English version by
Chang Chung-yuan, 1975
[= 張錘元 Zhang Zhongyuan, 1907-1988]
More English versions
The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao itself.
The name that can be given is not the name itself.
The unnameable is the source of the universe.
The nameable is the originator of all things.
Therefore, oftentimes without intention I see the wonder of Tao.
Oftentimes with intention I see its manifestations.
Its wonder and its manifestations are one and the same.
Since their emergence, they have been called by different names.
Their identity is called the mystery.
From mystery to further mystery:
The entry of all wonders!
When beauty is universally affirmed as beauty, therein is ugliness.
When goodness is universally affirmed as goodness, therein is evil.
Therefore: being and non-being are mutually posited in their emergence.
Difficult and easy are mutually posited in their complementariness.
Long and short are mutually posited in their positions.
High and low are mutually posited in their contradiction.
Voice and tone are mutually posited in their unity.
Front and back are mutually posited in their succession.
Thus, the wise deals with things through non-interference and teaches through no-words.
All things flourish without interruption.
They grow by themselves, and no one possesses them.
Work is done, and no one depends on it.
Achievements are made, but no one claims credit.
Because no one claims credit, achievements are always there.
If no one esteems the best, men will be free from contention.
If no one values the precious, men will be free from illegal gain.
If men see nothing to desire, their minds will be free from confusion.
Therefore, the wise guides men by relaxing their minds and keeping their bellies firm;
By reducing their wills and letting their physiques become strong.
He always frees men from the search for knowing and demanding.
This means that the knower dares not act for the known.
When action is through non-action, no one is uncultivated.
Tao functions through its nothingness.
And can not be conceived of as full of things.
Profound indeed, it is the model of all things.
Dulling its sharpness,
Releasing its entanglements,
Tempering its light, and
Unifying with the earth,
Clearly, indeed, it remains.
I do not know who created it,
But it is likely that it existed prior to God.
Heaven and earth are not benevolent:
They treat ten thousand things indifferently.
The wise is not benevolent:
He treats men indifferently.
The entire universe is basically void, like a bellows:
When it is in non-action, it does not lack anything;
When it is in action, it is even more productive.
Debating with words leads to limitations.
Therefore, nothing is better than to remain in the state before things are stirred.
The spiritual reality of the void never ceases to exist.
We call it the mystery of passivity.
The entry to the mystery of passivity is the origin of the universe.
Unceasing, it always remains.
Drawn upon, it is never exhausted.
The existences of heaven and earth are long-lasting.
Their existences are long-lasting because they do not conceive of their existences as existences.
Therefore, their existences are long-lasting.
When the wise stays back, he steps forward.
When he forgets his self, he finds his self.
Is it not through selflessness that one achieves selfhood?
That which is best is similar to the water.
Water profits ten thousand things and does not oppose them.
It is always at rest in humble places that people dislike.
Thus, it is close to Tao.
Therefore, for staying, we prefer a humble place.
For minds, we prefer profundity.
For companions, we prefer the kindness.
For words, we prefer sincerity.
For government, we prefer good order.
For affairs, we prefer ability.
For actions, we prefer the right time.
Because we do not strive,
We are free from fault.
To hold things and to be proud of them is not as good as not to have them,
Because if one insists on an extreme, that extreme will not dwell long.
When a room is full of precious things, one will never be able to preserve them.
When one is wealthy, high ranking, and proud of himself, he invites misfortune.
When one's task is completed and his mission is fulfilled, he removes himself from his position.
This is indeed the way of Nature!
Can you unify hun and p'o into one and not let them be divided?
Can you concentrate on your breathing to reach harmony and become as an innocent babe?
Can you clean the dark mirror within yourself and let nothing remain there?
Can you love the people and govern the state and do so without interference?
Can you enter and leave the realm of Non-being and let these actions take place by themselves?
Can the clear illumination radiate to all directions without your having knowledge of it?
Cultivate it, and nourish it,
Produce it, but do not possess it,
Labor on it, but do not depend on it,
Lead it, but do not manage it.
This is called the mystic attainment.
Thirty spokes are joined at the hub.
From their non-being arises the function of the wheel.
Lumps of clay are shaped into a vessel.
From their non-being arises the function of the vessel.
Doors and windows are constructed together to make a chamber.
From their non-being arises the function of the chamber.
Therefore, as individual beings, these things are useful materials.
Constructed together in their non-being, they give rise to function.
Numerous colors make man sightless.
Numerous sounds make man unable to hear.
Numerous tastes make man tasteless.
Racing and pursuing game make man's heart violent.
Valuing rare things makes man worry about their safety.
Therefore, the wise concentrates on the belly and not on the temptations of the senses.
Thus, he abides in the one and foregoes the other.
Honor and dishonor both move us
Because we are troubled by having a self.
Why do we say that honor and dishonor move us?
Because honor lifts us upward
And dishonor lowers us downward,
Thus, when we are honored we are moved.
When we are dishonored we are also moved.
That is why honor and dishonor are both said to move us.
Why do we say that the great trouble is having a self?
Because we have great trouble simply because we have a self.
If we are selfless, then where is the trouble?
If we identify our self with the world,
Then within our self there is the world.
If we love the world as we love our self,
Then within our self there is only the world.
Gaze at it; there is nothing to see.
It is called the formless.
Heed it; there is nothing to hear.
It is called the soundless.
Grasp it; there is nothing to hold on to.
It is called the immaterial.
We cannot inquire into these three,
Hence, they interfuse into one.
Above, it is not light.
Below, it is not dark.
Invisible, it cannot be called by any name.
It returns again to nothingness.
Thus, we call it the form of the formless
The image of the imageless.
It is the evasive.
Approach it; you cannot see its face.
Go after it; you cannot see its back.
Adhere to the Tao of the remote past,
And apply it to the present.
This will enable you to understand the primordial beginning.
This is the essential Tao.
In ancient times the best man of Tao was refined and deeply enlightened.
His depth can hardly be measured.
Because his depth can hardly be measured,
I will try to draw a picture of him.
Prudent, as if he were wading in a cold stream in the winter;
Calm, as if he did not want to disturb his neighbors;
Respectful, as if he were a guest;
Fluid, as if he were ice melting;
Solid, as if he were an uncarved block;
Vacant, as if he were a valley;
Lacking clear discriminations, as if he were impure;
Who is able to gradually reach purity from impurity through quiescence?
Who is able to gradually grow lively from motion through motionlessness?
One who abides in Tao never desires to reach an extreme.
Because he never desires to reach an extreme,
He can remain in the old, yet become the new.
Contemplate the ultimate void.
Remain truly in quiescence.
All things are together in action,
But I look into their non-action.
Things are unceasingly moving and restless,
Yet each one is proceeding back to the origin.
Proceeding back to the origin is quiescence.
To be in quiescence is to return to the destiny of being.
The destiny of being is reality.
To understand reality is to be enlightened.
Not to understand it, and to act wrongly, leads to disaster.
Reality is all-embracing.
To be all-embracing is to be selfless.
To be selfless is to be all-pervading.
To be all-pervading is to be transcendent.
To be transcendent is to attain Tao.
To attain Tao is to be everlasting.
Even when the body dies, it is not the end.
The best leader is one whom no one knows.
The next best is one who is intimate with the people and is flattered by them.
The next is one who is feared by the people.
The next is one who is held in contempt by the people.
Therefore, when one's sincerity is not sufficient, one does not have the confidence of the people.
Be cautious! and spare words.
Then when work is done and things are accomplished,
People will say that things happened by themselves.
As soon as the great Tao is cast aside,
There prevails the teaching of benevolence and righteousness.
As soon as intellection and prudence are esteemed,
There is produced the great falsehood.
As soon as the members of a family are no longer at peace,
There is a demand for filial piety and love.
As soon as a nation is in confusion and rebellion,
There is a claim for loyal officers.
Let the people be free from discernment and relinquish intellection,
Then they will be many times better off.
Stop the teaching of benevolence and get rid of the claim of justice,
Then the people will love each other once more.
Cease the teaching of cleverness and give up profit,
Then there will be no more stealing and fraud.
Discernment and intellection, benevolence and justice, cleverness and profit are nothing but outward refinements.
Hence we must seek something other than these.
Hold to one's original nature,
Rid one's self of selfishness,
Cast away covetousness,
Eliminate artificial learning and one will be free from anxieties.
What is the difference between the respectful "wei" and the disrespectful "o"?
What is the difference between good and bad?
Where others are afraid, must I be afraid, too?
How extremely ridiculous this is!
The people are rejoicing as if they are enjoying a sacrificial feast,
Or walking up a terrace in the blossoming spring.
How quiescent I am, alone unstirred, like a baby before he knows how to make pleasant expressions.
How aimlessly I wander, with no home to turn to.
People all have many ambitions and desires.
I, alone, seem to have left all of them.
How ignorant I am!
My mind must be that of a fool.
People are glorious and shining.
I, alone, am dark and dull.
People are clever and inquisitive.
I, alone, am obscure and blunt.
How tranquil I am, like the placid sea.
How loftily drifting, as if I am bound nowhere.
People all have their motives.
I, alone, am good for nothing and uncouth.
I am not like the others.
I am nourished by the Mother.
That which is inherent in the great attainment (void) is the echo of Tao.
That which is Tao is indistinct and ineffable.
Ineffable and indistinct, yet therein are forms.
Indistinct and ineffable, yet therein are objects.
Unfathomable and invisible, yet therein are essences.
The essence is indeed genuine, therein is the vivid reality.
From ancient times until the present, the name of Tao has never ceased to exist.
Through it we see the beginning of all things.
How do we understand the beginning of all things?
It is through this.
To bend is to maintain integrity.
To deviate is to be direct.
To be concave is to be convex.
To be exhausted is to be rejuvenated.
To be wanting is to be endowed.
To have much is to be deprived.
Therefore, the wise identifies opposites as one,
And sets an example for the world.
He remains in concealment and spontaneously is unconcealed.
He does not assert himself, therefore he is eminent.
He does not claim credit, therefore he receives credit.
He is not vain, therefore he is the best.
Because he does not oppose anyone in the world, no one can oppose him.
Thus, the ancient saying "to bend is to maintain integrity" is the word of truth.
Indeed, integrity is attributed to this.
Through no words,
It takes place by itself.
Nature rarely expresses itself in words.
When a hurricane occurs, it does not last all morning.
Neither does a heavy shower last the whole day.
These are actions of heaven and earth.
Thus, even heaven and earth cannot maintain their actions for long.
How can man?
Therefore, the learner of Tao identifies with Tao.
When one achieves it, one identifies with one's achievement.
When one loses it, one identifies with one's losing.
When man identifies with achievement, achievement also willingly identifies with man.
When man identifies with losing, losing willingly identifies with man.
If one does not believe enough in this identity, then it will not take place.
To lift the heel is not to stand.
To take long strides is not to walk.
To show off is not to shine.
To insist that one is right is not to be distinct.
To claim credit is to have no credit.
To be proud of oneself is not to be the best.
From the point of view of Tao, all of these are extras which things themselves do not like.
Therefore, the man of Tao does not abide with them.
There was a thing, a "gathering" chaos,
Which existed prior to heaven and earth.
Existing by itself, unchanging,
Pervading everywhere, inexhaustible,
It might be called the mother of the world.
Its name is unknown;
I simply call it Tao.
If I were to exert myself to define it,
I might call it great.
Great means extending to the limitless.
Extending to the limitless means reaching the extreme distance.
Reaching the extreme distance means returning to "nearness."
Thus, Tao is great,
Heaven is great, earth is great, and man is great, too.
In the universe we have four greatnesses, and man is but one.
Man is in accordance with earth.
Earth is in accordance with heaven.
Heaven is in accordance with Tao.
Tao is in accordance with that which is.
The weighty is the origin of the weightless.
Stillness is the fountain of restlessness.
Therefore, the ruler journeys from morning until night and never separates himself from his heavy supply cart.
Although he is in a glorious atmosphere, he remains quiescent and above it.
How can a leader "with ten thousand chariots" take himself lightly before the world?
To take himself lightly is to lose the origin.
Restlessness means that the fountain is lost.
The best action is free from marks [either good or evil].
The best words are free from stains [either good or bad].
The best calculator is free from calculation and measure.
The best closure has no bolts, yet it cannot be opened.
The best knot has no cord, yet it cannot be untied.
Thus, the wise knows how to rescue men; hence, no one is excluded.
He also knows how to rescue things; hence, nothing is excluded.
This is called penetration to illumination.
Therefore, the virtuous is the model for the unvirtuous.
The unvirtuous is the origin of the virtuous.
If one does not appreciate the virtuous or cherish the unvirtuous,
Although one is intelligent, one is not free from confusion.
This is called the indispensable wonder.
To be aware of the positive, yet to abide in the negative is to be the abyss of the universe.
To be the abyss of the universe is to not deviate from real attainment and to remain like an innocent child.
To be aware of the white, yet to abide in the black is to be the chasm of the universe.
To be the chasm of the universe is to have sufficient real attainment, and to remain in the state of original non-differentiation.
When original non-differentiation is differentiated, things are produced.
Yet when the wise makes use of original non-differentiation, he becomes the leader of the people.
Therefore, great governing is non-discriminating.
If one undertakes the task of governing the kingdom and engages in governing it,
I see that he cannot lead it anywhere.
A kingdom is a spiritual vessel and should not be manipulated.
Manipulating it leads to failure.
To grasp it is to miss it.
Because the natures of things vary, one acts, another copies;
One breathes lightly, another breathes heavily;
One is vigorous, one is meek;
One carries on, another fails.
Thus, the wise is not excessive, overindulgent, or extreme.
Aiding in governing the kingdom through Tao means not depending on the superiority of arms.
Depending on the superiority of arms creates consequences.
Wherever there are armies, disorder occurs.
After a great battle, there is a year of deprivation.
Victory is merely the outcome of a contest.
One should not dare to claim superiority of power.
As victory is merely an outcome, one should not boast about it.
As it is merely an outcome, one should not show off because of it.
As it is merely an outcome, one should not be proud of it.
As it is merely an outcome, one cannot help but have it.
As it is merely an outcome, one should not claim superiority of power.
Claiming to be strong leads to decay.
This violates Tao.
That which violates Tao will not last long.
Arms are implements of ill omen which are abhorred by men.
Therefore, the man of Tao does not abide them.
Arms are implements of ill omen.
One uses them only when one cannot avoid it.
Even if one engages in fighting, one should remain quiescent and indifferent.
Even if the war is won, one should not glorify it.
To glorify it means that one enjoys slaying men.
If one enjoys slaying men, one will never be successful in the world.
Tao is real, yet unnameable.
It is original non-differentiation and invisible.
Nevertheless, nothing in the universe can dominate it.
If rulers and lords were able to abide with it, all things in the universe would yield to them naturally.
Heaven and earth are unified and rain the dew of peace.
Without being ordered to do so, people become harmonious by themselves.
When discrimination begins, names arise.
After names arise, one should know where to abide.
When one knows where to abide, one is never exhausted.
To abide with Tao in the world is to be the same as mountain streams flowing to the rivers and to the sea.
To know others is to be intelligent.
To be aware of one's self is to be awakened.
To overcome others is to have superior strength.
To overcome one's self is to be vigorous.
To be satisfied is to be wealthy.
To act with power is to be aspiring.
To retain one's source is to be long-lasting.
To die yet not to be deceased is to have longevity.
The magnificent Tao is all-pervading.
It may penetrate to either this side or that side.
All creatures abide with it and grow; none are excluded from it.
When its work is done, it does not demand merit.
It nurtures all things, but does not rule them.
When it is without intention, it may be called lesser.
When all things return to it, yet it does not possess them, it may be called greater.
Therefore, the wise does not endeavor to be great.
Hence, his attainment is great.
When one maintains the great image in dealing with the world,
One deals with the world without harming it.
Instead, one makes the world serene, tranquil, and peaceful.
Music and delicacies may attract passersby to remain momentarily,
But the taste of Tao is plain and without flavor.
Look at it, nothing can be seen.
Listen to it, nothing can he heard.
Employ it, it cannot be depleted.
That which is to be condensed must first be dispersed.
That which is to be enervated must first be vitalized.
That which is to be devastated must first be produced.
That which is to be obtained must first be yielded.
This is called invisible illumination.
The soft overcomes the unshakable;
The weak overcomes the strong.
Just as fish stay deep in the pond,
The best arms in the nation are those that remain invisible.
Tao is real and free from action, yet nothing is not acted upon.
If rulers abide with it, all things transmute by themselves.
If, in the process of transmutation, intention emerges, it must be overcome by the original non-differentiation of the nameless.
To experience the original non-differentiation of the nameless, one should also be free from intending to have no-intention.
To be free from intending to have no-intention is to be quiescent.
Thereby, the world is naturally led to tranquillity.
The highest attainment (Tê) is free from attainment.
Therefore, there is attainment.
The lowest attainment is never free from attainment.
Therefore, there is no attainment.
The highest attainment never acts and is purposeless.
The lowest attainment acts and is purposeful.
The highest benevolence (jen) acts and is purposeless.
The highest righteousness (yi) acts and is purposeful.
The highest propriety (li) acts and no one follows it.
One bares one's arms and throws one's opponents away.
Therefore, when Tao is lost, we have attainment.
When attainment is lost, we have benevolence.
When benevolence is lost, we have righteousness.
When righteousness is lost, we have propriety.
Propriety is due to a lack of trustworthiness and is the beginning of disorder.
Anticipated knowledge is the superficiality of Tao and is the beginning of foolishness.
Hence, the great man chooses reality and not superficiality.
He acts according to reality and not appearance.
Thus, he grasps the one and foregoes the other.
In the remote past there were those who attained the One.
Attaining the One, heaven became pure.
Attaining the One, earth became peaceful.
Attaining the One, God became spiritual.
Attaining the One, the ocean became full.
Attaining the One, ten thousand things came into life.
Attaining the One, rulers became the models of the world.
All of them became so through the One.
Without becoming pure, heaven would have broken.
Without becoming peaceful, the earth would have quaked.
Without becoming spiritual, God would have crumbled.
Without becoming full, the ocean would have drained.
Without coming into life, ten thousand things would have perished.
Without becoming the models of the world, rulers would have stumbled.
Therefore, the worthless serves as the foundation of the worthy.
The inferior serves as the basis of the superior.
Thus, rulers call themselves isolated men, without merit, and worthless.
Is this not enough to prove that the worthless serve as the foundation of the worthy?
Hence, the perfect fame is no fame.
Rulers do not want to be esteemed as tingling jade; they would rather be plain, solid rock.
Reverse is the movement of Tao.
Yielding is the action of Tao.
Ten thousand things in the universe are created from being.
Being is created from non-being.
When a man of superior talent listens to Tao, he earnestly applies it.
When an ordinary man listens to Tao, he seems to believe it and yet not to believe it.
When the worst man listens to Tao, he greatly ridicules it.
If he did not ridicule it, it would not be Tao.
Therefore, in Ch'ien-yen we have:
Understand Tao as if you do not understand it;
Enter into Tao as if you are coming out of it;
Move smoothly with Tao as if you are having difficulties.
The highest attainment is as if it is no attainment.
All-embracing attainment is as if it is lacking attainment.
Rigorous attainment is as if it is indolent loafing.
Real essence is as if it is empty.
The great white is as if it is black.
The great square is without corners.
Great capacity is successful in its later days.
Great music is without sound.
The great image is without form.
Tao is concealed and without name.
Nevertheless, Tao furnishes all things and fulfills them.
From the Tao, one is created;
From one, two;
From two, three;
From three, ten thousand things.
All of them achieve harmony through the unification of affirmation and negation
Which is embraced by everything.
No one likes to be isolated (ku), without merit (kua), or worthless (pu ku),
Yet rulers refer to themselves with these names.
Thus, some things add to their value by reducing their value.
Some things reduce their value by adding to their value.
Other ancients have taught this; I teach it too.
"The man of violence will end his life in violence."
This is a basic motto.
The meekest in the world
Penetrates the strongest in the world.
As nothingness enters into that-which-has-no-opening.
Hence, I am aware of the value of non-action
And of the value of teaching with no words,
As for the value of non-action,
Nothing in the world can match it.
Man's name or man's self - which is closer to him?
Man's self or his property - which is more valuable to him?
Success or failure - which is more harmful to him?
Things that are cherished more, cost more.
The more that is kept, the more that is missed.
The man who is easily contented is free from shame.
The man who knows the right time to stop is free from danger.
Thus, he will last long.
When accomplishment reaches its utmost,
It is as if nothing is accomplished.
Its application is never exhausted.
When fullness reaches its utmost,
It is as if it is still vacant.
Its application leads to limitlessness.
Thus the perfectly straight is as if it were bent.
The most skilled is as if it were stupid.
The greatest ability of debate is as if it were speechless.
Hence, quiescence surpasses movement,
Coldness surpasses heat,
Tranquillity sets the example for the world.
When the world is governed according to Tao,
Horses are used to work on the farm.
When the world is not governed according to Tao,
Horses and weapons are produced for the frontier.
No crime is greater than that of ambition.
No misfortune is greater than that of discontentment.
No fault is greater than that of conquering.
Therefore, to know contentment through contentment
Is to always have enough.
Without going out of the gate,
One is aware of the world.
Without peering outside,
One sees the way of heaven.
The farther away one is,
The less one is aware.
Therefore, the wise is aware of all things
Without moving a step.
He identifies all things
Without looking at them.
He completes all things
One accumulates day by day.
To study Tao,
One reduces day by day.
Through reduction and further reduction
One reaches non-action,
And everything is acted upon.
Therefore, one often wins over the world
Through action, one may not win over the world.
The wise man is free from his own mind,
But identifies the people's minds as mind.
He considers good as good,
But he also considers not-good as good.
Thus, his attainment of non-differentiation is successful.
He considers truth as truth,
But he also considers not-truth as truth.
Thus, his attainment of non-differentiation is perfected.
In the world, the wise conscientiously non-differentiates
The minds of the people.
Because people rely on their senses of hearing and seeing,
The wise treats them as innocent children.
To live or to die:
Three out of ten men live,
While three out of ten men die.
Further, three out of ten men cling to life,
But they lose it.
Because they all crave life.
He who knows how to safeguard his life
Does not encounter tigers or rhinoceroses.
In the battlefield
He does not avoid dangerous weapons.
Rhinoceroses cannot gore him,
Tigers cannot claw him,
Dangerous weapons cannot harm him.
Because there is no place in him for death.
Tao creates all things;
Tê cultivates them.
Things are shaped according to their natures;
Relational conditions fulfill them.
Therefore, ten thousand things all venerate the source of Tao
And value the potentialities of Tê.
Tao is venerated and Tê is valued spontaneously;
No one orders that it be so.
Thus, Tao creates all things;
Tê cultivates them.
They give them birth.
They nourish them.
They give them shape.
They give them quality.
They shelter them.
They guard them.
They create them but do not possess them.
They work for them but expect no reward.
They bring them to maturity but do not control them.
This is called invisible attainment.
The world has its beginning,
Which may be called the origin of the world.
When one is aware of the origin,
One knows its manifestations.
When one is aware of its manifestations,
Yet abides with its origin,
One never falls short in all of one's life.
Ceasing verbal expressions,
Stopping the entry of sensations,
One is never exhausted.
On the contrary, when one is full of words
And entangled with one's affairs,
One is never able to save one's self.
To see what is invisible is to be awakened.
To remain gentle is to be strong.
Apply illumination and return to awakening.
Then one is free from disaster.
This is called living in accordance with reality.
If I had even a slight awareness,
And practiced the great Way,
What I would fear would be deviating from it.
The great Way is a very level road,
But men like to take circuitous paths.
Thus, the palaces are extremely elegant,
But the people's farms are extremely desolate,
And there is no grain reserved in the storehouses.
The rulers wear expensive garments,
Carry fine swords,
Satiate themselves with food and drink,
And possess inordinate riches and precious things.
This is the greatest robbery,
And is indeed against the great Way.
Nothing can be taken away if it is well-founded.
Nothing can be lost if it is well-grasped.
For generations to come, the worship will not be discontinued.
To cultivate (Tao) in one's self makes attainment real.
To cultivate (Tao) in one's family makes attainment a surplus.
To cultivate (Tao) in one's community makes attainment long-lasting.
To cultivate (Tao) in one's nation makes attainment abundant.
To cultivate (Tao) in one's world makes attainment all-embracing.
Thus, through the self, one contemplates the self.
Through the family, one contemplates the family.
Through the community, one contemplates the community.
Through the nation, one contemplates the nation.
Through the world, one contemplates the world.
How do I know the world as world?
It is through this.
When man is enriched with Tê,
He may be identified with an innocent child.
He is free from the stings of insects,
Free from the claws of wild beasts,
Free from the attacks of devouring birds.
None of his bones or muscles are said to be strong,
But the grip of his hand is always firm.
Nothing concerning the union of male and female is yet known,
But potentiality is evident.
The essence of his life is perfect.
He can cry all the time without losing his voice.
His inner harmony is supreme.
To be aware of inner harmony is to abide with reality.
To abide with reality is to be enlightened.
However, to push life to the full leads to evil.
The mind forcing one's potential is artificial.
When things are artificial, they lead to decay.
This deviates from Tao.
That which deviates from Tao ends life soon.
One who is aware does not talk.
One who talks is not aware.
Ceasing verbal expressions,
Stopping the entry of sensations,
Dulling its sharpness,
Releasing its entanglements,
Tempering its brightness,
And unifying with the earth:
This is called the identity of Tao.
Hence, no nearness can reach him nor distance affect him.
No gain can touch him nor loss disturb him.
No esteem can move him nor shame distress him.
Thus, he is the most valuable man in the world.
Guide the country through tranquillity.
Engage in war with rare operations.
Win over the world through non-action.
How am I aware that this ought to be so?
Because of this, the more restrictions and limitations there are,
The more impoverished men will be.
The more arms men possess,
The more disordered the country will be.
The more scheming and deceitful men are,
The more strange things will occur.
The more rules and precepts are enforced,
The more bandits and crooks will be produced.
Hence, we have the words of the wise:
Through my non-action,
Men are spontaneously transformed.
Through my quiescence,
Men spontaneously become tranquil.
Through my non-interfering,
Men spontaneously increase their wealth.
Through my non-willing,
Men spontaneously return to original simplicity.
When the country is governed through simplicity and leniency,
The people are genuine and honest.
When the country is governed through harshness and sharp investigation,
The people are more deceitful and dishonest.
From misfortune, good fortune is derived.
In good fortune, misfortune is conceived.
Who can determine the ultimate truth?
Or is there no ultimate truth at all?
As truth often turns out to be untruth,
Goodness often turns out to be evil.
This has long confused the people.
Thus, when the wise deals with things he is firm in his principles,
Yet not sharp.
He is pure, yet not harmful.
He is straightforward, yet not violent.
He is illuminated, yet not glittery.
In guiding people and working according to nature,
It is best to follow renunciation.
Following renunciation means returning soon.
Returning soon means accumulating attainment.
Accumulating attainment, everything can be dealt with.
Dealing with everything leads to limitlessness.
With limitlessness, one can govern the country.
Governing the country through its origin leads to endurance.
This means that to root deeply and to plant firmly leads to longevity and eternal consciousness.
Therefore, governing a large nation is as simple as preparing a dish of food.
When Tao prevails in the world, evil loses its power.
It is not that evil no longer possesses spiritual power.
It is that its power does not damage men.
Indeed, it is not that its power does not damage men.
It is primarily that the ruler does not become harmful to men.
When opposites no longer damage each other,
Both are benefitted through the attainment of Tao.
A greater nation must be humble and like a reservoir
Where all the waters join together.
It is the passivity of the universe.
Passivity always prevails over activity through quiescence.
Quiescence is humble before activity.
When a greater nation is humble before a lesser nation,
It prevails over the lesser nation.
When a lesser nation is humble before a greater nation,
It prevails over the greater nation.
Thus, by being humble one prevails over others.
Or, by being originally in a lower position,
One prevails over others.
A greater nation simply likes to bring people together
And to nurture them.
A lesser nation simply likes to participate
And work together with others.
In this way, both have what they like,
But the greater nation must be humble.
Tao is concealed in the depths of all things.
The worthy value it.
The unworthy are protected by it.
Good words may be traded for honor.
Good works may impress men.
Even if a man is unworthy, Tao will never exclude him.
Although in a great nation an emperor is established,
Ministers are appointed, and
Jade and horses are all decorated,
None of these is a better offer to the nation than Tao.
Tao has been highly esteemed since the remote past.
Because not searching for it, one obtains it.
Even if one has faults, one is free from them.
Thus, the Tao is the most highly esteemed thing in the universe.
Action or non-action, work or non-work, knowledge or non-knowledge,
Large or small, more or less:
It is just like returning hatred with love,
Contemplating the difficult with the easy,
Working on the great through the small.
Because the hard tasks in the world must be preceded by what is easy,
Great affairs in the world must begin with what is minute.
Hence, the wise never works on what is great;
He achieves what is great.
The easier it is to promise a thing,
The less one can fulfill.
The more lightly things are taken,
The more difficulties occur.
Therefore, the wise takes things as difficult;
He is always free from the difficult.
That which is motionless is easy to maintain.
That which is prior to emergence is easy to deal with.
That which is just beginning is easy to destroy.
That which is minute is easy to disperse.
Act on what is before it occurs.
Manage things before they are in disorder.
Big trees grow out of small shoots.
A nine story tower begins to be built from one little lump.
A journey of a thousand miles begins from where one stays.
Those who proceed through action fail.
Those who grasp on to a thing lose it.
Therefore, the wise does not act on things and is free from failure.
He does not grasp on to things, and does not lose them.
People who are engaged with things often fail when they almost complete them.
Therefore, one should be as careful in the last stage of one's work as at the beginning.
Then one will be free from failure.
Hence, for the wise, willing is non-willing.
He never values things which are hard to attain.
He learns what is unlearned.
He avoids the mistakes that have been made by others.
He is in accordance with the nature of ten thousand things, yet he never interferes with them.
In the remote past, the man who was good in Tao did not lead his people to calculative thinking,
But let them remain ignorant of it.
The difficulty in cultivating men is that they are full of intellectual discrimination.
Governing the nation through intellectual discrimination is harmful to it.
Not governing the nation through intellectual discrimination is a blessing to it.
Knowing the difference between these two sets a standard.
To be aware of this standard is profound attainment.
Profound attainment is deep and far-reaching.
It is the reversal of ordinary things, yet it leads to great harmony with Tao.
Rivers and seas become the leading powers over all the waters from the highlands
Because they place themselves in low positions before the other waters.
That is why rivers and seas become the leading powers over all the waters from the highlands.
Thus, when the ruler wishes to become the leader of his people,
He first humbles himself before them.
When he wishes to be in front of his people,
He first remains in back of them.
When he is in a high position, people do not feel his authority.
When he is in front of his people, they do not feel any obstruction.
Therefore, all the people want to support him, and no one dislikes him.
It is because he never contends with others that others are unable to quarrel with him.
The world says that I am beyond determination
And cannot be identified with anything.
It is because I am beyond determination that I cannot be identified with anything.
If I could be identified with anything,
I would no longer be beyond determination.
There are three essentials that I value and maintain:
One is compassion (tz'u),
Another is renunciation (ch'ien),
The third is never longing to be first in the world.
One who is compassionate is able to be valiant.
One who renounces is able to broaden one's self.
One who never longs to be first in the world
Is able to achieve the full growth of his capacity.
In the present day, people wish to be valiant,
But they are not compassionate.
They wish to broaden their selves,
But they do not renounce.
They wish to achieve the full growth of their capacities,
But they long to be first in the world.
This indeed leads to death.
Through compassion, engaging in war, one wins.
In self-defense, one is very well protected.
This type of person is saved by heaven.
Because he is compassionate, he is taken care of well.
A good soldier is free from violence.
A good fighter is free from rage.
A good winner is free from competition.
A good leader is humble before the people.
This is called the attainment of non-contention,
Or the application of the strength of others.
It is also called identity with the ultimate
Beyond space and time.
On military operations we have:
"I do not boldly attack others first,
But take action only after being attacked."
"I do not boldly move forward even an inch,
But withdraw a foot."
This is called the operation of non-operation,
Bearing the arms of non-arms,
Charging the enemy of non-enemy,
Carrying the weapons of non-weapons.
There is no more serious misfortune
Than to engage in war lightly.
To engage in war lightly is to violate my essential teachings of compassion, renunciation, and never longing to be first in the world.
Therefore, when two armies join in battle,
The one that is compassionate wins.
It is not difficult to grasp my words or to follow them.
Yet no one in the world can grasp them or follow them.
Because words must derive from the source of words,
Action requires an actor who acts.
Since you are not aware of this, you cannot know me.
The less people know me, the more valuable I am.
Thus, the wise is covered with tattered clothes which conceal precious jade.
Knowing that which cannot be known is perfect.
Not being aware of this knowing is a defect.
To be aware of defects as defects is to be free from defects.
The wise is free from defects.
He is aware of defects as defects.
Therefore, he is free from defects.
When people are free from fear,
They experience "basic dread."
Because they are not limited by the places in which they stay,
They are at peace with their lives.
Because they are at peace with their lives,
Their lives are peaceful.
Therefore, the wise is aware of himself,
But does not display himself.
He cultivates himself,
But is not proud of himself.
He leaves behind small fear,
But experiences basic dread.
Courageous but foolhardy, one perishes.
Courageous but not foolhardy, one's life is saved.
Between these two, one gains, the other loses.
Who knows what nature loathes?
Even the sage can hardly make a wise choice.
According to the way of heaven,
Without contending, one inevitably wins.
Without asking, one spontaneously receives a response.
Without invitation, success comes by itself.
Unintentionally, the heavenly way is well-devised.
The net of nature is all-embracing.
Although the spaces are large, nothing escapes it.
Men are no longer afraid to die.
Why should we frighten them with dying?
If men were still as afraid of death as they used to be,
We could catch a criminal and put him to death.
Who would have the courage to commit a crime?
(In nature), there is always one who is responsible for ending the life of man.
If we take over the responsibility of killing,
It is just like taking over the great lumberjack's work of cutting wood.
If we take over the great lumberjack's work of cutting,
We can hardly help but hurt our hands.
When men are deprived of food,
It is because their kings tax them too heavily.
Therefore, they are deprived of food.
When men are hard to govern,
It is because their kings interfere with their lives.
Therefore, they are hard to govern.
When men give up their lives lightly,
It is because their kings are anxious to live extravagantly.
Therefore, men give up their lives lightly.
Only one who disregards his own life
Knows how to value the lives of others.
When a man is alive,
His body is soft and frail.
After his death,
It is hard and solid.
When grass and trees are growing,
They are delicate and fragile.
After their deaths,
They are wizened and decayed.
Therefore, what is hard is close to death.
What is soft is close to life.
Thus, when troops are inflexible, they lose the war.
When a wood board is dried hard, it cracks.
What is strongest and most solid remains low.
What is softest and meekest remains high.
The course of nature is similar to the curve of a bow:
That which is at the top is pulled down;
That which is at the bottom is brought up.
That which is overfull is reduced;
That which is deficient is supplemented.
The course of nature is to reduce what is overfull
And to supplement what is deficient.
The course of man is to reduce what is deficient
And to supplement what is overfull.
Who can supplement the overfull for the people of the world?
Only the man of Tao can do it.
Therefore, with the wise, work is done and no one depends on it.
Achievements are made, but no one claims credit.
Is he not free from wishing to show off his superiority?
Water is the softest and meekest thing in the world,
Yet it is best able to overcome that which is strong and solid.
This is the truth and cannot be changed.
"The meek suppresses the solid, the soft suppresses the strong."
All the people in the world know this,
Yet they cannot apply it to their lives.
Therefore, the wise says:
"Those who can accept the blame for the entire nation
Will be the leaders of the nation.
Those who can endure the evil omens of the world
Will be the kings of the world."
Right expression is similar to its reversal.
When a serious resentment is reconciled,
Some resentment certainly remains.
Thus, reconciliation cannot be considered the best way.
Although the wise holds to the contract prepared by the debtor,
He never forces the debtor to fulfill his responsibility.
Therefore, the man of Tê holds only to the contract,
While the man without Tê presses for taxes.
The way of nature is free from intimacy.
Yet it constantly stays with the good man.
There is a kingdom which is small and sparsely populated.
There are numerous implements, but no one uses them.
The people love their lives and no one wants to move afar.
Boats and carriages are available, but no one rides them.
Fine weapons are in their possession, but no one uses them.
The people are back in the times when knotted cords were used to record things.
They enjoy fine delicacies and are handsome in their dress.
They are happy with their residences and are pleased with their traditions.
Although the next state is within sight, and the sounds of cocks crowing and dogs barking are heard,
The people live their whole lives without traveling to and fro.
When words express truth, they are not refined.
When words are refined, they do not express truth.
One who is proficient does not depend on verbal disputation.
One who depends on verbal disputation is not proficient.
One who knows is not encyclopedic.
One who is encyclopedic does not know.
The wise does not accumulate.
The more he works for other people, the more he gains.
The more he shares with other people, the more he receives.
The Tao followed by heaven is to do good and not to harm.
The Tao followed by the wise is to work and not to claim credit.