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.