The great state is like a vast underground reservoir
Into which everything in the world flows, as everything flows towards the feminine.
Because she is yielding, tranquil, and subordinate, the feminine principle’s strength overcomes that of the male.
Similarly, a great country that makes itself subject to a small country will nonetheless absorb the small country,
And the small country, by making itself subject to the great country, will also gain.
Therefore, each region takes from the other and yet gains.
Therefore, each country, by submitting to the other, can benefit.
The big country does not need people but needs resources,
The small country does not need resources but needs work (for its population).
Each group gets what they want and need. Thus it is mutually advantageous for the superior to submit to the inferior.
There are those who want to grab everything (for themselves) by taking it.
I see they will not succeed.
God is the dog who safeguards the world.
He who tries to conquer (the world) will be defeated. He who tries to grasp at things will lose them.
(This is the nature of the relationship between) men and things:
He who leads, follows.
He who snorts, blows it.
He who wins, is beaten.
He who oppresses, is overthrown.
Truly, for this reason the sage renounces extremes, extravagance, and grandiosity.
Governing a large country is like cooking a bit of sushi.
If everyone in the world were to follow the method,
Whether they exist or not, evil spirits would cease their haunts.
Whether they cease their haunts or not, the evil spirits would not harm the people.
Similarly, the sage does not harm people.
Some people do not injure each other.
Therefore, where virtue flourishes such people will work together to reform the world.
1 rule big country seem cooking small fresh
2 use tao attend heaven under
3 such ghost not lively
4 not such ghost not lively
5 such lively not injure people
6 not such lively not injure people
7 sage man also not injure people
8 men some not each other injure
9 therefore virtue make friends go back where
Comment: In ancient times, powerful emotions that overwhelm the ego were attributed to states of possession by evil spirits. This is also attested in the Christian scriptures. Laozi recognizes this, and speaks of these wicked propensities as evil spirits or “ghosts” that haunt the minds of the people. He says that by practising the Tao, these negative emotional states lose their ability to possess the mind, regardless of whether they exist as actual spirits or not. This is because the spirit of competititon and dictatorship is replaced by the spirit of cooperation and a state that governs carefully and wisely based on the Tao. Laozi points out that not all people have this propensity to mutual injury, and that these people have the potential to reform the world.