Tag Archives: Tao Te Ching

The Book of the Right Way of Laozi

NOTE: I just noticed that I hadn’t posted all of my draft translations of the Tao Te Ching on my blog. Rather than post the eleven missing chapters in consecutive blogs, I am posting them here in one blog for those are interested. Please note that these are draft translations, not final versions.


He whose conduct is impeccable leaves no mark; he whose speech is perfect causes no offence.
The skilful businessman is not tricky.
A sound door needs no lock, yet it cannot be opened.
A skilful knot is tight, and cannot be loosened.
Truly, because the sage always seeks the common good, no one is left out.
He finds the good in everything.
Truly, this is the way of wisdom.
Good and bad teach each other.
Good and bad need each other.
Even though one were wise, if this is not understood, one is stupid.
This is a great secret.


He who knows the male power protects his female energy.

Thus aligning himself with the universal flow of things, he uses the universal flow.

Never giving up this power, he returns to the primordial state.

He who knows the bright protects the dark; thus he conforms to the universal paradigm.

Thus conforming to the universal paradigm, he is not subject to variability.

He who returns to the source is not subject to duality.

He who knows fame, protects his privacy. Thus he makes himself empty, like a valley.

It is enough to make one’s strength empty, like a valley.

Thus he returns to the primordial simplicity.

Tools are made by analyzing nature.

The sage uses this principle to control the state.

Therefore, he uses everything but respects its integrity.


He who would use the way to help a ruler of the world

Will not use violence to achieve his ends, for everything under the sun comes back to its source.

Wherever armies go, there only thorns and brambles will grow.

Certainly, armies leave in their wake terrible times.

It is skilful to seek only one’s immediate goal, then stop, not daring to go beyond what one is able to accomplish.

One achieves one’s goal, but does not boast. One achieves one’s goal, but does not go further.

One achieves one’s goal, but is not arrogant. One achieves one’s goal, but then one stops.

One achieves one’s goal without conflict.

Everything that waxes, wanes. Truly, this is not the way.

That which is not the way dies young.


The universal way cannot be described.

Infintesimal, no one in the whole universe can use it, not even your most powerful men.

Yet it is the source of their power.

Everything would come to them.

When the higher and the lower work in harmony, they appear on the earth as a sweet dew. Even without rulers, everyone participates.

When you have industry, you have speech.

Speech mucks everything up.

You need to know when to shut up.

Just shut up, and you can act with impunity.

The way is the paradigm. It is everywhere.

Like the ravine that carries the river to the sea.


The ancient way o’erflows its banks, like a winding river.

Everyone relies on it as the source of life, yet it denies no one. It inspires every accomplishment, yet cannot be identified.

It gives rise to everything, but neither possesses nor is possessed.

Desireless, it is regarded as unimportant. Hence it is invisible.

Truly, the ancient way precedes language.

Because its goal is selfless, it is great.

And this is how greatness is achieved.


If you would tense something, it must be relaxed.

If you would weaken something, it must be strengthened.

If you would abolish something, it must be made to flourish.

If you wish to take something, it must be given.

Truly, this teaching is paradoxical.

By its means, the soft and the weak may overcome the hard and the strong.

Just as a fish cannot escape its habitat,

So the machinery of the state should not be subjected to popular opinion.


The universal way transcends action and non-action.

If the rulers were to conserve it,

Everything would be transformed.

Everything would change and become free of affect.

This is what I would do: suppress desire and realize the intuition that precedes labelling.

He who realizes the intuition that precedes labelling is without affect.

Because he is still, he has no desire. Thus, everything under the sun will find its own path.


To abstain from virtue is the highest virtue.

The lowest virtue is to act aggressively.

Spontaneity is better than conformity.

Having to act is not so great.

The righteous person acts without acting.

The righteous knower does not get entangled in circumlocutions.

The righteous ethical person acts spontaneously.

When traditions are questioned society is thrown into confusion and violence.

Therefore, hold to the way. When the way is no longer followed, virtue is substituted.

When virtue is lost, the people govern themselves.

When the people can no longer govern themselves, they are ruled by laws.

When laws can no longer be enforced, traditions still remain.

But even traditions are forgotten. Paradoxically, traditionalism is succeeded by anarchy.

Thus, the ancient sages are both the flowering of the way and the source of stupidity.

Truly, the virtuous person abides in the security of tradition.

Truly, he remains with the substantial, not the insubstantial.

Truly, he resides in the essential, not the superficial.

Thus he gives up one and gains the other.


By order the state governs the nation.

By disorder the military exercises power.

But everything that occurs comes out of nothing.

How do I know that this is true?

By this!

The more you regulate them, the more the people are impoverished.

The more sophisticated, the more muddle-headed the people become.

The more technicians there are with their inventions and their innovations, the more the people suffer.

The more laws are made, the more criminals appear.

Therefore, the sage says:

Do not act, and the people will transform themselves.

Love stillness, and the people will govern themselves.

Do not toil, and the people will become rich.

Desire nothing, and the people’s lives will be easy.


Everyone under the sun says that my teaching is profound,

Familiar, yet not familiar.

Truly, man is ancient. This is why he is confused –  familiar, not familiar, familiar.

In ancient times, man was more refined.

I have three treasures.

I hold to them and preserve them.

First, I refer to the heart.

Second, I refer to thrift.

Third, I refer to not presuming to put myself first.

Courage comes from the heart.

Generosity comes from frugality. Everything that one needs to succeed comes from

Not daring to put oneself first.

Today thrift and love have been abandoned, … [missing text]


The best warrior is not violent.

The best fighter is not enslaved by rage.

The victorious opponent is dispassionate.

The best leader submits (to those he leads).

This is called the power of influence.

Truly, since antiquity this has been called the celestial marriage.

The Book of the Right Way of Laozi – 74.


The people don’t fear death.
What a burden is the fear of death.
But even if people were to fear death
And an executioner were willing
Who would dare
To execute such a criminal plan.
Yet the state has always punished murder with murder,
Assuming responsibility for killing from death itself.
Trying to supplant nature is like trying to supplant the master carpenter.
The man who tries to supplant the master carpenter
Is unlikely not to hurt his hand!


The Book of the Right Way of Laozi – 70.


My teaching is very easy to understand,
Very simple to follow.
Yet no one in the universe is able to know
Or follow it.
My teaching is primordial (or archetypal).
This is my authority.
Truly, humanity does not know this teaching.
Truly, therefore, they do not know me.
I am known by very few,
Yet he who knows me knows that which is precious (and thereby becomes precious or noble).
Truly, therefore, the sage,
By wearing coarse cloth, cherishes the jade within his heart-mind.