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. Chapters with titles are closer to finality than those without, but none are final, yet. 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.
Without naming, the spiritual and the material begin.
Naming is the mother of everything.
Therefore, without desire 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 without desire,
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 don’t 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 flowing water.
Good water benefits everything without dispute.
Most people don’t 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.
 Or, “he does not stand out.”
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, pliant 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.
 Or “cultivating hunting.”
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 don’t see it. We label it as foreign.
We listen to it, but don’t hear it. We label it as rare.
We knead it, but don’t 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 don’t see its face.
We follow it but don’t 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 root.
I say to return to the root be tranquil. 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.
Extinguish learning and worry will disappear. What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the difference between good and evil?
What people fear is to be feared.
Those who don’t practise the path cannot be fearless! They are not centred in the belly!
The crowd are so prosperous and splendid! They are too attached to their pleasures.
As though they were climbing the hills in springtime. I alone am anchored. That is ominous.
I am like a babe that has not yet learned to laugh.
I am so tired! Like one with no place to go.
Everyone in the crowd has lots of food, but I alone seem to be left out.
I am a fool, and my heart-mind also!
Confused and turbid! By comparison the common people appear bright!
I alone am dark and muddle-headed.
The common people are observant and talkative!
I alone am depressed and melancholy.
Everyone in the crowd is useful.
But I alone am obstinate and low.
I alone am a stranger
But I quaff my mother’s milk.
Truly, one can only enter the good through following the path.
The path is only realized by means of an insight that is hard to understand.
Obscure but luminous! Within it images, shapes, and forms appear.
Luminous but obscure! Within it material objects appear.
Deep! Dark! Within it energy appears.
This energy is salvific. Within it signs appear.
From ancient times till now
Its name has not gone, through which we view the all-father.
How do I know the all-father?
Deviation is the touchstone of completion, crookedness is the touchstone of straightness,
Depth is the touchstone of fullness, being tattered is the touchstone of newness,
Inadequacy is the touchstone of sufficiency, but excess is the touchstone of delusion.
Truly, because the sage embraces the one
He is the touchstone 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 touchstone of that which is complete.”
How can these be empty words?
True completion returns to its home.
Infrequent personal speech is good.
Therefore, a rising wind does not last all morning.
A cloudburst does not last all day.
What is their cause? Nature.
If nature cannot perdure,
How can man maintain his state?
Therefore, he undertakes the path.
He who follows the path is like the path.
He who follows the good is good.
He who loses, loses.
Similarly, the path rejoices in those who follow the path.
The good rejoices in the good.
And loss rejoices in those who lose.
Lack of trust propagates lack of trust.
He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. He who jumps up and down goes nowhere.
The arrogant person does not understand others.
The self-absorbed person is not understood.
The aggressive person achieves nothing.
The boastful person does not perdure.
According to the path, such people seem like bits of discarded food
Therefore, he who follows the path does not stay anywhere for long.
Primordial matter, inchoate, chaotic, divided into the spiritual and the material.
Silent! Empty! The singularity was stable and changeless,
All-powerful and undying.
I think it is the mother of the world.
I don’t know its name.
By the power of truth I call it the path.
By the power of action I declare that its name is great.
I say it is great in its passing away. In its passing away I say it is primordial. In its primordiality I say it will return.
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 is one of them.
The people follow the law of the land. The law of the land follows the spiritual law. The spiritual follows the law of the path.
The law of the path is inherently good.
The heavy is the basis of the light.
The tranquil overcomes the impetuous.
Truly, even if the noble travels all day, he does not abandon his loaded cart.
Although there are glorious side paths, he stays the course.
How can the master treat the enormous burden of rulership lightly?
If he is too gentle, he has no basis.
If he is too impetuous, he cannot govern.
The good traveller leaves no trace. The good speaker finds no fault.
The good accountant does not need a tally stick.
The good door does not need a lock to shut, but it cannot be opened.
The good knot does not need a rope to bind, but it cannot be loosened.
Truly, the sage is always good at saving the people. Therefore, he does not abandon anyone.
He is always good at saving things. Therefore, he does not abandon anything.
Truly, I say this is the inherent illumination.
Therefore, the good man teaches the man who is not good.
And the man who is not good values the good man.
If the teacher is not esteemed, then there is no love of values.
Even though he has great wisdom, he is lost. Truly, I say this is a vital mystery.
He who knows his virility while protecting his femaleness
Is a valley to the world. He who is a valley to the world
Never departs from the good, but is reborn as a babe.
He who knows the bright but protects the dark is the archetype of the world.
The archetype of the world is always and constantly good.
He returns to moderation.
He who knows honour but protects himself from dishonour is the valley of the world.
The valley of the world is always good and thus sufficient.
He returns to the original state of simplicity.
The simple is everywhere but can be used as a tool.
The sage uses it but acts as the head of state.
Therefore the government is not harmed.
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.
He who would use the path to help his lord
Will not use force of arms, or he will pay a heavy price.
Where armies dwell, brambles and thorns flourish,
Leaving behind a bad year.
Having achieved victory, it is good to stop. The victor should not dare to go further.
The victor should not boast. The victor should not continue to attack.
The victor should not be proud. The victor should not be complacent.
The victor should not be brutal.
The robust becomes decrepit. Truly, I say that this is not the path.
And this has never been the path.
However excellent they may be, neither soldiers nor their weapons are auspicious.
Such things are hateful everywhere.
Therefore, he who follows the path will not touch them.
During times of war the ignoble side is noble.
Neither soldiers nor their weapons are auspicious.
Such weapons are not noble.
They are not proper but they are used.
Acting with tranquility and indifference is the best.
Victory is not beautiful
To the beautiful.
Truly, there is rejoicing in the slaughter of men.
Those who rejoice in the slaughter of men
Cannot fulfil their will in the world!
It is an auspicious thing to esteem the constructive.
It is a terrible thing to esteem the destructive.
The general of the army sits on the left.
The commander in chief sits on the right.
We refer to the positions of the funeral rite.
He who murders many men
Should weep with grief and lamentation.
He should observe the victory in battle as a funeral rite.
The timeless path cannot be described.
Even though it is simple and small, there is no one in the world who can control it.
If a noble king were to guard it,
Everything would serve it.
The spiritual and the material would join together to use its morning dew (willingly surrendering to its revelation).
No one can retain it, but of itself it is available to all.
When it appears it is described.
When it is described it is grasped,
And men will also know cessation.
Knowing cessation they can use it without exhaustion.
To give an illustration, the path acts in the world
As the rivers of the valleys merge into the water of the sea.
He who knows people is smart.
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers people is powerful.
To conquer oneself is better.
He who knows what is enough is rich.
He who acts forcefully is wilful.
He who does his duty will perdure.
He who dies but does not perish will live forever.
The great path is overflowing! It can go left or right.
Everything depends on it for its survival.
The result is accomplished invisibly.
It clothes and nourishes everything without possessiveness.
Absolutely desireless, it may be described as insignificant.
Everything returns whence it came, without possessiveness.
This process may be described as great.
Thus, he who completes his tasks without self-assertiveness,
For this reason he achieves greatness.
Worldlings seek out he who grasps the great image.
They seek him out but are not troubled. They find the highest tranquility and peace.
The guests stop to share the music and the cakes.
Is the path that is spoken insipid? It has no taste.
Looked for, it cannot be seen.
Listened for, it cannot be heard.
Used, it cannot be exhausted.
He who would exhale must first inhale.
He who would weaken must first strengthen.
He who would abolish must first encourage.
He who would take must first give.
Truly, we say this is the subtle illumination.
The soft and the weak conquers the hard and the strong.
Fish cannot escape from the depths.
The weapons of the state should not be subject to popular approval.
The constant path acts effortlessly.
If princes and kings were able to guard it
Everything would be changed.
If change were to be sought,
I would suppress it because the nameless is plain and simple.
The nameless is plain and simple. Man too will not have desire,
Because without desire the tranquility of the world will of itself arise.
Truly, the virtuous man is not virtuous for show.
The unvirtuous man is virtuous for show.
The virtuous man acts without thought.
The unvirtuous man has an agenda.
The humanitarian acts freely.
The just man must act.
The man of highest propriety acts but there is none to reciprocate.
Thus he uses force of arms.
Therefore, the loss of the path is followed by virtue.
The loss of virtue 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 honourable but weak; he is the head of confusion.
The scholar is the flower of the path, but he is the beginning of ignorance.
Truly, because the great elder
Lives generously and not meanly,
He lives with the fruit and not with the flower.
Thus he lets go of one and chooses the other.
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 aristocrats 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 aristocrats 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 aristocrats 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.
Don’t desire jade. Jade
is just pretty stones on a string.
The path changes through antithesis.
The path uses weakness.
Everything in the world is born from being.
Being is born from nothing.
When the best scholar hears the path, they do it diligently.
When an average scholar hears the path, it seems like sometimes they keep it but sometimes they let it die.
The worst scholar hears the path with a big laugh.
If it is not scorned it is not the path.
Therefore, the scribes have it that
The bright path seems dark,
Progress in the path seems like going backward,
The barbaric path seems wicked,
The highest good seems like a valley,
The great clarity seems vague,
Propagating virtue seems insufficient,
Establishing virtue seems like stealing,
Sincerity seems fleeting.
The great square has no corners.
The great tool is ineffective.
Great speech is rarely heard.
The Great Image is not seen.
The secret path is indescribable.
The man of the path is good, giving, and accomplished.
The path gave birth to the singularity.
The singularity gave birth to duality.
Duality gave birth to the triad.
And the triad gave birth to everything.
Everything carries the negative energy but holds onto the positive energy.
The breathing energy unites it all.
Truly, men hate
The orphaned child, the widow, and the anhungered,
But honourable kings praise these things.
But things that are beneficial might be harmful,
And things that are harmful might be beneficial.
What people teach
I also teach.
He who is strong but rigid
Does not die well.
I think I will make this my fundamental principle.
THE UTILITY OF THE NON-DUAL
The world changes through the energetic interchange between pliancy and strength.
This is the metaphysical reality of the world.
Truly, because I know the benefit of non-action,
I teach without speech,
And act effortlessly.
Few attain it.
Which is more dear, one’s celebrity or oneself?
Which is better, oneself or money?
Which is worse, getting or dying?
Truly, the most loved exacts the greatest cost.
He who gains the most has the most to lose.
To know what is enough is no disgrace.
To know when to stop is not dangerous.
Truly, for this reason one will live a long time.
The great accomplishment seems inadequate, but its utility is unimpaired.
The great completion seems empty, but its utility is not exhausted.
The upright seems bent.
The great work seems awkward.
The great teaching seems inarticulate.
Rest conquers unrest.
Coolth conquers heat.
When everything is clear and tranquil, goodness is established.
When the whole world follows the path
The horses will go back to fertilize 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 to know what is enough.
There is no blame greater than greed.
Therefore, knowing enough to know what is enough
Is always enough!
Without going outside 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 studies gains every day.
He who follows the path loses every day.
He who loses, loses increasingly.
Thus, he arrives at acting effortlessly,
Acting effortlessly but not acting.
Because he does not work, everything in the world comes to him.
Thus he reaches for and obtains his reward,
Because he who takes from the world does not know what is enough.
The sage’s heart-mind is not ordinary
Because he takes the heart-mind of the common people as his heart-mind.
Toward the good I am good.
Toward those who are not good, I am also good. This is the good good.
Toward the true I am true
Toward those who are not true, I am also true. This is the true good.
Where the sage nourishes and is nourished by the world,
He acts in the world with an empty heart-mind, like a fool.
All of the common people attend to him, listening and watching,
And the sage regards them all as his children.
Birth entails death.
Three of ten are the disciples of life.
Three of ten are the disciples of death.
Some people are born to live and live to die.
Also three of ten.
Why? Because such a man wastes his vitality.
I have heard that it is good to retain one’s vitality.
He travels the country without encountering fierce tigers.
Nor does he encounter armies or have to wear protective clothing.
The fierce rhinoceros cannot find a place to stick its horn,
Nor the tiger a place to use its claws,
Nor a sword a place to cut.
Why? Because such a man has no place for death.
 Some translators read “thirteen.”
The path gives life. The good enlivens.
Things are shaped by the conditions of their development.
Truly, because all things are honoured by the path, there is none who dishonours it.
The good itself honours and is honoured by the path.
No one decrees that the good be honoured.
It is primordial. Therefore, the path gives life.
The good always nurtures living beings.
It protects them, keeps them, and covers them.
It produces but is not possessive It acts but is not dependent.
It is superior but not overbearing. Truly, I say that this is the mysterious virtue.
 Or “It gives life, not death.”
The world is reputed to have its origin in the World Mother.
He who knows the World Mother knows her offspring.
He who knows that he is her offspring, reciprocates by protecting the Mother.
In death there is no danger.
Close the mouth, shut the doors of perception, and life is endless.
Open the mouth and immerse oneself in affairs, and you will not be saved from death.
I say to see the infinitesimal is understanding. I say to guard the soft is strength.
He who uses the light to return to the bright
Is not lost in the calamity of life.
Truly, he is unstoppable.
If I were a government official, charged with the duty of officiating the divisions and conflicts between people based on truth.
Of practising the great path,
Truly, I would induce respect.
The great path is unfamiliar,
And the people love distractions.
The government is corrupt.
The fields are overgrown with weeds.
The storehouses are empty.
But the government officials are clothed with multi-coloured finery.
Girt with sharp swords,
And satiated 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 person of good conduct will not abandon the good. The person who cherishes the good will not let it go.
The child or grandchild who honours the ancestors will not stop.
Cultivate this with respect to one’s life and the good will be realized.
Cultivate this with respect to one’s household and the good will be exceeded.
Cultivate this with respect to one’s village and the good will be preeminent.
Cultivate this with respect to one’s country and the good will be abundant.
Cultivate this with respect to the world and the good will be everywhere.
Therefore, the self minds the self,
The family minds the family, the village minds the village,
The country minds the country,
And the world minds the world.
How do I know the world to be thus?
 Or “permanent.”
He who keeps the good in abundance
Is like a newborn babe.
Poisonous insects will not sting him.
Ferocious beasts will not maul him.
Predatory birds will not prey on him.
His bones are weak, his muscles soft, but his grip is sure.
He does not know the joining of the female and the male, but he is perfect in himself.
His vitality is also perfect.
All day he howls, but is not exhausted.
He is also in a state of perfect integration.
I say to know perfect integration is timeless.
I say to know the timeless is enlightenment.
I say increasing life is auspicious.
I say the heart-mind strengthens the spirit.
Things wax and wane.
I say this is not the path.
That which is not the path doesn’t last.
He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.
Blunt the sharp, simplify the complex,
Soften the bright, be like the earth.
Truly, I say this is the mysterious similitude.
Therefore, he is neither dear
Therefore, he is esteemed in the world.
The state is governed by laws.
Weapons of war are used strategically.
Without effort one obtains the world.
How do I know this?
In the world there are many unspoken taboos, and the people are impoverished.
The more beneficial devices there are, the more the country falls into confusion.
The more skilled trades innovate, the more the people suffer.
The more laws there are, the more thievery and thieves appear.
Therefore, the sage says,
“I will not act, and the people will be transformed.
I will prefer tranquility, and the people will be upright.
I will make no effort, and the people will be rich.
I will not desire, and the people will be plain and simple.”
When government is restricted the people will be genuine and honest.
When government is seen the people will be short of money.
Misfortune upholds good fortune, which relies upon it.
Good fortune upholds misfortune, which is implicit within it.
Those who know the highest are not common.
The upright is countered by eccentricity, good by wickedness.
The day of man’s bewilderment has been long and difficult.
Truly, the sage is
Prescriptive but not cutting,
Uncorrupted but not injurious,
Straightforward but does not restrain,
Bright but not brilliant.
Only he who does not waste his energy can govern the people or pursue the spiritual life.
Truly, I say that only the man who does not waste his energy has the luminous body.
I say the luminous body accumulates the power of virtue.
He who accumulates the power of virtue cannot be overcome.
He who cannot be overcome cannot be restrained.
He who cannot be restrained can possess the state.
He who possesses the state can make the motherland endure for a long time.
Truly, I say that deep roots are a strong foundation.
He who sees the path lives long.
Governing a great state is like cooking a small fish.
Because the path attends to the world
Mischievous spirits will not be threatening.
It is not that such spirits are not threatening,
But that they will not injure the people.
It is not that such spirits would not injure people
But that the sage also does not injure people.
These two are mutually non-injurious.
Therefore goodness is reciprocal.
A great state is like a downward flowing river.
Everything in the world converges and flows downward into the world valley.
The female always yields in order to be strong, and the male yields to the female.
Therefore, the great state yields to the small state in order to influence the small state,
And the small state yields to the great state in order to benefit from that influence.
Therefore, the great state submits to the small state in order to get the small state to submit to it.
The people of the great state need more consumers,
While the people of the small state need more jobs.
Everyone on both sides gets what they actually want. Thus, the superior should yield to the inferior.
 Or “female.”
The follower of the path is of everything the most mysterious.
To good people he is a treasure.
To bad people he is a protector.
The city honours people of fancy speech
And the people of fancy manners proliferate.
Bad people exist, so why reject them?
Therefore, the spiritual son is established and the three honourables put in their place.
Even though respect is paid and a piece of jade with a hole in the centre leads a team of four horses,
Pay no heed. Rather, sit and enter into this path.
How did the ancients actually use this precious path?
Be quiet. Seek it and you will find it.
Possess it, and your evil will be expiated.
Therefore, the world esteems it.
 Ao, referring to the darkest corner of the house.
Act without acting, work without working, taste without tasting.
The great becomes small. The many become few. Recompense becomes resentment. Utility becomes good.
Analyzing difficulty makes it easy.
Act on the great when it is small.
In the world difficult matters were certainly easy.
In the world great matters were certainly small.
Truly, because the sage avoids greatness,
Therefore, he is able to achieve greatness.
The man of easy promises inspires little faith.
Too much ease engenders much difficulty.
Truly, for this reason the sage
Therefore, he ends difficulty!
Contentment is easy to maintain.
That which has not yet appeared is easy to anticipate.
Brittle things are easily broken.
Small things are easily scattered.
Action should be taken before it is necessary.
Government should exert its authority before disorder arises.
The greatest tree grows from the smallest seed.
A nine-storey tower is built up out 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, he is not defeated.
He does not grasp; therefore, he does not let go.
The people go about their business, always on guard for small dangers, but few succeed, being struck and destroyed.
Let them be cautious at the end as at the beginning, and they will not be defeated.
Truly, because the sage
He does not value rarities and money.
He learns what is not taught,
And returns to what has been forgot.
Thus, he helps everything return to its original nature, but dares not act.
The ancients were good at practising the path,
Not to enlighten the people
But rather to keep them innocent.
The problem of governing the people
Is that they have too much cunning.
Therefore, he who uses his cunning to govern
Betrays the state.
He who does not use his cunning to govern the state
Is a blessing to the state.
He who knows these two things
Likewise examines the pattern
And recognizes the timeless archetype.
Truly, we say that 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 kings of the many valleys
By being good at going downstream.
Thus, they became the many primordial valley kings.
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 don’t 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.
If the people don’t fear authority
Then a greater authority will appear.
Let them not disrespect their homes
Nor loathe their homeland.
Truly, only he who is not disrespectful
Will not be disrespected.
Truly, because the sage
Knows himself, he appears selfless.
Because he loves himself, he is not pretentious.
Therefore, he lets go of one and chooses the other.
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 don’t 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 pliant and weak;
At death they are hard and weak.
Grasses and trees are also born pliant and weak.
At death they too are dried out and withered.
Therefore, hard and strong people are the disciples of death.
Pliant 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 pliancy 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 don’t have enough will be fulfilled.
The spiritual path
Diminishes those who have a surplus yet restores those who don’t have enough.
The path of the people
Is not right.
It diminishes those who don’t 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 more pliant or weak than water,
But when it attacks the hard and strong
There is nothing that can conquer it.
It is not easy.
Weak, it conquers strength.
Pliant, it 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 king of world.”
Right speech seems wrong.
THE CALL OF DUTY
The pacification of great hatred must leave a surplus of resentment.
Peace is achieved by means of virtue.
Truly, because the sage accepts the lesser part
And does not reproach people,
He is ethical in the exercise of authority.
The unethical are corrupt in the exercise of authority.
The spiritual path does not dote.
It always sides with the good man.
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 don’t 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.