Translated from the Chinese by Seten Tomh. Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. This is the penultimate version of my translation of the Tao Te Ching. To be published by Chroniker Press as The Good Path of Laozi.
EMBODYING THE PATH
The path that can be followed is not the common path.
The name that can be named is not the common name.
The nameless is the beginning of the spiritual and the material.
The name is the mother of everything.
Therefore, desireless one sees the mysterious.
With desire one sees the bound.
These two go together but have different names.
I say both of these are profound. The profound is also profound.
The multitude is the gate of the mysterious.
Everyone in the world knows the beautiful as beautiful. This is followed by disgust.
Everyone knows the good as good. This is followed by evil.
Therefore, being and nothingness produce each other; difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short shape each other; high and low overturn each other;
Pitch and tone harmonize together; front and back follow each other.
Truly, because the sage lives effortlessly he is effective.
He professes, but does not communicate his teaching in words.
How does everything work without diminution?
It grows without possessiveness.
It acts without dependence.
It succeeds without resting.
Truly. a man who has nowhere to stay has nowhere to go.
PACIFYING THE PEOPLE
Not esteeming worthies will cause the people not to dispute.
Not valuing hard to get goods will cause the people not to steal.
Desirelessness will cause people’s hearts not to be confused.
Truly, the sage governs by emptying their hearts,
Filling their bellies, weakening their wills, strengthening their bones,
Always keeping the people ignorant and desireless
Also causing the wise not to dare to act.
Acting without acting, they govern without governing.
The pure path is an empty vessel,
Deep! It seems to be the ancestor of everything.
It dulls the sharp,
Softens the bright,
Embraces the earth,
Clear! It seems like life.
I do not know whose child it is.
It appears to be the First Cause.
THE EMPTY VESSEL
The spiritual and the material are not benevolent
Because they treat everything like dog food.
The sage is not benevolent.
He treats everyone like dog food.
The space between the spiritual and the material,
Is it not like a bagpipe?!
Empty but not ineffectual,
The more it is used, the more it produces.
Much talk is doomed to exhaustion,
Not like one who guards the centre.
THE COMPLETE IMAGE
The numinous valley is immortal.
Truly, we say that the female is profound.
The female mystery is the gate.
Truly, we say that the spiritual and the material are the root.
Continuous, it seems like life.
Used, it is never exhausted. .
THE HIDDEN LIGHT
The spiritual is eternal. The material is ancient.
The spiritual and the material are ancient
Because they are selfless.
Therefore, they are long-lived.
Truly, because the sage puts himself last he takes the first place.
He lives as an outsider, thus he flourishes.
Because he is not selfish,
Therefore, he can realize himself.
The highest good is like a ravine through which water flows.
Good water benefits everything without dispute.
Most people do not want to live in a bad place.
Therefore, it is almost like the path.
A good dwelling must be on good earth. A good heart must be deep.
Good associations must be benevolent. Good speech must be trustworthy.
Good government must be just.
Good business must be able.
Good action must be timely.
Truly, he does not dispute. Therefore, there is no bitterness.
The cup that is full cannot be carried.
The point that is used cannot stay sharp.
When gold and jade fill the hall, no one can guard it.
Pride of wealth leads to loss and disaster.
When the work of life is finished, to retire is the spiritual path.
THE ABILITY TO ACT
Can you carry out your occupation vigorously while embracing the one without letting it go?
Can you concentrate on the breath, soft like a babe?
Can you wash away the black and perceive without flaw, fault, or disease?
Can you love the country and govern the people effortlessly?
Can you open the intimate spiritual gate while taking the female part?
Can you pass through the four incomprehensible stations of the sun?
Life gives birth to life without possessiveness.
It acts without dependence. It grows without slaughter.
Truly, I say that this is the profound virtue.
THE EMPTY VESSEL (THE UTILITY OF NOTHING)
Thirty spokes together make one wheel,
But the utility of the cart is its non-being.
Mixed water and clay is formed into vessels,
But the utility of the vessels is their non-being.
Doors and windows are cut out of the room,
But the utility of the room is its non-being.
Therefore, being is good,
But non-being is effective.
The five colours are blinding.
The five sounds are deafening.
The five tastes are exciting.
Fast running and hunting on the land makes the heart of the people mad.
Hard to acquire goods interfere with the people’s conduct.
Truly, because the sage serves the belly and not the eye,
Therefore he lets go of that and chooses this.
Favour and humiliation should be feared. Wealth incurs great suffering in life.
Why do we say that favour and humiliation should be feared?
Favour declines among those who acquire it. This is why it should be feared.
We should fear it. Truly, I say that favour and humiliation should be feared.
Why do I say that wealth causes great suffering in life?
Because I suffer greatly
If I take myself to be my body.
If I am not attached to my body,
Why would I suffer?
Therefore, he who values life can act in the world
And it seems like the world can depend on him.
Because he loves life he can act in the world
And it seems like he can be entrusted with the world.
THE PROFOUND SUPPORT
We look at it, but do not see it. We label it as foreign.
We knead it, but do not grasp it. We label it as trifling.
These three cannot be questioned.
Therefore, we mix them together and take them to be one.
The superior is not clear. The inferior is not obscure.
The rope that binds cannot be identified.
Again and again we return to nothing.
Truly, I say that the formless is the form.
Nothing is the form. Truly, I say that empty mind is illumination.
We welcome it but do not see its face.
We follow it but do not see its back.
By pursuing the ancient path by striving now
We can know the original source. Truly, we call this the true path.
The ancients were good scholars,
With subtle and profound understanding,
So deep they could not be understood.
Truly, these men cannot be understood.
Thus I must describe them:
Prepared, like fording a river in winter;
Hesitant, like fearing one’s neighbours;
Of grave countenance;
Expansive, like melting ice;
Kind-hearted as a simpleton;
Extensive as a valley;
Clear as mud;
Calm and tranquil as the ocean;
Unstoppable as the wind.
Who can unmuddy the waters? Let him be quiet and slowly clarity will appear.
Who can be peaceful? Let him change and slowly he will be renewed.
He who protects this path does not desire fullness.
Truly, he is not sated.
Therefore, he can conceal himself and be renewed.
RETURNING TO THE ROOT
To attain the highest emptiness guard deep tranquility.
I see that everything combines together to make and remake itself.
Each thing that the artisan crafts returns again to its basis.
I say to return to the basis be still. Truly, I say that this is to return to life.
I say that the return to life is the commonalty. I say that the knowledge of the commonalty is illumination.
Not knowing the commonalty is absurd and makes one a bad person.
Knowing the commonalty is to countenance. To countenance is to be honourable.
To be honourable is to be complete. To be complete is to be spiritual.
To be spiritual is the path. The path is ancient.
Renouncing the body is not dangerous.
HONEST MANNERS (CLEAN AIR)
Of the very highest the lowest only know that they exist.
Then they praise them as they would their parents.
Then they fear them.
Then they insult them.
Where truth is lacking,
There is no trust.
Keeping his own counsel,
And minding his own business, forthwith
All of the common people will say that “we did it ourselves.”
THE INADEQUACY OF CIVILITY
When the great path is abolished, there are benevolence and generosity.
When intelligence and wisdom go, there is great falsehood.
When familial relations are not harmonious, there is the kindness of filial piety.
When the homeland falls into darkness and confusion, there are loyal ministers.
RETURNING TO HONESTY (STILL WATER)
Extinguish sanctity, abandon wisdom, and the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Extinguish humanity, abandon right conduct, and the people will rediscover family and kindness.
Extinguish cleverness, abandon advantage, and the thief will not have the desire to rob.
Because these three are cultured, they are not satisfied.
Therefore, let each have their place,
Dressing in simple clothes,
Appearing plain, embracing simplicity, with little selfishness and few desires.
THE MASK OF CIVILITY
Extinguish learning and there will be no sadness. What is the difference between yea and nay?
What is the difference between good and evil?
What people fear is to be feared.
The uncultivated, not yet centred, cannot not fear.
The multitude of people are splendid and glorious, attached to their enjoyments,
As though they were climbing the hills in springtime. I alone am anchored. That is ominous.
I am like an infant.
Tired out and fatigued! Like one without a place to return to.
The multitude of the people all have a surplus, but I alone seem to be lacking.
I am a stupid person, and my heart also!
Chaotic and turbid! The common people are luminous and illustrious.
I alone am dark and muddle-headed.
The common people are inquisitive and observant.
I alone am depressed and melancholy.
The multitude of people are all useful,
But I alone am stubborn and low.
I alone am different from people,
But I value the nourishment of the mother.
The good opens only by following the true path.
The path is the only thing that is illuminated, the only thing that is empty-minded.
Empty minded! Illuminated! Within this shapes are.
Illuminated! Empty minded! Within this things are.
Profound! Deep! Within this the vital energy is.
This energy is truly transformative. Within this reality is.
From antiquity till now
The name has not gone. By this we discover the source of all.
How do I know the source of all?
Deviation is the measure of completion, crookedness is the measure of straightness,
Depth is the measure of fullness, being tattered is the measure of newness,
Inadequacy is the measure of sufficiency, but excess is the measure of delusion.
Truly, because the sage embraces the one
He is the measure of the world.
Selfless, he sees; therefore, he is bright.
Truly, because he is selfless he is clear.
Because he subjugates the self, he is effective.
Selfless, he is restrained; therefore, he is long-lived.
Truly, he does not dispute.
Therefore, there is none to dispute with him.
In olden times it was said that “that which is bent is the measure of that which is complete.”
How can these be empty words?
True completion returns to its home.
THE VOID THAT IS NOT
Rarely talking about the self is right.
Therefore, a rising wind does not last all morning.
A sudden rain does not last all day.
Who does this? The world.
Yet even the world cannot last long.
How then can a person make their situation last long?
Therefore, they follow the work of the path.
He who follows the path is like the path.
The good person is like the good.
He who loses is like loss.
Similarly, with regard to the path, he who follows the path also rejoices in its acquisition.
Similarly, with regard to the good, the good person also rejoices in its acquisition.
Similarly, with regard to loss he loses the acquisition of joy.
How then can trust be sufficient where there is no trust?
He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. He who rides does not walk.
He who does not see himself is not bright. He who is not true to himself is not clear.
He who does not subjugate himself is not meritorious.
He who does not restrain himself does not excel.
He who rests in the path also says that these are superfluous bits of extra food
Or foul things.
Therefore, he who follows the path does not deal with them.
THE FIRST IMAGE
Before existence things were completely indistinguishable. The spiritual and material world was born.
Quiet! Empty! The singularity was established without change.
It could be the mother of the world.
I do not know its name.
By the power of truth I call it “the path.”
By the act of truth I call its name “great.”
I say it is great in its passing away. In its passing away I say it is distant. In its distance I say it is near.
Therefore, the path is great. The spiritual is great. The material is great. Man also is great.
In the land there are four greats,
And man lives thereupon.
Man obeys material law. Material law obeys the spiritual law. The spiritual obeys the law of the path.
Truly, the path obeys its own law.
The heavy is the basis of the light.
Imperturbability overcomes impetuosity.
Truly, because the noble while travelling at the end of the day does not abandon his heavy-laden cart,
Although there certainly be glorious sights and comfortable places, he passes them by.
Why would the master of innumerable chariots make light of his life in the world?
If he rules too lightly, he loses his basis.
If he rules too intensely, he loses his rulership.
The good traveller leaves no trace. The good speaker is perfect.
The good accountant does not need a tally stick.
The good door is not locked, but cannot be opened.
The good knot has no binding rope, but cannot be untied.
Truly, because the sage is always good at helping the people, therefore, he does not abandon the people.
He is always good at saving beings. Therefore, he does not abandon beings.
Truly, I say that this is the inherent illumination.
Therefore, he teaches the good man and the man who is not good.
He supports the man who is not good and the man who is good.
He who does not value the teacher does not love values.
Even though his wisdom were great, he is confused. Truly, I say that this is a vital mystery.
GOING BACK TO SIMPLICITY
He who knows the male but guards softness
Is the valley of the world. The valley of the world
Does not depart from the common good, but returns again to the state of an infant.
He who knows the bright but defends the black is the rule of the world.
The common good of the rule of the world does not not err.
He returns to the transcendent nothingness.
He who knows glory but defends humility is the valley of the world.
The common good of the valley of the world is sufficiency.
He returns again to simplicity.
Simplicity is dispersed but can be used as a means.
The sage uses it but acts as a statesman.
Therefore, the great establishment is not divided.
ACTING EFFORTLESSLY ((WU WEI)
He who would conquer the world,
I see that he will not succeed.
The spirit of the world cannot be used like this.
He who tries will be defeated. He who tries to take it will lose it.
Men and things may go this way or that, breathing in and out.
Strength may win or lose, destroy or be destroyed.
Truly, therefore, the sage avoids excess, avoids extravagance, avoids grandiosity.
THE CAR OF WAR
He who by means of the path assists his master
Will not use strong soldiers. Such work the world will reward.
Where armies are, there thorns and brambles grow.
After the army it must have a bad year.
The virtuous have the fruit but stop. They dare not call more soldiers.
He has his fruit but does not boast. He has his fruit but does not subjugate.
He has his fruit but is not haughty. He has his fruit but does not go further.
He has his fruit but is not stubborn.
Robust things age but truly this is not the path.
Those who do not follow the path do not last.
THE END OF WAR
To auspicious men, soldiers and their weapons are not auspicious.
Such things may be evil.
Therefore, he who follows the path does not deal with them.
The noble live by valuing the constructive.
Those who use soldiers value the destructive.
Soldiers and their weapons are not auspicious.
The noble do not use them.
Where it is used as a last resort
Peace and indifference should dominate.
Victory is not beautiful,
But people to whom it is beautiful
Truly delight in killing people.
Men who delight in killing people
Cannot succeed in the world!
It is a good thing to value the constructive.
It is a bad thing to value the destructive.
The general of the army sits on the left-hand side,
The admiral sits on the right hand.
I say they are placed according to the funeral ritual.
Should cry sorrowfully.
The victory in battle should be observed with a funeral rite.
THE GOOD SAGE
The common path is nameless.
Although it is simple and insignificant no one in the world can administer it.
If a noble ruler could guard it,
Everyone would of themselves submit.
The spiritual and the material would join together to willingly surrender to its revelation.
The people would not be subject to an authority, but of themselves be all equal.
The source of the system is the name.
The name also exists.
Men will also know cessation.
Knowing cessation they can use it without exhaustion.
For example, the path exists in the world
As the tributaries of the valley merge in a large river valley that runs into the sea.
THE ETHICAL DISTINCTION
The man who knows people is wise,
But he who knows himself is illuminated.
He who is victorious over people is powerful,
But he who is victorious over himself is potent.
He who knows what is enough is rich.
He who is strong is purposeful.
He who does not lose his place endures.
He who dies but does not die will live long.
DOING ONE’S DUTY
The great path is overflowing! It can go left or right.
Everything depends on it, growing without diminution.
The work is completed without identification.
It clothes and upraises everything but does not lord it over them.
Desireless, it can be described as small.
Everything returns thereupon, but is not mastered.
It can be called great.
Because to the end it does not act great,
Therefore, it accomplishes greatness.
THE GOOD GOOD
Hold the great image and the world follows.
They follow but do no harm, peaceful and perfectly still.
Music and dumplings entice passersby to stop.
Is the path insipid? It has no taste.
Looked for, it cannot be seen.
Listened for, it cannot be heard.
Used, it cannot be exhausted.
ENTERING THE INNER LIGHT
He who would contract must surely stretch.
He who would weaken must surely strengthen.
He who would abolish must surely engender.
He who would summon must surely give.
Truly, I say that this is the secret illumination.
The soft and the weak conquer the hard and the strong.
Fish cannot escape the deep.
The instruments of state power should be concealed.
The path neither acts nor does not act.
If the rulers could guard it
Everything would change of itself.
But the desire to change
I would suppress because the nameless is simple.
The nameless is simple. Man also would be desireless.
Desireless because still, the world would fix itself.
The virtuous do not seek the good. Therefore, they are good.
The unvirtuous seek the good. Therefore, they are not good.
The virtuous act effortlessly, without an agenda.
The unvirtuous have an agenda.
The highest humanity acts effortlessly.
The highest justice has an agenda.
The highest propriety acts but none responds.
Then by force of arms they discard propriety.
Therefore, they lose the path followed by the good.
The loss of the good is followed by humanitarianism.
The loss of humanity is followed by justice.
The loss of justice is followed by propriety.
The man of propriety is devoted to the letter but is mean; he is the head of confusion.
Formerly scholars were the flower of the path but the beginning of folly.
Truly, because the great elder
Lives generously without meanness
He lives with the fruit and not with the flower.
Therefore, he lets go of that and chooses this.
The ancients were one.
The spiritual was one because it was pure.
The material was one because it was tranquil.
The numinous was one because it was efficacious.
The valley was one because it was full.
Everything was one because it was alive.
The rulers were one because they were virtuous.
Such was their attainment.
If the spiritual were not pure, I fear it would split.
If the material were not peaceful, I fear it would be crippled.
If the numinous were not efficacious, I fear it would vanish.
If the valley were not full, I fear it would be exhausted.
If everything were not alive, I fear that it would be extinquished.
If the rulers were not virtuous, I fear that they would be cast down.
Therefore, the noble use the commonalty as their basis
And the high use the low as their foundation.
Truly, because the rulers call themselves fatherless, widowed, and poor,
It is because they depend on the inferior and the wicked for their support,
Is it not?
The highest reputation is to have no reputation.
Do not desire jade. Jade
is just pretty stones on a string.
The path is antithetical.
The path uses weakness.
Everything in the world is born from existence.
Existence is born from nothing.
THE MASK OF SIMILITUDE
When top scholars hear the path, they follow it diligently.
When middling scholars hear the path, it seems like sometimes they keep it but sometimes they let it die.
When the least scholars hear the path, they laugh greatly.
If it is not laughed at, it is not the path.
Therefore, tradition says that
The bright path seems dark,
Advancing on the path seems like retreating,
The ancient path seems barbaric,
The highest good seems low,
The greatest purity seems tarnished,
The extensive good seems insufficient,
The established good seems stolen,
Authenticity seems changeable.
The great square cuts no corners,
Great talents mature slowly,
The great sound is rarely heard,
The great image is invisible,
The unknown path is nameless.
Only the man of the path is good at lending, offering, and accomplishing.
CHANGE AND THE PATH
The path gave birth to the one.
The one gave birth to the two.
The two gave birth to the three.
And the three gave birth to everything.
Everything carries the dark energy but holds the light energy.
These are harmonized by means of the dynamic vital breath.
Truly, people hate
The orphan, the widow, and the hungry,
But the rulers praise them.
Therefore, injurious things may be advantageous,
Or advantageous things may be injurious.
What people teach
I too teach.
He who is strong but rigid
Does not die well.
I will make this my fundamental teaching.
THE UTILITY OF THE NON-DUAL
The softest thing in the world
Opens up the strongest thing in the world.
Non-being unites with non-locality.
Truly, because I know the benefit of non-action,
I teach without speech,
And act effortlessly.
Few attain it.
Which is more dear, celebrity or life?
Which is better, one’s body or money?
Which is worse, acquisition or death?
Truly, that which is most loved will exact the greatest cost.
He who has the most has the most to lose.
To know what is enough is no disgrace.
To know when to stop is not dangerous.
Truly, by this means he will live long.
THE GREAT GOOD
The great completion seems lacking, but its usefulness is unimpaired.
The great fullness seems purifying, but its usefulness is not exhausted.
The straight seems crooked.
Great skill seems clumsy.
The great discussion seems mute.
Stillness conquers excitation.
Cold conquers heat.
Perfect stillness is the world’s completion.
When the world follows the path
The horses will go back to fertilizing the fields.
When the world does not follow the path
The war horses will breed in the outlands.
There is no misfortune greater than not knowing what is enough.
There is no blame greater than greed.
Therefore, knowing what is enough is enough.
That is always enough!
THE PROFOUND MIRROR
Without going outdoors he knows the world.
Without looking out the window he sees the spiritual path.
He who travels far
Truly, because the sage
Does not travel, he knows;
Does not see, he names;
Does not act, he succeeds.
He who learns gains every day.
He who follows the path diminishes every day.
He who diminishes, diminishes more and more.
Thus, he arrives at acting effortlessly,
Acting without acting.
Without effort everything in the world comes to him.
Hr who works by grabbing and grasping
Is inadequate because he grabs the world.
The sage’s heart is not ordinary
Because he takes the people’s heart as his own heart.
Toward the virtuous, I am virtuous.
Toward those who are not virtuous, I am also virtuous. These are the ethics of the virtuous.
Toward the trusting I am trusting.
Toward those who are not trusting, I am also trusting. These are the ethics of the trusting.
The sage exists in the turbid heart of the world.
He acts in the world to clarify it.
The people all listen and look,
And the sage regards them all as his own children.
THE VALUE OF LIFE
Life entails death.
Thirteen are the followers of life.
Thirteen are the followers of death.
There are also those who live life so as to die.
How is this? Because such a man squanders his life.
I have heard that he who would protect and conserve the good
Walks across the land without encountering fierce tigers.
Armies of conquest cannot restrain him by means of armour or arms.
There is nowhere for criminals to throw their spears,
Nowhere for tigers to use their claws.
Soldiers can find no place to cut him.
Why is this? Such men cannot be killed.
CULTIVATING THE GOOD
The path gives birth to it. The good rears it.
Things are shaped by it. Power completes it.
Truly, for this reason nothing disrespects the path.
The good is valued and respected by the path.
No one decrees that the good be valued.
Of itself it is always right. Therefore, the path gives birth to itself.
The good rears it. Always it gives birth to it.
It erects it. It cures it. It rears it. It returns to it.
It gives birth but is not possessive. It acts but is not dependent.
It leads but does not slaughter. Truly, I say that this is the profound good.
RETURNING TO THE SOURCE
The world has its beginning in the action of the world mother.
He who knows the mother knows her children.
He who knows her children returns to and guards the mother.
Death is not dangerous.
Stop up the mouth, shut the gate of activity, and the end of life will be effortless.
Open the mouth, engage in affairs, and the end of life will be without relief.
Appear insignificant. I say this is brightness. Guard the soft. I say this is strength.
He who uses the light to return to the bright
Is not lost in the calamity of life. Truly, he is unstoppable.
THE BENEFICIAL PROOF
Were I introduced to the true knowledge
I would follow the path.
Truly, I would be fearful
Of the bypaths,
But the people love bypaths.
The dynasty is very divided.
The fields are overgrown with weeds.
The granaries are empty.
But the officials are cultured, clothed with coloured silk,
Girt with sharp swords,
And sated with food and drink.
They have property and money in excess.
Truly, I say this is a thief’s boast.
This is also not the path!
The virtuous person will not abandon the good. The person who embraces the good will not let it go.
The descendants will not stop their worship and sacrifice.
Cultivate oneself and the good will be realized.
Cultivate the family and there will be a surplus of good.
Cultivate the township and the good will excel.
Cultivate the state and the good will be bountiful.
Cultivate the world and the good will be universal.
So look at yourself.
The family looks at the family; the township looks at the township;
The state looks at the state;
The world looks at the world.
How do I know that the world is thus?
THE PROFOUND SYMBOL
He who greatly cherishes the good
Is like a newborn babe.
Poisonous insects will not sting him.
Fierce beasts will not seize him.
Predatory birds will not prey on him.
His bones are weak, his muscles soft, but his grip is strong.
He does not know the union of the female and the male, but he is complete.
His essence is most plentiful.
All day he howls, but is not hoarse.
He also reaches unification.
To know unification I say is the commonality.
To know the commonality I say is enlightened.
Overflowing life I say is happiness.
The heart that uses the vital breath I say is strong.
Strong things become old.
It is not right.
That which is not the path does not last long.
THE PROFOUND GOOD
He who knows does not talk.
He who talks does not know.
He blunts the sharp, loosens the tangled,
Softens the bright; he is like the earth.
Truly, I call this the profound similitude.
Therefore, he is not proud but is involved;
Is not proud but removes obstructions;
Is not proud but is beneficial;
Is not proud but does no harm;
Is not proud but is honourable;
Is not proud but is lowly.
Therefore, the world honours him.
The state is governed by laws,
The cavalry and the army.
Without effort one receives the world.
How do I know that this is true?
The more taboos there are in the world. the more the people are impoverished.
The more sharp weapons in the state,
the more muddle-headed the people become.
The more skilled craftsmen there are, the more the people will suffer from accidents.
The more laws are decreed, the more thieves and thievery will be evident.
Therefore, sages say,
“I act not, but the people of themselves are reformed.
“I am fond of quietude, but the people of themselves are upright.
“I make no effort, but the people of themselves are rich.
“I desire not, but the people of themselves are plain and simple.”
GOING WITH THE FLOW
When government is repressed, the people will be honest.
When government is apparent, the people will lack.
Misfortune and good fortune are interdependent.
Good fortune and misfortune imply each other.
Who knows the utmost without righteousness?
Righteousness is undermined by eccentricity, virtue is undermined by wickedness.
The day of man’s bewilderment has been long and hard.
Truly, the sage is
Just but not cutting,
Upright but not injurious,
Direct but not indiscreet,
Bright but not brilliant.
GUARDING THE PATH (TAO)
He who would govern the people’s business spiritually must be restrained.
Truly, I say that the restrained man is wakeful.
I say that the wakeful who seriously accumulates is good
The ruler who seriously accumulates the good cannot be overcome.
He who cannot be overcome knows no limits.
He who does not know limits can control the state.
if he who controls the state thus, the motherland will last for a long time.
Truly, I say that the deeply rooted is strongly rooted.
He who sees the ancient path lives long.
THE DWELLING PLACE
Governing a great state is like cooking a small fish.
Because the path attends to the world
Ghosts are not ominous.
It is not that such ghosts are not ominous,
But that such ghosts will not injure the people.
It is not that such ghosts will not injure people
But that the sage also does not injure people.
These two do not injure each other.
Therefore, virtue reciprocates and returns thereto.
THE ETHICS OF HUMILITY
A large country is the reservoir
Of the world, the world valley (or female).
The eternal female by quietude conquers the male. By quietude she takes the lesser part.
Therefore, small countries submit to large countries, which take from the small countries.
And the small countries that submit take from the large countries.
So there are those who take by submitting and there are those who just take.
What a large country wants is foreigners.
What a small country wants is trade.
The two peoples each acquire what they desire. Therefore, it is right that the large should submit.
FOLLOWING THE PATH
The follower of the path is mysterious.
Good people treasure it.
Wicked people protect it.
Beautiful talk is respected in the market.
And the people of beautiful conduct increase.
What is wrong with people?
Therefore, establish the spiritual son accompanied by the three honourables.
Although respect is paid by gifts of jade and chariots,
It is better to ride the path.
What did ancient people value about this path?
Did they not say, “Ask and you will acquire,
“The guilty will avoid evil.”
Therefore, this is why the world values it.
THE BEGINNING OF KINDNESS
Act without acting, work without working, taste without tasting.
The great becomes small. Much becomes less. Recompense anger. Use the good.
Resolve difficulties by simplification.
Act on the great when it is tiny.
The problems of the world necessitate simplification.
World affairs necessitate refinement.
Truly, because the sage avoids greatness,
Therefore, he achieves greatness.
The man of easy promises will find few friends.
Much ease necessitates many difficulties.
Truly, because the sage
Therefore, ending them is not difficult.
CONSERVING THE SMALL
Quietude is easy to hold.
That which is not inevitable is easy to seek.
The brittle is easily broken.
The small is easily scattered.
Act before it becomes necessary.
Regulate before there is disorder.
The greatest tree grows from the smallest seed.
A nine-storey tower begins with a pile of dirt.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
He who acts is already defeated.
He who grasps will lose his grip.
Truly, because the sage
Acts effortlessly, therefore he is not defeated.
He does not grasp; therefore, he does not lose his grip.
The people’s work is often wasted; few succeed.
Let them always be cautious and they will not be defeated.
Truly, because the sage
Desires desirelessness. He does not value difficult to get goods.
He learns what is not taught,
And returns to what has been forgot.
Because he assists everything to return to its true nature, he dare not act.
THE HONEST ETHIC
The ancients were good at following the path,
Not to enlighten the people,
But to keep them ignorant.
The difficulty of governing people
Is that they have too much knowledge.
Therefore, he who governs the state by means of knowledge
Betrays the state.
He who does not use his knowledge to govern the state
Is a blessing to the state.
He who knows these two
Also examines the rule.
He who knows the commonalty examines the rule.
Truly, I say this is the profound virtue.
The profound virtue is deep!
Transcendent! For those who take part in it things are transformed.
Thus, one reaches the great harmony.
PUTTING ONESELF LAST
The rivers and the seas can be the rulers of the many valleys
By being good at going downstream.
Thus, they became the many primordial valley rulers.
Truly, therefore, the sage
Who wants to be chief among the people must by his speech put himself below them,
And he who wants to be first among the people must put himself last.
Truly, therefore, the sage
Rises above the people by not burdening them,
And leads the people by protecting them from harm.
Truly, therefore, the world is glad to raise him up because he does not reject them.
Because he does not dispute,
There is none in the world who can dispute with him.
Everyone in the world says that my great path
Therefore, since antiquity the man who is truly great is unique!
I have three treasures
Which I support and protect.
I say the first is kindness.
I say the second is frugality.
I say the third is not daring to be the first in the world.
Therefore, through kindness one can be brave.
Through frugality one can be generous.
Through humility one overcomes the world.
Therefore, he can be the vehicle through which the world is overcome.
Today kindness and bravery have been abandoned.
Frugality and generosity have been abandoned.
Humility and overcoming have been abandoned.
This is death!
He who is kind is victorious in war.
Because he is defensive his rule is strong.
The day will save
Those who defend kindness.
THE SPIRITUAL UNION
The good man does not fight.
The good fighter is not angry.
The good victor has no enemies.
The good leader of men follows.
Truly, I say that not to dispute is good.
Truly, I say that such a leader of men is strong.
Truly, I say that this is the transcendent spiritual union of antiquity.
THE PROFOUND UTILITY
Military strategists have a saying:
“I dare not act as master, but I will act as guest.
I dare not advance an inch, but I will retreat a foot.”
Truly, I say:
Walk without walking,
Seize without arms,
Attack without an enemy,
Stop without soldiers.
There is no greater misfortune than to make light of the enemy.
Making light of the enemy almost lost me my treasure.
Therefore, to resist war is mutually beneficial,
Pitiful the victor!
My speech is very easy to understand,
And very easy to follow,
But the world cannot understand
And cannot follow.
My speech has an ancestry,
My practice has a rule.
Truly, men cannot know
Truly, because they do not know me.
Those who know me are few,
But those who know me esteem me.
Truly, because the sage
Wears coarse clothing he is cherished as though he keeps a piece of jade hidden in his heart.
THE DISEASE OF KNOWLEDGE
To know that one does not know is the highest knowledge. Not to know that one does not know is a disease.
Truly, a man knows disease as disease truly because he is not diseased.
The sage is not diseased because he knows disease as disease.
Truly, a man knows disease as disease truly because he is not diseased.
LOVING THE BABE
If the people do not fear the powerful
Then the rule is that a greater power will appear.
Let them not disrespect their homes
Or reject their homeland.
Truly, only he who does not reject
Will not be rejected.
Truly, because the sage
Knows himself, he appears selfless;
Loves himself, he does not value himself.
Therefore, he lets go of that which is popular and summons this.
DOING ONE’S DUTY
Bravery in daring is the norm of killing.
Bravery in not daring is the norm of living.
These two may be advantageous or harmful.
Therefore, spirituality hates that which hates.
The spiritual path fights not, yet it has the good victory.
It speaks not, yet it has the good answer.
It summons not, yet comes of itself.
It is thoughtful and correct, yet it seeks the good.
The spiritual net is great. It is vast and fine, yet misses nothing.
CUTTING THROUGH CONFUSION
People do not fear death,
So why threaten them with death?
Even if the people were generally afraid of death,
Regarding it as strange,
Who would dare
To kill those who kill?
There has always been a government that kills those who kill,
And men who are willing to kill those who kill for the government.
Truly, I say of imitating the master carpenter’s wood carving,
The man who imitates the master carpenter’s wood carving
Is unlikely not to hurt his hand!
Hungry because the upper classes eat too much and the taxes keep going up. Truly,
Because they are hungry
The people are hard to govern.
Truly, it is because of their superiors that they are difficult to govern.
The people treat death lightly
Because they struggle to survive. Truly, this is why they treat death lightly.
Truly, it is because one does not live for life
That he is truly worthy of life.
A STRONG WARNING
When people are born they are soft and weak;
At death they are hard and weak.
Grasses and trees are also born soft and weak.
At death they too are dried out and withered.
Therefore, hard and strong people are the disciples of death.
Soft and weak people are the disciples of life.
Truly, because soldiers that are strong can be destroyed,
And trees that are strong can be broken,
Great strength declines,
But softness and weakness increase.
THE SPIRITUAL PATH (TAO)
Is the spiritual path not like a stretched bow?
The high is brought down,
The low is raised up.
Those who have a surplus will be diminished.
Those who do not have enough will be fulfilled.
The spiritual path
Diminishes those who have a surplus yet restores those who do not have enough.
The worldly path
Is not right.
It diminishes those who do not have enough, and those who have too much receive the surplus.
Who can offer their surplus to the world?
Truly, he who follows the path.
He acts independently,
He succeeds without attachment,
He desires neither good nor evil.
DUTY AND TRUST
In all the world there is nothing softer or weaker than water,
But when it attacks the hard and strong
There is nothing that can conquer it.
It is not easy.
Weakness conquers strength.
Softness conquers hardness.
No one in the world doesn’t know this, but there is none who can follow it.
Truly, because the sage says,
“Truly, I say that he who endures the state’s dirt is the master of the land.
Truly, I say that he who bears the state’s inauspiciousness is the ruler of the world.”
Right speech seems wrong.
THE CALL OF DUTY
The pacification of great hate must leave a surplus of resentment.
Peace is achieved by acting virtuously.
Truly, because the sage takes the lesser part
And does not reproach the people,
He is ethical in the exercise of authority.
The unethical destroy its exercise.
The spiritual path does not dote.
It always supports the good person.
In a small country with a few people
Even if ten chiefs were available, they would not use them;
I would make the people fear death, yet not move elsewhere;
Even though they have boats and carts, they would have no place to use them;
Even though they have amour and soldiers, they would have no place to lay them out.
I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords.
Let their food be sweet,
Let their clothes be beautiful,
Let them live in peace in the dwellings of their birth,
Let them make music and be happy in the observance of their customs.
Let their neighbouring states be mutually visible,
Mutually hearing the sounds of their chickens and dogs,
But the people, even to death,
Should neither come nor go.
A MATTER OF CLARITY
Trustworthy talk is not beautiful; beautiful talk is not trustworthy.
Virtuous people do not dispute; disputatious people are not virtuous.
Knowledgeable people are not learned; learned people are not knowledgeable.
The sage does not accumulate.
The more he does for the people, the more he has.
The more he gives to the people, the more he receives.
The spiritual path is advantageous, but does not harm.
The sage follows the path, but does not dispute.