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The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be defined in words is not the name that never changes.
Non-existence is what we will call the source of heaven and earth.
Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we observe the beginning of the existence of the many hidden qualities of the universe.
From eternal existence, therefore, we clearly observe the overt qualities of the universe.
These two, the hidden and the overt, are originally the same at source, and become different when they manifest themselves.
This same origin is "the smallest of the small."
The absolute "smallest of the small" is the gate from which the beginning of all the parts of the universe emerges.
When the world understands that beauty is beautiful, ugliness will exist.
When the world understands that goodness is good, evil will exist.
From that we learn that:
Existence affirms non-existence,
Ease affirms difficulty,
Short derives from long, because that is what it is compared to,
Low derives from high, because according to that it is measured,
Echo affirms sound,
After follows before.
The sage operates without action,
And teaches his pupils without words.
Everything in the universe, when defined, is relative to everything else.
The sage does not try to differentiate things, he does not try to show his preference for things either in deed or in speech.
This does not mean that the sage does nothing or says nothing;
rather, it means that he "accepts things as they are," easily and naturally, without making any demands.
If the exalted are not praised, the humble will not put on airs.
When rare things are not assigned a value, the thief has no reason to steal them.
When the desired object is not shown, the heart has no reason to covet it.
Therefore the sage says:
By emptying their hearts
By filling their stomachs
By weakening their ambition
By strengthening their bones,
He prevents them from knowing what evil is and yearning for good, and this also prevents the knowledgeable ones from acting according to their knowledge.
He governs by non-action,
And therefore, there is nothing that cannot be done.
Non-quiet and non-order in the world are caused by ambition to attain the unattainable,
and by plotting to go from the undesired to the desired.
If people would obey the laws of the world the way the sage does, there would always be balance between body and soul, and peace and serenity would abound in the world.
The Tao, if you examine it, will always be empty and will never be full.
In its infinite emptiness lies the source of all things,
It will remain in its depths forever.
I don't know whose seed it is,
But it looks like the predecessor of the universe itself.
Heaven and earth do not own all things,
For them, things are like straw dogs.
The sage does not own his words,
For him, all people are like straw dogs.
The hollow space that lies between heaven and earth is like the blacksmith's bellows.
Hollow in appearance, nothing is lacking,
And if it moves, a lot of what is in it moves.
The person who speaks a lot will be exhausted.
It would be better for him to keep his words to himself.
"The valley and the wind will never die."
They are the creators of the one who is the mystical mother,
The one whose hair is the source of heaven and earth.
This source will never end.
Even if it is exploited endlessly, it will never diminish.
Heaven and earth will exist forever.
The reason they exist forever is that they do not live for themselves and they do not live because of themselves.
Therefore they live forever.
In the same way, the sage stays behind everything and finds himself in front of everything, he is not himself and he is preserved forever.
Since he has no self-interest, his self-interest can realize itself.
Even though it looks like heaven and earth give life to all creatures, they do not live in order to preserve their own existence, and therefore they live forever and never die.
In his rule over the kingdom, the sage does everything for people, ignoring his personal goals, and ultimately earns glory, honor, and everything he wanted for himself.
The best of the best is like water.
Water is beneficial to everything,
And does not demand anything for itself in return.
Water stays in places where nothing else stays.
Therefore, water is close to Tao.
At home, it is important for this to be a good place to live in.
In feeling, examine the depths of your heart.
In friendship, maintain good relations with others.
In words, have confidence.
In government, abide by good order.
In trade, taking things easy will be to your benefit.
In movement, use every opportunity.
Since there is no demand for anything, there is no blame, either.
This shows how the sage, the highest level of good, operates selflessly.
He does good for others but demands nothing of them.
He is satisfied with everything.
He does not covet anything that belongs to someone else.
When he serves as an example for us, the world enjoys peace and tranquillity.
It is better to leave a thing alone
Than to hold it and keep it full to the brim.
If you sharpen the blade and use it,
It will not remain sharp for long.
When gold and jade fill the temple,
No one can protect them.
When wealth and honor come together with pride
Self-destruction quickly joins them.
After the goal has been achieved and the objective has been honorably accomplished,
The Tao of heaven
Is to retire from everything.
Can you always keep your soul focused
So that nothing can divert it from the Tao?
Can you regulate your breathing
And be as soft and relaxed as a baby?
Can you purify yourself and eliminate the hidden
So that you are free of all blemish and error?
Can you love the people and govern the state by non-action?
Can you open and close the gates of nature
As a woman can?
Can you be enlightened and aware
And penetrate to the depths of everything, without knowledge?
Thirty spokes unite in the middle of the wheel,
And because of the part between them where nothing exists,
We enjoy the use of the carriage wheel.
Clay is formed into bowls and vessels,
And because of the hollow in it where nothing exists,
We use them as vessels.
Doors and windows are cut into the walls of the house,
And since they are empty space, we can use them.
Therefore, on the one hand, we have the advantage of what exists,
And, on the other, we utilize the non-existent.
Without that which does not exist, we cannot take advantage of the wheel, the vessel, or the house.
Without wooden spokes, clay, and walls, we cannot take advantage of the space they contain.
Ultimately, existence and non-existence coexist and are intertwined.
The five colors blind a person's sight.
The five sounds deafen a person's hearing.
The five tastes dull a person's palate.
Races and hunting trips make a person wild.
Things that are hard to attain are detrimental to a person's conduct.
For this reason, the sage
Prepares his food according to the size of his stomach and not according to the size of his eyes.
He rejects surfeit, and opts for less.
"Honor and disgrace are like fear.
Fortune and disaster are like our body."
What does "Honor and disgrace are like fear" mean?
Honor is located in a high place, and disgrace is located in a low place.
When you have them, it is as if you are in a state of fear, and when you no longer have them, it is also as if you are in a state of fear.
Therefore, honor and disgrace are like fear.
What does "Fortune and disaster are like our body" mean?
We have fortune and disaster because we have a body.
When we do not have a body, how can fortune and disaster affect us?
Therefore, the person who relates to the world like he relates to the good fortune of his body can rule the world.
The world can be safely entrusted to the person who loves it like he loves his body.
What we look at and do not see is called simplicity.
What we listen to and do not hear is called rarity.
What we clasp and do not catch is called delicateness.
These three cannot be discerned,
So they unite to become one.
When it is revealed, it does not dazzle,
When it is concealed, it is not dark,
When it is infinite, it is not defined.
It attains the non-existent.
Its name is the form of the formless
And its image is that which does not have an image.
It is mysterious.
Meet it, and you will not be able to see its face,
Follow it, and you will not be able to see its back.
By adhering to the ancient Tao,
You will be master of the essence of the present
And you will be aware of the origin of the past.
That is the clue to the Tao.
Long ago, the man of Tao was learned, incisive,
And so profound that it was difficult to comprehend him.
Since it is impossible to understand him, I will try to sketch his image:
He is cautious, like a person crossing a stream during the winter.
He is hesitant, like a person who fears his neighbors.
He is modest, like a person who is another's guest.
He is unassuming, like ice that slowly melts.
He is simple, like a log that has not been carved.
He is hollow, like a valley surrounded by mountains.
He is dim, like stagnant and murky water.
And who is the person who can clear the darkness until it begins to glow?
And who is the person who can purify the murky water until it becomes clear?
And who is the person who can nudge the stagnant along until it begins to move?
The one who follows the principles does not seek fullness.
Since he is not full, when he falls, he can renew himself.
Devote yourself to the goal of achieving absolute serenity,
Aspire to a state of perfect peace.
All things come into existence,
And we see them return.
Look at the things that bloomed and flowered,
Each of them returns to its source.
The return to the source is called serenity,
Which means following destiny,
Following destiny is eternal, it is eternity.
He who knows eternity is enlightened.
He who does not know eternity runs blindly
To his pain and suffering.
Knowledge of eternity, is all-embracing.
Since he embraces everything, he will achieve greatness.
Since he grasps greatness, he can attain perfection.
When he reaches perfection, he will attain supremacy.
When he is supreme, he will come to the Tao.
The person who achieves the Tao exists forever.
Even if his body decays, he will never perish.
The greatest rulers are the ones whose existence the people do not notice at all,
The rulers who are inferior to them are the ones whom the people honor and praise,
And inferior to those are the ones of whom they are afraid,
And inferior to those are the ones whom they despise.
When there is a lack of faith in the ruler,
No one believes in his rule.
Now, learn how much importance must be attributed to words.
When the great Tao is lost, justice, righteousness and good will spring forth.
When wisdom and cunning emerge, hypocrisy raises its head.
When family ties are no longer harmonious, honoring parents and caring for children still remain.
When a nation is in a state of confusion and disorder, patriotism becomes evident.
When Tao is present, equilibrium is present.
When Tao is lost, the differences between things emerge.
And grief and sorrow will no longer be known.
Abandon learned volumes, cast off wisdom,
And people will be one hundred times better off.
Abandon righteousness, cast off justice,
And people will return to filial duty and birthing offspring.
Abandon cunning, cast off avarice,
And bandits and thieves will disappear from the earth.
These four principles, even if they form the foundation of human culture, are not sufficient.
Therefore, here are principles to which people can adhere:
Show integrity, adhere to simplicity,
Restrain selfishness, curtail lusts.
What is actually the difference between "yes" and "no"?
What is actually the difference between good and bad?
Must we fear what others fear?
The complexity is limitless!
In general, the people are happy, as if they were enjoying a royal feast,
Or as if they had climbed to the top of the tower on a spring day.
I alone am indifferent and quiet, I show no signs,
Like a baby who cannot smile yet,
Depressed as if I do not have a home to go back to.
All the others have more than enough,
And I alone, it seems, have a need to make up for what is missing.
Perhaps my thoughts are the thoughts of a fool,
Ignorant of knowledge, despised by everyone!
The vulgar person is bright,
I alone am so dull and toneless.
The vulgar person is clear,
I alone am so dull and opaque.
I am drifting, I am not anchored,
Swinging back and forth, I am not attached.
In general, everybody has something to do,
I alone am at a loose end, aimless.
I alone am different from the others,
But I value the quest for
Existence that comes from the big mother.
Good and bad, like "yes" and "no," are identical in the eyes of the omniscient sage.
But he is afraid of them, since they are infinite, and can therefore not be foreseen.
However, all told, he, the sage, is different from the people.
The manifestation of the great virtue is to follow the way of the Tao.
Tao is a thing that is invisible, inaccessible.
Inaccessible, invisible, and yet it has image and form.
Cloudy and obscure, but there is essence in it,
And this essence is absolute truth, and there is belief in it.
From ancient times until now, it has not lost its nameless name,
Through it the source of all things has passed.
How do I know that the source of all things is in it?
From the Tao.
Be modest, and you will remain whole.
Be bent, and you will remain straight.
Be empty, and you will remain full.
Be worn out, and you will remain new.
The one who has little will receive.
The one who has a lot will be enslaved.
Therefore the sage guards the one,
And becomes a paradigm for the world.
He does not expose himself, therefore he shines.
He does not make a good name for himself, therefore he is known.
He does not praise himself, therefore he is dear to everyone.
He does not glorify himself, therefore his name is on everyone's lips.
And since he does not compete at all,
There is no one in the world who can compete with him.
The ancient ones said:
Be modest, and you will remain whole.
Can these be meaningless words?
Indeed, he will return home whole.
It is natural to be frugal with words.
A gale will not blow for an entire morning;
Pelting rain will not fall for a whole day.
Who causes all those?
Heaven and earth.
If (the fruit of) heaven and earth cannot last forever,
How can man?
The person who follows the Tao,
Is identified with the Tao.
The person who adheres to virtue,
Is identified with virtue.
The person who adheres to vice,
Is identified with vice.
When a person follows the Tao,
The Tao looks kindly upon him.
When the person adheres to virtue,
Virtue welcomes him.
When the person adheres to vice,
Vice opens its door to him.
A person who stands on tiptoe cannot stand firmly on his feet.
A person who spreads his legs cannot walk steadily.
A person who displays himself cannot shine (like a star in the sky).
A person who praises himself will not be praised by others.
A person who glorifies himself will not be famous.
A person who makes himself mighty cannot excel.
All these, in comparison to the Tao, are called:
"A surfeit of food and an excess of action."
They will be tiresome to everyone in other things, too.
Therefore, the man of Tao is not found in their company.
All these are examples of living in a way that goes against nature.
There is something that is overt and hidden,
That exists beyond heaven and earth.
It stands alone, forever, it does not change,
It exists in every place, it never tires.
It can be called "Mother of the universe,"
Because I don't know its name.
If I am compelled to call it by a name,
I will call it Tao, "all-embracing."
"All-embracing" exists forever,
"All-embracing" is far-reaching,
"All-embracing" returns to every beginning.
Therefore Tao is "all-embracing,"
Heaven is "all-embracing,"
Earth is "all-embracing,"
Man is "all-embracing."
In the universe, four things are "all-embracing,"
And man is one of them.
Man adheres to the laws of earth,
Earth adheres to the laws of heaven,
Heaven adheres to the laws of Tao,
Tao adheres to the laws of its nature.
Heaviness is the basis of lightness,
The passing is the basis of movement,
Therefore the sage, even when traveling all day long,
Never abandons the baggage wagon,
Therefore the sage, even when surrounded by splendor and luxury,
Is shrouded in indifference that stems from serenity.
How can this great emperor, with a thousand chariots,
Move easily throughout his kingdom?
If he is light, he will lose his basis,
If he is hasty, he will lose his serenity.
The light cannot bear the heavy; the small cannot contain the large; the sedentary controls the moving, the one who does not move from his place controls the one who moves from his place.
Therefore heaviness is the basis of lightness, and serenity is the secret of control.
The good traveler leaves no tracks,
The good speaker leaves no doubt,
The good accountant needs no abacus,
The good builder needs no lock and bolt,
And the door he closes will not open behind him.
The good fastener needs no ropes or knots,
And it is still impossible to untie after him.
Even if people are bad, why should they be rejected?
Therefore the sage is always the good savior of the people,
And nobody will reject him.
He is good to all creatures,
He spurns nothing.
This state is called "to see and to come to the light."
Therefore, good people are guides to bad people,
And many people are like matter in good people's hands.
And the person who does not appreciate his guide,
And the person who does not love the matter in his hand,
All their success comes from blindness.
This is the main principle of the secret.
The person who holds on to masculinity but also preserves femininity
Will be a channel that draws the entire world through it,
And, being a channel for the entire world, will not lack eternal heroism,
And can then return to the purity of his childhood.
The person who holds on to white, but also preserves black
Will be a sign and an example for the world,
And, being a sign and an example for the world, will not lack eternal heroism,
And can then return to the infinite absolute.
The person who holds on to honor but also preserves humility
Will be a valley that absorbs the whole world into it,
And, being a valley that absorbs the whole world into it, will not lack eternal heroism,
And can then return to fundamental perfection.
Fundamental perfection, when divided up, will become vessels of many uses,
And these will be used by the sage, officers, and ministers.
However, in order to be great and ruling and supreme, there is no need for division.
When a person undertakes to hold and mold the world,
I see that he will fail in this task.
Since the world is an instrument of God:
It cannot be molded,
It cannot be held.
He who tries to mold it damages it,
He who insists on holding it loses it.
Therefore the sage does not mold it, and therefore he does not damage it,
He does not try to hold it, and therefore he does not lose it.
With all things, some move forward while others lag behind,
Some hold their tongues, while others speak a lot,
Some are strong, while others are weak,
Some are on the wagon, while others fall off.
Therefore the sage avoids excess, extremism, haughtiness, lust, and arrogance.
The person who helps a ruler of men with the Tao
Does not force the world with weapons.
He aims only to redeem the Tao,
And does not attempt to force his strength on others.
Bringing redemption, he does not attribute it to himself,
He does not boast much, he is not proud,
He thinks that it is his obligation to do so.
This is how redemption will be, without force.
When things reach their full power,
They begin their process of aging.
This goes against the Tao.
Whatever goes against the Tao will quickly come to an end.
As far as weapons are concerned, they are instruments of suffering.
They are not the instruments of the man of Tao.
For the actions of weapons will be repaid:
In a place where armies are stationed, only thorns and thistles grow.
Years of misery always accompany great wars.
When the man of Tao stays at home,
His left is his place of honor,
And when using weapons,
His right is his place of honor.
He uses weapons
Only when he cannot avoid doing so.
He does not rejoice in his conquests.
If he rejoices in his conquests,
It means that he enjoys killing and slaughter.
The person who enjoys killing people,
Cannot realize his aspirations in the world.
In matters of bringing honor, the place of honor is on the left;
In the opposite matters, the place of honor is on the right.
The adjutant-general takes his place on the left,
The general's place is on the right,
And this means that it is a funeral procession.
The slaughter of many people leads to deep and protracted mourning.
Victory in battle is immortalized in a funeral procession.
The Tao was always nameless.
When it was expressed for the first time,
It was given a name.
And once it has already been given a name, it is necessary to stop.
The knowledge of where to stop makes a person immune to any danger.
The person who knows others is wise,
The person who knows himself is enlightened.
The person who conquers others is strong,
The person who conquers himself is powerful.
The person who knows his lot is rich.
The person who maintains his path with energy has a strong will.
The person who does not stray from his proper place will have a long life.
The person who dies but does not perish will exist forever.
"The difficulty in knowing is not learning others, but learning ourselves.
Therefore, the person who learns himself is enlightened."
The great Tao is in everything, both on the left and on the right.
Through it, all things come into being, and it does not abandon them.
When its work is completed, it does not possess them.
It loves and nurtures all things,
But does not rule them.
It never exists, so it can be called small, apparently.
All things return home to it,
And it does not claim to own them,
So it can be called great, apparently.
It never aspires to greatness,
And therefore it accomplishes greatness.
The person who holds the great thing
Will go through a whole world.
He will go along the path straightforwardly without seeing danger,
But finds tranquillity, friendship, and equality.
The sounds of a tune and the scent of delicacies will cause the stranger passing by to stop.
But Tao, when it is expressed in words, is pure, devoid of all taste.
When someone looks at it, he won't see it.
When someone listens to it, he won't hear it.
However, when someone uses it, it is everything.
In order to reduce something, it must first be expanded.
In order to weaken something, it must first be strengthened.
In order to drop something, it must first be lifted.
"In order to take, a man must first give."
This is what is called the wisdom of light.
The soft and weak can overcome the hard and strong.
Just as the fish should not leave the depths,
The sharp instruments of control should not leave their hiding-place.
Tao is never active, but there is nothing it does not do.
If princes and kings could hold onto it, all things would develop by themselves.
When they develop, the desire in them would emerge,
I would restrain them with simplicity,
So simple that it does not even have a name,
In order to liberate them from desire.
Free of desire, they would be soaked in tranquillity,
And thus the world would attain purity and virtue.
Simplicity, however unimportant it may be,
Cannot be subdued even by the entire world.
If princes and kings could hold onto it,
Everything in the world, of its own accord, would pay homage.
Heaven and earth would unite to sprinkle dew, sweeter than honey, on the ground.
Without anyone ordering them to do so, people would attain harmony by themselves.
With the mission accomplished and the objectives achieved,
People would see themselves as following in nature's footsteps.
Superior virtue is not aware of being a superior virtue,
So it has virtue.
Inferior virtue never discards the virtue,
Therefore it has no virtue.
Superior virtue seems inactive, but it does everything.
Inferior virtue operates, but ultimately its work is incomplete.
Superior love operates without motive.
Superior justice operates without motive.
The superior system operates, even though nothing responds to it at first,
And gradually people raise their arms and join it.
Thus, when the Tao is lost, virtue is lost.
If virtue is lost, love is lost.
If love is lost, justice is lost.
If justice is lost, the superior system comes into being.
The superior system, therefore, is the expression of impatience and disloyalty, the result of confusion of the senses.
Knowledge that contains no knowledge is only the flower of Tao and the beginning of folly.
Therefore, the truly great person keeps the concrete and rejects the transient,
He keeps the fruit and does not take the flower.
Therefore he rejects the flower and takes the fruit.
Among things, these are the ones that received the One in ancient times:
Heaven, that is made clear by the One,
Earth, that is stabilized by the One,
The soul, that is made spiritual by the One,
The valley, that is made full by the One.
Through the One, all things came into being and were realized,
Princes and kings, through the One, became rulers of the world.
If heaven were not clear, it could tear,
If earth were not stable, it could collapse,
If the soul were not active, it could dissolve,
If the valley were not full, it could dry up.
If things did not exist, they would be as if they had never been,
If princes and kings did not rule,
They would be thrown from their thrones.
The nobleman must measure himself in terms of the humble and simple man,
The dignitary must use the lowly as his basis.
Therefore, princes and kings call themselves "ignorant," "cowardly," "worthless."
Does that not mean that they consider humility to be the root of their nature?
For what does a person hate more than "ignorant," "cowardly," or "worthless"?
Yet princes and kings still choose these words to describe themselves.
Therefore there is no exaltation in this dignitary.
Thus kings rise by lowering their value,
And disappear by raising their value.
It is not good to be conspicuous, like a single gemstone,
Or monotonous and invisible like one of the countless stones in a field.
Going back is the movement of the Tao,
Weakening is the expression of the Tao.
Everything in the universe springs from within existence,
And existence springs from non-existence.
Non-existence can penetrate the hardest of all.
Therefore I know that there is usefulness to non-action.
Learning without words, usefulness without action,
Only a few in the world have achieved this.
Your reputation or your person, which is closer to you?
Your person or your property, which is dearer to you?
Profit or loss, which is worse for you?
Over-eagerness leads to over-spending.
Too much property leads to too much loss.
Therefore, the person who is content with his lot will not know disgrace,
And the person who knows where to stop will never disappear,
He will exist forever.
When the learned scholar hears the Tao
He makes every effort to master it.
When the mediocre scholar hears the Tao
It will seem as if he grasps and loses it, alternately.
When the weak scholar hears the Tao
He laughs wildly,
If he had not laughed at it, it would not be worthy to be Tao.
Therefore it is written:
"The enlightened Tao seems dark,
The advanced Tao seems backward,
The direct Tao seems obscure,
The most exalted quality looks like a valley,
The most pristine white looks colorless,
The most superior virtue looks insufficient,
The most solid quality is like a fragile stalk,
The simplest nature looks changeable,
The largest square has no angles,
The largest vessel is never whole,
The loudest sound is hardly heard,
The largest image cannot be imagined.
Tao, since it is hidden, is nameless."
But only the Tao can improve and mend.
To separate is to be constructive; to be constructive is to be destructive.
All things, whether they are constructive or destructive, lead to the One again.
Tao begets one,
One begets two,
Two begets three,
Three begets all things.
All things, back to the shade, front to the light,
The harmony between them is the breath of life.
What others teach, I also teach:
"The cruel and violent do not die a natural death."
I will use that sentence as my guide.
The greatest perfection looks flawed,
And even so, it never perishes.
The greatest fullness looks empty,
And even so, it will never run out.
The straightest road looks crooked.
The greatest vigor looks like laziness,
The greatest eloquence looks like stammering.
Action overcomes cold,
Tranquillity overcomes heat.
Only through purity and tranquillity of spirit
Can order be imposed on the world.
When Tao rules the world
Racehorses are harnessed to the garbage cart in the fields.
When Tao does not rule the world
War-horses graze in the meadows on the outskirts of the city.
There is no greater sin than going after what man desires,
There is no greater sorrow than not knowing a measure of contentment,
There is no greater obstacle than falling into the pit of greed.
Therefore, it is sufficient for you to know a measure of contentment in order to know contentment in proportion, so as to satisfy your measure.
Without crossing the threshold of the gate
It is possible to know the entire world.
Without looking through the window
It is possible to see the Tao of heaven.
The further the person goes,
The less he knows.
Therefore the sage
Knows everything without going through the streets,
Names everything without seeing it,
Accomplishes every task without doing anything.
The person who pursues his studies
Will be wiser with every passing day,
The person who seeks the Tao
Will decrease with every passing day.
Less and less, he will continue to decrease,
Until he reaches the state of non-action,
And by non-action it is possible to do everything.
Li Chia-mou said:
"He who pursues learning acquires knowledge; he who seeks the Tao casts off his ignorance.
The more the person knows, the more he has to get rid of.
Therefore, adding means nothing more than decreasing."
The sage has no self that he can call "mine,"
He turns the self of the people into his own.
I act with goodness toward the good,
I act with goodness toward the bad, too,
And so the good is contagious.
I relate with trust to the person who is worthy of trust,
I relate with trust to the person who is not worthy of trust, too,
And so trust is contagious.
The sage lives in the world in his victory and rules the world with his simplicity.
But when all the people look at him and listen to him,
The sage takes care of them, like a mother takes care of her children.
It is easy to hold something that is motionless,
It is easy to create a mold for something that is not lacking,
It is easy to break something that is breakable,
It is easy to scatter a thing that is small.
Take care of a thing before it happens,
Arrange a thing before it gets out of hand.
The simple man generally fails in his affairs on the verge of success.
Take care of the end as you do of the beginning,
And you will not fail.
The Tao created all things,
The way of the Tao nourished them,
All things emerge in different forms,
Each of them is perfect in the nature of the Tao within it.
Therefore, there is not one among the myriad of things
That does not honor the Tao and cherish its way.
Honoring the Tao and cherishing its way are not dictated by law,
But rather come from within.
Therefore the Tao creates them, makes them grow, nourishes them,
Guards them, lifts them, and protects them.
When all things are created, the Tao does not reject them.
It creates them without owning them.
It operates without depending on them, and raises them without controlling them.
When its work is completed, it does not lay any claim to them.
Since it does not lay claim to them, it does not lose them.
People leave life and enter death.
Life's portion is three out of ten.
Death's portion is also three out of ten.
People who move from the day of birth into the realm of death,
Their portion is also three out of ten.
Why is that?
Because of their futile efforts to seek eternal life.
However, only those who do nothing to prolong their life,
Are better off than those who do everything in order to live longer.
I have heard that the person who knows how to preserve his life
When traveling the earth,
Will not encounter a rhinoceros or a tiger,
And when he goes into battle,
He will not be wounded by a weapon or an arrow.
The rhinoceros will not target him with its horn,
The tiger will not tear him apart with its claws,
Weapons will not find their mark on his body
Where they can pierce him with their blades and arrowheads.
Why is that?
Because he is out of the realm of death.
The beginning of the universe, when materialized, is considered to be a mother.
When a man finds the mother, he will know the children, accordingly.
Even though he knows the children, he still clings to the mother:
Therefore, although his body wanes, he never perishes.
The person who shuts his mouth and closes his doors
Will never perish.
If he opens his mouth and increases his affairs,
He will never be saved.
The person who sees the tiniest thing possesses clear vision,
The person who adheres to the weak possesses strength.
Use your light, but dim your brightness,
In this way you will not do yourself any harm.
This is called following the eternal Tao.
Let me have knowledge and follow the great way of the Tao,
I alone am afraid of straying from this path.
The great way is easy and simple,
But people prefer byways.
The royal palaces are wonderfully maintained,
But the people's fields are full of thorns,
And the barns are empty.
There are those who wear expensive clothes,
There are those who carry polished swords,
There are those who gorge themselves on food and drink,
There are those who amass property and possessions:
This is called encouraging the robbers.
Is this not straying from the path of the Tao?
What is sown by the best sower will never be uprooted,
What is fastened by the best fastener will never be loosened.
And so his children and grandchildren can continue the ancestral ritual for many generations.
If he nurtures the Tao by himself, his virtue is genuine,
If he nurtures the Tao in his family, his virtue is abundant,
If he nurtures the Tao in his village, his virtue is inestimable,
If he nurtures the Tao in his country, his virtue fills the country,
If he nurtures the Tao in the world, his virtue fills the universe.
Therefore, when you observe the individual, know individuals,
When you observe the family, know families,
When you observe the village, know villages,
When you observe the country, know countries,
When you observe the world, know the universe.
How do I know that it is possible to rule the world with the Tao?
From this observation.
The person who is blessed with great virtue can be compared to a child.
He will not be bitten by an insect or a snake,
He will not be devoured by wild animals,
Birds of prey will not swoop down on him.
His bones are fragile, his tendons soft, but his grip is strong.
He is not familiar with the union of man and woman, but he possesses reproductive powers.
This means that he is at the peak of his vitality.
He can weep all day and not become hoarse.
This means that he is in perfect harmony.
Being familiar with this harmony brings him closer to eternity,
Being familiar with eternity enables man to attain enlightenment.
Increasing life invites trouble,
Let your heart become addicted to the breath of the spirit, and you will be filled with potency.
Make all the weapons blunt,
Cut everything that is tangled,
Make everything that is shiny dull,
Mix with anything that is as humble as dust,
And this is called absolute equality.
One cannot get close to it
Nor can one get away from it.
It is impossible to derive benefit from it,
Nor to be harmed by it.
It does not publicize a person's honor,
Nor does it publicize a person's shame.
Therefore it is the most exalted thing in the world.
Although the wise man rules the country with integrity,
And wages war cunningly,
He who wishes to rule the empire
Must not interfere with anything.
His wish is unattainable in any other way.
How do I know this?
The more limitations and prohibitions there are,
The more poor people there will be.
The more weapons people possess,
The more riots there will be throughout the country.
The more artists and artisans there are among the people,
The greater the desire to create things that belong to the imagination.
The more rules and regulations there are,
The more robbers and thieves there will be.
Therefore the sage says:
When I choose non-action of my own accord,
The people reach the path of their own accord.
When I love peace and quiet of my own accord,
The people behave with integrity of their own accord.
When I desist from all occupation of my own accord,
The people become very wealthy of their own accord.
When I am free of all desire of my own accord,
The people remain simple of their own accord.
When the government is indifferent and inactive,
The people will be happy and wealthy,
When the government discriminates and divides,
The people will be restless and dissatisfied.
Happiness is borne on the back of sorrow,
Sorrow dwells beneath happiness.
Therefore, who can know the virtues of good government?
Only when the government does not rectify anything.
Otherwise, the rectification becomes a strategy,
And good becomes evil.
People have been aware of this for a long time.
Therefore the sage is square and does not cut others,
He has a point, but he does not pierce others,
He is straight, but he does not straighten others,
He shines, but he does not dazzle others.
When ruling people, like serving heaven, the sage acts only in moderation.
Only with moderation can he learn the Tao in an instant.
This study is called "the rapid accumulation of a virtue."
Through the rapid accumulation of a virtue
He can overcome everything.
Since there is nothing he cannot overcome,
No one can know of his superiority.
Since no one knows of his superiority,
He can rule the country.
Since what he does when he acquires everything is identified with the mother, his days are extended.
Thus his roots are deep and his foundations strong, and he knows the way of longevity and immortality.
Govern a large country as you would cook a small fish, gently.
Let the Tao govern the world, and spirits will not roam freely.
This does not mean that spirits will not have powers,
But rather that their powers will not harm people.
They will not harm people,
Nor will the sage harm people.
When neither he nor they harm anybody,
The virtue belongs to both of them.
When the Tao governs the world, the spirits are not known as spirits and the sage is not considered a sage, says Wang-Pi.
A great country is like the drainage basin of the entire world,
Into which all the rivers flow,
It is the field of the entire world,
It is the femininity of the entire world.
Femininity always overcomes masculinity with its calmness of spirit,
Which it uses as a means to lower itself.
Thus the great country lowers itself before the small country,
Before it conquers the small country.
A small country lowers itself before a great country,
Before it conquers the great country.
Therefore some lower themselves to take,
And others lower themselves to gather.
The only wish of a great country is to hold on to and keep its endless subjects,
And the only wish of a small country is to engage in many occupations and tasks.
When they both wish to realize their aspirations,
Both of them together,
The greater of them must lower itself.
The Tao is the source of everything,
The treasure of the good man,
The sustainer of the bad man.
Even the ceremonial splendor of the coronation of the emperor and his three ministers,
And the value of the jewels and the knights' horses,
Are nothing compared to the splendor of this Tao.
Why did the ancients value the Tao?
Is it because it is possible to seek it and find it and liberate sinners with it?
For this reason, the Tao is the most valuable thing in the world.
Good words will nurture our honor,
Good deeds will give a person a good name.
Do a non-deed,
Do a non-action,
The sage desires non-desire,
And does not value anything rare.
He learns the unlearnable,
But peruses what others have discarded.
Thus he enables all things
To develop in their natural way,
And he does not engage in hasty action.
See the small as big,
See the little as a lot.
Take care of the difficult when it is still easy,
Take care of the big when it is still small.
All difficult things in the world begin as easy things,
All big things in the world begin as small things.
The tree whose trunk cannot be encircled by a man's arms began as a sapling,
A nine-story tower rose from a heap of dirt,
A thousand-mile journey began with the earth under a man's foot.
Therefore the sage does not try to do big things,
And in that way can achieve greatness.
The person who makes casual promises
Will not keep them.
The person who perceives many things as easy
Will encounter many difficulties.
Therefore the sage perceives things as difficult,
And consequently never encounters difficulties.
In ancient times, the best Tao practitioners did not use it to educate the people,
But rather to restore them to simplicity.
It is difficult to govern people since they are very knowledgeable.
Therefore, ruling a country by increasing knowledge
Means destroying the country,
While ruling a country by reducing knowledge
Means blessing the country.
The person who is aware of these two ways knows the standard,
The person who keeps the standard in his mind is virtuous.
The highest virtue is profound and broad,
It goes back to the beginning of everything,
And in this way attains absolute peace.
The best soldier does not love war,
The best warrior is not bloodthirsty,
The best conqueror does not take part in the war,
The best employer places himself beneath his workers.
That is called the virtue of self-control,
That is called the ability to be helped by others,
That is called the enlightenment that comes from uniting with heaven.
What the Tao is to the world,
So the streams and valleys are to the rivers and seas.
Rivers and seas can be like kings to all the streams and valleys
Since the former can lower themselves before the latter.
Thus they are the kings of all the streams and valleys.
Therefore the sage, in order to be above the people,
Must lower himself before them in words,
And in order to head the people,
He must place himself behind them in body.
Thus, when he is above the people, the people do not suffer at his hand,
When he is at the head of the people, the people are not held back by him.
Therefore the whole world wants to carry him on its shoulders
And never tires of him.
He competes with nobody,
And therefore nobody competes with him.
The whole world tells me:
"Great as the Tao is, it has no form."
Since it is great,
It has no form.
If it resembled any form,
It would have waned a long time ago.
I have three treasures that I keep and safeguard:
The first is called love,
The second is called moderation,
The third is called not jumping to the head of the entire world.
With love, a person can be courageous,
With moderation, a person can be generous,
And by not jumping to the head of the world, a person can be the master of all the ministers.
Without love, a person can only have courage,
Without moderation, a person can only have generosity,
And instead of staying behind, a person can go to the front.
This leads nowhere but to death.
The person who fights with love will win the battle,
The person who defends himself with love will be safe.
Heaven will save him and protect him with love.
A tactician in ancient times said:
"I do not dare to act as a host,
I prefer to act as a guest,
I do not dare to advance an inch,
I prefer to retreat a foot."
This implies that he does not muster his armies, as if he has no armies,
He does not roll up his sleeves, as if his arms are not ready,
He does not go out to battle, as if he has no weapons,
He does not fight, as if he has no enemies.
The greatest calamity is to underestimate the strength of the enemy,
For underestimating the strength of the enemy leads to the loss of our treasure of love.
Therefore, when armies clash on the battlefield,
The one that possesses the treasure will triumph.
Words have an ancestor, deeds have a master.
It is easy to understand my words and practice them.
But all the people in the world do not know them,
And do not practice them.
Since they have knowledge, they do not know me.
When those that know me are few, I am beyond all praise.
Therefore the sage wears coarse woolen clothes but carries jade jewels in his bosom,
He knows himself, but does not present himself,
He loves himself, but does not act arrogantly.
Therefore he rejects the latter and adopts the former.
Not knowing what one knows is the best,
To think that one knows when one does not know is sick.
Only when one becomes sick of this sickness,
Is it possible to get free of the sickness.
The sage is never sick,
Since he is sick of this sickness,
He is not sick.
If the people do not fear the ruling authority,
A much greater fear will befall them.
Be sure that you do not make them live in crowded quarters
Or make their lives unbearable.
Only when their living quarters are not crowded
Will their dissatisfaction disappear.
The person who shows courage in daring will perish.
The person who shows courage in a lack of daring will live.
To know these two things means to differentiate between the one, which is beneficial, and the other, which is harmful.
Who knows that heaven loathes one of them?
The superior Tao does not fight, yet it wins for certain.
It does not speak, yet it responds to everything.
It does not call, yet everyone comes to hear it.
It is not a tactician, yet it makes plans.
Heaven's net is all-embracing, and its holes are wide,
And even so, nothing escapes its sweep.
When people do not fear death,
What is the use of frightening them with the death penalty?
When people are constantly afraid of death,
And we can arrest and execute criminals,
Who would dare to commit crimes?
Only the executioner kills.
To kill instead of the executioner is like a woodcutter taking a master-carpenter's place.
When someone carves instead of the master-carpenter,
He can usually expect to injure his hand.
The people are starving,
Because their clerks impose heavy taxes on them.
That is why they are starving.
It is difficult to govern the people,
Because their clerks interfere in their affairs.
That is why they are difficult to govern.
The people do not respect death,
Because their clerks direct them to seek life.
That is why they do not respect death.
The living person is soft and pliant, and is hard and rigid in death.
All creatures and plants,
Are soft and vulnerable in life,
And dry and brittle in death.
Therefore it is said:
The hard and the rigid are part of death,
The soft and gentle are part of life.
This is the reason why soldiers who are too rigid
Do not triumph.
When the tree is too rigid, it will break.
The stance of the strong and the great is stooped,
The stance of the weak and the small is erect.
Is not the superior Tao like drawing a bow?
The high part moves downward, the low part moves upward,
What is full is reduced, what is insufficient is filled.
The superior Tao reduces the full, fills what is insufficient.
Man's Tao, in contrast, takes from the insufficient and gives to the full.
Who can take from the full and give to the insufficient?
Only he who has the Tao can.
Therefore, the sage does not hoard anything for himself.
The more he helps others, the more he obtains for himself.
The superior Tao does good, and never does evil,
The sage's Tao acts, but never hurts others.
The weakest thing in the world can overcome the strongest thing in the world.
Nothing in the world can compare with the weakness of water, whose nature is limp and submissive,
But when it attacks the hardest and strongest of all, there is nothing more efficient,
Since there is no alternative to it.
The weak can overcome the strong, and the soft can conquer the tough:
The whole world knows that, but does not abide by it.
Therefore the sage says:
The person who bears all the disgrace of the country can be the master of the land,
The person who bears all the troubles of the country can be the king of the world.
These are words of truth,
Even though they sound like nothing more than a paradox.
Give love in return for fierce hatred.
Otherwise, when the fierce hatred is forgotten,
A little of it will still remain.
And how can this end well?
Therefore the sage keeps the left half of a contract,
And does not check what the other holder has to do.
The virtuous person acts according to the contract,
The person who is not virtuous resorts to lawsuits and disputations.
"The superior Tao is not biased,
It always accompanies the virtuous person."
Imagine a small land with few people.
Even if it contains plenty of vessels, I will not use them.
I will induce the people to respect death, and not to go wandering far afield.
Even if they have boats and chariots, they will not travel in them,
Even if they have weapons and armor, they will not bear them.
I will bring them back to knotted cords instead of writings.
Their food will satisfy them,
Their clothing will please them,
Their dwellings will be full of tranquillity,
Their customs will be full of happiness.
Even though the neighboring lands are within view,
And the crowing of the roosters and the barking of the dogs from there are audible,
The people of that small country will not go there in their lifetime.
He who knows does not speak,
He who speaks does not know.
He who speaks the truth is not arrogant,
He who is arrogant does not speak the truth.
He who has good qualities does not argue,
He who argues does not have good qualities.
He who has learned a lot does not know,
He who knows has not learned a lot.
Therefore the sage does not display his qualities.