The highest sage who studies the way is diligent and powerful.
The middling sage who studies the way looks good but fails to follow through.
The inferior sage who studies the way is a big laugh.
If they do not elicit laughter, it is not the way.
Therefore it is said—
Understanding the way is like concealment.
Entering the way is like withdrawing.
The way is barbaric and unintelligible (like a knot).
The higher character is like an empty (valley).
The ultimate attainment is like disgrace.
The universal virtue is inadequate.
Established virtue is like stealing.
The true nature is ephemeral.
The universal square cuts no corners.
The great work takes a long time.
The great sound is rarely heard.
The universal form is invisible.
The secret process cannot be labelled.
The hermit is good, generous and ultimately accomplished.