If Tao can be Taoed, it’s not Tao.
If its name can be named , it’s not its name.
Has no name: precedes heaven and earth.
Has a name: mother of ten thousand things.
For it is
Always dispassionate: see its inwardness;
Always passionate: see its outwardness.
The names are different but the source is the same.
Call the sameness mystery:
Mystery of mystery, the door to inwardness.
When all beneath heaven know beauty as beauty,
There is not beauty.
When all know good as good,
There is not good.
For what is and what is not beget each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short show each other;
High and low place each other:
Noise and sound harmonize each other;
Before and behind follow each other.
Therefore the sage
Manages without doing,
Teaches without talking.
He does not shun the ten thousand things:
Rears them without owning them,
Works for them without claiming them,
Accomplishes but takes no credit.
Because he does no take credit,
It cannot be taken from him.
Don’t exalt the worthy:
People then will not compete.
Don’t prize rare goods:
People then will not steal.
Don’t show what is covetable:
The people’s hearts won’t be upset.
Thus, when the sage rules,
He empties hearts
And fills bellies,
And strengthens bones.
He leads the people
To not-know and not-want,
And the cunning ones dare not do.
By doing nothing-doing, everything is set in order.
Tao is empty! Use it
And it isn’t used up.
Deep! It seems like
The forebear of the ten thousand things.
It blunts edges,
Unites all dust.
Existent and deep!
I don’t know whose child it is.
It looks to be the source.
Heaven-and-earth is not humane:
It treats the ten thousand things like straw dogs.
The sage is not humane:
He treats the hundred families like straw dogs.
Heaven-and-earth and all between
Is like a bellows:
Empty but never used up.
The more it moves,
The more comes out of it.
Many words exhaust truth.
Keep to the empty center.
The spirit of low places does not die.
Call its mysteriousness feminine.
The gate of this mysteriousness
Is the source of heaven-and-earth.
Unceasingly, unceasingly, it seems to persist.
Use it and it won’t wear out.
Heaven abides; earth lasts.
They last and abide
By not living for themselves.
Hence they live forever.
Therefore the sage
Puts himself last,
Finds himself first;
Abandons his self,
Preserves his self.
Is it not because he has no self
That he is able to realize his self?
True goodness is like water;
Water benefits the ten thousand things
But does not compete with them.
It stays in places disliked by man,
Therefore comes close to Tao.
For a dwelling keep to the ground.
In your heart keep to the deeps.
In dealing with others, keep to gentleness.
In speaking, keep to the truth.
In governing, keep to order.
In business, keep to efficiency.
In making moves, keep to the right pace.
If you do not compete,
You will not be faulted.
Hold onto fullness?
It’s better to stop.
Handle sharp edges?
They can’t long be kept.
When gold and jade fill a house,
No one can protect it.
Pride in wealth and fame
Breeds its own collapse.
Do your work, retire:
This is the Tao of heaven.
In maintaining the vital spirit,
Can you hold to oneness
And not come apart
In developing the vital senses,
Can you be like an infant child?
In loving the people and ruling the state,
Can you hold to nothing-knowing?
In opening and closing heaven’s gate,
Can you act like a mother bird?
While seeing clearly in the four directions,
Can you hold to nothing-doing?
Rear the people,
Feed the people.
Rear them but don’t own them.
Work but don’t claim;
Lead but don’t butcher.
Call this inward virtue.
Thirty spokes share one hub;
In emptiness lies the wheel’s utility.
Kneading clay makes a pot;
In emptiness lies the pot’s utility.
Cutting doors and windows makes a room;
In emptiness lies the room’s utility.
Gain can be had from somethingness,
But use can be had from nothingness.
The five colors blind the eye.
The five notes deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing an hunting madden the heart.
Rare goods make men falter.
Therefore the sage
Tends to the belly not the eye.
He rejects the outward,
Clasps the inward.
Favor and disgrace: same fear.
Honor and distress: same self.
What is meant by
“Favor and disgrace: same fear”?
Favor make the lowly
Fearful when they get it,
Fearful when they lose it.
That’s why favor and disgrace are the same fear.
What is meant by
“Honor and distress: same self”?
The self registers our distress:
If we have no self,
We have no distress.
He who values all things as his self
Is fit to manage all things.
He who loves all things as his self
Is fit to be trusted with all things.
Look at it; you can’t see it:
Call it shapeless.
Listen to it: you can’t hear it:
Call it soundless.
Grasp at it; you can’t hold it:
Call it bodiless.
These three are beyond scrutiny;
Therefore they blend into one.
Its upped side it not bright,
Its lower side is not dark.
Continually the can’t-be-named goes on
And comes back to nothingness.
Call it the formless form,
The imageless image,
From in front, you don’t see its head.
From behind, you don’t see its back.
But hold onto the Tao of old
And you can handle today’s nowness.
Knowing the primal is the key to Tao.
The ancient masters were
Inwardly subtle and darkly perceptive.
Their depth was beyond understanding.
Because they were beyond understanding,
They can be described only by appearance:
Hesitant as if wading a river in winter,
Reluctant as if fearing a neighbor,
Reserved as if acting as guest,
Effacing like ice starting to melt,
Simple like uncarved wood,
Open like a valley,
Confused like muddy water.
Who else could clear muddy water
By quieting it?
Who else could move clear water
By bringing it to life?
Whoever keeps to Tao
Does not want to be full.
Not full, he can practice
Concealment instead of accomplishment.
Attain utmost emptiness;
Hold firm to stillness.
The ten thousand things stir about;
I only watch for their going back.
But each returns to its root.
Returning to the root is peace
And peace is going back to reality.
To go back to reality is to be constant.
To know the constant is to find insight;
Not to know the constant is to court calamity.
To know the constant is to be broad.
To be broad is to be just.
To be just is to be manly.
To be manly is to be heavenly.
To be heavenly is to find Tao.
To find Tao is to live forever
And to rob danger from death.
Of the best ruler,
The people only know he exists.
Next comes one the love and praise.
Next comes one they fear.
Next comes one they abhor.
When you are lacking in trust,
Others have no trust in you.
Of the work of one who is short with his words,
The hundred families say,
We have done it ourselves!
When Tao is cast aside,
Duty and humanity abide.
When prudence and wit appear,
Great hypocrites are here.
When the six relations have no point,
Filial piety and paternal love are taught.
When the countryside is out of joint,
Loyalty and allegiance are man’s lot.
Give up wisdom, abandon knowledge,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Give up benevolence, abandon righteousness,
And the people will go back to natural affection.
Give up cunning, abandon gain,
And robbers and thieves will disappear.
These external rules are not enough.
Hold to what can be counted on:
Keep to simplicity,
Grasp the primal,
Reduce the self,
And curb desire.
Give up learning:
You will no anxieties.
How much difference is there
Between ah and oh?
How much difference is there
Between god and evil?
What men fear
Must I fear?
All men are happy happy,
As if consuming sacrificial feasts,
As if mounting the Spring Terrace.
I alone am mild
Like one who gives no sign,
Like an infant who does not smile,
Forlorn like one with no place to go.
All men have plenty;
I alone am a loser
A fool at heart indeed!
The world’s people are bright bright;
I alone am dull dull.
The world’s people are smart smart;
I alone am low low,
Bland as the sea,
Aimless as the wind.
All men have their uses;
I alone am stubborn and uncouth.
But I differ most from the others
In prizing food drawn from my Mother.
The nature of great virtue
is to follow Tao alone.
And Tao’s style is elusive, evasive.
Yet within it is form.
Yet within it is substance.
Dark and dim,
Yet within it is vitality,
Its vitality is very real:
Within it is trust.
From of old
Its name has not ceased,
For it has watched all beginnings.
How can all beginnings be known?
Twist and get whole.
Bend and get straight.
Be empty and get filled.
Be worn and get renewed.
Have little: get much.
Have much: get baffled.
Therefore the sage
Holds to the One and
Becomes beneath-heaven’s model.
He does not show himself,
Hence he shines.
Does not assert himself,
Hence he is seen.
Does not boast his merits,
Hence he survives.
Does not compete with anyone,
Hence no one beneath heaven
Can compete with him.
The old saying,
The twisted shall be made whole
Is it not true?
Be whole and you will return.
Nature speaks little.
Squalls do not last the morning
Nor downpours the day.
What stirs them up
Does not long make a fuss.
How much less should men!
He who follows Tao is one with Tao.
He who follows virtue is one with virtue.
He who courts loss is one with his losses.
Tao is glad to get whoever comes to Tao.
Virtue is glad to get whoever comes to virtue.
Loss is glad to get whoever comes to loss.
When you are lacking in trust,
Others have no trust in you.
On tiptoe you don’t stand.
Astride you don’t walk.
Showing yourself, you don’t shine.
Asserting yourself, you don’t show.
Boasting yourself won’t get you credit.
Vaunting yourself won’t let you endure.
In Tao, these things are called
Tumors and dregs, which all things abhor.
Whoever has Tao does not dwell on them.
Something there is without form and complete,
Born before heaven and earth,
Solitary and vast,
Standing alone without change,
Everywhere pervading all things,
Mothering all beneath heaven.
I don’t know its name;
I style it Tao,
And for want of a name call it great.
To be great is to go on.
To go on is to be far.
To be far is to return.
Tao is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
The universe has four greats,
And man is one of them.
Man follows earth;
Earth follows heaven;
Heaven follows Tao;
Tao follows itself.
The solid is the root of the light,
The still is the master of the restless.
The sage travels all day
But never leaves the baggage wagon.
Though there are arresting sights,
He does not stir but sits.
Why does the master of ten thousand chariots
Act lightly to all beneath heaven?
Lightness will uproot him,
Restlessness unman him.
Good walkers leave no tracks:
Good speakers make no points;
Good reckoners use no counters.
Good lockers turn no keys,
Yet no one opens their locks.
Good binders tie no ropes,
Yet no one undoes their knots.
What is more,
The sage is always good at saving men:
No one is cast out.
He is also good at saving things:
No thing is cast out.
Call this following the light.
Hence good men teach the not good.
Not-good men are the lessons of the good.
Not to esteem the teacher,
Not to love the lesson,
Is to go astray despite great learning.
Call this the subtle secret.
Know the masculine;
Keep to the feminine.
Be beneath-heaven’s ravine.
To be beneath-heaven’s ravine
Is to stay with unceasing virtue
And return to infancy.
Know the white;
Keep to the black.
Be beneath-heaven’s model.
To beneath-heaven’s valley
Is to stay with abundant virtue
And return to simplicity.
When simplicity diversifies
It produces instruments
That the sage uses as officers.
Indeed, a great leader does little cutting.
Does anyone want to take the world
And act on it?
I don’t see how he can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel
Not to be acted on.
Whoever acts on it spoils it;
Whoever grasps at it loses.
Indeed, there is a time for
Some things to go forward
And some to go behind;
Some to blow hot
And some to blow cold,
Some to grow in strength
And some to decay;
Some to be up
And some to be down.
Therefore the sage
Eschews excesses, extremes, and extravagances.
He who uses Tao to guide rulers
Does not force beneath-heaven with arms.
Such things recoil on their users.
Where armies are
Briars and brambles grow.
Bad harvests follow big wars.
Be firm and that is all:
Dare not rely on force
Be firm but not haughty,
Firm but not boastful,
Firm but not proud:
Firm when necessary,
Firm but non-violent.
Things that flourish
Fall into decay.
This is not-Tao,
And what is not-Tao soon ends.
Fine weapons are tools of ill fortune;
All things seem to hate them.
Whoever has Tao does not depend on them.
At home a gentleman favors the left;
In war he favors the right.
Since weapons are tools of ill fortune,
They are not the tools for a gentleman,
Who uses them only from necessity.
Peace and quiet he upholds;
Victory he does not enjoy.
To enjoy victory is to like slaughter.
Whoever likes it
Cannot thrive beneath heaven.
Things of good omen favor the left;
Things of ill omen favor the right.
The under-general stands to the left;
The top-general stands to the right:
The way to stand at a burial rite.
Killing multitudes brings weeping and sorrow;
Treat victory like a funeral.
Tao is always without a name,
Simple and small.
Beneath-heaven dares no subject it.
If kings and barons can hold to it,
The ten thousand things will pay homage.
Heaven and earth will mutually join
And sweet dew will fall.
Not by law but of themselves
The people will stay in balance.
When law and order arose,
Aren’t there enough already?
Is it not time to stop?
To know when to stop
Is to be free from danger.
Tao is to all beneath heaven
As rivers and seas are to rivulets and streams.
Whoever knows others has wisdom;
Whoever knows himself has insight.
Whoever conquers others has force;
Whoever conquers himself has strength.
Whoever knows he has enough has wealth.
Whoever perseveres has purpose. Whoever keeps to one place endures.
Whoever dies without perishing lives long.
The great Tao flow everywhere:
It can go to the right or the left.
The ten thousand things draw life from it,
And it does not deny them.
It completes its work
But takes no title.
It clothes and feeds the ten thousand things,
But does not own them.
You can call it small.
The ten thousand things return to it,
But it does not own them.
You can call it great.
Because it does not seek to be great,
Its greatness is accomplished.
Hold to the great symbol:
All beneath heaven will follow,
Follow without harm,
Quiet, even, secure.
Music and dainties
Make passing guests pause.
But Tao is bland and without taste.
Looked at, it can’t be seen;
Listened to, it can’t be heard;
Used, it can’t be used up.
What is going to shrink has first been stretched.
What is going to weaken has first been made strong.
What is going to be ruined has first been raised up.
What is going to be taken away has first been given.
Call this the subtle truth:
The soft and weak conquer the hard and strong.
Fish should not leave the depths;
Neither should weapons of state ever be aired.
Tao never does anything,
And everything gets done.
If rulers can keep to it,
The ten thousand things will changes of themselves.
Changed, things may start to stir.
Quiet them with the namelessly simple,
Which alone will bring no-desire.
No-desire: then there is peace,
And beneath-heaven will settle down of itself.
High virtue is not virtuous;
Therefore it has virtue.
Low virtue is always virtuous;
Therefore it has no virtue.
High virtue does nothing
And has no ulterior ends.
Low virtue does something,
Also has ulterior ends.
High ceremony does something,
And when it gets no response
It rolls up its sleeves and takes to force.
When Tao is lost, there is virtue.
When virtue is lost, there is humaneness.
When humaneness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost there is ceremony.
Now ceremony is the shell
Of loyalty and trust
And the beginning of befuddlement.
As to foreknowledge,
It is a blossomy path
And the beginning of folly.
The fulfilled man holds to
The solid rather than the shell,
The fruit rather than the blossom.
He avoids the outward, accepts the inward.
From of old, there are those who reached oneness:
Heaven reached oneness and became clear;
Earth reached oneness and became tranquil;
The spirits reached oneness and became mystic;
The valleys reached oneness and became full;
The ten thousand things reached oneness and became potent;
Barons and kings reached oneness and became sovereign.
Did they not all become so through oneness?
If heaven were not clear,
It probably would crack,
If earth were not tranquil,
It probably would quake.
If spirits were not mystic,
They would probably desist.
If the valleys were not full,
They probably would die out.
If the thousand things were not potent,
They probably would die off.
If barons and kings were not sovereign,
They probably would fall.
The great has its roots in the humble;
The high has its foundations upon the low.
Barons and kings call themselves
The orphaned, the lonely, the unworthy:
Do they not have their roots in the humble?
Truly, the parts of a cart are not the cart.
Do not shine like jade
Or sound like stone chimes.
Returning is the motion of Tao;
Softness is the utility of Tao.
All things in heaven and earth
Are born of being;
Being is born of non-being.
When a superior man hears about Tao,
He goes after it diligently.
When an average man hears about Tao,
He both gets it and loses it.
When an inferior man hears about Tao,
He laughs loudly at it.
If he did not laugh,
It would not be Tao.
There is an old saying:
The bright way looks dark;
The forward way looks backward;
The smooth way looks rough;
High virtue looks low;
Great whiteness looks defiled.
Broad virtue looks deficient;
Solid virtue looks illicit;
Simple virtue looks decayed.
Great space has no corners.
Great talent ripens late.
Great music is out of key.
The great symbol is out of shape.
Tao is without name and hidden.
Hence Tao helps and completes.
Tao bore one, one bore two, two bore three;
Three bore the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang,
Whose blending breaths makes them harmonize.
Men hate to be
Orphaned, lowly, unworthy,
Yet barons and kings
Use these names as titles.
You may gain by losing,
And you may lose by gaining.
What others have taught, I also teach:
Men of violence come to death by violence.
Whoever said this is my teacher.
The softest things beneath heaven
Overcome the hardest.
Nothingness alone penetrates no-space.
Hence I know the use
The lessons of nothing-speaking,
The use of nothing-doing:
Rare attainments beneath heaven!
Name and self,
Which is dearer?
Self and wealth,
Which is nearer?
Gain and loss,
Which brings more fear?
Attachment comes at wasteful cost;
Hoarding leads to certain loss;
Knowing what is enough avoids disgrace;
Knowing when to stop secures from peril.
Only thus can you last long.
What is most perfect seems imperfect,
But using it doesn’t use it up.
What is most full seems empty,
But using it doesn’t wear it down.
Great straightness seems crooked;
Great skill seems clumsy;
Great eloquence seems hesitant.
Movement conquers cold,
But stillness conquers heat.
Clearness and serenity
Are beneath-heaven’s norm.
When beneath-heaven has Tao,
Race horses are used to haul dung.
When beneath-heaven has no Tao,
War horses breed in the countryside.
No calamity is greater
Than not knowing what is enough.
No fault worse than wanting too much.
Whoever knows what is enough
Without going out of the door
You can know beneath-heaven.
Without looking out of the window
You can see heaven’s way.
The farther you go,
The less you know.
Thus the sage
Knows without walking,
Sees without looking,
And does without doing.
To get learning, add to it daily.
To get Tao, subtract daily.
Subtract and subtract
Until you achieve nothing-doing.
And everything will get done.
To win beneath-heaven
Always avoid fussing.
If fussing is not avoided,
Beneath heaven is not won.
The sage has no fixed heart.
He finds his heart
In the hundred families’ heart.
He is good to the good;
He is also good to the not-good,
For virtue is good.
He is faithful to the faithful;
He is also faithful to the unfaithful,
For virtue is faithful.
Living beneath heaven,
The sage deals shyly with beneath-heaven
And simplifies his heart.
The hundred families strain eyes and ears;
The sage acts the child to all of them.
Going out is life;
Coming back is death.
The companions of life are thirteen.
The companions of death are thirteen.
For people moving toward the place of death
There are also thirteen.
How is that?
Because they live intently.
It is said that
He who preserves his life
Meets no tigers or wild buffaloes on the road,
Remains untouched by weapons in the wars.
In him, the wild buffalo
Finds no space for his horns,
The tiger no space for his claws,
The soldier no space for his blade.
How is this?
Because there is no place for death in him.
Tao gives them life;
Virtue shapes them;
Reality rears them;
Circumstance completes them.
Thus the ten thousand things
All worship Tao and esteem virtue.
No one commands them
To worship Tao and esteem virtue.
They do so of themselves.
For Tao gives them life.
Virtue nurses them, raises them,
Nurtures them, shelters them,
Comforts them, feeds them,
And protects them.
Rear but don’t own!
Work but don’t claim!
Raise but don’t butcher!
This is called inward virtue.
Beneath-heaven has a beginning:
The mother of beneath-heaven.
Knowing the mother.
We may know the children.
Knowing the children,
We may keep to the mother.
Death of body? No risk!
Block the passages,
Shut the doors:
End of life? No fuss!
Open the passages,
Meddle with things:
End of life? No help!
See the small: that is insight.
Keep to weakness: that is strength.
Use the light: go back to insight,
Keeping away from calamity
And practicing the changeless.
If I have a grain of wisdom,
I walk along the great Tao
And fear only to stray.
The great Tao is easy indeed,
But the people choose by-paths.
The court is very resplendent;
Very weedy are the fields,
And the granaries very empty.
They wear gaudy clothes,
Carry sharp swords,
Exceed in eating and drinking,
Have riches more than they can use.
Call them robber-braggarts:
They are anti-Tao indeed!
What is well planted won’t be uprooted;
What is well grasped won’t slip away.
Sons and grandsons will keep the sacrifices.
Practice virtue in yourself:
Virtue becomes real.
Practice it in the family;
It becomes abundant.
Practice it in the county,
It becomes increased.
Practice it in the country,
It becomes prolific.
Practice it beneath heaven,
It becomes universal.
Thus persons are to be looked at as a person,
Families as a family,
Counties as a county,
Countries as a country,
Beneath-heaven as beneath-heaven.
How do I know about beneath-heaven?
One who is weighty in virtue
Resembles an infant child.
Poisonous insects don’t sting him;
Wild beasts don’t seize him;
Birds of prey don’t strike him.
His bones are soft,
His sinews tender,
Yet his grip is strong.
He does not know
The union of male and female,
Yet his vitality is evident,
His vitality perfect.
He cries and howls all day,
But does not get hoarse.
His harmony is perfect indeed!
To know harmony
Is to know the changeless.
To now the changeless
Is to have insight.
It is ominous to improve on life,
Injurious to control breathing by the mind:
Things overgrown fall into decay.
That is not-Tao,
And what is not-Tao soon ends.
He who speaks does not know.
He who knows does not speak.
Block the passages!
Shut the doors,
Unite all dust.
Call this the original oneness.
It can’t be had by courting,
Can’t be had by shunning;
Can’t be had by helping;
Can’t be had by harming;
Can’t be had by praising,
Can’t be had by blaming:
For it is beneath-heaven’s highest.
Govern the country by regular rules;
Direct the army by cunning moves;
But win the world by avoiding fuss.
How do I know that this is so?
The more rules and prohibitions there are,
The poorer the people become.
The sharper the weapons there are,
The greater the country’s confusion.
The cleverer the people become,
The more cunning acts take place.
The more laws and orders there are,
The more thieves and robbers appear.
Therefore the sage says:
I do nothing,
And the people of themselves reform.
I love stillness,
And the people of themselves grow straight.
I don’t fuss,
And the people of themselves get rich.
I don’t want,
And the people of themselves grow simple.
When the law is dumb dumb,
The people are simple simple.
When the law is smart smart,
The people are broke broke.
Good fortune rests on bad fortune;
Bad fortune hides in good fortune.
Who knows the end of this?
It does not stop:
The normal turns into the odd;
The good turns into the weird.
Long have the people been in a stew!
Therefore the sage is
Severe, but he doesn’t cut;
Exact, but he doesn’t hurt;
Straight, but he doesn’t strain;
Bright, but he doesn’t dazzle.
In ruling people and serving heaven,
It is best to be sparing.
To be sparing is to yield quickly.
To yield quickly is to double-store virtue.
If virtue is double-stored
Nothing can’t be overcome.
When nothing can’t be overcome,
No one can know his limits.
When no one knows his limits,
That one can take on the country.
When that one takes on
The mother of the country,
He can last and endure.
Call this having deep roots
And a strong stem:
And seeing into Tao.
Rule a big country
As you would cook a small fish.
When beneath-heaven is ruled with Tao,
Demons don’t go spiriting.
Not only do the demons not spirit,
But spirits don’t harm people.
Not only do the spirits do no harm,
But the sage also does no harm.
Since both do no harm,
Virtue is restored intact.
A great country is one that downward flows
To be the confluence of all beneath heaven
And beneath-heaven’s female.
For the feminine overcomes the masculine
By quietude and lowliness.
By lowering itself before a small country,
A great country wins over a small country.
By lowering itself before a large country,
A small country wins over a large country.
The one wins by lowering itself,
The other by keeping itself lowered.
Great countries wish nothing more
Than to shelter others:
Small countries with nothing more
Than to be sheltered.
Since each gets its wish,
The great country ought to make itself lower.
Tao is the refuge of the ten thousand tings:
The treasure of the good man,
The backstop of the not-good man.
Fine words can be sold,
Noble deeds gain respect.
If a man is not good,
Why throw him away?
When an emperor is crowned
Or the three ministers appointed,
Discs of jade and teams of horses
Are not as gifts the equal
Of siting still and offering Tao.
Why did the ancients prize Tao?
Because if it is sought, it is found;
Because the guilty are forgiven.
That is why it is beneath-heaven’s treasure.
Exalt the low;
Multiply the few;
Requite hatred with virtue.
Tackle the difficult when it is easy.
Handle the big when it is small.
Difficult things beneath heaven
Are made up of easy things.
Big things beneath heaven
Are made up of small things.
Thus the sage
Never deals with the great,
But accomplishes greatness.
Light promises indeed lack trust,
Much easiness leads to much difficulty.
Thus the sage
Holds everything difficult,
But meets no difficulty in the end.
What is at rest is easy to hold.
What hasn’t happened is easy to forestall.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is minute is easy to scatter.
Deal with a thing before it exists;
Handle disorder before it occurs.
A tree of a full span’s girth
Springs from a tiny sprout
A nine-storey tower
Rises from a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles
Starts from where your feet are.
Whoever acts spoils,
Whoever grasps loses.
The sage does nothing;
Therefore he spoils nothing.
He grasps nothing;
Therefore he loses nothing.
People often spoil things at the point of success:
Take it easy at the finish as well as the start;
Then nothing will be spoiled
Therefore the sage
Desires to be desireless,
Does not prize rare goods,
Learns to unlearn his learning,
Returns the people to what they have lost,
Helps all things find their nature,
But dares not do.
The ancients well versed in Tao
Did not enlighten the people
But kept them simple minded.
Why are the people hard to govern?
Because they are too clever.
Clever government is a curse,
Non-clever government a blessing.
To know these two things
Is to follow the ancient pattern,
And to know the ancient pattern
Is original virtue.
Original virtue is far-reaching and deep.
It leads all things to return
Back to the original harmony.
Rivers and seas become the kings of the valleys
Because they lie lower:
That is why they become kings.
Hence the sage,
Wishing to be higher than the people,
Keeps his speech lower;
Wishing to lead the people,
Puts himself behind them.
For the sage
Stays above the people,
But they don’t feel weight;
Stays in front,
But they don’t feel hurt.
Gladly upholds him
And does not weary of him.
Because he does not compete,
Nobody beneath heaven can compete with him.
All beneath heaven say
My Tao seems like folly.
But it is great
Because it seems like folly.
Were it not like folly,
Long indeed would it have been petty.
I have three treasures,
Held close and guarded.
The first is love.
The second is simplicity.
The third is not-daring to be first beneath heaven.
Whoever is loving can be brave;
Whoever is simple can be generous;
Whoever is not-daring to be first beneath heaven
Can be a vessel of excellence.
But to be brave without being loving,
Generous without being simple,
Foremost without being hindmost,
That is to perish!
For love cannot fight without winning.
Cannot defend without strengthening.
When heaven helps,
It protects by loving.
A good soldier is not violent;
A good fighter has no wrath.
The best way to win over an enemy
Is not to contend with him.
The best way to use a man
Is to work under him.
Call this not-competing in virtue.
Call this using human strengths.
Call this mating with heaven as of old.
The strategists have a saying:
I dare not be a host,
But rather a guest;
Dare not advance an inch,
But rather retreat a foot.
This is called
Marching by not-marching,
Capturing by not-baring arms,
Charging by not attacking,
Seizing by not-bearing arms.
There is no evil heavier
Than to make light of an enemy.
To make light of an enemy
Is to lose what we value.
Thus when armies clash
The one that grieves wins.
My words are very easy to know,
Very easy to follow.
But beneath-heaven can’t know them.
My words have an ancestor;
My deeds have a lord.
People don’t know hum,
So they don’t know me.
The fewer who know me,
The more honored I am.
The sage wears coarse clothing,
Inside himself hides jade.
To know and to be unknowing is best;
Not to know and to be knowing is sickness.
Only by being sick of our sickness
Are we not sick.
The sage is not sick.
He is sick of sickness
And therefore not sick.
When people don’t fear force,
Greater force is on the way.
Don’t meddle with their homes
Or weary them at their work.
Only when they are not wearied
Will they not weary you.
The sage knows himself,
But makes no show of himself.
But does not exalt himself.
He rejects the outward,
Accepts the inward.
The brave in daring dies;
The brave in not-daring lives.
Of these two,
One helps, the other hurts.
Heaven may hate,
But who knows why?
This question stumps the sage.
It is the Tao of heaven
To conquer without competing,
To answer without speaking,
To attract without summoning,
To get results without hastening.
Vast is heaven’s net and wide-meshed,
Yet nothing slips through.
When people don’t mind death,
Why threaten them with death?
If, afraid of death, they were still unruly,
Who would dare seize and kill them?
The great executioner kills those who kill.
To take his place is like
Handling the hatchet for a master carpenter.
Whoever handles the hatchet for a master carpenter
Usually gets his hands cut.
When people are starving,
Their rulers are taxing them heavily.
That is why they are starving.
When people are hard to govern,
Their rulers are something-doing.
That is why they are hard to govern.
When people make light of death,
Their rulers make much of life.
That is why they make light of death.
Not interfering with life
Is better than glamorizing life.
A man lives soft and weak,
Dies hard and stiff.
The grass, the trees, the then thousand things
Live soft and supple,
Die brittle and dry.
The hard and stiff
Are followers of death;
The soft and weak
Are followers of life.
When armies are stiff, they will lose;
When trees are stiff, they will fall.
The stiff and mighty will be cast down;
The soft and weak will be lifted up.
Heaven’s Tao is like a stretched bow:
The top goes down and the bottom goes up. What has much is shortened;
What has little is increased.
Heaven’s Tao takes from those with much
And gives to those with little.
Man’s way is not so:
It takes from those with little
And gives to those with much.
Who uses muchness
To serve beneath heaven?
Only he who has Tao!
Therefore the sage
Does but does not claim,
Completes his work but takes no credit.
He does not want his merit seen.
Nothing beneath heaven
Is softer and weaker than water.
Nothing is better
To attack the hard and strong,
And nothing can take its place.
The weak overcome the strong;
The soft overcome the hard.
There is no one beneath heaven who doesn’t know this,
And no one who practices it.
Therefore the sage says:
To bear the dirt of the country
Is to be master of the grain-shrines.
To bear the sins of the country
Is to be the lord of beneath-heaven.
Indeed, straight words seem crooked!
When great ill-will is reconciled,
There remains ill-will.
How shall it be made good?
By the sage holding the left-hand tally
And laying no guilt on others.
If you have virtue, you do what you should.
If you have no virtue, you levy claims.
The Tao of heaven plays no favorites,
But it always succors the good.
Oh for a small country with few people!
There may be contrivances
In ten-fold or hundred-fold abundance,
But the people don’t use them.
Let the people mind death
And not move away.
Tough there are boats and carriages,
There is no occasion to ride them.
Though there are weapons and arms,
There is no occasion to show them.
Let the people again knot cords.
Let them enjoy their food,
Take pleasure in their clothes,
Find contentment in their houses,
And delight in their tasks.
Another country may be so near
That each hears the noise
Of the other’s cocks and dogs,
But until the end of their days,
The two people never mingle.
True words are not nice;
Nice words are not true.
A good man does not argue;
An arguer is not good.
The wise are not learned;
The learned are not wise.
The sage does not hoard.
The more he does for others,
The more he has himself.
The more he gives,
The more he gets.
The way of Heaven is
To benefit but not to harm.
The way of the sage is
To work but not compete.