by Lao-zi


Introduction to Lao-zi

Very little is known about the author of the DAO DE JING, which is attributed to Lao-zi. According to the historian Sima Qian who wrote about 100 BC, Lao-zi lived during the sixth century BC in the state of Chu in China and in the imperial capital Luoyang held the office of shi which in ancient China meant a keeper of the archives and sacred books who also may have been skilled in astrology and divination.

Sima Qian wrote how Lao-zi once met with Confucius, whom he criticized for pride and ambition. However, Confucius told his disciples, "I know how birds can fly, how fish can swim, how animals can run. Yet the runner may be trapped; the swimmer may be hooked; and the flyer may be shot by an arrow. But who knows how dragons ride on winds through clouds into heaven? Today I have seen Lao-zi and can compare him only to a dragon."

According to legend, when in old age Lao-zi was leaving Chu he was stopped by the guardian of the pass into the state of Ch'in and asked to write down his wisdom. After three days he produced the book of about 5,250 characters known as the DAO DE JING.

1. The Mystical Way

The Way that can be described is not the absolute Way;
the name that can be given is not the absolute name.
Nameless it is the source of heaven and earth;
named it is the mother of all things.

Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life.
Whoever desires, sees its manifestations.
These two are the same,
but what is produced has different names.
They both may be called the cosmic mystery:
from the cosmic to the mystical
is the door to the essence of all life.


2. Relativity and Not Interfering

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
there arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
there arises the recognition of bad.

Therefore being and non-being produce each other;
difficult and easy complete each other;
long and short contrast each other;
high and low distinguish each other;
sound and voice harmonize with each other;
beginning and end follow each other.

Therefore the wise manage affairs without interfering
and teach beyond the words.

All things rise, and they do not turn away from them.
They give them life, but do not take possession of them.
They act, but do not rely on their own ability.
They accomplish, but claim no credit.
Because they claim no credit,
their accomplishment remains with them.


3. Simplicity

Do not exalt the worthy,
so that people will not compete.
Do not value rare treasure,
so that people will not steal.
Do not display objects of desire,
so that people's hearts will not be disturbed.

Therefore the wise lead by keeping
their hearts pure, their bellies full,
their ambitions weak, and their bones strong,
so that the people may be purified
of their thoughts and desires;
and the cunning ones will not interfere.
By acting without interfering, all may live in peace.


4. The Infinite Way

The Way is infinite; its use is never exhausted.
It is bottomless, like the fountainhead of all things.
It smoothes its roughness; it unties its tangles.
It softens its light; it calms its turmoil.
Deep and still, ever present.
I do not know its source.
It seems to have existed before the Lord.


5. Emptiness and the Center

Nature is not humane.
It treats all things like straw dogs.
The wise are not humane.
They regard people like straw dogs.

How the universe is like a bellows!
While empty, it is never exhausted.
The more it is worked, the more it produces.
Much talk brings exhaustion.
It is better to keep to the center.


6. The Mystical Female

The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the mystical female.
The door of the mystical female
is the root of heaven and earth.
It seems to be continuously within us.
Use it, and it will never be exhausted.


7. Enduring

Heaven is eternal, and the earth is very old.
They can be eternal and long lasting,
because they do not exist for themselves,
and for this reason can long endure.

Therefore the wise put themselves last,
but find themselves foremost.
They exclude themselves,
and yet they always remain.
Is it not because they do not live for themselves
that they find themselves fulfilled?


8. The Best Are Like Water

The best are like water.
Water benefits all things and does not compete with them.
It flows to the lowest level that people disdain.
In this it comes near to the Way.

In their dwellings, they love the earth.
In their hearts, they love what is profound.
In their friendship, they love humanity.
In their words, they love sincerity.
In government, they love peace.
In business, they love ability.
In their actions, they love timeliness.
It is because they do not compete
that there is no resentment.


9. Moderation

Stretch a bow to the very full,
and you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest,
and the edge will not last long.

When gold and jade fill your hall,
you will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with honor and wealth
is to cause one's own downfall.
Withdraw as soon as your work is done.
Such is heaven's way.


10. Mystical Power

Can you embrace the One with your soul,
and never depart from the Way?
Can you concentrate your vital force
to achieve the gentleness of a new-born baby?
Can you cleanse and purify your mystic vision
until it is clear?
Can you love the people and govern the state
without interfering?
Can you play the role of the female
in opening and closing the doors of heaven?
Can you understand all and penetrate all
without using the mind?

To give birth and to nourish,
to give birth without taking possession,
to act without obligation,
to lead without dominating---
this is mystical power.


11. Use What Does Not Exist

Thirty spokes are united around the hub of a wheel,
but the usefulness of the wheel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Clay is molded into a vessel,
but the usefulness of the vessel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house,
and the usefulness of the house
depends on the space where nothing exists.

Therefore take advantage of what exists,
and use what does not exist.


12. Satisfy the Inner Self

The five colors blind the eyes;
the five musical tones deafen the ears;
the five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious goods keep their owners on guard.

Therefore the wise satisfy the inner self
rather than external senses.
They accept the one and reject the other.


13. Selflessness

Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension.
Regard great trouble as you regard your self.

What is meant by
"Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension?"
Those with good fortune are apprehensive of their gain.
Those with misfortune are apprehensive of their loss.

What is meant by
"Regard great trouble as you regard your self?"
Great trouble comes from being selfish.
Being selfless, what trouble is there?

Therefore those who value the world as themselves
may be entrusted to govern the world.
Those who love the world as themselves
may be entrusted to care for the world.


14. The Formless Way

We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.


15. The Wise

The wise have ancient mystic wisdom
and profound understanding, too deep to comprehend.
Because they can not be comprehended,
they can only be described by analogy:
cautious, like crossing a stream in winter;
alert, like one aware of danger on all sides;
courteous, like a visiting guest;
self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt;
genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood;
open and receptive, like a valley;
freely mixing, like muddy water.

Who can make sense of a muddy world?
Let it be still, and it becomes clear.
Who can remain calm,
and through activity come back to life?
Those who embrace this Way do not over-extend themselves.
Because they do not over-extend themselves,
they do not wear out and are not replaced.


16. Know the Eternal

Empty yourself of everything.
Maintain a steady serenity.
All things take shape and become active,
but I see them return to their source,
like vegetation that grows and flourishes,
but returns to the root from which it springs.

Returning to the source is serenity;
it is to realize one's destiny.
To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
Not to know the eternal
is to act blindly and court disaster.

Whoever knows the eternal is open to everything.
Whoever is open to everything is impartial.
To be impartial is to be universal.
To be universal is to be in accord with heaven.
To be in accord with heaven is to be in accord with the Way.
To be in accord with the Way is to be eternal
and to live free from harm even though the body dies.


17. Leaders

The best leaders the people barely know.
The next best they love and praise.
The next they fear.
And the next they hate.

Those who lack trust will not be trusted.
Then they resort to promises.
But when they accomplish their task and complete their work,
the people say, "We did it ourselves."


18. When the Way is Forgotten

When the great Way is forgotten,
the doctrines of humanity and morality arise.
When knowledge and cleverness appear,
there emerges great hypocrisy.
When family relationships are not in harmony,
filial piety and parental love are advocated.
When a country falls into chaos and disorder,
there is praise of loyal patriots.


19. What People Need

Abandon wisdom and discard cleverness,
and people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abandon humanity and discard morality,
and people will rediscover love and duty.
Abandon skill and discard profit,
and there will be no thieves or robbers.
These three things relate to externals and are inadequate.

People need what they can depend on:
reveal simplicity; embrace the natural;
control selfishness; reduce desires.


20. Drawing Sustenance

Abandon memorizing, and vexations end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
Is what people fear really to be feared?
How very remote the actual occurrence!

The people of the world make merry
as though at a holiday feast or a spring carnival.
I alone am inactive and desireless,
like a new-born baby who cannot yet smile,
unattached, as though homeless.

The people of the world possess more than enough.
I alone seem to have lost all.
I must be a fool, so indiscriminate and nebulous.

Most people seem knowledgeable and bright.
I alone am simple and dull.

Most people see differences and are sharp.
I alone make no distinctions,
seeming aimless, drifting as the sea,
like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.

People of the world all have a purpose.
I alone seem impractical and out of place.
I am different from others,
and value drawing sustenance from the Mother.


21. Within the Elusive Way

All-embracing power proceeds only through the Way.
What is called the Way is elusive and intangible.
Intangible and elusive, yet within it are thought-images.
Elusive and intangible, yet within it are objects.
Deep and obscure, yet within it is the life-force.
The life-force is very real, and within it is certainty.

From the ancient times till now
its manifestations have never ceased,
by which we may see the beginning of all things.
How do I know that the beginnings of all things are so?
Through this certainty.


22. Yielding for Unity

To yield is to preserve unity.
To bend is to become straight.
To empty oneself is to become full.
To wear oneself out is to be renewed.
To have little is to be content.
To have abundance is to be troubled.

Therefore the wise embrace the One
and become examples for the world.
They do not display themselves and are therefore illumined.
They do not justify themselves and are distinguished.
They do not make claims and are therefore given credit.
They do not seek glory and therefore are leaders.

Because they do not compete,
the world cannot compete with them.
Is not the ancient saying true,
"To yield is to preserve unity?"
for true wholeness comes from turning within.


23. Nature

Nature says few words.
A whirlwind does not last all morning,
nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What causes them? Nature.

If even Nature's utterances do not last long,
how much less should human beings'?

Those who follow the Way are one with the Way.
Those who follow power are one with power.
Those who abandon it are one with abandonment.

Those one with the Way are welcomed by the Way.
Those one with power are welcomed by power.
Those one with abandonment are welcomed by abandonment.
Those who lack trust will not be trusted.


24. Avoid Excess

Those who stand on tiptoe are not steady.
Those who strain their strides cannot long keep up the pace.
Those who display themselves do not illuminate.
Those who justify themselves are not distinguished.
Those who make claims are not given credit.
Those who seek glory are not leaders.
According to the Way these are like extra food and waste,
which all creatures detest.
Therefore followers of the Way avoid them.


25. The Supreme

There is something mysterious and whole
which existed before heaven and earth,
silent, formless, complete, and never changing.
Living eternally everywhere in perfection,
it is the mother of all things.

I do not know its name; I call it the Way.
If forced to define it, I shall call it supreme.
Supreme means absolute.
Absolute means extending everywhere.
Extending everywhere means returning to itself.

Thus the Way is supreme.
Heaven is supreme.
Earth is supreme.
And the person is supreme.

There are four supremes in the universe,
and the person is one of them.
The person reflects the earth.
The earth reflects heaven.
Heaven reflects the Way.
And the Way reflects its own nature.


26. Self-mastery

Gravity is the foundation of levity.
Serenity masters hastiness.
Therefore the wise travel all day
without leaving their baggage.
In the midst of honor and glory
they remain leisurely and calm,

How can a leader of a great country
behave lightheartedly and frivolously?
In frivolity, the foundation is lost.
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.


27. Using the Light

A good traveler leaves no trace.
A good speaker makes no slips.
A good accountant uses no devices.
A good door needs no bolts to remain shut.
A good fastener needs no rope to hold its bond.

Therefore the wise are good at helping people,
and consequently no one is rejected.
They are good at saving things,
and consequently nothing is wasted.
This is called using the Light.

Therefore the good teach the bad,
and the bad are lessons for the good.
Those who neither value the teacher nor care for the lesson
are greatly deluded, though they may be learned.
Such is the essential mystery.


28. The Valley of the World

Know the male and keep to the female.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the innocence of a baby.

Know the bright and keep to the obscure.
Become an example for the world.
Being an example for the world is eternal power
and returning to the infinite.

Know glory and keep to humility.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the natural.
Breaking up the natural makes instruments.
The wise use them and become leaders.
Therefore a leader does not break.


29. Do Not Tamper with the World

Those who take over the world and act upon it,
I notice, do not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel, not to be tampered with.
Those who tamper with it, spoil it.
Those who seize it, lose it.

Some lead, and some follow.
Some blow hot, and some blow cold.
Some are strong, and some are weak.
Some are up, and some are down.
Therefore the wise avoid excess, extravagance, and pride.


30. Force of Arms

Whoever advises a leader according to the Way
opposes conquest by force of arms.
The use of force tends to rebound.
Where armies march, thorns and brambles grow.
Whenever a great army is formed, scarcity and famine follow.

The skillful achieve their purposes and stop.
They dare not rely on force.
They achieve their purposes, but do not glory in them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not celebrate them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not take pride in them.
They achieve their purposes, but without violence.

Things reach their prime and then decline.
Violence is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.


31. War and Peace

Weapons are tools of destruction hated by people.
Therefore followers of the Way never use them.
In peace leaders favor the creative left.
In war they favor the destructive right.

Weapons are tools of destruction,
not used by good leaders.
When their use cannot be avoided,
the best policy is calm restraint.

Even in victory there is no glory.
Those who celebrate victory delight in slaughter.
Those who delight in slaughter
will not be successful leaders.
Fortune is on the left;
Misfortune is on the right.
That is to regard it as a funeral.
The killing of many should be mourned with sorrow.
A victory should be celebrated with funeral ceremonies.


32. The Natural Way

The Way is absolute and undefined.
Like natural uncarved wood in simplicity,
even though it is insignificant,
none in the world can overcome it.
If leaders would hold to it,
the whole world would serve them spontaneously.

Heaven and earth join, and gentle rain falls,
beyond the command of anyone, evenly upon all.
When civilization arose, names began.
With names, one should know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop, frees one from danger.
The Way in the world is like
rivers and streams flowing into the sea.


33. Inner Power

Those who know others are wise.
Those who know themselves are enlightened.
Those who overcome others require force.
Those who overcome themselves need strength.
Those who are content are wealthy.
Those who persevere have will power.
Those who do not lose their center endure.
Those who die but maintain their power live eternally.


34. The Great Way

The great Way flows everywhere, both left and right.
All things derive their life from it,
and it does not turn away from them.
It accomplishes its work, but does not take possession.
It provides for and nourishes everything,
but does not control them.

Always without desires, it may be considered small.
The destination of all things, yet claiming nothing,
it may be considered great.
Because it never claims greatness,
its greatness is achieved.


35. The Inexhaustible Way

Hold to the great form, and all the world follows,
following without meeting harm,
in health, peace, and happiness.
Music and delicacies to eat induce travelers to stay.
But the Way is mild to the taste.
Looked at, it is invisible.
Listened to, it is inaudible.
Applied, it is inexhaustible.


36. The Mystic Light

In order to contract, it is necessary first to expand.
In order to weaken, it is necessary first to strengthen.
In order to reduce, it is necessary first to build up.
In order to receive, it is necessary first to give.
This is called the mystic Light.
The soft and gentle overcome the hard and strong.
As fish stay in the deep water,
so sharp weapons of the state should not be displayed.


37. The Way Never Interferes

The Way never interferes,
yet through it everything is done.
If leaders would follow the Way,
the world would be reformed of its own accord.
When reformed and desiring to act,
let them be restrained by what is simply natural.
Undefined simplicity is free of desires.
Being free of desires, it is serene;
and the world finds peace of its own accord.


38. The Superior

Superior power does not emphasize its power,
and thus is powerful.
Inferior power never forgets its power,
and thus is powerless.
Superior power never interferes nor has an ulterior motive.
Inferior power interferes and has an ulterior motive.
Superior humanity takes action but has no ulterior motive.
Superior morality takes action and has an ulterior motive.
Superior custom takes action, and finding no response,
stretches out arms to force it on them.

Therefore when the Way is lost, power arises.
When power is lost, humanity arises.
When humanity is lost, morality arises.
When morality is lost, custom arises.
Now custom is a superficial expression
of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder.

Foreknowledge is the flowering of the Way
and the beginning of folly.
Therefore the mature dwell in the depth, not in the thin,
in the fruit and not in the flowering.
They reject one and accept the other.


39. Oneness

The ancients attained oneness.
Heaven attained oneness and became clear.
Earth attained oneness and became stable.
Spirits attained oneness and became divine.
The valleys attained oneness and became fertile.
Creatures attained oneness and lived and grew.
Kings and nobles attained oneness and became leaders.
What made them so is oneness.

Without clarity, heaven would crack.
Without stability, the earth would quake.
Without divinity, spirits would dissipate.
Without fertility, the valleys would be barren.
Without life and growth, creatures would die off.
Without leadership, kings and nobles would fall.

Therefore humility is the basis for nobility,
and the low is the basis for the high.
Thus kings and nobles call themselves
orphans, lonely, and unworthy.
Do they not depend upon the common people for support?
Dismantle the parts of a chariot, and there is no chariot.
Rather than tinkle like jade, rumble like rocks.


40. Movement of the Way

Returning is the movement of the Way.
Gentleness is the method of the Way.
All things in the world come from being,
and being comes from non-being.


41. What the Way is Like

When the wise hear the Way, they practice it diligently.
When the mediocre hear of the Way, they doubt it.
When the foolish hear of the Way, they laugh out loud.
If it were not laughed at, it would not be the Way.

Therefore it is said,
"The enlightenment of the Way seems like dullness;
progression in the Way seem like regression;
the even path of the Way seems to go up and down."

Great power appears like a valley.
Great purity appears tarnished.
Great character appears insufficient.
Solid character appears weak.
True integrity appears changeable.
Great space has no corners.
Great ability takes time to mature.
Great music has the subtlest sound.
Great form has no shape.

The Way is hidden and indescribable.
Yet the Way alone is adept
at providing for all and bringing fulfillment.


42. All Things

The Way produced the One;
the One produced two;
two produced three;
and three produced all things.

All things have the receptivity of the female
and the activity of the male.
Through union with the life force they blend in harmony.

People hate being orphaned, lonely, and unworthy.
Yet kings and nobles call themselves such.
Often gain can be a loss, and loss can be a gain.
What others teach, I teach also:
"The violent die a violent death."
I shall make this primary in my teaching.


43. The Value of Non-action

The softest things in the world overcome the hardest.
Non-being penetrates even where there is no space.
Through this I know the value of non-action.
Teaching without words and the value of non-action
are understood by few in the world.


44. How to Endure

Fame or your life, which do you love more?
Life or material wealth, which is more valuable?
Loss or gain, which is worse?
Therefore those who desire most spend most.
Those who hoard most lose most.
Those who are contented are not disappointed.
Those who know when to stop prevent danger.
Thus they can long endure.


45. Skill Seems Awkward

The greatest perfection seems incomplete,
but its utility is never impaired.
The greatest fullness seems empty,
but its use cannot be exhausted.
What is most direct seems devious.
The greatest skill seems awkward.
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.

Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
The serene and calm are guides for all.


46. Contentment

When the world lives in accord with the Way,
horses work on farms.
When the world does not live in accord with the Way,
the cavalry practices on battlefields.

The greatest temptation to crime is desire.
The greatest curse is discontent.
The greatest calamity is greed.
Whoever is content with contentment is always content.


47. Understanding

One can know the world without going outside.
One can see the Way of heaven
without looking out the window.
The further one goes the less one knows.
Therefore the wise know without going about,
understand without seeing,
and accomplish without acting.


48. Doing Less

The pursuit of learning is to increase day by day.
The practice of the Way is to decrease day by day.
Less and less is done until one reaches non-action.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is led by not interfering.
Those who interfere cannot lead the world.


49. The Power of Goodness

The wise have no mind-set.
They regard the people's minds as their own.
They are good to people who are good.
They are also good to people who are not good.
This is the power of goodness.
They are honest to those who are honest.
They are also honest to those who are dishonest.
This is the power of honesty.
The wise live in the world peacefully and harmoniously.
The people share a common heart,
and the wise treat them as their own children.


50. Those Who Preserve Life

Coming into life and going out at death,
three out of ten people live long;
three out of ten people die early;
and three out of ten people who could live long
die early, because they have chosen the path of death.

Why is this so?
Because they feed life too grossly.

It is said that those who preserve life
walk the earth without fearing tigers and wild buffalo,
and in battle they are not touched by weapons of war.
The wild buffalo's horns find nothing to gore;
the tiger's claws find nothing to tear;
and weapons' points find nothing to pierce.

Why is this so?
Because they have nothing for death to enter.


51. Mystical Power

The Way produces all things.
Power nourishes them.
Matter gives them physical form.
Environment shapes their abilities.
Therefore all things respect the Way and honor power.
The Way is respected, and power is honored
without anyone's order and always naturally.

Therefore the Way produces all things,
and power nourishes them,
caring for them and developing them,
sheltering them and comforting them,
nurturing them and protecting them,
producing them but not possessing them,
helping them but not obligating them,
guiding them but not controlling them.
This is mystical power.


52. Practicing the Eternal

The beginning of the universe is the mother of all things.
Those who discover the mother understand the children.
Understanding the children and returning to the mother,
they live always free from harm.

Close the mouth, shut the doors,
and all of life is without strain.
Open the mouth, meddle with affairs,
and all of life is beyond help.

Seeing the small is insight;
to stay with the gentle is strength.
Use the Light, return to insight,
and thereby be preserved from harm.
This is practicing the eternal.


53. Leaders in Robbery

Those with even a scrap of sense
walk on the main way and fear only straying from the path.
The main way is smooth and easy,
but people like to be side-tracked.

While the courts are arrayed in splendor,
the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are empty.
Yet some wear embroidered clothes, carry sharp swords,
over-indulge themselves with food and drink,
and have more possessions than they can use.
They are leaders in robbery.
This is not the Way.


54. Power

What is well established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly held cannot slip away.
The power of sacrifice continues on
from generation to generation.

Cultivated in the person, power becomes real.
Cultivated in the family, power becomes abundant.
Cultivated in the community, power endures.
Cultivated in the nation, power flourishes.
Cultivated in the world, power becomes universal.

Therefore see the person as a person,
the family as a family, the community as a community,
the nation as a nation, and the world as universal.
How do I know that the world is like this?
By this.


55. Know Harmony

Those filled with power are like new-born children.
Poisonous insects will not sting them;
ferocious beasts will not pounce upon them;
predatory birds will not swoop down on them.
Their bones are pliable, their muscles tender,
but their grip is firm.
They have never known the union of man and woman,
but the organ is fully formed,
meaning that the vital essence is strong.
They may cry all day without getting hoarse,
meaning that the harmony is perfect.
To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.

To try to force life is ominous.
To force the vital essence with the mind is violence.
The prime is past, and decay follows,
meaning that it is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.


56. Mystical Unity

Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know.
Close the mouth; shut the doors.
Smooth the sharpness; untie the tangles.
Dim the glare; calm the turmoil.
This is mystical unity.
Those achieving it are detached from friends and enemies,
from benefit and harm, from honor and disgrace.
Therefore they are the most valuable people in the world.


57. Love Peace

States are governed by justice.
Wars are waged by violations.
The world is mastered by nonintervention.
How do I know this? By this:
the more restrictions there are, the poorer the people;
the more sharp weapons, the more trouble in the state;
the more clever cunning, the more contrivances;
the more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the wise say,
"Do not interfere, and people transform themselves.
Love peace, and people do what is right.
Do not intervene, and people prosper.
Have no desires, and people live simply."


58. Results of Process

When the government is relaxed, people are happy.
When the government is strict, people are anxious.
Good fortune leans on bad fortune;
bad fortune hides behind good fortune.
Who knows the results of process?
Is there no justice?
When the just become unjust, goodness becomes evil.
People have been deluded for a long time.
Therefore the wise are square but not cornered,
sharp but not cutting, straight but not strained,
brilliant but not dazzling.


59. Be Frugal

In leading people and serving heaven
it is best to be frugal.
Being frugal is to be prepared from the start.
Being prepared from the start is to build up power.
By building up power nothing is impossible.
If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits.
Those without limits are capable of leading a country.
Those with maternal leadership can long endure.
This is to be deeply rooted in a firm foundation,
the way of long life and eternal vision.


60. Spirits

Leading a large country is like cooking a small fish.
When the world is led in accord with the Way,
spirits lose their powers.
It is not that they lose their powers,
but that their powers no longer harm people.
Not only do the spirits not harm people,
but the wise also do not harm people.
Not harming each other, spiritual power grows.


61. Large and Small Countries

A large country is like low land where rivers flow,
a place where everything comes together, the female of all.
The female overcomes the male with tranquillity.
Tranquillity is underneath.
A large country wins over a small country
by placing itself below the small country.
A small country wins over a large country
by placing itself below the large country.

Thus some win by placing themselves below,
and others win by being below.
A large country wants to protect people,
and a small country wants to join and serve.
Thus both get what they want.
It is best for the large country to place itself below.


62. The Way is Valued

The Way is sacred to all things.
It is treasure for the good and sanctuary for the bad.
Fine words can buy honor.
Good deeds can gain respect.
Though there be bad people, why reject them?

Therefore at the crowning of the emperor
or at the installation of the three ministers,
instead of sending gifts of jade and a team of four horses,
remain still and send the Way.

Why did the ancients prize this Way?
Did they not say, "Seek, and you will find;
let go, and you will be forgiven."
Therefore the Way is valued by the world.


63. The Wise Never Strive

Act without interfering.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Large or small, many or few, repay injury with goodness.

Handle the difficult while it is still easy.
Handle the big while it is still small.
Difficult tasks begin with what is easy.
Great accomplishments begin with what is small.

Therefore the wise never strive for the great
and thus achieve greatness.
Rash promises inspire little trust.
Taking things too lightly results in much difficulty.
Thus the wise always confront difficulties
and therefore have no difficulty.


64. Do Not Grab

What stays still is easy to hold.
Without omens it is easy to plan.
The brittle is easy to shatter.
The minute is easy to scatter.
Handle things before they appear.
Organize things before there is confusion.
A tree as big as a person's embrace grows from a tiny shoot.
A tower nine stories high begins with a mound of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet.

To act is to fail.
To grab is to lose.
Therefore the wise do not act and do not fail.
They do not grab and do not lose.
In handling things people usually fail
when they are about to succeed.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning,
and there will be no failure.

Therefore the wise desire to have no desires.
They do not value rare treasures.
They learn what is unknown,
returning to what many have missed
so that all things may be natural without interference.


65. Know the Eternal Standard

The ancients who ruled skillfully
did not try to enlighten people but kept them in the dark.
People are hard to lead when they are too clever.
Those who lead with cleverness rob the country.
Those who lead without cleverness bless the country.
Understanding these two is to know the eternal standard.
Knowing the eternal standard is mystical power.
Mystical power is deep and far-reaching,
leading all things to return to perfect harmony.


66. Leading from Behind

Great rivers and seas are lords of all mountain streams,
because they are good at staying below them.
Therefore they are lords of the streams.
Thus the wise in watching over the people
speak humbly from below the people,
and in leading the people get behind them.
In this way the wise watch over the people
but do not oppress them;
they lead the people but do not block them.
Thus everyone happily goes along without getting tired.
Because they do not compete,
the world cannot compete with them.


67. Three Treasures

Everyone says the Way is great and beyond comparison.
Because it is great, it cannot be compared.
If it were compared, it already would have seemed small.

I have three treasures to be maintained and cherished:
the first is love;
the second is frugality;
the third is not pushing oneself ahead of others.

From love comes courage;
from frugality comes generosity;
from not pushing oneself ahead of others comes leadership.

Now courage without love, generosity without frugality,
and leadership by pushing oneself ahead of others are fatal.
For love wins all battles and is the strongest defense.
Heaven gives love to save and protect.


68. The Power of Not Striving

The best soldier is not violent.
The best fighter is not angry.
The best winner is not contentious.
The best employer is humble.
This is known as the power of not striving,
as ability in human relations,
and as being in accord with heaven.


69. The Kind Win

The strategists say,
"Do not be the aggressor but the defender.
Do not advance an inch, but retreat a foot instead."
This is movement without moving,
stretching the arm without showing it,
confronting enemies with the idea there is no enemy,
holding in the hand no weapons.
No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy will destroy my treasures.
Thus when the battle is joined,
it is the kind who will win.


70. My Ideas Are Easy

My ideas are easy to understand and easy to practice.
Yet no one understands them or practices them.
My ideas have a source; my actions have a master.
Because people do not understand this, they do not know me.
Since few know me, I am very precious.
Therefore the wise wear coarse clothes
and keep the jewel inside.


71. A Disease

To know that you do not know is the best.
To think you know when you do not is a disease.
Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.
The wise are free of disease,
because they recognize the disease as a disease.
Therefore they are free of disease.


72. Do Not Suppress

When people lack a sense of awe,
then something awful will happen.
Do not constrict people's living space.
Do not suppress their livelihoods.
If you do not harass them, they will not harass you.

Therefore the wise know themselves
but do not display themselves.
They love themselves but do not exalt themselves.
They let go of one and accept the other.


73. The Way of Heaven

Those brave in killing will be killed.
Those brave in not killing will live.
Of these two, one is beneficial, and one is harmful.
Some are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the wise consider it a difficult question.

The Way of heaven does not strive; yet it wins easily.
It does not speak; yet it gets a good response.
It does not demand; yet all needs are met.
It is not anxious; yet it plans well.
The net of heaven is vast;
its meshes are wide, but nothing slips through.


74. Death

If people are not afraid to die,
then why threaten them with death?
If people were afraid of death,
and lawbreakers could be caught and put to death,
who would dare to do so?
There is the Lord of Death who executes.
Trying to do his job
is like trying to cut wood for the Master Carpenter.
Those who try to cut wood for the Master Carpenter
rarely escape injuring their own hands.


75. Valuing Life

People are hungry,
because rulers eat too much tax-grain.
That is why people are starving.

People are hard to govern,
because rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are hard to govern.

People do not care about death,
because rulers demand too much of life.
That is why they do not care about death.
Only those who do not interfere with living
are best at valuing life.


76. Life Is Tender

When people are born, they are tender and supple.
At death they are stiff and hard.
All things, like plants and trees,
are tender and pliant while alive.
At death they are dried and withered.
Therefore the stiff and hard are companions of death.
The tender and supple are companions of life.
Thus strong arms do not win.
A stiff tree will break.
The hard and strong will fall.
The tender and supple will rise.


77. Taking and Giving

The Way of heaven is like bending a bow.
The high is lowered; the low is raised.
The excessive is reduced; the deficient is increased.
The Way of heaven takes from those who have too much
and gives to those who do not have enough.

The human way is different.
It takes from those who do not have enough
and gives to those who have too much.

Who has more than enough to give to the world?
Only the person of the Way.
Therefore the wise act but do not rely on their own ability.
They accomplish the task but claim no credit.
They have no desire to seem superior.


78. The Soft and Weak

Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet nothing is better at attacking the hard and strong.
There is no substitute for it.
The weak overcomes the strong; the soft overcomes the hard.
Everyone knows this, but no one puts it into practice.

Therefore the wise say,
"Those who bear the humiliation of the people
are able to minister to them.
Those who take upon themselves the sins of the society
are able to lead the world."
Words of truth seem paradoxical.


79. Stay with the Good

Compromising with great hatred surely leaves some hatred.
How can this be considered good?
Therefore the wise keep their part of an agreement
and do not blame the other party.
The good fulfill their obligations;
the bad exact obligations from others.
The Way of heaven is impartial.
It always stays with the good.


80. Home Is Comfortable

In a small country with few people
machines that can work ten or a hundred times faster
are not needed.
People who care about death do not travel far.
Even if there are ships and carriages, no one takes them.
Even if there are armor and weapons, no one displays them.
People return to knotted rope for records.
Food is tasty; clothes are beautiful;
home is comfortable; customs are delightful.
Though neighboring communities see each other
and hear each other's cocks crowing and dogs barking,
they may grow old and die without going there.


81. True Words

True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
The good do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not scholarly.
The scholarly do not know.

The wise do not hoard.
The more they give to others, the more they have.
The Way of heaven benefits and does not harm.
The Way of the wise accomplishes without striving.




Translated by Tam C. Gibbs

Chapter 1

The tao that can be talked about is not the Absolute Tao.
If it can be named, it is not an Absolute name.
That which has no name is the origin of heaven and earth;
That which has a name is the Mother of all things.

Thus, if always without desire, one can observe indescribable marvels;
If always desirous, one sees merest traces.
These two come from the same source but are differently named.
Both are called Mysterious.
The mystery of the Mysterious is the gateway to all indescribable marvels.


Chapter 2

If everyone understands the beautiful as beauty, there must be ugliness.
If everyone understands goodness as good, there must be not good.

Being and not being are mutually arising;
Difficult and easy are complementary;
Long and short arise from comparison;
Higher and lower are interdependent;
Vocalisation and verbalisation harmonise with each other;
Before and after accompany each other.

This is why the Sage manages affairs of Non-action and performs wordless teaching.
The myriad things are made without the slightest word.
Nature gives birth but does not possess.
It acts but does not demand subservience.
Only because it claims no credit is it indispensable.


Chapter 3

Not honouring men of worth keeps the people from competing;
Not wanting rare things keeps the people from thievery;
Not showing off desirous objects keeps the hearts of the people from disaster.

That is why the Sage governs himself by relaxing the mind, reinforcing the abdomen, gentling the will, strengthening the bones.

Always cause the people to be without knowledge or desires.
Cause the intelligent ones to dare not act.
Let there be Non-action and there is nothing that will not be well regulated.


Chapter 4

The Tao is empty, yet when applied it is never exhausted.
So deep it is, it seems to be the ancestor of all things.

Blunting sharp edges, resolving confusions,
Diffusing glare, uniting the world:
Such depth, something seems to exist there.

I do not know whose child it is.
It seems to have existed before the Ancestor.


Chapter 5

Heaven and earth are not humane, treating the myriad things as straw dogs.
The Sage is not humane, treating the people as straw dogs.

The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows, empty and yet inexhaustible;
Move it and even more comes out.
Too many words quickly exhaust;
It is not as good as holding to the centre.


Chapter 6

The spirit of the valley does not die, and is called Mysterious Female.
The door of the Mysterious Female is called the root of heaven and earth.
It lingers in wisps; Use it without haste.


Chapter 7

Heaven is long-lasting and earth is enduring.
The reason why heaven and earth can live long and endure is that they do not live only for themselves.
Therefore they can produce perpetually.
This is why the Sage puts himself behind, yet ends up ahead,
Considers himself an outsider yet finds himself in the mainstream.
Is it not because he is selfless that his Self can be realised?


Chapter 8

The greatest attitude is like water;
Water is good at benefiting all things and yet it does not compete with them.
It seeks out those places regarded as evil by man.
Thereby, it is close to Tao.

For one's dwelling, choose the ground well.
In cultivating one's heart, search the depths well.
In dealing with people, treat them well.
When speaking, do so with sincerity. In governing, keep order.
In serving, do to the best of your ability. In acting, choose the timing well.

Only by not competing can one be beyond reproach.


Chapter 9

To grasp after until full is not as good as stopping.
Measure and fit a crossbrace; It cannot last long.

If one's hall is filled with gold and jade, it cannot be safeguarded.
If one is wealthy and honoured, pride follows; and one gifts oneself with the faults thereof.
When the work is done, retire.
This is the Tao of heaven.


Chapter 10

In unifying the spirit-of-the-blood and the spirit-of-the-breath can you keep them from separating?
In concentrating the chi to attain resiliency, can you be like an infant?
In polishing the mirror of Mysterious Vision, can you do it spotlessly?
In opening and closing heaven's gate, can you be the Female? In being enlightened and comprehending all, can you do it without knowledge?
In loving the people and governing the nation can you practice Non-action?

Produce and provide a good environment;
Create but do not possess,
Act but do not control,
Raise but do not harvest,
This is called Profound Te.


Chapter 11

Thirty spokes converge at a single hub;
It is the vacancy that begets the vehicle's usefulness.
Mix clay to make a vessel;
It is the vacancy that makes the vessel useful.
Cut out the doors and windows to make a room;
It is the vacancy that constitutes the usefulness of the room.

Therefore, that which is there is an advantage,
But it's vacancy is what is useful.


Chapter 12

The five colours cause one's eyes to be blinded.
The five tones cause one's ears to be deafened.
The five flavours cause one's palette to be cloyed.
Racing about on horseback and hunting cause one's mind to be maddened.

Hard to obtain merchandise causes mankind to do wrong,
So the Sage concerns himself with the abdomen and not the eyes.
Therefore, he rejects the one and chooses the other.


Chapter 13

Favour and disgrace are both alarming.
Treat great calamities as if they were happening to yourself.
What does "favour and disgrace are both alarming" mean?
When favour is conferred upon a lowly position, it is like a shock.
And when it is taken away, it is like a shock.
This is what is spoken of as "Favour and disgrace are both alarming."
What does this mean: "Treat calamities as though they were happening to yourself"?
I am able to feel great calamities because I have a self.
If I have no self, what calamity is there?

Therefore, only one who values himself as he values the world is fit to be entrusted with the world.
Only one who loves the world as he loves himself is worthy of being the trustee of the world.


Chapter 14

To look but not see is called yi, the extremely dim,
To listen but not hear is called hsi, the extremely faint,
To grasp after but not catch is called wei, the extremely small.
These three qualities cannot be entirely understood, thus they blend into one, a unity.

Its upper surface is not bright, its underside is not dark.
In endless procession the unnameable moves on, until it returns to nothingness.
It is the formless form, the image of nothingness,
It may be called huang-hu, the illusive and evasive.
Confront it , and you cannot see it's face;
Follow it and you cannot see its back.
Hold to the ancient Tao to regulate present realities.
One who is able to comprehend the ancient beginnings may be termed a part of the system of Tao.


Chapter 15

In ancient times, those who were well educated were in communion with heaven, and were subtle, profound, mysterious and penetratingly wise.
Their depth was unfathomable.
Because of this, they appeared reluctant, hesitant, like one wading across a stream in winter;
Wary, as if there were dangers on all four sides;
Solemn, as if a guest;
Yielding, like ice on the verge of melting;
Pure, like uncarved wood;
Broad and expansive, like a valley;
Chaotic, like muddy water.

Who can still muddy water and gradually make it become clear?
Who can make the still gradually become alive through activity?
Those who maintain the Tao do not want to be full.
Just because they are not full they can avoid wearing out and being replaced.


Chapter 16

Maintain utmost emptiness.
Maintain profound tranquillity.
All things together arise,
By this I see their return.
Things flourish, and each returns to its root.
To return to the root is to attain tranquillity.
This is called returning to one's basic nature.
Returning to one's basic nature is called constancy (ch'ang2).
To understand constancy is called enlightening (ming2).

Not understanding constancy is blindly doing unfortunate things.
Understanding constancy, one gains a capacity for forbearance.
With forbearance, one can be impartial(kung1).
If one is impartial, one can be kingly.
If one is kingly. then one can communicate with heaven.
To communicate with heaven is to be in accord with Tao.
To be in accord with Tao is to be everlasting,
Even though one's body ceases to be, one is not destroyed.


Chapter 17

From times immemorial there have been some who have known.
There have also been those who were sympathetic, and praising.
There have been those that feared. There have been those that ridiculed.
There have been those who were not true enough,
And there have been those who were not true at all.

How valuable are the words,
"When an accomplishment is achieved and the task finished, People say it was only natural."


Chapter 18

If the great Tao is lost, humanism and justice appear.
When intelligence an cleverness arise, so does gross hypocrisy.

When the six relationships fall into discord, filial piety and parental affection arise.
When a nation falls into darkness and confusion, patriotic ministers arise.


Chapter 19

Divorce wisdom and abandon intelligence,
And the people will benefit a hundred-fold.
Divorce humanism and abandon justice,
And the people will return to filial piety and parental affection.
Divorce shrewdness and abandon selfishness,
And there will be no thieves.
I believe these three statements show that words are inadequate.
The people should be made to adhere to these principles:
"Look to the origins and maintain purity; Diminish self and curb desires."
Divorce learning and one will lose anxiety.


Chapter 20

How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much distance is there between good and bad?
What others fear, I must fear.
Wildly, endlessly, all men are merry, as though feasting upon beef or sitting on the verandah in the spring sunshine.
I alone remain uncommitted,
Like an infant who has not yet smiled.
I alone seem as mindless as one who has no home to return to.
Everyone else has enough and more,
Yet I alone seem to be left with nothing.
What a fool's mind I have!

How muddled I am!
Most people seek brightness and clarity.
I alone seek dullness and darkness.
Most people are imaginative and observant.
I alone am stifled and confused.
I am as unmoved as the ocean,
As ceaseless as the wind high in the sky.
Everyone else has something to do;
I alone am ignorant and dull.
I alone am different from the rest in that I value taking sustenance from the Mother.


Chapter 21

The countenance of a person of high moral cultivation comes from living according to the Tao.
The phenomenon of Tao is so elusive and evanescent.
Evanescent and elusive it is, yet there is a form contained within.
Elusive and evanescent, yet there is substance within.
So vacant and so dark, yet there is a vital essence (ching1) within.
This vital essence is very real;
For within is the proof.
From the past to the present its name has not been obliterated, because it is evident in the origin of all things.
How do I know the circumstances of the origin of all things?
Exactly by this phenomenon.


Chapter 22

Yield, and become whole,
Bend, and become straight.
Hollow out, and become filled.
Exhaust, and become renewed
Small amounts become obtainable,
Large amounts become confusing.
Therefore the Sage embraces the One, and so is a shepherd fro the whole world.

He does not focus on himself and so is brilliant.
He does not seek self-justification and so becomes his own evidence.
He does not make claims and hence is given the credit.
He does not compete with anyone and hence, no-one in the world can compete with him.
How can that which the ancients expressed as "yield, and become whole" be meaningless?
If wholly sincere, you will return to them.


Chapter 23

It is nature's way to say little,
For hurricanes do not last a whole morning nor thunderstorms all day.
What causes them? Heaven and earth.
Even if heaven and earth are unable to persevere for long
Then how much longer can man?

Therefore, there are those who practice the Tao.
Those who behave according to Tao are in communication with the Tao.
Those who behave according to Te are in communication with Te.
Those who have lost Tao and Te are in communication with failure.
Those in communication with Tao are also joyously received by Tao.
Those in communication with Te are also joyously received by Te.
Those in communication with failure are also welcomed by failure.
Some are not true enough to the Tao,
And so there are some who are not true to it at all.


Chapter 24

If one is on tiptoe, he cannot stand firm.
If one stands with straddled legs he cannot walk.
One who is fascinated with himself is not clear-sighted.
If one seeks self-justification, he will not be his own evidence.
If one makes claims, he will not get credit.
If one considers his successes important, he will not endure.
According to Tao, these are called "excess nature"(yu te) and "superfluous behaviour," and go against natural law. Hence, a man of Tao spurns them.


Chapter 25

There is a chaotic thing, born before heaven and earth,
So silent, so empty, unique and unchanging, circling endlessly,
It could be considered the Mother of all under heaven.
I do not know its name.
I reluctantly style it "Tao"
And if forced to, reluctantly describe it as "great."
"Great" can be described as going ever onward.
"Going ever onward" can be described as going far.
"Going far" can be described as returning.
Hence, Tao is great. Heaven is great, earth is great, and mankind, also, is great.
There are four phenomena in the universe, and mankind is one of them.
Mankind follows the ways of the earth,
The earth follows the ways of heaven,
Heaven follows the ways of Tao,
And Tao follows the ways of Nature(tzu4 jan3).


Chapter 26

Heaviness is the root of lightness.
Tranquillity is the master of emotion.
That is why the Sage, practising all day long, does not part from his baggage.
Although he may have a grand mansion, still his daily life remains simple.
How can one be lord of a large state and behave lightly before the world?
If light, his root will be lost;
If emotional, his mastery will be lost.


Chapter 27

The best walking leaves no tracks.
The best speech is flawless.
The best calculation needs no counting slips.
The best latch has no bolt, yet it cannot be opened.
The best knot uses no rope, yet it cannot be untied.

That is why the Sage is always good at saving people, and therefore abandons nobody.
He is always good at saving things and therefore abandons nothing.
This is called hsi ming.

Therefore good people are examples for mediocre people,
While mediocre people have the potential to be good people.
Not to appreciate the example, not to cherish the potential,
Is to be far astray, regardless of intelligence.
This is an essential tenet of the Tao.


Chapter 28

Know the masculine, cleave to the feminine.
Be the valley for the world.
To be the valley for the world, do not swerve from your innate nature and return to the state of infancy.
Know the bright, keep to the dull.
Be a guide for the world, follow your innate nature without changing and return to the pre-conceptual.
Understand glory, keep to humility.
Be the valley for the world.
Innate nature completed, return to original uniqueness.

When original uniqueness is divided,
It then becomes the instrumentalities.
The Sage employs them,
They then become the officers,
Thus, subtle governance shapes not.


Chapter 29

If one strives to be the ruler of the world, I do not see how they can succeed.
The world is a vessel for the spirit which cannot be acted upon.
Those who act upon it destroy it.
Those who try to hold on to it lose it.

Therefore, things either move forward or fall behind,
Puff strongly or weakly, grow powerful or become weak,
Persevere or fall.
And therefore, the enlightened do away with excess, extravagances and extremes.


Chapter 30

Those who use Tao to help the ruler never use arms to force the world.
Such affairs tend to easily rebound.
Brambles grow where an army camps.
Famine is sure to follow a war.
Subtly arrange the outcome and nothing more.
Dare not use force.
After the outcome do not be complacent. A
fter the outcome do not be smug.
After the outcome do not be conceited.
Overcome only because there is no choice.
Overcome but do not force.

When things have matured, they are old.
This is not Tao.
That which runs counter to the Tao is soon finished.


Chapter 31

The finest weapons are still instruments of misfortune.
Everything hates them, therefore, those who follow the Tao avoid them.
In peacetime, the nobleman regards the left side of the host as the place of honour.
In wartime, he regards the right side of the commander as the place of honour.
Since weapons are inauspicious instruments, they are not the instruments of a noble man.
He uses them only when necessary, for peace and quiet are what he holds highest.
To him even a victory is not worthy of celebration.
Those who celebrate it take pleasure in the slaughter of men.
Those that take pleasure in the slaughter of men consequently cannot have their way in the world.

On auspicious occasions, the place of honour is to the left of the host;
On inauspicious occasions the place of honour is to the right of the commander.
In the military the lesser commander stand on the left, while the commander in chief stands on the right, the same as in the etiquette of funerary rites.
When many people have been killed there is mourning, grief and tears.
Hence, even victory is treated according to funerary rites.


Chapter 32

Tao is always without a name.
Small as it may be in its original uniqueness,
It is inferior to no power in the world.
If a ruler can cleave to it,
All beings will pay homage to him.

Heaven and earth mingle in harmony and a sweet liquor rains down.
Without command from above peace and order spread among the people.
With the genesis of the world, names appeared.
There are so many names, is it not time to stop?
Knowing when to stop is to be free from danger.
Tao is to the world as a valley or brook is to a river or ocean.


Chapter 33

One who knows others is intelligent;
One who knows himself is enlightened.
One who conquers men is strong;
One who conquers himself has strength.

One who knows sufficiency is rich.
One who pursues his objective with steadfastness has willpower.
One who does not lose what he has gained is durable.
One who dies yet still remains has longevity.


Chapter 34

The great Tao is so all pervasive, how can we tell where its right or left is?
All things depend on it for growth, and it requires nothing from them.
It accomplishes its work, but makes no claim for itself.
It clothes and feeds all, but it does not control them.
Everlasting Non-desire is called "the lesser."

That all things return to it and yet it does not control them is called "the greater."
Because it never insists on its greatness, Its greatness becomes a reality.


Chapter 35

The world moves toward the possessor of the great image.
Moving toward him there is no harm, only peace and order.
The passing guest pauses for sweetmeats and music.
The Tao that can be uttered seems bland, even flavourless.
It does not appear noteworthy. It does not sound worth listening to.
It has unlimited uses.


Chapter 36

That which should be reduced, must first be enlarged.
That which should be weakened, must first be strengthened.
That which should be abolished, must first be established.
That which should be taken away, must first be given.

Softness and suppleness overcome hardness and strength.
Fish cannot leave the depths.
The sharpest weapons of the state must not be displayed.


Chapter 37

Tao never makes a name for itself,
Yet there is nothing it does not do.
If a ruler can cleave to it,
All beings will eventually change by themselves.
After this change, when they desire to act,
He will keep them in their places with original uniqueness of the Nameless.
Eventually there will be Non-desire.
If no desire arises, then serenity,
And eventually the world will settle by itself.


Chapter 38

Superior Te does not reveal its Te, thereby retaining it.
Inferior Te cannot rid itself of the appearance of Te, and thereby loses te.
Superior Te practices Non-action and has no private ends to serve.
Inferior Te both acts and has private ends to serve.
Superior humanism acts but has no private ends to serve.
Superior justice both acts and has private ends to serve.
Superior etiquette not only acts but, getting no response, tries to enforce its will with raised fists.
Thus, if Tao is lost, Te appears.
If Te is lost, humanism appears.
If humanism is lost, justice appears.
If justice is lost, etiquette appears.
When conscience and honesty wear thin,
Etiquette is the beginning of strife.

As to prescience, it is merely a blossom of Tao, and the beginning of stupidity.
That is why the truly cultivated man takes generosity for his location, and does not dwell on the meanness;
Focuses on the fruit, and does not dwell on the blossom.
So he avoids the one and chooses the other.


Chapter 39

In times past, Oneness appeared in the following pattern:
The heavens attained Oneness and became clear;
The earth attained Oneness and settled;
The spirits attained Oneness and became numinous;
Valleys attained Oneness and became reproductive;
All things attained Oneness and became alive;
Kings and queens attained Oneness and became the orthodox of the world.

In the heavens, that which is not clear eventually settles.
On the earth, that does not settle dissipates.
Spirits which are not luminous disappear.
Valleys not filled will dry up.
Creatures that do not reproduce become extinct.
Kings and officials, if not honoured and esteemed, will fail.

Hence the honourable takes the as its trunk.
The high takes the low as its foundation.
That is why the officials call themselves the lonely, the hubless.
This is taking the humble for the trunk, is it not?
Therefore, it is better to consider the vacancy of the vehicle rather than its appearances.
Do not desire to be as shiny and attractive as fine jade.
Be as ordinary as stone.


Chapter 40

Tao moves in cycles;
Tao functions through softness.
All is born of nothing.
Something is born of nothing.


Chapter 41

When a superior scholar hears the Tao he tirelessly practices it.
When a middling scholar hears the Tao sometimes he follows it and sometimes he forgets it.
When a piddling scholar hears the Tao he laughs loudly at it.
Without his laughter it would not be worthy of being Tao,
Hence the sayings:
"One who understands the Tao seems benighted;
One who progresses towards the Tao seems to regress;
One who is in accord with the Tao seems tied in knots."

Great Te seems like a valley.
The completely immaculate seems disgraced.
The thoroughly virtuous seems insufficient.
Established morality seems a conspiracy.
True characteristics seem submerged.
A great square has no corners.
A great instrument is completed late.
A great sound comes from a small noise.
A great form has no shape.
Tao is hidden and nameless.
Yet wonderfully, Tao guarantees that all things are fulfilled.


Chapter 42

Tao gives birth to unity, unity gives birth to duality, duality gives birth to trinity, and trinity gives birth to all things.
All things are wrapped by yin and contain yang, and their pulsing ch'is marry.
That which men abominate, the lonely, the hubless, their leaders take as names.
Thus one does not either benefit from a loss or lose from a benefit.

What other people teach, I also teach.
"The end of a strong one is an untimely death."
I will take this as a precept to teach proper behaviour.


Chapter 43

The softest in the world overcomes the strongest, just as a rider controls his galloping steed.
The insubstantial can penetrate where there is no opening.
Because of that I know the benefit of Non-action.
Few in the world attain wordless teaching and the benefit of Non-action.


Chapter 44

Which is dearer, fame or health?
Which is worth more, health or wealth?
Which is more beautiful, gain or loss?
Hence excessive love finally exacts its price.
The certain consequence of proud ownership is ruin.
To know sufficiency is to be blameless.
Knowing when to stop avoids danger.
Thereby one can be durable.


Chapter 45

The greatest accomplishment seems unfinished, yet its applications are endless.
The greatest fullness seems crude.
The greatest eloquence seems stuttering.
Activity overcomes cold.
Tranquillity overcomes heat.
Peace and quiet is the true path in the world.


Chapter 46

When Tao prevails in the world, stray horses are kept away from tilled fields.
When Tao does not prevail in the world, warhorses breed in fields grown wild.

No disaster is greater than not knowing what is sufficient.
No crime is greater than avarice.
No defect is worse than the desire to achieve.
One who knows sufficiency will always have enough.


Chapter 47

Without leaving his door one can understand the world.
Without glancing out the window one can see the Tao of heaven.
The further one travels the less one knows.
That is why the Sage does not travel and yet understands.
Does not look and yet names.
Does not act and yet completes.


Chapter 48

In pursuing knowledge, one accumulates daily.
In practicing Tao, one loses daily.
Lose and lose and lose, until one reaches Non-action.
Non-action, yet there is nothing left undone.
To win the world one must not act for gain.
If one acts for gain, one will not be able to win the world.


Chapter 49

The Sage is without a set mind.
He makes the mind of the people his own.
I am kind.
I am also kind to the unkind.
Thus kindness is attained.
I believe those who believe.
I believe also those who do not believe.
Thus faith is attained.
The Sage, when in the midst of the worldly, does it calmly and slowly, and his mind merges with the world.
The Sage treats everyone as his children.


Chapter 50

In circumstances of life and death, the chances of living are three out of ten, the chances of dying are three out of ten.
In ordinary conditions, where activity is the province of death, the chances are also three out in ten.
Why is this so?
Because of the propagative force of the life principle.
It is said that those who cultivate the life principle can travel without encountering a tiger or wild buffalo.
In battle, no weapon can penetrate their armour.
The wild buffalo's horns find nothing to gore, the tigers claws nothing to flay, and weapons find no place for their points to penetrate.
Why is this so?
Because for them, there is no province of death.


Chapter 51

Tao propagates life; Te provides fecundity; species shapes life; affinity brings to completion.
That is why all living things revere Tao and kneel down to Te.
Tao inspires reverence and Te inspires awe because they give no commands and yet nature continues on and on.
Thus Tao creates life, and Te conceives, grows, fosters, shelters, comforts, nurtures and protects it.
Producing but not possessing,
Acting but not controlling,
Growing but not slaughtering,
These are Mysterious Te.


Chapter 52

The beginning of the world may be called the Mother of the world.
Once we discover the Mother, we can know the children.
Once we know the children, we should return and cleave to the mother.
Even though the body may die, there is no danger.
Close the mouth, shut the door, and to the end of life do not strain.
Open the mouth, increase involvements, and be helpless to the end of life.
To value the lesser is enlightenment.
To cleave to the gentle is steadfastness.
Use bright intellect, but return to enlightenment.
Do not ask for trouble. This is "practicing longevity."


Chapter 53

I have cause to know that, though I possess great wisdom, to preach it while traveling on the highway is dangerous. Though the highway is smooth and straight,
The common people prefer the byways.

The ruler's court is well tended, but the fields are neglected.
The granaries are empty, but garments are gorgeous.
Men carry sharp swords, but food and drink satiate them.
There is a surplus of money and merchandise, "temptation for bandits"
Alas, it is not Tao.


Chapter 54

The well established cannot be uprooted.
The well embraced cannot be lost.
Descendants will continue ancestral sacrifices for generations without end.
Cultivate in yourself, and its Te will become real.
Cultivate in the family, and its Te will become abundant.
Cultivate in the community, and Te will have an enduring effect.
Cultivate in the nation, and Te will flourish.
Cultivate in the world, and Te will become ubiquitous.
Hence, judge a person as a person, a family as a family, a community as a community and a nation as a nation, the world as a world.
How do I know about the world?
By this.


Chapter 55

Measure the fullness of one's virtue against an infants:
Neither scorpion nor snake will attack it.
Nor does the tiger maul it.
Nor do the birds of prey clutch it.
Its bones and sinews soft,
Yet its grip is firm.
It does not know the union of male and female,
Yet its reproductive organ is fully formed:
Its essence is whole.
It can cry all day without getting hoarse;
This is total harmony.
To know harmony is constancy.
To know constancy is enlightening.
That which is beneficial to life is auspicious.
To direct ch'i by heart is steadfastness.
Things mature and then decay.
This is contra-Tao.
That which runs counter to the Tao is soon finished.


Chapter 56

One who knows does not speak.
One who speaks does not know.
Close the mouth.
Shut the door.
Blunt the sharp edge.
Untie the knot.
Harmonise with others' light.
Merge with the mundane world.
This is "mysterious assimilation."
When one acquires it,
One is neither familiar with it nor escapes it.
Neither takes advantage of it nor harms it,
Neither increases it nor cheapens it.
Therefore, it is the most precious thing in the world.


Chapter 57

Use the orthodox to govern the state;
Use the unorthodox to wage war.
Use non-involvement to win the world.
How do I know it is so?
By this;

The more restrictions and prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become.
The sharper the people's weapons are, the more national confusion increases.
The more skill artisans require, the more bizarre their products are.
The more precisely the laws are articulated, the more thieves and criminals increase.

Therefore the Sage says; I practice non-action, and the people gradually transform themselves.
I love tranquillity, and the people gradually become orthodox by themselves.
I do not interfere, and the people gradually become wealthy by themselves.
I am without desires, and the people gradually return to simplicity.


Chapter 58

If the government is muffled and subdued, the people will be simple and sincere.
If the government is strict and exacting, the people will be lax and indifferent.

Good fortune depends on bad fortune, bad fortune lurks behind good fortune.
Who know where this process will end?

If there is no orthodoxy, the orthodox will return to the unorthodox.
Good becomes perverse.
Mankind's state of confusion has continued for a long time.

That is why the Sage squares up but doesn't cut, is sharp but not injurious, is straightforward but not unrestrained, and is bright but doesn't dazzle.


Chapter 59

In governing people and in serving heaven, nothing compares with frugality.
Frugality is "to acquire the habit early."
"To acquire the habit early" stresses accumulating Te.
There is nothing which cannot be overcome, by stressing the accumulation of Te.
If there is nothing which cannot be overcome,
Then one's limits are unfathomable.
If one's limits are unfathomable, one can rule a state.
If one can arrive at the Mother of the State, one can endure.
This is called "deeply rooted and firmly seated."
It is the Tao of longevity and lasting vision.


Chapter 60

Ruling a large country is like cooking a small fish.
When the world is ruled by Tao, spirits do not haunt.
It is not that Spirits are no longer numinous, but that their powers do not harm men.
It is not just that their powers do not harm men, the Sage also does not harm men.
If neither side harms the other, Te spreads throughout.


Chapter 61

A great nation receives all that flows into it.
It the place of intercourse with world, the Feminine of the world.
The feminine always conquers the masculine through tranquillity.
Tranquillity is the lower position.
Hence, if a large country take a position under a small country, it can win over the small country.
If a small country takes a position under a large country, it will win over the large country.
In the first case the large country purposely takes the lower position;
In the other case the small country simply remains in the lower position.
A large country wants no more than to protect its people and provide the environment for growth.
A small country wants no more than to enter into the service of a patron.
Thus, each party gets its wish.
It is fitting that the greater take the lower position.


Chapter 62

Tao is the enigma of all creation.
It is a treasure for the good man, a shelter for the bad.
Words of worth can create a city;
Noble deeds can elevate a man.
Even though a man is not good, how can he be abandoned?
A jade disc and a coach and four are presented to the emperor at his enthronement ceremony and to the Three Ministers at their installation, but this cannot compare with riding toward the Tao.
Those ancients who prized Tao would instead have said, "Seek and you will find, thus you will be free from guilt."
Hence Tao is valued by the world.


Chapter 63

Act through Non-action.
Do without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Great or small, many or few, repay injury with kindness.
Plan to tackle the difficult when it is easy.
Undertake the great while it is small.
Begin the most difficult task in the world while it is still easy.
Begin the greatest task in the world while it is still small.
That is how the Sage becomes great without striving.
One who makes promises easily is inevitably unreliable.
One who thinks everything is easy eventually finds everything difficult.
That is why the Sage alone regards everything as difficult and in the end finds no difficulty at all.


Chapter 64

When at peace, control is easy.
When there are no omens, planning is easy.
The brittle shatters easily.
The minuscule disperses easily.
Act before it is gone.
Establish order before confusion sets in in.
A tree that takes several armspans to circle grew from a tiny sprout.
A tower nine stories high began from a mound of earth.
A journey of a thousand li starts with a step. T
o act consciously is to fail.
To clutch at is to lose.

That is why the Sage does nothing and therefore fails at nothing,
Clutches at nothing and therefore loses nothing.
The way people commonly handle affairs often leads to failure just at the point of success.
Be as cautious throughout as at the beginning, and there will be no failures.
That is why the Sage desires Non-desire.
He does not value rare things.
He studies the unfathomable.
He avoids the mistakes of ordinary people and assists all things to fulfil their natures, not daring to contrive any other action.


Chapter 65

The ancients who were most adept at ruling did not try to enlighten the people, but instead gradually made them stupid. The people are difficult to govern because they are clever.
Hence, the nation's malefactor is one who uses cleverness to govern.
While the nation's benefactor is one who does not use cleverness to govern.
To understand both of these is also to harmonise with an eternal pattern.
To understand and harmonise with that pattern is called Profound Te.
Profound Te is so deep, so far-reaching.
It causes things to return and eventually reach Great Confluence.


Chapter 66

The river and sea rule the hundred valleys by making the lower position an asset.
Hence, they are kings of the hundred valleys.
One must speak as if under them;
That is how the Sage remains over the people without oppressing them.
That is how he remains in front without blocking them.
The whole world is happy to draw near him and does not tire of him.
Because he does not compete, absolutely no-one can compete with him.


Chapter 67

All the world considers my Tao great and unrelated to anything else.
Precisely because it is so great it is "unrelated to anything else."
If it were related to other things it would have grown small a long time ago.
I have three treasures which I possess and maintain securely.
The first is parental love.
The second is frugality.
The third is not daring to be first.
Possessing parental love, one can be courageous.
Possessing frugality, one can be generous.
Not daring to be first, one can lead all "instruments".
Today, many people reject parental love but desire courage.
They reject frugality but desire generosity.
And they reject following but desire to be first.
This is to court death. Influenced by parental love, the offence will win wars, and the defence will be firm.
Through the influence of parental love, heaven will provide succour and protection.


Chapter 68

Good men are not aggressive.
A good fighter does not lose his temper.
Those good at defeating the enemy do not engage them directly.
One who is good at using men places himself below them.
This is the Te of non-contention or strength from the ability to use people.
It is in accord with most ancient heaven.


Chapter 69

Military tacticians have a saying:
"I dare not be the aggressor, but rather the defender.
I dare not advance an inch, but would rather retreat a foot."
This is to move without moving,
To raise one's fists without showing them,
To lead the enemy on but against no adversary,
To wield a weapon but not clash with the enemy's.
No disaster is greater than taking the enemy lightly.
If I take the enemy lightly, I am on the verge of losing my treasures.
Hence, when opposing troops resist each other, the one stung by grief will be the victor.


Chapter 70

My words are very easy to understand and very easy to practice.
Yet no-one in the world can understand them;
No-one can practice them.
My words have their sources, my deeds their precedents.
If people do not understand that, they do not understand me.
The fewer who know me, the more valuable I am.
That is why the Sage wears course clothes while carrying jade in his bosom.


Chapter 71

To know yet appear not knowing is best.
To not know yet appear knowing is sickness.
Whoever is sick of sickness will not be sick.
The Sage is never sick, because he is sick of sickness.
Thereby he is never sick.


Chapter 72

If people do not fear the awesome, something more awful is imminent.
But do not be disrespectful of their dwellings.
If not oppressed, they will not press.
That is why the Sage knows himself but does not reveal himself.
He has self-respect, but does not seek recognition.
Hence, he rejects one and takes the other.


Chapter 73

To have the courage to dare is to die.
To have the courage to dare not is to live.
Heaven abominates in both these cases, whether harmful or beneficial.
Who knows why?
Even the Sage feels it is difficult.
The Tao of heaven does not contend, yet it easily wins;
It does not speak, yet gets a good response;
It comes without being called;
It is calm, yet everything is minutely planned.
The web of heaven is so vast, so vast.
Though its mesh is wide, it loses nothing.


Chapter 74

If the people do not fear death, it is useless to threaten them with the spectre of death.
If the people have a normal fear of death, and some do something unorthodox,
Then I would catch them and put them to death.
Who would dare break the law?
There is always an executioner in charge of killing.
If someone tries to do the killing for the executioner, it is called trying to chop wood for the Great Carpenter.
Few who substitute for the Great Carpenter do not injure their own limbs.


Chapter 75

If the people starve, it is because those above them tax their livelihood too heavily.
That is why they starve.
If the people are unruly,
It is because those above them are too Active.
That is why they are unruly.
If the people take death lightly, it is because they seek life's bounty.
That is why they take death lightly.
Those who live life without striving are exemplars of valuing life.


Chapter 76

When a person is born he is soft and supple.
When he dies he is stiff and hard.
All things, including plants are soft and tender at birth.
At death they are withered and dry.
Hence the stiff and the hard are the closest to death; the soft and the supple are closest to life.

That is why a rigidly strong army is not victorious.
The sturdy tree gets cut down.
Rigidity and strength are inferior;
Suppleness and softness are superior.


Chapter 77

The Tao of heaven is like drawing a bow:
For high things, lower: for low things, raise;
If excessive, reduce; if insufficient, supplement.
The Tao of heaven reduces the excessive and supplements the insufficient.
The way of man is not so.
It takes from the insufficient and adds to the excessive.
Who can have enough surplus to supplement the world?
Only those with Tao.
That is why the Sage acts but does not demand subservience; is deserving of merit yet claims no credit.
He has no desire to show his worth.


Chapter 78

Nothing in the world is softer and more supple than water.
Yet when attacking the hard and the strong nothing can surpass it.
The supple overcomes the hard.
The soft overcomes the strong.
None in the world do not know this.
Yet none can practice it.
That is why the Sage says to accept the filth of a nation is to be the lord of the society.
To accept the disasters of a nation is to be is to be the ruler of the world.
Words of truth seem contradictory.


Chapter 79

Compromising with great hatred inevitably leads to more hatred.
How can this be considered good?
That is why the Sage holds the left half of the tally-stick yet does not demand others measure up.
To have Te is to hold the other half of the tally-stick.
To be without Te is to lose the tally-stick.
The Tao of heaven is not clannish.
It always dwell with the good man.


Chapter 80

In small country of few people, even if there are hundreds of weapons, they are unnecessary.
Cause the people to respect death and they will not migrate.
Though there are ships and vehicles, no-one boards them.
Though there are armour and weapons, no-one parades with them.
Let men return to knotting strings and using them.
Food will be sweet.
Clothes will be beautiful.
Homes will be comfortable.
Customs will delight.
Although neighbouring states will see each other and hear the other's chickens and dogs,
the citizens of each will age and die establishing contact with the other.


Chapter 81

Words of truth are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
The good do not argue;
Those who are argue are not good.
The wise are not extensively learned;
The extensively learned are not wise.
The Sage is not mean.
Simply doing things for others he feels the greater fulfilment.
Simply giving to others he feels he has gained more.
The Tao of heaven benefits and does not harm.
The Tao of the Sage is to accomplish without competing.




Translated by John WorldPeace


The infinity that can be conceived is not the
everlasting Infinity.
The infinity that can be described is not the
perpetual Infinity.

The inconceivable indescribable is the essence
of the all encompassing Infinite.
Conceiving and describing applies only to the
manifestations of Infinity.

Free from distinctions, experience the oneness of
Focus on distinctions and see only the
of Infinity.

Yet distinction and non-distinction are one within

Potential within potential is
the essence of Infinity.



Only when one distinguishes beauty
does one create the unattractive.
Only when one distinguishes good
does one create evil.

Also by distinction,
Tangible and intangible create each other,
Difficult and easy define each other,
Long and short measure each other,
High and low determine each other,
Sound and silence echo each other,
Beginning and end follow each other.

Therefore, the sage goes about living in the
oneness of
all things,
teaching without speaking,
accepting and dismissing all things with
creating without attachment,
working without credit.
Acts and deeds are completed and forgotten.

Because the sage is at one with Infinity,
she is immortal.



Exalting people creates the desire in others
to be exalted and therefore creates tension.

Overvaluing goods creates the desire for
and therefore creates the temptation to

When people do not distinguish things as valuable,
they remain focused on the oneness of all
and do not become confused in the material

Therefore, harmonious leaders empty the people's
but nourish their bodies.
They undermine desires
and improve endurance.

They keep the people focused on their oneness with
and free them from attachments to material

They redirect the energies of those
who would manipulate others.

If you remember your oneness with Infinity,
and flow with life by refusing to distinguish
good and bad,
you will flow in the peace and harmony
that is the essence of Infinity.



Infinity is an empty vessel enveloping all
yet it can never be filled.

It is the potential of all things tangible and

It blunts the sharp and hones the blunt,
unravels knots and binds all things,
dulls the glare and shines the mundane,
manifests the dust and clears the air.

It is the essence of all things.
No one can comprehend its origin.

It is older than the concept of God.



Heaven and earth are indifferent.
All creatures are considered straw dogs;
not distinguished, not judged.

The sage is indifferent.
All people are one;
not distinguished, not judged.

Infinity is like a bellows,
empty yet encompassing the potential
of all things.

In time all potentials manifest.

Words are straw in the wind.
The more one talks, the less one says.

Keep focused on Infinity.
Remain centered in the oneness of
all things.



The manifestations of Infinity never cease

Infinity is the primal creator, the oneness of male
and female.

Infinity is the gate though which heaven
and earth manifested.

It is invisible to the senses,
yet totally permeates all things.

It is inexhaustible and eternally available
for any purpose.



Heaven and earth will pass away
but Infinity endures forever.

It had no beginning and so It can never end.
It is the inexhaustible essence of all things.

Because the sage remains behind
in her oneness with all things,
she anticipates all manifestations.

Being at one with Infinity,
she is indifferent.

Because she does not distinguish herself from
other beings,
she is completely fulfilled.



Water is like Infinity,
it gives itself to all things
without distinction or judgment
and settles into the lowest places
without deliberation.

In dwelling, live in harmony with the land.
In meditation, remember your oneness with the
In dealing with others, do not judge.
In communicating, relate the truth.
In governing, be fair.
In daily life, be in harmony with all things
and at peace with all people.
In action, be mindful that there is a time
and a season for all things.

Avoid judging and its legacy contention
and flow in the peace and harmony
of the oneness of humanity.



Fill anything to the brim and the contents will spill
Hone a sharpened blade and it will become blunt.
Accumulate great wealth, but be aware that you
cannot keep it.

When a task is complete, move on.

Change is the harmony of Infinity.



Manifesting body, mind and spirit,
can you stay centered in the oneness of

Fully manifesting and remaining flexible,
can you experience all manifestations
as a newborn baby?

Can you maintain the Infinite vision of oneness
by ignoring distinctions.

Remaining centered in oneness and leading others,
can you avoid manifesting arrogance?

Entering and exiting the gates of manifestations,
can you harmonize with Infinity?

Realizing your oneness with Infinity,
can you flow in harmony with It
by indifferently allowing things to come and

Can you create and sustain things,
and yet remain unattached to them?

Can you work in harmony with all things,
without desiring acknowledgment for your

Exemplifying oneness,
flowing in peace and harmony,
not distinguishing, not judging,
is the nature of Infinity.




Thirty spokes converge on the wheel's hub.
But the center hole which receives the axle
makes it useful.

Clay is shaped into a pot.
But the inner space which receives whatever
one puts into it makes it useful.

Wood is cut and joined to build a house.
But the windows and doors which allow
things to enter and leave make it

The potential utility resides in the tangible.
But true usefulness is a manifestation of
the intangible.



The oneness of the five colors blind the eyes.
The oneness of the five tones deafens the ears.
The oneness of the five flavors dull the tongue.

Racing ahead of change
and pursuing the illusion of reality
promotes confusion.

Therefore, the sage is in harmony with what she is
and does not distinguish what she sees.

She chooses oneness and distinguishes nothing.



Accept disgrace indifferently.
Acknowledge misfortune as one of the human

What does it mean to "accept disgrace
Honor and disgrace are one in the Infinite.
Only by making distinctions does one
manifest disgrace.
Refusing to make distinctions
merges honor and disgrace into the
oneness of circumstances
which creates harmony.

What is meant by "acknowledging misfortune
as one of the human conditions"?

The body is a manifestation of Infinity
and the body is subject to being
affected by the other manifestations
of Infinity.
Misfortune is one of those other

However, as with disgrace,
refusing to distinguish misfortune and
creates indifference which keeps one
on the oneness of Infinity
and creates peace in the self.

Stay centered in
your oneness with Infinity
and you can be entrusted with leadership.

See the world as yourself
and you will care for all things.



Look and see the manifestations of the Infinite
but not its essence.

Listen and hear the manifestations of the Infinite
but not its essence.

Reach out and touch the manifestations of the
but not its essence.

These three are one in their inability to relate
the essence of Infinity.

Above it is not light.
Below it is not dark.
It is neither light nor dark.

Infinity is the potential manifestation of all
and the essence into which all
Yet it is inconceivable and indescribable;
intangible but the essence of all

You cannot confront what has no head
and you cannot follow what has no tail.

Remember your oneness,
flow in the peace and harmony of Infinity,
live in the now, changing and flowing with

There was no beginning.
This is the mystery of Infinity.



Those who live in oneness manifest the Infinite
in simple ways.

Their awareness is the awareness of Infinity.
Their knowing cannot be described but only
All that can be described is their acts and their
appearance and the perception of them.

They are;
alert when crossing unfamiliar space,
cautious in hostile lands,
humble as a guest,
indifferently transforming as melting ice,
possessing the infinite potential of
an unremarkable piece of uncarved
mysterious as an unexplored valley,
perplexing as muddy water.

Can you see the calm in turbulent waters;
the clarity in murky water?

Can you allow the tides of Infinite change
to move you from stillness to motion
and action to inaction;
experiencing but not contemplating the

Those who live in oneness do not seek
fullness because at every moment they
are aware of their infinite fullness and
the infinite pregnancy of all things.

They are aware of their infinite potential
within which the limitations of fullness



Contemplate Infinity and become peaceful as the
mind becomes lost.

The self perceives the never ending
manifestations of
the potential of Infinity as well as the
of all those manifestations.

Within Infinity all things manifest
and disintegrate.

Disintegration is a returning to the Infinite
Disintegration is the destiny of all
Manifesting is the nature of Infinity.
Change is the Infinite constant.

Acknowledging change is the key to understanding
the harmony of never ending change.

Acknowledging change within the Infinite potential
of which every creature is a manifestation,
unique, yet bound to all things in
gives one a perspective regarding life.

Possessing perspective, one becomes impartial,
openhearted, tolerant, compassionate
and indifferent to judging others.
These are foundations of harmony.

The manifestation of the body disintegrates
but Infinity can never disintegrate into

There is nothing to fear.



The best leaders are in harmony with their
The next best are those who are respected.
Then comes those who are feared.
The worst are those who are despised.

If one perceives others as untrustworthy,
then that will be the experience that
one acknowledges.
The selective acknowledgment of
verifies one's perception of the
of others.

When the leaders are in harmony with their
few laws are necessary
and all tasks are accomplished with ease.

The followers, not perceiving the
of leadership, marvel at the
of harmony and experience a sense of
self worth.



When the oneness of Infinity is forgotten,
judgment appears and people are
distinguished as good and righteous.

When the illusion of knowledge and understanding
the physical reality has been confused with

When there is no peace and harmony within the
a facade of devotion and obedience is

When a nation manifests great change,
patriots step forward
to attempt to resurrect the past.



Quit distinguishing the wise and their wisdom,
the saints and their holiness,
and the people will be a hundred times better

Quit distinguishing morality, righteousness and
and humanity will stay centered in its

Abandon the pursuit of commercial profit
and the number of thieves and robbers will be
greatly reduced.

These are just three impediments to peace and
and abandoning them is not enough.

Peace and harmony reside in the simplicity
of an uncarved piece of wood.

Quit distinguishing the self and reside in oneness.
Curb your desires and aspirations
and experience the peace and harmony of



Give up the pursuit of knowledge and live in peace
and harmony.

Without knowledge there is no difference
between good and evil.

Is it necessary to learn to fear what others
perceive should be feared? Nonsense!

Other people are excited, joyous and festive
as if enjoying a holiday.
I alone am indifferent, without emotion
or expression; like a baby
before it has learned to smile.

Others have things they feel they need.
I alone own nothing.

I am like a fool unfettered by knowledge.
Other people are intelligent. I alone am ignorant.
Others are shrewd and cunning.
I alone am untouched and moronic.

I aimlessly drift on the great tides of the endless
at the mercy of the indifferent winds.
Others have direction, goals and purposes.
I alone flow within the harmony of Infinity.

I am different from others.
I reside in the peace and harmony of
the Infinite oneness of all things.




To attain peace and harmony,
stay focused on the oneness of Infinity.

Infinity is the intangible potential of all things;
intangible yet manifesting all images,
intangible yet manifesting all substance.

Within the Infinite void resides the
Infinite potential of all things.
All tangible things are a manifestation of the
Infinite essence.

From the present, forever into the past,
forever into the future,
Infinity is the homogenous essence.
The potential of all things forever manifest
and forever disintegrate within the Infinite.

How can I know the manifestations of Infinity?
Because I am at one with Infinity.



If you accept all things by refusing to distinguish
good and bad,
you overcome the confusion of the physical
and live in harmony with the Infinite

If you bend as you are impacted by manifestations,
your path of peace and harmony
will remain straight and true.

If you empty your mind of knowledge,
you will fill with the experience
of oneness with the Infinite.

All manifestations constantly disintegrate and
As your body wears out, your spirit is

Possess little in goods and thoughts and
maintain your vision of oneness with

Possess much and become lost in the confusion
that the physical reality is the true reality.

Therefore, remain focused on the oneness of
and become a beacon for all beings.

Do not distinguish the self
and manifest the oneness of Infinity for all
to see.

Do not assert the self and others will follow.

Do not bolster the self and other will give their

Do not allow the self to brag
and others will bestow their praise.

Do not allow the self to be quarrelsome
and experience peace with all beings.

Is not it true that if you accept all things
by refusing to distinguish good and bad,
you overcome the confusion of the physical
reality and live in harmony with
the Infinite manifestations?

Flow with the peace and harmony of the oneness
of Infinity and experience immortality.



To seldom speak is the essence of simplicity.

The winds do not last all morning.
The rain does not last all day.
The earth that manifests the winds and the rain
is itself a manifestation of change.

All things change, nothing is eternal but change.
All the manifestations of humanity are fleeting
as is the entire physical universe.

Keep your focus on the oneness of Infinity,
manifesting the potential of all things
and disintegrating all the manifestations.
Flow in the peace and harmony of eternal

Focus on goodness and virtue and you lose
sight of the oneness of all people.
Focus on failure and your life becomes failure.
Focus on peace and harmony, the essence of
Infinity, and experience peace and harmony.

Embrace change and live in peace.
Embrace the experience of the moment,
refuse to distinguish good and bad,
happy and sad, difficult and easy.

What you distinguish comes to you for a time.
When it comes embrace it
and when it leaves let it go.
This is living within the oneness of the Infinite.
This is the key to peace and harmony.



Stand on your toes and you will not maintain your
Run and you will have to rest.

Keep a harmonious pace
and you can circumnavigate the earth.

Draw attention to yourself and others may
consider you a fool.
Become self-righteous and others will avoid you.
Boasting impresses no one.
Brag and you may be put to the test.

Within the oneness of Infinity,
all these are delusions of the physical
They do not bring peace and harmony.
Be at one with Infinity and keep these in
They are transient excesses in a transient



Before the physical universe existed,
the potential of all things
permeated time and space.
It was silent and empty, loud and pregnant.
Solitary in its oneness, crowded in its potential,
static and dynamic, hot and cold, light and

The potential of all things,
for lack of another name,
I call it Infinity.

It permeates all things and non-things.
It manifests realities and disintegrates those
All things are birthed from it
and all things return to it.

Infinity is marvelous.
The physical universe is marvelous.
The earth is marvelous.
Human beings are marvelous.

These are the four realities.

Human beings are a manifestation of the
the earth, a manifestation of the physical
the physical universe, a manifestation of
Infinity, the potential of all things.



Infinity is the source of all physical
The Infinite stillness is the creator of the

The sage travels all day over the land and sea
but does not lose sight of Infinity.
Though the manifestations of the earth are
wondrous and beautiful,
she remains indifferent because she remains
in the Infinite oneness.

The leader of multitudes cannot afford to
lose her perspective.

Indulging in the physical manifestations
results in a loss of focus on the
To be caught up in distinguishing things,
narrows the leader's perspective
to that of her followers.



A proficient traveler leaves no evidence of his
A proficient speaker is impeccable in his
A proficient accountant needs no tally sheet.
A functional door has no lock
but can only opened by the owner.
A perfect binding has no knots
yet only the binder can loosen it.

The sage is the light of all human beings
and rejects no one.
She efficiently uses all things
and discards nothing.
This is called manifesting Infinity.

What is a sage but a guide to peace and harmony?
What is a materialistic traveler but the
sage's focus?

For the student not to value the teacher
or the teacher not to love the student
or for the followers not to acknowledge the
or the leader not to care for the
is the cause of great confusion.

This is a key to peace and harmony,
teachers and leaders remind others of who
they are
and their oneness with Infinity.



Integrate the male and the female
and travel the peaceful path of oneness.
Be at one with Infinity.
Being at one with Infinity,
do not become confused
in distinctions of male and female.
Experience the oneness
as an undistinguishing child.

See the white and the black as one.
Be a guiding light to the world.
As a guiding light to the world,
standing firm in the truth of oneness,
mirror Infinity for all to see.

Remember that honor and humility are one.
Be a vessel of Infinity.
As a vessel of Infinity,
be a resource to all beings.
Become as a piece of uncarved wood;
available for any purpose.

When a piece of wood is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage flows in oneness, he becomes useful
as king.
Therefore, the sage is careful in using what he
but avoiding kingship.



Do you think you can control the world?
I do not believe it can be done.

The world is a manifestation of change
and cannot be controlled.

If you try to control it, you will end up deceiving
If you treat it like an object, it will overwhelm

The world is a manifestation of change;
sometimes ahead, sometimes behind,
sometimes dynamic, sometimes static,
sometimes vigorous, sometimes feeble,
sometimes manifesting, sometimes

Therefore, refuse to distinguish excesses and
See only oneness.
Flow with Infinity
and exist in peace and harmony.



Whenever you have an opportunity to advise a
regarding Infinity, advise her not to use
to try to gain control of the world.


Because force attracts resistance
and the greater the force
the greater the resistance.

Briars grow where armies have been
and hard times are the legacy of a great war.

Conclude hostilities as soon as possible
and do not continue to use excessive force
after victory.

Fulfill your purpose but never glory in inhumane
Fulfill your purpose but never boast of
Fulfill your purpose but never take pride in
Fulfill your purpose but avoid violence.
Fulfill your purpose by flowing within
the oneness of Infinity.

The use of force dissipates life.
Force is not the way of peace and harmony.
That which goes against peace and harmony
is short lived.




Weapons of war are instruments of death.
All people fear them.
Therefore, all men of peace avoid them.

The sage prefers Infinity.
The man of war prefers the earth.

Weapons are instruments of death
and the tools of a warrior.
The sage avoids them at all cost;
and sometimes prefers death rather
than touching them.

Peace and harmony are the sage's reality.
She considers victory to be the bastard
child of war.

If you revel in victory,
then you sanction war and the killing of
human beings.
If you accept killing,
you have forgotten your oneness with all

In time of celebration the left is the dominant
In times of grief the right.
During wartime the general always stands on the
and the king on the right.

If even one person is killed in war,
it is cause for great grief and mourning.
Victory is simply the maker of widows and orphans.



Infinity can never be defined in words.
Smaller than an atom, greater than forever,
it can never be comprehended.

If kings would stay centered in the Infinite,
they would not try to control the

Heaven and earth would be seen as a manifestation
of the oneness of Infinity,
as harmonious as dew accumulating on the

The people would recognize Infinity manifesting
in their king and all things would be
in harmony.

When the whole is distinguished into parts,
and parts into more parts
and more parts into even more parts
a myriad names are required.

There are already too many distinctions and

The naming of things focuses on the manifestations
of Infinity
and too much distinguishing can result in one
becoming confused in the manifestations and
oblivious to
the oneness of all things.

Refuse to distinguish the components of the whole.
See the oneness of Infinity,
and see the earth as a manifestation
disintegrating back into Infinity.



Knowing others is impossible.
Knowing one's self requires only a remembering
of one's unity with all things.

Conquering others requires force.
Conquering one's self requires letting go.

He who understands his oneness with Infinity
resides in peace.

Living one day at a time is the essence of harmony.
One who lives in harmony endures.

Passing through death's door is immortality.



Infinity permeates everything in every direction;
to the left as well as to the right.
It is the potential of all things,
and the manifestation of all things.
Its total essence resides in all things.

It has no purpose.
It is complete in its indifference.
It manifests and disintegrates all things forever.

It sustains all things,
yet it is the god of no thing.
It has no purpose.
It is Infinitely insignificant.

All manifestations after a time disintegrate back
into It,
yet It is the god of no thing.

It permeates everything
and so there is nothing outside its realm.

It cannot appear great
because it is at one with everything.



All beings are drawn to those who stay centered
in their oneness with Infinity
because they flow in peace and

The manifestations of music and delicious food
catch the attention of those passing by.
But the essence of Infinity goes unnoticed.

It makes no sound and has no flavor
and yet It is the inexhaustible source
of the manifestations of all sounds
and all flavors.



All manifestations that expand will eventually
All manifestations that strengthen will eventually
All manifestations that are lifted up will
eventually be
cast down.
Nothing can be received unless it is given.
This is called distinguishing the oneness of

Soft and weak forever disintegrate the hard and
Hard and strong forever disintegrate the soft and
This is called the nature of Infinity.

Fish are at one with water;
undistinguished by Infinity.

A nation and its weapons
cannot be distinguished.



Infinity is the essence of all things.
Without intention, It manifests all things.

If leaders and kings
remain focused on the oneness of Infinity,
nations will flow in peace and harmony.

If leaders and kings are compelled to act,
they should focus on Infinity
and refuse to manifest desire.

If there is no desire for action,
the world would flow in the peace and harmony
of the oneness of Infinity.



A good person is not focused on her goodness
because she is centered in oneness.
A confused person is focused on goodness
and consequently has difficulty obtaining it.

A person centered in oneness
flows with life and appears to do nothing;
yet because she is in harmony
with the oneness of Infinity
she leaves nothing undone.

A confused person is focused on achievements
and consequently never truly achieves

A caring person is caring all the time
and therefore leaves nothing unnurtured.
When the righteous person does something,
he leaves things in turmoil.
When a person of great discipline does something
and others do not follow,
he attempts to force them to conform to his
perception of reality.

When the oneness of humanity is forgotten,
a distinction is made between good and evil.
Focusing on goodness leads one down the
path of self-righteousness which
separates a person from others.
Self-righteousness leads to justice
and since justice is as arbitrary as
and righteousness, it degenerates into
a facade of justice or ritual.
Ritual is the backbone of religion
and religion is the harbinger of
and judgment is the backbone of
Therefore, a centered person dwells upon the
oneness of Infinity and not on
distinguishing which leads to confusion;
on the plant and not on the flower.

A centered person embraces oneness
and rejects distinctions.



All things are at one with Infinity.

When humanity is centered in this oneness:

the sky remains clear and beautiful,
the earth remains pure and sustains life,
the spirit of humanity is in harmony,
the valley is the source of abundance,
all creatures reproduce, regenerate and
replenish the earth,
leaders and kings are in harmony
and nations are at peace.

When humanity focuses on the manifestations of
distinguishes and judges all things
and thereby forgets the oneness of Infinity:

the sky becomes cloudy with pollution,
the earth becomes a cesspool
unable to easily neutralize the many
the spirit of humanity becomes confused
and accepts conflict as the nature of
the valley no longer produces abundance
and what it does produce is tainted.
Leaders and kings take their nations to war
in order to control the untainted
creatures no longer reproduce, species die
and parts of the earth, unattended by
the myriad creatures, no longer
regenerate or replenish themselves,
the people of all nations live in conflict,
fear, hunger and depression.

Therefore, never forget that oneness is the
essence of harmony; the simple is the way of

Leaders and kings consider themselves, alone,
and misunderstood when they forget their
oneness with Infinity.

In confusion, they inevitably lead their nations to

In order to maintain peace and harmony in the land,
they must flow in the peace and harmony
of the oneness of all things.

Too much success is a sign that one has
begun to focus on manifestations and
not on Infinity, the essence of all

Do not distinguish precious jade.
Remain centered in the peace and harmony
of the oneness of all things.



Manifesting and disintegrating is the
activity of Infinity.

Yielding to manifestations, yielding to
is the nature of peace and harmony.

Things are manifested from the tangible.
The tangible is manifested from the intangible.




When a person seeking peace and harmony
discovers the oneness of Infinity,
she embraces it completely.
When the average person
remembers the oneness of Infinity,
he has a hard time maintaining it.
When a confused person is
confronted with the oneness of Infinity,
he laughs loudly.
If he did not laugh, his confusion would
not be so obvious.

The oneness of Infinity is beyond distinctions
and is always present.
That is why things seem confusing to those who
acknowledge distinctions.

The light merges into darkness.
Forward looks similar to backward.
The easy path manifests difficulty.
Virtue seems hollow.
Purity becomes an illusion.
The static is dynamic.
Strength degenerates into weakness.
Truth has no foundation.

The great square has no corners.
A circle is a series of points.
Great music seems like the wind.
Images have no shape.

The oneness of Infinity permeates all things
and merges them together.
Infinity manifests all things to completion
and disintegrates all manifestations



Infinity is oneness.
Infinity is the potential of all things.
All things are one with Infinity.

Distinguishing creates the two.
All things can be distinguished as yin and yang.
The harmony of oneness is achieved by not

Human beings hate being alone, ridiculed, and
Yet this is how leaders and kings perceive
when they forget their oneness with Infinity.

One achieves peace by ignoring distinctions
and becomes confused by endless judgments
and distinctions.

Others teach;
"A violent man will reap a violent death."
I teach;
"All men will die."

This is the simplicity of Infinity.



The softest manifestation in the Infinite
overcomes the hardest manifestation in the

The intangible permeates the tangible.

Non-action incorporates action.

Teaching by living, working without laboring
is comprehended by only a few.



Your name or your self: which is more important?
Your self or your possessions: which are more
Gain or loss: which is more destructive to
peace and harmony?

He who values his name separates from the
oneness of humanity and experiences
Accumulating always creates confusion.
A man in harmony does not distinguish gain or loss.

A man who refuses to judge or make distinctions
will never become lost or confused.
He will experience peace and harmony within
the oneness of Infinity.



Great accomplishments seem incomplete
yet their legacy is long lived.

Great abundance seems insignificant
but it is inexhaustible.

A beam of light is just a wave.

Great skill seems easy.
Great eloquence seems boring.

Motion generates heat.
Stillness manifests the cold.

Peace and harmony are the nature of Infinity.



When the world remembers its oneness,
horses plow the fields.
When the world focuses on the manifestations of
distinctions, judgment and war replace peace
and harmony.

There is no greater confusion than desire;
no greater burden than discontent.
Nothing is as unfortunate as seeing one's self
as separate from others.

Peace and harmony come from the realization
that what one has is enough.



Because you are at one with Infinity,
you can experience the world without
leaving your home.
Without looking out the window
you can see the manifestations of Infinity.
The further you carry your distinctions
and your judgments,
the more confused and lost you become.

Thus the sage experiences all things
without traveling;
without looking she sees Infinity.

She works without laboring.



In the pursuit of knowledge,
at every moment something is distinguished.
In the pursuit of peace and harmony,
at every moment something is merged.
Less and less is desired
until one is flowing in peace and harmony.
When one is flowing in peace and harmony
all things are accomplished.

The world flows in peace and harmony
when all things are allowed to
manifest and to disintegrate.

Peace and harmony are sacrificed
by manipulation.



The sage has no mind of her own.
She is at one with all of humanity.

Give to those who are considered good.
Give to those who are considered bad.
This is true oneness.

Trust those who are trustworthy.
Trust those who are not trustworthy.
This is also true oneness.

The sage is peaceful and harmonious;
but to the world she seems indifferent.

The world pays attention to her and listens to her
even though she resembles a child.



From birth to death;
Three in ten are manifesting life,
Three in ten are disintegrating into death,
and three in ten are between,
manifesting life and disintegrating
into death.

Because the vast majority of humanity
distinguishes life and death.

The person who is at one with all things
can go anywhere without fear of
vicious animals or dangerous persons.

Because she is at one with the wild animals,
they perceive her as themselves.
Because she is at one with dangerous
they fear her.




The potential of Infinity manifests all things.
Manifestations are nourished by oneness,
created with matter,
affected by events.

Therefore, those who maintain peace and harmony
acknowledge Infinity and remember their
not because it is demanded,
but because it is the essence of
all things.

Infinity manifests all things,
rears them,
nurtures them,
clothes them,
feeds them,
protects them,
and comforts them.

Infinity manifests all things without possessing
shows them the way without interfering,
assists them without taking credit.

This is the nature of Infinity.



Infinity is the mother of all things.
Remembering Infinity, one knows
the nature of children.
Knowing the nature of the children
keeps one focused on the oneness of

Remembering your oneness with Infinity
and the immortality of Infinity
overcomes the fear of death.

Contemplate Infinity,
accept all things without distinctions and
and life will be peaceful and

Think about reality,
distinguish and judge all things,
and life degenerates into confusion.

Seeing differences is called distinguishing.
Remaining indifferent manifests peace and

Understanding the nature of oneness
focuses one on Infinity
and away from the confusion of
This is called abiding in the constant.



If I possess just a bit of insight,
I will remember my oneness with Infinity,
and I will only be concerned that I may
become confused with distinctions and

The path of Infinity is easy and peaceful.
But the majority of people cannot
help becoming confused in the manifestations
of the Infinite.

When rulers and leaders are confused
in pomp and circumstance,
the fields are overgrown with weeds
and the granaries are empty.

When leaders and rulers
wear extravagant clothing and manipulate the
while attending endless banquets
and accumulating wealth for
the sake of wealth,
they are confused and behave like
bandits and thieves.

This is not the path of peace and harmony.



The essence of Infinity can be ignored but never
If it is acknowledged, it cannot be lost
and it will manifest peace and harmony
from parents to children forever.

Acknowledge it in yourself
and peace and harmony will become real.
Acknowledge it in your family
and peace and harmony will grow.
Acknowledge it in your town
and peace and harmony will influence your
Acknowledge it in your nation
and peace and harmony will displace war.
Acknowledge it in the universe
and peace and harmony will be everywhere.

see others as yourself,
see other families as your family,
see other towns as your town,
see other nations as your nation,
see the universe as a manifestation
of the Infinite.

How do I know this is the way things are?
Because I am at one with Infinity.



A person who flows in peace and harmony
is like a newborn baby.
Poisonous insects and reptiles do not sting or
bite it.
Wild animals do not stalk it.
Raptors do not attack it.

Its bones are soft and it muscles are weak
yet its grip is secure.
It is not aware of male and female
yet its genitals are aroused.
Its oneness is perfect.
It screams all day without becoming hoarse.
This is the perfection of harmony.

Knowing harmony is acknowledging
the oneness of Infinity.
Knowing the oneness of Infinity is the
experience of peace.

Manipulating one's life force results in confusion.
Controlling the breath interrupts the harmony of
the body.
Increasing the natural pace of life creates
and is therefore not the path of harmony.

Anything that remains out of harmony is short



Those who know have no need to speak.
Those who speak are searching for peace and

Do not speak.
Ignore your senses.
Blunt your sharpness.
Unravel your knots.
Dim your light.
Become one with all things.
This is the primal essence.

Those who flow in the peace and harmony of Infinity
make no distinctions.
They are therefore indifferent to friend and foe,
to good and bad, to honor and infamy.
This is the natural state of human beings.



Govern a nation with fairness.
In war do the unexpected.
Lead the nation by becoming one with it.

Why do I say this?


The more rules and regulations,
the more oppressed the citizens.
The more energy used to develop weapons,
the more tension in the land.
The more clever and manipulative the leaders
the more agitated and unpredictable
the population.
The more religious morals and restrictions,
the more depression and self-hatred

when the ruler is at one with the population
she says:
I take no action and the citizens
govern themselves.
I flow in peace and harmony
and the people follow in my footsteps.
I refuse to manipulate and control
and the population becomes predictable.
I ignore religion
and tolerance replaces judgment.



When the country is ruled with indifference,
the people flow in peace and harmony.
When the country is ruled with purpose,
the people become tense and circumvent the

When distinctions are made,
good fortune is the harbinger of disaster
and adversity is the foundation of
The only known is change and the limits of
change are unpredictable.

Because everything changes, nothing seems real.
The reliable becomes questionable
and the questionable becomes familiar.

The confusion created by distinctions
is ever present.

Therefore the sage is:
upright but not judgmental,
to the point but not arrogant,
straightforward but not offensive,
is a light but not blinding.



In leading people and manifesting Infinity,
there is nothing as essential as

Refusing to distinguish the self is the crucial
of indifference.
Indifference is the product of maintaining one's
on the oneness of all things.
If you are at one with Infinity and the potential
of all things,
then you have no limitations.

If one has no limitations,
she is qualified to rule the world.

If she is at one with the world,
and consequently indifferent,
she will endure.

This is the manifestation of deep roots and a firm
a oneness with Infinity,
immortality and perfect vision.



Ruling a country is like cooking a small fish.
If you forget your oneness with the fish,
you become confused in what you are

See the world as one with Infinity
and evil will be impotent.

Not that evil does not exist,
but because it is not distinguished
people harmonize with it.

If all of humanity is in harmony with the
oneness of Infinity,
not only will evil not confuse the people,
the sage himself will not confuse the people.

They will not confuse each other
and the oneness in each will harmonize




The great nation is like the ocean,
at one with Infinity,
it receives all waters in peace and harmony.

The female integrates the male
by residing in peace and harmony.

Therefore, if the great nation does not
the small nation as separate from itself,
it will integrate the smaller nation
into its oneness.

If a small nation does not distinguish itself as
different from
from the great nation,
it will incorporate the peace and
of the great nation.

A great nation conquers by being a reservoir of
peace and harmony.
A small nation conquers by becoming one with the
great nation.

The great state is a reservoir
of peace and harmony for smaller states.
Small states seek the peace and harmony
of the great state.
Both get what they want; oneness.

It is natural for the great nation to
be receptive to the smaller nation.



Infinity is the potential of all things;
the source of all manifestations.

It is the treasure of peaceful people
and the hiding place of the bad.

Flattery can purchase advancement.
Good deeds can obtain admiration.

If a man is bad,
do not distinguish his badness.
See his oneness with humanity.

Therefore, when the king is crowned
and the state officials are sworn in,
do not send them gifts of jade dishes
or a team of four horses.
Instead flow in peace and harmony
and remind them of their oneness
with humanity.

Why does everyone flow in peace and harmony
when they acknowledge the oneness of
Because their needs are met
and their mistakes are not distinguished.

This is the gift of Infinity.



Practice flowing in peace and harmony.
Work without laboring.
Savor the tasteless.
Enlarge the small.
Multiply the few.
Mitigate bitterness with kindness.

Accomplish difficult endeavors by a series
of easy tasks.
Accomplish great deeds by persisting
in mundane acts.

When one flows in peace and harmony and
perceives the oneness in all things:
difficulties are easily overcome and
great accomplishments are
seen as a compilation of a lifetime
of insignificant days.

The sage never tries to achieve greatness.
She flows in peace and harmony and
at the end of her days comprehends her

Cursory promises are generally unreliable.
Neglecting basics fosters difficulties.
The sage considers the potential difficulty in all
and circumvents them by flowing in peace and



Peace and harmony are easy to perpetuate.
Situations are easy to deal with before
they manifest.
The brittle is easily cracked.
The small is easy to broadcast.

Flow in peace and harmony and problems do
not manifest.
Focus on the oneness of all things
and avoid confusion.

The greatest tree manifests from an
unremarkable shoot.
A multilevel building begins with
the laying of a single brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins
with a single step.

He who attempts to control his life becomes
Attempt to grasp a thing and it disappears.
The sage flows in peace and harmony
and so is not confused.
She attaches herself to nothing and
consequently her vision remains clear.

Confused people usually quit just short of
Therefore, see experiences as
the oneness of life from beginning to end
and it will be impossible to fail.

The sage is indifferent to desire:
she does not accumulate possessions,
she is unemotional regarding ideas,
she focuses people on their oneness,
she, by example, illuminates
the path to peace and harmony
but does not impose her will
or foist her views on



From time immemorial the sage has not
tried to teach oneness
but has embedded peace and harmony
in the openness of a simple life.

Why is it so hard to rule?
Because people are at one with their
Leaders who use cleverness
are confronted with more cleverness.
Cleverness only manifests confusion.

Those who flow in the peace and harmony of
lead without attempting cleverness
and are a blessing to everyone.

These too are distinctions,
cleverness and non-action.

Realizing these two are distinctions
focuses one on the oneness of Infinity
and away from confusion.

Staying centered in the oneness that permeates
manifests peace and harmony.



Why are the great oceans the rulers of all rivers?
Because they occupy a lower space.

Therefore, their humility lifts them up.

If the sage is to manifest peace
she must be humble in her speech.

If she is to lead others
she must follow them in harmony.

When the sage leads,
the people do not feel enslaved.
When she stands above them,
they feel at one with her.
Because she is in harmony with others,
they support her and never
consider her a burden.

She is not confused.
Therefore, she does not contend with others
and they do not contend with her.



Everyone says that Infinity is great
but beyond comprehension because it is
Since it is intangible, it seems non-existent.
However, if it were not intangible it would
have disintegrated before the world was

Three things create peace and harmony.
The first is a lack of distinctions.
The second is simplicity.
The third is oneness.

With a lack of distinction, I can accept all things.
With simplicity, I do not become confused with
With oneness, I can be at peace and in harmony
with all things.

In the world people always
make distinctions between good and bad
and become confused in judgment;
desire possessions
and become confused in wealth;
forget their oneness
and live in tension and conflict.

Refuse to make distinctions and refuse to pass
and war and defense succumb to peace and



A warrior in harmony is not contemptuous of life.
A prize fighter in harmony is not angry.
A winner in harmony understands the
oneness of winning and losing.
An employer in harmony is at one with
his employees.

This is called non-distinction and indifference.
It is known as being at peace and in harmony
with others.
It is the manifestation of the ultimate peace
and harmony of Infinity.



There is a saying among generals,
It is better not to begin the battle
but to wait for the other side to begin.
It is better to retreat a foot
rather than advance an inch.

This is called advancing
while appearing to retreat,
preparing to fight
by concealing your power,
winning the battle
without engaging the enemy,
and brandishing non-existent weapons.

There is nothing worse than distinguishing others
as enemies.
By distinguishing others as enemies,
I lose sight of my oneness
and become confused in conflict and
So when war seems imminent,
the victor refuses to embrace killing.



My words are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice,
but unfortunately few people understand
them or try to live by them.

My thoughts have always existed,
but since people are confused,
they do not embrace them.
Because people do not understand me,
they are confused in conflict and war
rather than living in peace and harmony.

Those that acknowledge their
oneness with Infinity are few.
Those that call me crazy
are applauded by others that are

Therefore, the sage is modest in her apparel,
but carries the priceless jewel
of peace and harmony in
her heart.




Acknowledging oneness manifests peace.
Acknowledging distinctions manifests confusion.

If one is in harmony with disharmony,
then one is at peace.
The sage is at peace because she is
not confused with the distinctions of
harmony and disharmony.

The sage is at one with Infinity.



When people are not in awe of the Infinite,
they are overwhelmed by confusion.

Do not violate another's space.
Do not interfere with another's livelihood.

If you do not violate their space
or interfere with their livelihood,
they will not separate
from you.

The sage acknowledges herself but
does not distinguish herself
from others.

She lives her reality
but does not try to foist it on others.

She makes her choices
but is indifferent and unattached
and therefore lives in peace and



A distinguishing man in his righteousness
is prepared to kill or be killed in
the name of righteousness.
A non-distinguishing woman is indifferent
and refuses to even consider killing.
Both types of people occupy the world forever.
They are one
and undistinguished by Infinity.

Infinity does not contend
but through oneness overcomes all things.
It does not speak but is the
answer to all questions.
It does not summons
but all things are attracted to it.
It makes no plans and has no goals
but all things are manifested by it.

The net of Infinity is all encompassing.
The mesh is large
yet nothing slips through.



When people are at one with Infinity,
they have no fear of death
and so they are indifferent to threats.

When people are confused
with the distinction of life and death,
they fear death.

If death is the penalty for breaking the law,
the vast majority will be law abiding.

There are always official executioners
and they are at one with killing.

If you try to take their place,
it is the same as trying to cut wood
in place of the master carpenter.

If you try to take the master carpenter's place,
you will only succeed in cutting
your hands.



When the people of a nation are starving
and without the basic necessities,
it is because taxes are excessive.

When the people of a nation are rebellious,
it is because the laws are out of
harmony with the population.

When the leaders of a nation are oppressive
in their confusion,
the people remember their oneness
and become indifferent to death.

Those who remember the oneness of Infinity
are indifferent to life and death
and consequently live in peace
and harmony.



The human body is born soft and supple;
after death it is hard and stiff.
Plants and trees are pliant and limber
when they sprout,
after death they are inflexible and

Therefore, hard and inflexible
are characteristics of death.
Pliant and flexible
are characteristics of life.

Thus, an army that is inflexible will be conquered
and a tree that does not yield to
the wind will snap.

The hard and inflexible will succumb.
The pliant and flexible will endure.



The harmony of Infinity functions like
a bow and its string.
The upper part bends down,
the lower part raises up.
If the string is too long, it is made shorter;
too short and it is lengthened.

The nature of Infinity is balance,
excess gravitates to what is lacking.
The tendency of people is toward confusion
because those who have much
take from those who have little.

Those who are at one with Infinity and
live in peace and harmony
are not confused.
They do not accumulate what
they do not need
and are like a reservoir to those
are impoverished.

The sage lives in harmony
giving without expecting,
completing her tasks with indifference,
and maintaining a oneness with all things.



Nothing in the world is more submissive and
than water.
Yet nothing can equal it in cutting the inflexible
and eroding the hard.

The weak can subdue the strong
and the flexible outlasts the rigid.
This is common knowledge,
yet only a very few can practice it.

Therefore, the sages say;
She who is at one with the
disgrace of a nation
is worthy to be queen.

He who is at one with the
misfortunes of nations
is worthy to be king of kings.

The truth frequently seems paradoxical.



Conflict almost always leaves some resentment
regardless of the nature of a peaceful

How does one achieve peace and harmony?
The sage fulfills her commitments
but does not demand others to fulfill theirs.

Those who are confused
demand others to fulfill their commitments
but are unconcerned with fulfilling
their own.

Infinity is indifferent.
It is at one with all people.



A peaceful nation has few people and
flows in harmony and oneness.
They have weapons of war but they have no
inclination to use them.
They are indifferent to death and indifferent
to living elsewhere.
They have boats and carriages
but seldom use them.
They have weapons of war but
no one displays them.
They live a simple life:
their food is nourishing,
their clothes are adequate,
their dwellings are secure.
They are at peace and in harmony
with all things.

Even though they live within sight
of a neighboring nation
and hear the sounds of dogs and
they grow old and perish
without ever desiring to go there.



Truthful words are seldom passionate.
Passionate words are seldom truthful.

Peaceful men do not quarrel.
Those who quarrel are confused.

He who is at one with all things
knows Infinity.
He who has knowledge
is always confused.

The sage is never confused by accumulating.
The more he does for others,
the more he flows in harmony.
The more he gives to others,
the more he experiences peace.

Infinity manifests, nourishes and disintegrates
The sage flows in the peace and harmony
of oneness with all things.



Translated by Ned Ludd

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The names that can be given are not the eternal names.
The Nameless is the origin of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of all things.
Therefore, without intentions, I see the Subtle Essence.
And with intentions, I see the Manifest Forms.
These two are the same, though each has many names.
Both may be called the Mystery.


When we recognize beauty, we find ugliness;
when we recognize good, we find evil.
Being and non-being produce each other;
difficult and easy complete each other;
long and short contrast each other;
high and low position each other;
front and rear accompany each other.
Thus the sage manages by non-interference, and teaches without words.
All things flourish without interruption;
They are created but no one possesses them;
work is done but no one expects a reward;
achievements are made but no one claims credit.
Since no one claims them, achievements are always there.


Do not exalt the Best, and allow the people to stop contending.
Prize no rare objects, and allow the people to stop stealing.
Display nothing of desire, and let the people's minds be undisturbed.
Thus the sage rules by:
Emptying their hearts and filling their bellies.
Weakening their ambitions and strengthening their bones;
freeing all from the struggle of knowing and demanding.


Tao is a hollow vessel; its use is inexhaustible.
Bottomless, it is the source of all things,
dulling its sharpness,
untying its tangles,
softening its brightness,
easing its stress.
It is a deep pool that never dries.
I do not know whose child it is,
an image of what existed before the beginning.


Nature is ruthless:
It treats everything indifferently.
The sage is ruthless:
He treats everyone indifferently.
How the universe is like a bellows;
empty, yet it gives a supply that never fails.
The more it is worked, the more it brings forth.
The force of words is soon spent;
Better to hold what is in the heart.


The spirit of the valley never dies;
it is called the Mystic Female.
The door to this mystery is the origin of the universe.
Unending, it always remains.
Drawn upon, it is never depleted.


The universe lasts because it does not live for itself.
Thus the sage puts himself behind, and finds himself in front;
excludes himself, and finds he is preserved.
Is it not through selflessness that the self is realized?


A good person is like water.
Water benefits all things, and does not compete with them.
It dwells in the lowly places that all disdain, thereby coming close to Tao.
For a home, the sage prefers the earth.
In thoughts the sage prefers what is simple;
in companions, kindness;
in words, sincerity;
in government, peace;
in business, ability;
in actions, timeliness.
Always preferring what does not lead to strife,
Thus the sage is without reproach.


Fill a cup to its fullest, and you will wish you had stopped.
Temper a sword to its sharpest, and the edge will not last.
When gold and jade fill your house, it can no longer be guarded.
To be proud of wealth and honor invites misfortune.
When your work is done, withdraw; this is the way of nature.


Can you keep body and soul balanced, so they cannot be split?
By soft breathing and gentleness, can you become like a babe?
Can you polish your mind's mirror, till nothing is blurred?
Can you love all people, and govern without interfering?
Can you tend nature's gates, always as the female?
In comprehending all knowledge, can you renounce the mind?
Producing and nourishing, creating yet not possessing,
working without taking credit, leading without dominating.
This is called Secret power.


Thirty spokes are joined at the hub;
but it is the empty center that makes the wheel useful.
Mold clay into a vessel; the space it encloses makes it useful.
Walls make a room; but a doorway and windows make the room useful.
Thus, as we take advantage of what is, we see the usefulness of what is not.


Colors blind the eye.
Tones deafen the ear.
Flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things rob us of mobility.
So the sage feeds the belly, not the eye;
letting go of That, and accepting This.


Both favor and disgrace excite us.
Both gain and loss are within us.
Favor excites us when we get it, and excites us when we lose it.
We gain and lose because we have a self.
If I have no self, what can I lose?
Those who treasure the world as their self, may be entrusted with the world.
If we see the world as our self, then within our self there is only the world.


Looked at, it cannot be seen; it is the Invisible.
Listened to, it cannot be heard; it is the Inaudible.
Grasped at, it cannot be held; it is the Intangible.
These three are one.
Above, it is not light; below it is not dark.
Infinite, boundless, nameless, it reverts to nothing.
Form of the formless; image of the imageless, it is elusive.
Approach it, and you do not see its front;
Follow it, you do not see its back.
Stay with the ancient Tao, and move with the present.
Knowing what was in the beginning,
This is the thread of Tao.


The old sages were subtle and wise and penetrating.
They kept their minds so deep they could never be fathomed.
Therefore I will draw you a picture:
Cautious, like crossing a frozen stream in winter;
Alert, like one fearing danger on all sides;
Reserved, like a guest;
yielding, like ice beginning to melt;
simple, like uncarved wood;
open-minded, like a valley;
easy-going, like muddy water.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can stay still until the moment of action?
One who abides in Tao never seeks the extreme.
By never seeking the extreme, one can remain in the old yet become the new.

Empty yourself of everything; be still and at peace.
In all things' coming to being, I see their return.
They grow and flourish, and then return to their source.
This is called Quietness, a return to one's destiny.
This is the eternal law; to know it is enlightenment.
Knowing this law, you are tolerant.
Being tolerant, you are impartial.
Being impartial, you are universal.
Being universal, you are at one with nature.
At one with nature, you are in accord with Tao.
In accord with Tao, you are eternal.

The best leaders are barely known.
The next best are loved and praised.
The next are feared; the last are despised.
It is by not believing people that you turn them into liars.
With work and sparse words, all things happen by themselves.

When the great Tao was lost, there arose kindness and justice.
When knowledge and cleverness appeared, there arose great hypocrisy.
When the family is not at peace, we hear of "dutiful children".
When a nation falls to chaos and rebellion, we hear of "loyal ministers".

Abandon wisdom, discard knowledge, and everyone will be better off.
Abandon kindness, discard justice, and let all return to love.
Abandon cleverness, discard profit, and robbers will disappear.
All these are frills; better to adorn yourself with:
and Temperance.

Abandon learning, and grief ends.
How much difference between yes and no?
How much difference between good and evil?
Why must I fear what others fear?
The multitude is merry, as if on a holiday, or watching a parade.
I alone am inert, like an infant not yet a child.
Drifting, belonging nowhere.
Others have more than they need; I alone seem to have lost all.
I am a fool, yes, and confused.
Others are clear and bright; I am dull and dark.
Others are clever and assured; I am blunt and obscure,
Patient as the sea, drifting like the waves.
Everyone is busy, I alone am aimless and uncouth.
I am different; I take nourishment only from my mother.

All powers flow from Tao, elusive and intangible.
Intangible and elusive, yet in it are all images.
Elusive and intangible, yet in it are all things.
Dark and dim, yet in it is the essence.
The essence is real, and therein lies reality.
>From the beginning until now, the named of Tao have never ceased.
Through it, we see all the origins.
How do I know all the origins?
Through This!

To remain whole, be twisted.
Become bent, and be straightened.
Become hollow, and be filled.
Wear out, and be renewed.
Possess little, and have much.
Have much, and be confused.
So the sage identifies opposites as one,
And becomes a model for the world.
Shining forth with no display;
eminent by never asserting;
honored by never taking credit;
enduring by never boasting.
If you never quarrel, no one will ever quarrel with you.
Thus the ancients said:
To remain whole, be twisted.

Nature rarely talks in words.
High winds do not last all morning.
Heavy rain does not last all day.
These are nature's words.
If even nature cannot make them last,
How much less can man?
Following Tao, you are identified with Tao.
Following power, you are identified with power.
Abandoning Tao, you are identified with loss.
Identify with Tao, and Tao welcomes you.
Identify with power, and power welcomes you.
Identify with loss, and loss welcomes you.
If you don't trust enough, you won't be trusted.

Standing on tiptoe is not standing firm.
The longest strides will not carry you fastest.
To show off is not to shine.
These are all like too much food or excess baggage.

Before the beginning there was something formless, yet complete;
Silent and empty.
Independent, unchanging, pervasive, unfailing.
Mother of all things.
If forced to name it, I would call it Great.
Being great, it flows far away.
Flowing far away, it returns.
Man follows earth.
Earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows Tao.

The weighty is the source of the light.
Stillness is the master of activity.
Truly, men of property travel all day, yet never leave their burdens.
Even with magnificent scenery, they sit quietly and aloof.
How can a ruler become less of a burden?
Through lightness, the source is lost.
Through activity, mastery is lost.

A good traveler leaves no trail.
A good speaker leaves no argument.
A good planner needs no sketch.
A good door needs no latch.
A good binding needs no rope.
Thus the sage is good at helping, so no one is rejected;
Good at saving, so nothing is wasted.
This is called Stealing the Light.
Good is the model for bad, but bad is the origin of good.

Know the male but keep to the female, and become the valley of the world.
As a valley, you have all your original powers, becoming like a baby.
Know the light but stay in the dark, and become a model for the world.
As a model, you have eternal power, returning to the beginning.
Know honor but stay humble, and become valley of the universe.
As valley of the universe, you are like uncarved wood.
When the wood is cut up, it becomes tools.
The sage uses the uncarved wood, and becomes a perfect tool.
Truly, the greatest carver does the least cutting.

How would you improve the universe?
I see no way to finish the task.
The universe is a holy vessel, and should not be tampered with.
If you alter it, you will hurt it; if you hold it, you will lose it.
Sometimes ahead, and sometimes behind;
sometimes hot, and sometimes cold;
sometimes strong, sometimes weak;
sometimes building up, sometimes breaking down;
thus the sage avoids extremes, excess and indulgence.

A ruler in accord with Tao would oppose all conquest by force of arms.
Force brings counterforce.
Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow.
Lean years follow great wars.
A victory is just one outcome; so never take advantage of your victories.
Anything that grows strong, ends up growing feeble.
Needless force is in opposition to Tao.
Those who oppose Tao, perish young.

Fine weapons are instruments of misfortune; all creatures fear them.
In peace we favor creation; at war we favor destruction.
Weapons are tools of misfortune, not the tools of the wise.
The sage uses them only as the very last, with calm restraint.
Victory is no cause for rejoicing; victory comes from killing.
If you enjoy killing, you can never be fulfilled.
When victorious, celebrate as if at a funeral.

Tao is forever undefined.
Like uncarved wood, it seems insignificant; yet no one can command it.
If rulers could abide with it, they would rule everything.
The universe would unify and rain the dew of peace,
beyond anyone's command, evenly on all.
When the uncarved wood is cut up, the parts need names.
One must know when to stop cutting.
All things flow to Tao, like rivers flowing to the sea.

To understand others, is knowledge;
to understand yourself, is enlightenment.
To overcome others requires force;
to overcome yourself requires strength.
To be contented is to be rich.
To be restless is to be always aspiring.
But only what stays, endures.
To die yet remain, is to be eternal.

The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things survive with it, and nothing is denied.
Tao produces everything yet possesses nothing;
covers all, but controls none.
Being aimless, you may consider Tao small.
Being the home of all things, you may consider it great.

By using the best model, you can work without mistakes.
By offering the best meals, you can attract the wayfarer.
Tao is mild to the taste.
It cannot be seen.
It cannot be heard.
It cannot be used up.

That which shrinks must first expand.
That which fails must first be strong.
That which is cast down must first be raised up.
In order to receive, you first must give.
This is called Subtle Light.
Gentleness overcomes strength:
Like fish stay underwater,
weapons should stay invisible.

Tao never does, yet through it everything is done.
If rulers would do likewise, all changes would occur by themself.
When change causes craving, return to the state of uncarved wood.
If there are no longer any pieces, then nothing is lacking.
All is correct.

A good person is not aware of goodness.
A good person does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.
A kind person does things, and leaves nothing undone.
A just person does things, and leaves much to be done.
A dogmatic person does things, and nothing happens;
so he pushes people around.
Thus, after Tao is lost there arises goodness.
After goodness is lost there arises kindness.
After kindness is lost there arises justice.
After justice is lost there arises ritual.
Ritual is a thin shell; it is the beginning of chaos.
The sage stands on the solid, not on the thin;
Dwells in the fruit, not in the flower.

Since the very beginning, things became whole.
The sky became whole and clear.
The earth became whole and firm.
Spirits became whole and powerful.
Valleys became whole and were filled.
Creatures became whole and flourished.
That which made them all, is also whole.
Without wholeness, the sky shatters, the earth quakes,
spirits wither, valleys crack, and all things perish.
Gather all the parts of a wagon, and you still do not have a wagon.
Rather than being like jangling jade, be like solid rock.

Tao only moves by returning;
only acts by yielding.
All things come from being;
being comes from not-being.

When the wise hear Tao, they strain to follow it.
When most hear Tao, they halfway believe it.
When the foolish hear Tao, they laugh out loud.
If the foolish don't laugh, it is not Tao.
As the proverbs say:
The way to the light often looks dark.
The road ahead often means backtracking.
The smoothest path often seems rough.
The greatest goodness appears empty.
The greatest power appears inadequate.
The greatest strength appears frail.
The greatest square has no corners.
The greatest music has the faintest notes.
The greatest model has no shape.

From Tao came the one.
>From one came heaven and earth.
>From heaven and earth came all things.
All things carry light in front and dark in back.
Some things even gain by losing and lose by gaining.
But truly, if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.

43. The softest thing in the world can overcome the hardest.
The shapeless can penetrate the seamless.
Thus I know the value of not acting.
Few understand the wordless teaching of non-action.

Fame or self: Which matters more?
Self or wealth: Which is more precious?
Gain or loss: Which is more harmful?
The more that things are desired, the more they will cost.
The more that things are kept, the more they will be missed.
If you are content with yourself, no one can deprive you.
Know when to stop, and you will never run into danger.

Perfection seems flawed, but it remains useful.
The greatest vessel seems empty, but it is inexhaustible.
Movement overcomes cold; stillness overcomes agitation.
Stillness creates order in the universe.

When we live with Tao, the horses till the fields.
When we live without Tao, the horses line the battlefields.
There is no greater sin than desire,
no greater curse than discontent,
no greater disaster than greed.
Know the satisfaction of simply being content.

Without leaving your door, you can know the whole world.
Without looking out the window, you can see the way of nature.
The more you seek it, the less you know about it.
The sage knows without seeking,
sees without looking,
accomplishes without doing.

The student of knowledge acquires day by day.
The student of Tao loses day by day.
Less and less, until nothing is done.
Do nothing, and everything is done.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

The sage has no mind of his own.
All minds are the sage's mind.
I approve the good, and I approve the bad.
I believe the truthful, and I believe the liar.
The sage's mind is a harmonious whole.

Between birth and death:
A third die naturally,
a third die non-naturally,
and a third die speeding to death, striving after life.
Truly, if you take care of yourself,
you will never be eaten by tigers or wolves.
Why? Because inside you there is no room for death.

All things are born from Tao.
They are reared by power.
Matter forms them.
Environment shapes them.
Therefore all things worship Tao and exalt power.
Worshiping Tao and exalting power are not required, only natural.
Tao bears them, power rears them;
developed and cared for,
sheltered and comforted,
grown and protected.
It produces all but possesses none;
provides everything and takes nothing;
guides all and interferes with none.

Tao is the mother of the universe.
Know the mother, and you know her children.
Know the children, but keep to the mother,
and you will never die.
Close the mouth, guard your senses; and your strength never fails.
Open the mouth, meddle with affairs; and entanglements never cease.
Seeing the small is insight; holding to weakness is strength.
Use the light, return to insight; this is learning to be eternal.

With even just a scrap of sense, I can walk the Great Way.
The great way is easy to travel on; but we all love to get sidetracked.
We keep elegant palaces and desolate farms;
Our storehouses are meager while fashions abound.
Our swords are sharp, but our senses are dull.
We all have more than we need; who have we taken it from?

What Tao plants, cannot be plucked.
What Tao clasps, cannot slip away.
By its power, each generation buries its dead.
By its power you become genuine.

Powerful people seem like infants:
Their bones are weak, but their grip is firm.
They are like innocent babies,
getting so turned on, because they have so much power.
They can yell all day long and never lose their voice,
because they have inner harmony.
Harmony is eternal. A raging mind is discordant.

Those who know do not speak;
those who speak do not know.
This is all, merged in one.

Win by not acting.
The more prohibitions, the poorer we become.
The sharper the weapons,
the more troubled the nation.
The more clever we are, the stranger things become.
The more laws, the more crooks.

When the nation is ruled with a light hand,
The people are simple.
When the nation is ruled harshly,
The people are cunning.
The sage is sharp but not cutting,
pointed but not piercing,
straightforward but not unrestrained,
bright but not glittery.

A ruler in accord with Tao would give up everything.
Giving up everything means returning to the source.
Returning to the source is like sending out deep firm roots.

Rule a great nation like you would fry a small fish.
Rule with Tao and evil will have no power.
It is not that evil is not powerful;
it is that its power can no longer be used to harm people.
Then evil will not interfere; as the sage does not interfere.
When opposites no longer harm each other, both are in accord with Tao.

A great nation is low, like a river delta,
where all the waters gather.
It is mother of the world.
The female overcomes the male with stillness,
Becomes the foundation by being still.
Thus a great nation should always place itself below a small one.

Tao is the storehouse of all things.
It is a treasure to the good, and a refuge for the bad.
Thus, for a gift: Offer Tao.
Why did the ancients revere it?
Because it is there for all.

Tao makes the big small, and the many, few.
The difficult always starts out easy;
the great always starts out trivial.
The sage sees everything as difficult, and lives totally at ease.

What remains quiet, is easy to hold.
Adapt to things as they happen.
The tallest tree begins as a tiny sprout,
the highest monument, as a clod of dirt,
the longest journey, with a first step.
Failure often happens on the verge of success;
truly heed the end no less than the beginning.

The ancients did not teach the Tao, because the people were too clever.
Clever rulers cheat the country.
Simple rulers bless the country.
It is secret power that brings all things back to the origin.
All in grand harmony.

The sea is the ruler of the rivers,
Because it lies below them.
Thus a ruler should always:
Speak like a subordinate, and lead by following after.
The ruler stands above, and no one feels the weight.

All the world says: Tao seems so unworthy.
If it did not seem unworthy, it would have perished long ago.
I have three treasures, which I protect and preserve:
The first is tender love.
The second is never too much.
The third is Never be first in the world.
Through love, you have no fear.
Through never-too-much, you always have enough.
Through never-be-first, you remain perfectly useful.
Love is victorious in attack, and invulnerable in defense.
Nature arms with love those it would not see destroyed.

A perfect warrior is not warlike.
A perfect fighter shows no wrath.
A perfect winner is not aggressive.
A perfect leader is humble.
This is the power of not-contending,
Using the strength of others.
It is called Matching Nature.

A proverb from the military: Better to defend than attack.
Better to withdraw a foot than advance an inch.
Thus, march without advancing,
counterattack without weapons,
subdue without battlelines.
To the victor goes the mourning.

Tao is easy to understand and even easier to practice.
Yet no one knows it, and no one practices it.
Words have an origin, like actions have an origin.
It is because you do not know the origin that you do not know Tao.
Since few people know it, Tao is very rare.

To know when you don't know, is the best you can do.
To pretend to know, when you don't, is misery.
See misery as misery, and be free of it.

When the dreadful is no longer feared,
then dreadful things will appear everywhere.
Thus the sage does not confine, and does not oppress.
By never being force-fed, no one gets fed up.

Be brave and passionate, and you will Kill or Be Killed.
Be brave and calm, and you will Always Preserve Life.
Who knows what nature hates?
Nature's net is vast; though its meshes are wide, nothing slips through.

If people no longer fear death,
they can no longer be threatened with death.
There is one great executioner.
Trying to do the work of the great executioner
is like trying to do the cutting of a master carver:
You may end up just cutting your self.

People are starving because rulers take too much tax-grain.
Things become difficult when rulers try to do too many things.
People value life so little because rulers value living so much.
Having little to live on, one knows to not value life too much.

When you are born, you are gentle and weak;
when you die, you are stiff and hard.
When plants are growing they are soft and supple.
After they die they become brittle and dry.
Thus stiff and hard are close to death;
and soft and gentle are close to life.
A tree that does not bend, breaks.
The soft and weak overcomes the hard and strong.

Nature's way is like bending a great bow:
The top comes down, and the bottom comes up.
Length is shortened, and width is expanded.
Nature's way is to take from the too-much, and give to the not-enough.
Man's way is usually the opposite.
Who has enough to offer the world?

There is nothing more soft and yielding than water,
Yet nothing is better for overcoming the hard and strong.
It has no equal.
Thus those who take blame, honor the nation.
Those who accept disaster, save the nation.

Patching up differences always leaves some differences behind.
What can one do?
Always keep your half of the bargain, and never exact your due.
A powerful person tries to patch up.
A weak person tries to assign blame.
Truly, nature is never partial, but always good.

Let there be a small nation, with few people;
with many tools, and none being used.
Let the people value death, and not travel far.
Let them count on their fingers,
and live in neighborhoods overlooking each other.
And let all things grow in peace.


Truth is not beautiful; beauty is not true.
The sage does not hoard: The more that is given, the more gets received.

Move like water; rest like a mirror; respond like an echo.



Translated by D.C. Lau

The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.

The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.

Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.

These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery -
The gateway of the manifold secrets.

The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly;
the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad.

Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
The difficult and the easy complement each other;
The long and the short off-set each other;
The high and the low incline towards each other;
Note and sound harmonize with each other;
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action and practises the teaching that uses no words.

The myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority;
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.

It is because it lays claim to no merit
That its merit never deserts it.

Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention;
not to value goods which are hard to come by will keep them from theft;
not to display what is desirable will keep them from being unsettled of mind.

Therefore in governing the people, the sage empties their minds but fills their bellies, weakens their wills but strengthens their bones.
He always keeps them innocent of knowledge and free from desire, and ensures that the clever never dare to act.

Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.

The way is empty, yet use will not drain it.
Deep, it is like the ancestor of the myriad creatures.

Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knots;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move only along old ruts.

Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there.
I know not whose son it is.
It images the forefather of God.

Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs;
the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.

Is not the space between heaven and earth like a bellows?
It is empty without being exhausted:
The more it works the more comes out.

Much speech leads inevitably to silence.
Better to hold fast to the void.

The spirit of the valley never dies.
This is called the mysterious female.
The gateway of the mysterious female
Is called the root of heaven and earth.
Dimly visible, it seems as if it were there,
Yet use will never drain it.

Heaven and earth are enduring.
The reason why heaven and earth can be enduring is that they do not give themselves life.
Hence they are able to be long-lived.

Therefore the sage puts his person last and it comes first,
Treats it as extraneous to himself and it is preserved.

Is it not because he is without thought of self that he is able to accomplish his private ends?

Highest good is like water.
Because water excels in benefiting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way.

In a home it is the site that matters;
In quality of mind it is depth that matters;
In an ally it is benevolence that matters;
In speech it is good faith that matters;
In government it is order that matters;
In affairs it is ability that matters;
In action it is timeliness that matters.

It is because it does not contend that it is never at fault.

Rather than fill it to the brim by keeping it upright
Better to have stopped in time;
Hammer it to a point
And the sharpness cannot be preserved for ever;
There may be gold and jade to fill a hall
But there is none who can keep them.
To be overbearing when one has wealth and position
Is to bring calamity upon oneself.
To retire when the task is accomplished
Is the way of heaven.

When carrying on your head your perplexed bodily soul
Can you embrace in your arms the One and not let go?
In concentrating your breath can you become as supple
As a babe?
Can you polish your mysterious mirror
And leave no blemish?
Can you love the people and govern the state
Without resorting to action?
When the gates of heaven open and shut
Are you capable of keeping to the role of the female?
When your discernment penetrates the four quarters
Are you capable of not knowing anything?

It gives them life and rears them.

It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue.

Thirty spokes share one hub.
Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart.
Knead clay in order to make a vessel.
Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room.
Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.

Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.

The five colors make man's eyes blind;
The five notes make his ears deaf;
The five tastes injure his palate;
Riding and hunting
Make his mind go wild with excitement;
Goods hard to come by
Serve to hinder his progress.

Hence the sage is
For the belly
Not for the eye.

Therefore he discards the one and takes the other.

Favor and disgrace are things that startle;
High rank is, like one's body, a source of great trouble.

What is meant by saying favor and disgrace are things that startle?
Favor when it is bestowed on a subject serves to startle as much as when it is withdrawn.
This is what is meant by saying that favor and disgrace are things that startle.
What is meant by saying that high rank is, like one's body, a source of great trouble?
The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body.
When I no longer have a body, what trouble have I?

Hence he who values his body more than dominion over the empire can be entrusted with the empire.
He who loves his body more than dominion over the empire can be given the custody of the empire.

What cannot be seen is called evanescent;
What cannot be heard is called rarefied;
What cannot be touched is called minute.

These three cannot be fathomed
And so they are confused and looked upon as one.

Its upper part is not dazzling;
Its lower part is not obscure.
Dimly visible, it cannot be named
And returns to that which is without substance.
This is called the shape that has no shape,
The image that is without substance.
This is called indistinct and shadowy.
Go up to it and you will not see its head;
Follow behind it and you will not see its rear.

Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the realm of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.

Of old he who was well versed in the way
Was minutely subtle, mysteriously comprehending,
And too profound to be known.
It is because he could not be known
That he can only be given a makeshift description:

Tentative, as if fording a river in winter,
Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbors;
Formal like a guest;
Falling apart like the thawing ice;
Thick like the uncarved block;
Vacant like a valley;
Murky like muddy water.

Who can be muddy and yet, settling, slowly become limpid?
Who can be at rest and yet, stirring, slowly come to life?
He who holds fast to this way
Desires not to be full.
It is because he is not full
That he can be worn and yet newly made.

I do my utmost to attain emptiness;
I hold firmly to stillness.
The myriad creatures all rise together
And I watch their return.
The teaming creatures
All return to their separate roots.
Returning to one's roots is known as stillness.
This is what is meant by returning to one's destiny.
Returning to one's destiny is known as the constant.
Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.

Woe to him who wilfully innovates
While ignorant of the constant,
But should one act from knowledge of the constant
One's action will lead to impartiality,
Impartiality to kingliness,
Kingliness to heaven,
Heaven to the way,
The way to perpetuity,
And to the end of one's days one will meet with no danger.

The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.
Next comes the ruler they love and praise;
Next comes one they fear;
Next comes one with whom they take liberties.

When there is not enough faith, there is lack of good faith.

Hesitant, he does not utter words lightly.
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The people all say, 'It happened to us naturally.'

When the great way falls into disuse
There are benevolence and rectitude;
When cleverness emerges
There is great hypocrisy;
When the six relations are at variance
There are filial children;
When the state is benighted
There are loyal ministers.

Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries.

Exterminate the sage, discard the wise,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold;
Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude,
And the people will again be filial;
Exterminate ingenuity, discard profit,
And there will be no more thieves and bandits.

These three, being false adornments, are not enough
And the people must have something to which they can attach themselves:
Exhibit the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block,
Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible.

Between yea and nay
How much difference is there?
Between good and evil
How great is the distance?

What others fear
One must also fear.

The multitude are joyous
As if partaking of the offering
Or going up to a terrace in spring.
I alone am inactive and reveal no signs,
And wax without having reached the limit.
Like a baby that has not yet learned to smile,
Listless as though with no home to go back to.
The multitude all have more than enough.
I alone seem to be in want.
My mind is that of a fool - how blank!
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy.
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.
Calm like the sea;
Like a high wind that never ceases.
The multitude all have a purpose.
I alone am foolish and uncouth.
I alone am different from others
And value being fed by the mother.

In his every movement a man of great virtue
Follows the way and the way only.

As a thing the way is
Shadowy and indistinct.
Indistinct and shadowy,
Yet within it is an image;
Shadowy and indistinct,
Yet within it is a substance.
Dim and dark,
Yet within it is an essence.
This essence is quite genuine
And within it is something that can be tested.

From the present back to antiquity,
Its name never deserted it.
It serves as a means for inspecting the fathers of the multitude.

How do I know that the fathers of the multitude are like that?
By means of this.

Bowed down then preserved;
Bent then straight;
Hollow then full;
Worn then new;
A little then benefited;
A lot then perplexed.

Therefore the sage embraces the One and is a model for the empire.

He does not show himself, and so is conspicuous;
He does not consider himself right, and so is illustrious;
He does not brag, and so has merit;
He does not boast, and so endures.

It is because he does not contend that no one in the empire is in a position to contend with him.

The way the ancients had it, 'Bowed down then preserved', is no empty saying.
Truly it enables one to be preserved to the end.

To use words but rarely
Is to be natural.

Hence a gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day.
Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth.
If even heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man.
That is why one follows the way.

A man of the way conforms to the way;
A man of virtue conforms to virtue;
A man of loss conforms to loss.
He who conforms to the way is gladly accepted by the way;
He who conforms to virtue is gladly accepted by virtue;
He who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss.

When there is not enough faith, there is lack of good faith.

He who tiptoes cannot stand; he who strides cannot walk.

He who shows himself is not conspicuous;
He who considers himself right is not illustrious;
He who brags will have no merit;
He who boasts will not endure.

From the point of view of the way these are 'excessive food and useless excresences'.
As there are Things that detest them, he who has the way does not abide in them. 

There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change,
Goes round and does not weary.
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it 'the way'.

I give it the makeshift name of 'the great'.
Being great, it is further described as receding,
Receding, it is described as far away,
Being far away, it is described as turning back.

Hence the way is great;
Heaven is great;
Earth is great;
The king is also great.
Within the realm there are four things that are great,
And the king counts as one.

Man models himself on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the way,
And the way on that which is naturally so.

The heavy is the root of the light;
The still is the lord of the restless.

Therefore the gentleman when travelling all day
Never lets the heavily laden carts out of his sight.
It is only when he is safely behind walls and watch-towers
That he rests peacefully and is above worries.
How, then, should a ruler of ten thousand chariots
Make light of his own person in the eyes of the empire?

If light, then the root is lost;
If restless, then the lord is lost.

One who excels in travelling leaves no wheel tracks;
One who excels in speech makes no slips;
One who excels in reckoning uses no counting rods;
One who excels in shutting uses no bolts yet what he has shut cannot be opened.
One who excels in tying uses no cords yet what he has tied cannot be undone.

Therefore the sage always excels in saving people, and so abandons no one;
Always excels in saving things, and so abandons nothing.

This is called following one's discernment.

Hence the good man is the teacher the bad learns from;
And the bad man is the material the good works on.
Not to value the teacher
Nor to love the material
Though it seems clever, betrays great bewilderment.

This is called the essential and the secret.

Know the male
But keep to the role of the female
And be a ravine to the empire.
If you are a ravine to the empire,
Then the constant virtue will not desert you
And you will again return to being a babe.

Know the white
But keep to the role of the sullied
And be a model to the empire.
If you are a model to the empire,
Then the constant virtue will not be wanting
And you will return to the infinite,

Know honour
But keep to the role of the disgraced
And be a valley to the empire.
If you are a valley to the empire,
Then the constant virtue will be sufficient
And you will return to being the uncarved block.

When the uncarved block shatters it becomes vessels.
The sage makes use of these and becomes the lord over the officials.

Hence the greatest cutting does not sever.

Whoever takes the empire and wishes to do anything to it I see will have no respite.
The empire is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it.
Whoever does anything to it will ruin it;
whoever lays hold of it will lose it.

Hence some things lead and some follow;
Some breathe gently and some breathe hard;
Some are strong and some are weak;
Some destroy and some are destroyed.

Therefore the sage avoids excess, extravagance, and arrogance.

One who assists the ruler of men by means of the way does not intimidate the empire by a show of arms.

This is something which is liable to rebound.
Where troops have encamped
There will brambles grow;
In the wake of a mighty army
Bad harvests follow without fail.

One who is good aims only at bringing his campaign to a conclusion and dare not thereby intimidate.
Bring it to a conclusion but do not brag;
Bring it to a conclusion but do not be arrogant;
Bring it to a conclusion but only when there is no choice;
Bring it to a conclusion but do not intimidate.

A creature in its prime doing harm to the old
Is known as going against the way.
That which goes against the way will come to an early end.

It is because arms are instruments of ill omen and there are Things that detest them that the one who has the way does not abide by their use.
The gentleman gives precedence to the left when at home, but to the right when he goes to war.
Arms are instruments of ill omen, not the instruments of the gentleman.
When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish.
There is no glory in victory, and so to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men.
One who exults in the killing of men will never have his way in the empire.
On occasions of rejoicing precedence is given to the left;
On occasions of mourning precedence is given to the right.
A lieutenants place is on the left;
The general's place is on the right.
This means that it is mourning rites that are observed.
When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow.
When victorious in war, one should observe the rites of mourning.

The way is for ever nameless.
Though the uncarved block is small
No one in the world dare claim its allegiance.
Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it
The myriad creatures will submit of their own accord,
Heaven and earth will unite and sweet dew will fall,
And the people will be equitable, though no one so decrees.
Only when it is cut are there names.
As soon as there are names
One ought to know that it is time to stop.
Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger.

The way is to the world as the River and the Sea are to rivulets and streams.

He who knows others is clever;
He who knows himself has discernment.
He who overcomes others has force;
He who overcomes himself is strong.

He who knows contentment is rich;
He who perseveres is a man of purpose;
He who does not lose his station will endure;
He who lives out his days has had a long life.

The way is broad, reaching left as well as right.
The myriad creatures depend on it for life yet it claims no authority.
It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.
It clothes and feeds the myriad creatures yet lays no claim to being their master.

For ever free of desire, it can be called small;
Yet as it lays no claim to being master when the myriad creatures turn to it, it can be called great.

It is because it never attempts itself to become great that it succeeds in becoming great.

Have in your hold the great image
And the empire will come to you.
Coming to you and meeting with no harm
It will be safe and sound.
Music and food
Will induce the wayfarer to stop.

The way in its passage through the mouth is without flavor.
It cannot be seen,
It cannot be heard,
Yet it cannot be exhausted by use.

If you would have a thing shrink,
You must first stretch it;
If you would have a thing weakened,
You must first strengthen it;
If you would have a thing laid aside,
You must first set it up;
If you would take from a thing,
You must first give to it.

This is called subtle discernment:
The submissive and weak will overcome the hard and strong.

The fish must not be allowed to leave the deep;
The instruments of power in a state must not be revealed to anyone.

The way never acts, yet nothing is left undone.
Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it,
The myriad creatures will be transformed of their own accord.
After they are transformed, should desire raise its head,
I shall press it down with the weight of the nameless uncarved block.
The nameless uncarved block
Is but freedom from desire,
And if I cease to desire and remain still,
The empire will be at peace of its own accord.

A man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue and that is why he has virtue.
A man of the lowest virtue never strays from virtue and that is why he is without virtue.
The former never acts yet leaves nothing undone.
The latter acts but there are things left undone.
A man of the highest benevolence acts, but from no ulterior motive.
A man of the highest rectitude acts, but from ulterior motive.
A man most conversant in the rites acts, but when no one responds rolls up his sleeves and resorts to persuasion by force.

Hence when the way was lost there was virtue;
When virtue was lost there was benevolence;
When benevolence was lost there was rectitude;
When rectitude was lost there were the rites.

The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith
And the beginning of disorder;
Foreknowledge is the flowery embellishment of the way
And the beginning of folly.

Hence the man of large mind abides in the thick not in the thin, in the fruit not in the flower.

Therefore he discards the one and takes the other.

Of old, these came to be in possession of the One:
Heaven in virtue of the One is limpid;
Earth in virtue of the One is settled;
Gods in virtue of the One have their potencies;
The valley in virtue of the One is full;
The myriad creatures in virtue of the One are alive;
Lords and princes in virtue of the One become leaders of the empire.
It is the One that makes these what they are.

Without what makes it limpid heaven might split;
Without what makes it settled earth might sink;
Without what gives them their potencies gods might spend themselves;
Without what makes it full the valley might run dry;
Without what keeps them alive the myriad creatures might perish;
Without what makes them leaders lords and princes might fall.

Hence the superior must have the inferior as root;
The high must have the low as base.

Thus lords and princes refer to themselves as 'solitary', 'desolate', and 'hapless'.
This is taking the inferior as root, is it not?

Hence the highest renown is without renown,
Not wishing to be one among many like jade
Nor to be aloof like stone.

Turning back is how the way moves;
Weakness is the means the way employs.

The myriad creatures in the world are born from
Something, and Something from Nothing.

When the best student hears about the way
He practises it assiduously;
When the average student hears about the way
It seems to him there one moment and gone the next;
When the worst student hears about the way
He laughs out loud.
If he did not laugh
It would be unworthy of being the way.

Hence the Chien yen has it:
The way that is bright seems dull;
The way that is forward seems to lead backward;
The way that is even seems rough.
The highest virtue is like the valley;
The sheerest whiteness seems sullied;
Ample virtue seems defective;
Vigorous virtue seems indolent;
Plain virtue seems soiled;
The great square has no corners.
The great vessel takes long to complete;
The great note is rarefied in sound;
The great image has no shape.

The way conceals itself in being nameless.
It is the way alone that excels in bestowing and in accomplishing.

The way begets one;
One begets two;
Two begets three;
Three begets the myriad creatures.

The myriad creatures carry on their backs the yin and embrace in their arms the yang and are the blending of the generative forces of the two.

There are no words which men detest more than 'solitary', 'desolate', and 'hapless', yet lords and princes use these to refer to themselves.

Thus a thing is sometimes added to by being diminished and diminished by being added to.

What others teach I also teach.
'The violent shall not come to a natural end.'
I shall take this as my precept.

Exterminate learning, and there will no longer be worries.

The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest in the world;
That which is without substance entering that which has no crevices.

That is why I know the benefit of resorting to no action.
The teaching that uses no words, the benefit of resorting to no action, these are beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world.

Your name or your person,
Which is dearer?
Your person or your goods,
Which is worth more?
Gain or loss,
Which is a greater bane?
That is why excessive meanness
Is sure to lead to great expense;
Too much store
Is sure to end in immense loss.
Know contentment
And you will suffer no disgrace;
Know when to stop
And you will meet with no danger.
You can then endure.

Great perfection seems chipped,
Yet use will not wear it out;
Great fullness seems empty,
Yet use will not drain it;
Great straightness seems bent;
Great skill seems awkward;
Great eloquence seems tongue-tied.

Restlessness overcomes cold;
Stillness overcomes heat.

Limpid and still,
One can be a leader in the empire.

When the way prevails in the empire, fleet-footed horses are relegated to ploughing in the fields;
When the way does not prevail in the empire, war-horses breed on the border.

There is no crime greater than having too many desires;
There is no disaster greater than not being content;
There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.

Hence in being content, one will always have enough.

Without stirring abroad
One can know the whole world;
Without looking out the window
One can see the way of heaven.
The further one goes
The less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without having to stir,
Identifies without having to see,
Accomplishes without having to act.

In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day;
In the pursuit of the way one does less every day.
One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone.

It is always through not meddling that the empire is won.
Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.

The sage has no mind of his own.
He takes as his own the mind of the people.

Those who are good I treat as good.
Those who are not good I also treat as good.
In so doing I gain in goodness.
Those who are of good faith I have faith in.
Those who are lacking in good faith I also have faith in.
In so doing I gain in good faith.

The sage in his attempt to distract the mind of the empire seeks urgently to muddle it.
The people all have something to occupy their eyes and ears, and the sage treats them all like children.

When going one way means life and going the other means death, three in ten will be comrades in life, three in ten will be comrades in death, and there are those who value life and as a result move into the realm of death, and these also number three in ten.
Why is this so? Because they set too much store by life.
I have heard it said that one who excels in safeguarding his own life does not meet with rhinoceros or tiger when travelling on land nor is he touched by weapons when charging into an army.
There is nowhere for the rhinoceros to pitch its horn;
There is nowhere for the tiger to place its claws;
There is nowhere for the weapon to lodge its blade.
Why is this so? Because for him there is no realm of death.

The way gives them life;
Virtue rears them;
Things give them shape;
Circumstances bring them to maturity.

Therefore the myriad creatures all revere the way and honor virtue.
Yet the way is revered and virtue honored not because this is decreed by any authority but because it is natural for them to be treated so.

Thus the way gives them life and rears them;
Brings them up and nurses them;
Brings them to fruition and maturity;
Feeds and shelters them.

It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue.

The world had a beginning
And this beginning could be the mother of the world.
When you know the mother
Go on to know the child.
After you have known the child
Go back to holding fast to the mother,
And to the end of your days you will not meet with danger.

Block the openings,
Shut the doors,
And all your life you will not run dry.
Unblock the openings,
Add to your troubles,
And to the end of your days you will be beyond salvation.

To see the small is called discernment;
To hold fast to the submissive is called strength.
Use the light
But give up the discernment.
Bring not misfortune upon yourself.

This is known as following the constant.

Were I possessed of the least knowledge, I would, when walking on the great way, fear only paths that lead astray.
The great way is easy, yet people prefer by-paths.

The court is corrupt,
The fields are overgrown with weeds,
The granaries are empty;
Yet there are those dressed in fineries,
With swords at their sides,
Filled with food and drink,
And possessed of too much wealth.
This is known as taking the lead in robbery.

Far indeed is this from the way.

What is firmly rooted cannot be pulled out;
What is tightly held in the arms will not slip loose;
Through this the offering of sacrifice by descendants will never come to an end.

Cultivate it in your person
And its virtue will be genuine;
Cultivate it in the family
And its virtue will be more than sufficient;
Cultivate it in the hamlet
And its virtue will endure;
Cultivate it in the state
And its virtue will abound;
Cultivate it in the empire
And its virtue will be pervasive.

Hence look at the person through the person;
Look at the family through the family;
Look at the hamlet through the hamlet;
Look at the state through the state;
Look at the empire through the empire.

How do I know that the empire is like that?
By means of this.

One who possesses virtue in abundance is comparable to a new born babe:
Poisonous insects will not sting it;
Ferocious animals will not pounce on it;
Predatory birds will not swoop down on it.
Its bones are weak and its sinews supple yet its hold is firm.
It does not know the union of male and female yet its male member will stir:
This is because its virility is at its height.
It howls all day yet does not become hoarse:
This is because its harmony is at its height.
To know harmony is called the constant;
To know the constant is called discernment.
To try to add to one's vitality is called ill-omened;
For the mind to egg on the breath is called violent.

A creature in its prime doing harm to the old
Is known as going against the way.
That which goes against the way will come to an early end.

One who knows does not speak;
One who speaks does not know.

Block the openings;
Shut the doors.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knots;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move only along old ruts.

This is known as mysterious sameness.

Hence you cannot get close to it, nor can you keep it at arm's length;
You cannot bestow benefit on it, nor can you do it harm;
You cannot ennoble it, nor can you debase it.

Therefore it is valued by the empire.

Govern the state by being straightforward;
Wage war by being crafty;
But win the empire by not being meddlesome.

How do I know that it is like that?
By means of this.

The more taboos there are in the empire
The poorer the people;
The more sharpened tools the people have
The more benighted the state;
The more skills the people have
The further novelties multiply;
The better known the laws and edicts
The more thieves and robbers there are.

Hence the sage says,
I take no action and the people are transformed of themselves;
I prefer stillness and the people are rectified of themselves;
I am not meddlesome and the people prosper of themselves;
I am free from desire and the people of themselves become simple like the uncarved block.

When the government is muddled
The people are simple;
When the government is alert
The people are cunning.

It is on disaster that good fortune perches;
It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches.

Who knows the limit? Does not the straightforward exist?
The straighforward changes again into the crafty, and the good changes again into the monstrous.
Indeed, it is long since the people were perplexed.

Therefore the sage is square-edged but does not scrape,
Has corners but does not jab,
Extends himself but not at the expense of others,
Shines but does not dazzle.

In ruling the people and in serving heaven it is best for a ruler to be sparing.
It is because he is sparing
That he may be said to follow the way from the start;
Following the way from the start he may be said to accumulate an abundance of virtue;
Accumulating an abundance of virtue there is nothing he cannot overcome;
When there is nothing he cannot overcome, no one knows his limit;
When no one knows his limit
He can possess a state;
When he possesses the mother of a state
He can then endure.
This is called the way of deep roots and firm stems by which one lives to see many days.

Governing a large state is like boiling a small fish.

When the empire is ruled in accordance with the way,
The spirits lose their potencies.
Or rather, it is not that they lose their potencies,
But that, though they have their potencies, they do not harm the people.
It is not only they who, having their potencies, do not harm the people,
The sage, also, does not harm the people.
As neither does any harm, each attributes the merit to the other.

A large state is the lower reaches of a river:
The place where all the streams of the world unite.

In the union of the world,
The female always gets the better of the male by stillness.

Being still, she takes the lower position.

Hence the large state, by taking the lower position, annexes the small state;
The small state, by taking the lower position, affiliates itself to the large state.

Thus the one, by taking the lower position, annexes;
The other, by taking the lower position, is annexed.
All that the large state wants is to take the other under its wing;
All that the small state wants is to have its services accepted by the other.
If each of the two wants to find its proper place,
It is meet that the large should take the lower position.

The way is the refuge for the myriad creatures.
It is that by which the good man protects,
And that by which the bad is protected.

Beautiful words when offered will win high rank in return;
Beautiful deeds can raise a man above others.

Even if a man is not good, why should he be abandoned?

Hence when the emperor is set up and the three ducal ministers are appointed, he who makes a present of the way without stirring from his seat is preferable to one who offers presents of jade disks followed by a team of four horses.
Why was this way valued of old?
Was it not said that by means of it one got what one wanted and escaped the consequences when one transgressed?

Therefore it is valued by the empire.

Do that which consists in taking no action;
Pursue that which is not meddlesome;
Savor that which has no flavor.

Make the small big and the few many;
Do good to him who has done you an injury.

Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult;
Make something big by starting with it when small.

Difficult things in the word must needs have their beginnings in the easy;
Big things must needs have their beginnings in the small.

Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great.

One who makes promises rashly rarely keeps good faith;
One who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties.

Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.
That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him.

It is easy to maintain a situation while it is still secure;
It is easy to deal with a situation before symptoms develop;
It is easy to break a thing when it is yet brittle;
It is easy to dissolve a thing when it is yet minute.

Deal with a thing while it is still nothing;
Keep a thing in order before disorder sets in.

A tree that can fill the span of a man's arms
Grows from a downy tip;
A terrace nine storeys high
Rises from hodfuls of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles
Starts from beneath one's feet.

Whoever does anything to it will ruin it;
Whoever lays hold of it will lose it.

Therefore the sage, because he does nothing, never ruins anything;
And, because he does not lay hold of anything, loses nothing.

In their enterprises the people
Always ruin them when on the verge of success.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning
And there will be no ruined enterprises.

Therefore the sage desires not to desire
And does not value goods which are hard to come by;
Learns to be without learning
And makes good the mistakes of the multitude
In order to help the myriad creatures to be natural and to refrain from daring to act.

Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them.
The reason why the people are difficult to govern is that they are too clever.

Hence to rule a state by cleverness
Will be to the detriment of the state;
Not to rule a state by cleverness
Will be a boon to the state.
These two are models.
Always to know the models
Is known as mysterious virtue.
Mysterious virtue is profound and far-reaching,
But when things turn back it turns back with them.

Only then is complete conformity realized.

The reason why the River and the Sea are able to be king of the hundred valleys is that they excel in taking the lower position.
Hence they are able to be king of the hundred valleys.

Therefore, desiring to rule over the people,
One must in one's words humble oneself before them;
And, desiring to lead the people,
One must, in one's person, follow behind them.

Therefore the sage takes his place over the people yet is no burden;
takes his place ahead of the people yet causes no obstruction.
That is why the empire supports him joyfully and never tires of doing so.

It is because he does not contend that no one in the empire is in a position to contend with him.

The whole world says that my way is vast and resembles nothing.
It is because it is vast that it resembles nothing.
If it resembled anything, it would, long before now, have become small.

I have three treasures
Which I hold and cherish.
The first is known as compassion,
The second is known as frugality,
The third is known as not daring to take the lead in the empire;
Being compassionate one could afford to be courageous,
Being frugal one could afford to extend one's territory,
Not daring to take the lead in the empire one could afford to be lord over the vessels.

Now, to forsake compassion for courage, to forsake frugality for expansion, to forsake the rear for the lead, is sure to end in death.

Through compassion, one will triumph in attack and be impregnable in defence.
What heaven succours it protects with the gift of compassion.

One who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable;
One who excels in fighting is never roused in anger;
One who excels in defeating his enemy does not join issue;
One who excels in employing others humbles himself before them.

This is known as the virtue of non-contention;
This is known as making use of the efforts of others;
This is known as matching the sublimity of heaven.

The strategists have a saying,
I dare not play the host but play the guest,
I dare not advance an inch but retreat a foot instead.

This is known as marching forward when there is no road,
Rolling up one's sleeves when there is no arm,
Dragging one's adversary by force when there is no adversary,
And taking up arms when there are no arms.

There is no disaster greater than taking on an enemy too easily.
So doing nearly cost me my treasure.
Thus of two sides raising arms against each other,
It is the one that is sorrow-stricken that wins.

My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice,
Yet no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice.

Words have an ancestor and affairs have a sovereign.

It is because people are ignorant that they fail to understand me.
Those who understand me are few;
Those who harm me are honoured.

Therefore the sage, while clad in homespun, conceals on his person a priceless piece of jade.

To know yet to think that one does not know is best;
Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.

It is by being alive to difficulty that one can avoid it.
The sage meets with no difficulty.
It is because he is alive to it that he meets with no difficulty.

When the people lack a proper sense of awe, then some awful visitation will descend upon them.

Do not constrict their living space;
Do not press down on their means of livelihood.
It is because you do not press down on them that they will not weary of the burden.

Hence the sage knows himself but does not display himself,
Loves himself but does not exalt himself.

Therefore he discards the one and takes the other.


He who is fearless in being bold will meet with his death;
He who is fearless in being timid will stay alive.
Of the two, one leads to good, the other to harm.

Heaven hates what it hates,
Who knows the reason why?

Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.

The way of heaven
Excels in overcoming though it does not contend,
In responding though it does not speak,
In attracting though it does not summon,
In laying plans though it appears slack.

The net of heaven is cast wide.
Though the mesh is not fine, yet nothing ever slips through.

When the people are not afraid of death, wherefore frighten them with death?
Were the people always afraid of death, and were I able to arrest and put to death those who innovate, then who would dare?
There is a regular executioner whose charge it is to kill.
To kill on behalf of the executioner is what is described as chopping wood on behalf of the master carpenter.
In chopping wood on behalf of the master carpenter, there are few who escape hurting their own hands instead.

The people are hungry:
It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes
That the people are hungry.
The people are difficult to govern.
It is because those in authority are too fond of action
That the people are difficult to govern.
The people treat death lightly:
It is because the people set too much store by life
That they treat death lightly.

It is just because one has no use for life that one is wiser than the man who values life.

A man is supple and weak when living, but hard and stiff when dead.
Grass and trees are pliant and fragile when living, but dried and shrivelled when dead.
Thus the hard and the strong are the comrades of death;
The supple and the weak are the comrades of life.

Therefore a weapon that is strong will not vanquish;
A tree that is strong will suffer the axe.
The strong and big takes the lower position,
The supple and weak takes the higher position.

Is not the way of heaven like the stretching of a bow?
The high it presses down,
The low it lifts up;
The excessive it takes from,
The deficient it gives to.

It is the way of heaven to take from what has in excess in order to make good what is deficient.
The way of man is otherwise: it takes from those who are in want in order to offer this to those who already have more than enough.
Who is there that can take what he himself has in excess and offer this to the empire?
Only he who has the way.

Therefore the sage benefits them yet exacts no gratitude,
Accomplishes his task yet lays claim to no merit.

Is this not because he does not wish to be considered a better man than others?

In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water.
Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.
This is because there is nothing that can take its place.

That the weak overcomes the strong,
And the submissive overcomes the hard,
Everyone in the world knows yet no one can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the sage says,
One who takes on himself the humiliation of the state
Is called a ruler worthy of offering sacrifices to the gods of earth and millet.
One who takes on himself the calamity of the state
Is called a king worthy of dominion over the entire empire.

Straightforward words seem paradoxical.

When peace is made between great enemies,
Some enmity is bound to remain undispelled.
How can this be considered perfect?

Therefore the sage takes the left-hand tally, but exacts no payment from the people.
The man of virtue takes charge of the tally;
The man of no virtue takes charge of exaction.

It is the way of heaven to show no favoritism.
It is for ever on the side of the good man.

Reduce the size of the population and the state.
Ensure that even though the people have tools of war for a troop or a battalion they will not use them;
And also that they will be reluctant to move to distant places because they look on death as no light matter.

Even when they have ships and carts, they will have no use for them;
And even when they have armor and weapons, they will have no occasion to make a show of them.

Bring it about that the people will return to the use of the knotted rope,
Will find relish in their food
And beauty in their clothes,
Will be content in their abode
And happy in the way they live.

Though adjoining states are within sight of one another,
And the sound of dogs barking and cocks crowing in one state can be heard in another,
yet the people of one state will grow old and die without having had any dealings with those of another.

Truthful words are not beautiful;
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good words are not persuasive;
Persuasive words are not good.
He who knows has no wide learning;
He who has wide learning does not know.

The sage does not hoard.
Having bestowed all he has on others, he has yet more;
Having given all he has to others, he is richer still.

The way of heaven benefits and does not harm;
The way of the sage is bountiful and does not contend.