pile of dirt.
A journey of one thousand miles begins from where one stands.
One who acts with motives will destroy it.
One who clings to it will find themselves removed from it.
It’s right for a wise person to take no motivated actions.
Therefore, she is without destroying, without clinging.
Therefore, she is without anything to lose.
Overseeing her affairs as they progress, she is as attentive at the beginning as she is at completion.
In this way she is without destruction of her affairs.
A wise person prefers not to have desires; not to value possessions that are hard to come by.
Teaching by learning; remembering the many situations she went through in the past.
It just seems right, therefore, for a wise person to be able to assist all living things with their own nature, but she won’t be willing to use her ability to take actions.
The actions that were handed down by those who followed Dao in the past were in opposition to what was considered intelligent by the rest of the people.
They were regarded as being foolish.
Most people’s difficulties come from the way they choose to cure their problems.
That’s the way they perceive things.
Therefore, that’s the way they perceive the rest of society; as though the rest of society was out to rob them.
Because they didn’t understand how society works, society controlled their De.
Always try to understand both of those things, and look for the flaws in attempting to follow those patterns.
Always understand that looking for flaws in those patterns is correctly described as the mystery of De.
The mystery of De requires inquiry.
Always being on the move.
When things work together to see the other side, in that way they reach the greatest agreement.
As a large river flows to the sea, it becomes the ruler over the hundreds of valleys it travels through.
Because of this, the hundreds of valleys have the ability to act as though they were below.
It’s just natural this ability would allow the hundred valleys to be ruled.
The influence of a wise person promotes other people to advance, while keeping their own selves in the background.
Their influence places others on a higher level, while their own words remain below.
Their influence places people on a higher level, so the people don’t feel like they’re in the background.
Their influence promotes other people to advance, so the people won’t feel like they’re being criticized.
Everywhere in the world happiness abounds, yet won’t prevent room for more.
Because there’s nothing to argue about, that’s why nothing in the world has the ability to argue with each other.
Everyone in the world says my ideas are great; great yet different from others.
So, if only what is different has the ability to be great, it seems as though what is similar would last for a much longer time.
It’s really a delicate matter.
So I have three things I always protect; I hold them tightly and protect them.
The first is called unconditional love;
The second is called frugality;
The third is called not to daring to act like I’m ahead of anyone else.
With unconditional love there is the ability to be brave;
With frugality there is the ability to be boundless;
Not daring to act like I’m ahead of anyone else enables me to be able to take the actions of a useful person for a long time.
If for a moment universal love is willingly given up, so is bravery.
If frugality is willingly given up, so is broadness.
If following is willingly given up, so is leading.
Then you might as well be dead.
So, with unconditional love:
When attacking, then victory is assured;
When defending, then endurance is assured.
The heavens become the one who mandates, as if it was using walls of unconditional love.
One who has a good strategy doesn’t get forceful.
One who is good at applying pressure doesn’t get angry.
One who is good at winning doesn’t get enmeshed.
One who is good at employing others stays beneath them.
That’s called: Not disputing with their De.
That’s called: Employing people.
That’s called: Adapting to the heavens.
From the start to the climax.
Among those who have to resort to using weapons there is a saying:
I don’t dare to act as a master, but rather act as a guest;
I don’t dare to advance one inch, but rather retreat a foot.
This is correctly described as:
Performing without execution;
Making preparations without the means to carry it out;
Trying to hold on without having any weapons;
Using force without having an enemy.
Predicting a bad outcome without even having an enemy.
Without an enemy nearby, my sense that there’s something to save vanishes.
Therefore, resist the idea of using offensive weapons on each other, otherwise the winner will be the one who grieves.
My words are very easy to understand; very easy to put into practice.
Yet no one in the world has the ability to understand; no one has the ability to put them into practice.
Well, words have been handed down from antiquity; affairs have been controlled by others.
That’s merely stupidity.
That’s not my understanding.
One who understands is a rarity, so I hold them dear to my heart.
That’s why a wise person covers himself with coarse clothing while carrying a precious gem within.
Knowing that you don’t know is uplifting.
Not knowing that you don’t know is sickness.
Therefore, a wise person is not sick, because they’re sick of sickness.
That’s how they get rid of sickness.
When the people are scorned they cower; that results in dreading that even greater fears will come.
They must not be restricted within their own homes.
They must not be made to feel fed up with lives.
It’s only when they refuse to feel fed up by their lives that they aren’t fed up.
It is correct for the wise person to know herself, but not pay attention to how she is perceived; to love herself, but not let herself be considered precious.
In that way, let go of that and take this.
Having the courage to challenge results in killing.
Having the courage to not challenge results in living.
These two methods may perhaps be beneficial or perhaps be detrimental.
The heavens’ position on evil – who can know what that is?
Therefore, the heavens’ Dao:
Doesn’t attack, yet it is good at conquering;
Doesn’t use words, yet it is good at responding;
Won’t summon, yet of itself arrives;
Casts wide, yet has a good strategy.
The heavens’ web is all-encompassing;
It may seem very far away, but is never lost.
If the people are constantly and furthermore don’t fear dying, how can execution be used as a detriment?
Make the people constantly and furthermore fear dying, then if we take hold of those who act in unusual ways and kill them, who would dare to act that way?
If the people are constantly and furthermore have no choice but to fear dying, then they’ll always be appointing an executioner.
So, let the one appointed executioner take over as the killer, just as a skilled carpenter would take over carving wood.
When taking over as a skilled carpenter carving wood, rarely would anyone not injure their own hand.
A person starves because the food is taken right out of his mouth to pay excess taxes.
Thus they starve.
The common people do not have a proper government because those in power take advantage of their actions.
Thus the government is improper.
The people take death lightly because they merely seek to survive while others take the largess.
Thus death seems like an easier course.
It’s only without looking for a reason to be alive that you will see just how valuable and precious this life is.
While a person is alive, he is soft and yeilding;
When dead, in the end they become stretched out stiff and rigid.
All living things including trees and plants are flexible and fragile while alive;
When dead, they become dry, withered and rotten.
Therefore it is said that those who are stiff and rigid are companions of death; while those who are soft, yeilding, flexible and fragile are companions of life.
A rigid weapon thus will be defeated;
A rigid tree thus will break.
What is rigidly large dwells below;
What is soft, yeilding, flexible and fragile dwells above.
The heavens’ Dao is similar to an expanding bow.
What is high it presses downward.
What is low it lifts up.
What has excess it reduces.
What is lacking it replenishes.
Therefore, the heaven’s Dao decreases what is in excess, and increases what is lacking.
A person’s Dao decreases what is lacking, and adds to what is in excess.
Well, who has the ability to have excess and considerately give in the manner of the heavens?
Only one who follows Dao can do that.
It’s correct for a wise person to act but not be willing to possess;
To succeed but not be willing to rest on his laurels.
It seems as though what he rejects is paying attention to what is perceived as valuable.
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet when it attacks what is strong and firm, nothing can hold up against it.
Because there is nothing as changeable as water,
Water conquers what is firm and unyielding.
By being flexible, it can conquer what is strong.
No one in this world wouldn’t be able to understand that, yet no one has the ability to carry it out.
Therefore a wise person’s words declare:
Accepting the blame for a nation’s problems is naturally refered to as being the master of what nourishes the world;
Accepting the nation’s problems as bad signs of fate is naturally refered to as being the king of the world.
These straight-spoken words seem to be backwards.
If harmony is expressed outwardly while resentment is harbored within, certainly there will be some resentment left over.
How would this type of action be considered good?
Naturally a wise person keeps track of debts, but doesn’t make demands from others.
Therefore, those with De oversee accounts;
Those without De oversee exacting fines.
So the Way of nature is to hold nothing dearer to it than anything else, constantly sharing its goodness with each person.
A small nation diminishes people.
It causes the people to have hundreds of conveniences, but won’t let them use them.
It causes the people to be burdened by the thought of death, and they try to get out of the way.
There are boats and cars, but no place to drive them to.
There are weapons, but no place to display them.
It causes the people to return to:
Tying knots and using them;
Be satisfied with their food;
See their clothing as beautiful;
Find joy in what is common;
Feel safe in their homes.
Each town looks forward to hearing from each other by the sounds of their chickens and dogs; this is how they learn about each other.
The people get old and die, not coming into contact with each other.
True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not true.
One who knows isn’t comprehensive.
One who is comprehensive doesn’t know.
One who is good doesn’t have numerous sides.
One who has numerous sides is not good.
A wise person accumulates nothing.
Having already acted for another person, her own individuality has more reason for existing.
Having already given to another person, her own individuality multiplies more and more.
Therefore, the heaven’s Dao is beneficial, and doesn’t harm.
A person’s Dao takes action, but isn’t willing to contend.