Terebess Asia Online (TAO)
Index

Home

The Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu

English version by
Richard John Lynn, 2004

http://home.pages.at/onkellotus/TTK/English_Lynn_TTK.html
http://sanmayce.com/
http://utoronto.academia.edu/RichardJohnLynn

More English versions

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

65

66

67

68

69

70

71

72

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

81

 

The Classic of the Way and Virtue


1

The Dao that can be described in language is not the constant Dao;
the name that can be given it is not its constant name.
Nameless, it is the origin of the myriad things;
named, it is the mother of the myriad things.
Therefore, always be without desire so as to see their subtlety.
And always have desire so as to see their ends.
These two emerge together but have different names.
Together, we refer to them as mystery: the mystery upon mystery and gateway of all subtleties.


up

2

Once all under Heaven knew beauty as "beauty"; at that moment "ugliness" was already there.
Once all knew goodness as "goodness"; at that moment "not good" was already there.
Thus it is that presence and absence generate each other;
difficulty and ease determine the sense of the other;
long and short give proportion to the other;
highs and lows are a matter of relative inclination;
instrumental sounds and voice tones depend on one other for harmony;
and before and after result from their relative places in a sequence.
Therefore, the sage [sheng] tends to matters without conscious effort
And practices the teaching that is not expressed in words.
The myriad folk model their behavior on him, yet he does not tell them to do so.
He gives them life, yet he possesses them not.
He acts, yet they do not depend on him.
And he achieves success yet takes no pride in it.
It is just because he is not proprietary that he does not lose it.


up

3

Do not exalt the worthy [xian], and so keep the common folk from contention.
Do not value goods hard to get, and so stop the common folk from becoming thieves.
Do not let them see desirable things, and so spare the hearts/minds of the common folk from disorder.
Therefore the way the sage governs is to keep their hearts/minds empty and their bellies full.
He keeps their wills weak and their bones strong.
He always keeps the common folk free from the capacity for knowing and from feeling desire.
And prevents the knowledgeable from ever daring to act.
Because he acts without conscious effort, nothing remains ungoverned.


up

4

The vessel of the Dao is empty, so use it but do not try to refill it.
It is such an abyss, oh, that it appears to be the progenitor of the myriad things.
It blunts the sharp, cuts away the tangled, merges with the brilliant, and becomes one with the very dust.
Its depth is so deep, oh, that it seems somehow to exist.
I do not know whose child it could be, for it appears to have been born before the Lord.


up

5

Heaven and Earth are not benevolent and treat the myriad things as straw dogs
The sage is not benevolent and treats the common folk as straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth, is it not just like a bellows or a mouth organ!
Empty, it can never be used up.
Active, it produces all the more.
Many words lead to quick exhaustion; better to maintain emptiness within.


up

6

The Valley Spirit never dies, and we call it the "Mysterious Female."
The gate of the Mysterious Female is referred to as the "root of Heaven and Earth."
On and on, with only apparent existence, it functions inexhaustibly.


up

7

Heaven is everlasting, and Earth endless.
That they can last forever and go on without end is because they do not try to exist for themselves.
Thus they can exist forever.
As such, the sage places himself in the rear yet finds himself in front.
He puts aside his person, yet his person is preserved.
Is this not because he is utterly free of self-interest?
This is how he can achieve self-fulfillment.


up

8

The highest good is like water.
The goodness of water lies in benefiting the myriad things without contention, while locating itself in places that common people scorn.
Therefore it is almost exactly like the Dao.
Goodness in position depends on location;
goodness in heart/mind depends on profundity;
goodness in association depends on benevolence;
goodness in words depends on sincerity;
goodness in government depends on order;
goodness in affairs depends on ability;
goodness in action depends on timeliness.
And it is only by avoiding contention that no blame occurs.


up

9

With it firmly in hand, he goes on to fill it up, but it would be better to quit.
If, having forged it, one goes on to sharpen it, it could not last long.
Gold and jade fill the hall, but none can keep them safe.
If one is arrogant because of wealth and rank, he will give himself a blameworthy fate.
Once achievement has occurred, one retires, for such is the Dao of Heaven.


up

10

Stay where your earthbound soul is protected, and embrace integrity: can you do this with never a deviation?
Rely exclusively on your vital force, and become perfectly soft: can you play the infant?
Cleanse your vision into the mystery of things: can you make it spotless?
Cherish the people and govern the state: can you do this without intelligence?
The gateway of Heaven, whether it is to be open or shut: can you play the female?
Your bright understanding casts its light over the four quarters: can you stay free of conscious effort?
He gives them life
And nurtures them.
He gives them life, yet he possesses them not.
He acts, yet does not make them dependent.
He matures them, yet he is not their steward.
This we call mysterious virtue.


up

11

Thirty spokes share one hub.
It is exactly where there is nothing of it that the functionality of the wheel resides.
Mix clay with water to make a vessel.
It is exactly where there is nothing of it that the functionality of the vessel resides.
Cut doors and windows to make a room.
It is exactly where there is nothing of it that the functionality of the room resides.
Therefore this is how what is there provides benefit and how what is not there provides functionality.


up

12

The five colors make one's eyes blind;
the five notes make one's ears deaf;
the five flavors make one's mouth fail;
and sport hunting on horseback makes one's heart/mind go crazy.
Goods hard to get cause one to travel the road to harm.
This is why the sage provides for the belly but not for the eye.
Thus he rejects the one and keeps the other.


up

13

Favor and disgrace are enough cause for alarm, and self-importance is a great calamity that can cost one his person.
What is meant by "favor and disgrace are enough cause for alarm"?
Favor, when it is had by an inferior, is as alarming as when it is lost by him.
This is what is meant by "favor and disgrace are enough cause for alarm."
What is meant by self-importance being "a great calamity that can cost one his person"?
The reason I suffer such a great calamity is that I am bound by my own person.
When I am no longer bound by my own person,
What calamity could befall me?
Therefore, because such a one values his own person as much as anything under Heaven, he may be entrusted with all under Heaven.
Because such a one cherishes his own person as much as anything under Heaven, he may have all under Heaven rendered to his care.


up

14

When we look for it but see it not, we call it the invisible.
When we listen for it but hear it not, we call it the inaudible.
When we try to touch it but find it not, we call it the imperceptible.
Because these three aspects of it are impossible to probe, it remains a single amorphous unity.
Its risings cast no light, and its settings occasion no dark.
On and on it goes, unnamable, always reverting to nothingness.
This we refer to as the shape of that which has no shape, the image of that which has no physical existence.
This we refer to as dim and dark.
Try to meet it, but you will not see its head.
Try to follow it, but you will not see its tail, so hold on to the Dao of old to preside over what exists now.
It is possible to know how things were at the beginning of time.
This we refer to as holding the thread of the Dao.


up

15

In antiquity, he who was good at being a leader was perfectly in step with mystery in all its subtlety and profundity; so recondite was he that it was impossible to understand him.
Now, because he defies understanding, all I can do is force a description of what he was like: he seemed hesitant, as one might be when fording a river in winter.
He seemed tentative, as one who fears his neighbors on all four sides.
He seemed solemn, oh, as if he were the guest.
He seemed yielding, oh, just like ice when about to break up.
He seemed solid and sturdy, oh, just like an uncarved block of wood.
He seemed empty and receptive, oh, just like a valley.
He seemed amorphous, oh, just like murky water.
Who can take his turbidity and, by stilling it, gradually become clear?
Who can take his quietude and, by stirring it long, gradually come alive?
One who keeps this Dao does not wish to be filled.
For it is only by not getting filled that one can avoid having the cover remade.


up

16

Their attainment of emptiness absolute and their maintenance of quietude guileless,
The myriad things interact.
I, as such, observe their return.
All things flourish, but each reverts to its roots.
To return to the root is called "quietude," which means to revert to one's destiny, and reversion to one's destiny is called "constancy."
To understand constancy is called "perspicacity."
Not to understand constancy results in errant behavior and, with it, misfortune.
To understand constancy is to embrace all things.
To embrace things is to be impartial.
Such impartiality means true kingship.
With true kingship, he is one with Heaven.
To be one with Heaven means to be one with the Dao.
To be one with the Dao is to be everlasting.
As long as he lives, no danger shall befall him.


up

17

The "very highest" by those below is just known to exist.
The next is he who is a parent to them, in whom they rejoice.
The next is he whom they fear.
The next is he whom they treat with contempt.
If one fails to have trust, a corresponding lack of trust in him occurs.
He takes his time, oh, as he weighs his words carefully.
And, when success is had and the task accomplished, the common folk all say, "We just live naturally."


up

18

It is when the great Dao is forsaken that benevolence and righteousness appear,
When wisdom and intelligence emerge that great falsehood occurs,
When the six relations exist in disharmony that the obedient and the kind appear, and when the state is in disorder that loyal ministers arise.


up

19

Repudiate sagehood and discard wisdom, and the people would benefit a hundredfold.
Repudiate benevolence and discard righteousness, and the people would again be obedient and kind to each other.
Repudiate cleverness and discard sharpness, and thieves and robbers would not exist.
As for these three pairs of terms,
Because they serve as mere decoration,
Give people the chance to identify with something else:
Exemplify simplicity, embrace the uncarved block
Curtail self-interest, and have few desires.


up

20

Repudiate learning, and stay free of worry.
Really, how distant can approval be from disapproval?
Or, how far apart can praise and censure be?
One feared by others must also fear others accordingly.
A gulf so vast, oh, it is truly infinite!
Common people, caught up in the pursuit of happiness, behave as if feasting at a great sacrifice or ascending a springtime terrace.
I alone am quiet and indifferent, oh, in an entirely premanifest state [weizhao], just like an infant who has not yet smiled,
Utterly aimless, oh, just as if I had no place to go home.
Common people all have more than enough, but I alone seem to have lost all.
Mine is really the heart/mind of a stupid man!
Absolutely amorphous, oh!
Common people are clearly obvious.
But I alone am cryptically obscure.
Common people are meticulously discriminating,
But I alone muddle everything together.
Floating indifferently, oh, as if out on the sea,
Blown about by the wind, oh, I seem to have no place to stop.
Common people all would have purpose.
But I alone am doltish and rustic.
I alone wish to be different from others and so value drawing sustenance from the mother.


up

21

A capacity for the virtue of emptiness, this alone allows conformance with the Dao.
The Dao as such is but dim, is but dark.
Dark, oh, dim, oh, but within it some image is there.
Dim, oh, dark, oh, but within it something is there.
Abstruse, oh, indistinct, oh, but within it the essence of things is there.
Its essence is most authentic, for within it authentication occurs.
From antiquity until now, its name has never been revoked.
We use it to convey what the father of everything is.
How do I know that the father of everything is so?
It is by this.


up

22

Stepping aside keeps one's wholeness intact.
Bending makes one straight.
Being empty makes one full.
Being worn out keeps one new.
Having little gives one access.
Having much leads one astray.
In this way, the sage embraces the One and becomes a model for all under Heaven.
He does not flaunt himself, thus he shines.
He does not insist that he is right, thus his rightness is manifest.
He does not boast about himself, thus his merit is acknowledged.
He avoids self-importance, thus he long endures.
It is because he does not contend that none among all under Heaven can contend with him.
As the ancient saying has it, "Stepping aside keeps one's wholeness intact."
How could this ever be an empty saying!
Truly, such a one will revert to it [nonexistence] with his wholeness intact.


up

23

The "inaudible" is a way of referring to the Natural.
Thus a whirlwind does not last an entire morning, and a rainstorm does not last an entire day.
What is it that causes them?
It is Heaven and Earth.
If even Heaven and Earth cannot make them last long, how much less can man?
Thus, to undertake things in accordance with the Dao, the man of Dao becomes one with the Dao.
The man of virtue becomes one with virtue.
The man of failure becomes one with failure.
He who becomes one with virtue, the Dao also endows with virtue;
he who becomes one with failure, the Dao also endows with failure.
If one fails to have trust, a corresponding lack of trust in him occurs.


up

24

One up on tiptoes does not stand firm.
One who takes big strides does not move.
One who flaunts himself does not shine.
One who insists that he is right is not commended.
One who boasts about himself has no acknowledged merit.
One filled with self-importance does not last long.
In respect to the Dao, we can say about such behavior, too much food is an excrescence making the rounds.
The people always hate this, so one who has the Dao has nothing to do with it.


up

25

There is something, amorphous and complete, that was born before Heaven and Earth.
Obscure, oh, and, immaterial, oh, it stands alone, unchanged.
It operates everywhere but stays free from danger, thus we may consider it the mother of all under Heaven.
We do not know its name
So style it "Dao" [Way].
Forced to give it a name, we call it "great."
"Great" refers to the way it goes forth.
"Goes forth" describes how it is far-reaching, and "far-reaching" describes its reflexivity.
Thus the Dao is great, Heaven is great, Earth is great, and the king is also great.
Within the realm of existence there are the four greats,
And the king has title to one of these.
Man takes his models from Earth;
Earth takes its models from Heaven;
Heaven takes its models from the Dao;
and the Dao takes its models from the Natural.


up

26

The heavy is the foundation of the light, and quietude is the sovereign of activity.
This is why the sage travels throughout the day yet does not separate himself from his retinue.
So despite the presence of glorious scenery, he remains relaxed and detached.
How could one be the master of ten thousand war chariots and yet treat his own person lighter than all under Heaven!
If he treats it lighter, he will lose his foundation.
If he engages in activity, he will lose his sovereignty.


up

27

One good at traveling leaves no tracks or prints.
One good at words says nothing flawed or blameworthy.
One good at reckoning does not use bamboo tallies.
One good at locking up has no lock yet what is locked cannot be opened.
One good at tying up has no cord yet what is tied cannot be untied.
This is how the sage is always good at saving people, so no one is discarded,
Always good at saving things, and so nothing is discarded.
This is what is known as maintaining the light.
Thus the good man is the teacher of men who are not good.
Men who are not good are material for the good man.
But if they do not value their teacher, and he does not cherish his material, no matter how wise, one will become greatly lost.
This is called the "profoundly subtle."


up

28

He who knows the male yet sustains the female will be a river valley for all under Heaven.
He who is a river valley for all under Heaven never separates himself from constant virtue and always reverts to the infant.
He who knows the white yet sustains the black will be a model for all under Heaven.
He who is a model for all under Heaven never deviates from constant virtue
And always reverts to the infinite.
He who knows glory yet sustains disgrace will be a valley for all under Heaven.
He who is a valley for all under Heaven is filled completely by constant virtue, for he always reverts to the uncarved block.
When the uncarved block fragments, it turns into implements.
As the sage would make use of them, he stands as chief of officials over them.
Thus the great carver never cuts.


up

29

As for those who would like to take all under Heaven and act on it, the way I see it, such action would never end, because all under Heaven is the numinous vessel,
Which cannot be acted on.
One who acts on it will destroy it;
one who tries to grasp it will lose it.
Thus some people tend to lead and some follow;
some breathe in through the nose and some blow out through the mouth;
some are strong and some weak;
and some are energetic and some lazy.
As this is so, the sage rids them of extremism, extravagance, and complaisance.


up

30

One who would assist the ruler of men in accordance with the Dao does not use military force to gain power over all under Heaven.
As for such matters, he is wont to let them revert.
Where armies deploy, there thistles and thorns grow.
The aftermath of great military operations is surely a year of famine.
One good at this desists when result is had and dares not use the opportunity to seize military supremacy.
Have result but do not take credit for it;
have result but do not boast about it;
have result but do not take pride in it;
have result but only when there is no choice;
have result but do not try to gain military supremacy.
Once a thing reaches its prime, it grows old.
We say it goes against the Dao, and what is against the Dao comes to an early end.


up

31

Weapons are instruments of ill omen.
The people always hate them, so one who has the Dao has nothing to do with them.
When the noble man is at home, he honors the left and, when employing troops, honors the right.
Weapons are instruments of ill omen;
they are not the instruments of the noble man, who uses them only when there is no choice.
It is best to be utterly dispassionate [tiandan] about them, and, even if they bring victory, one should not praise them.
Nevertheless, to praise them means that one delights in slaughtering people, and one who delights in slaughtering people, of course, can never achieve the goal of ruling all under Heaven.
For auspicious matters, one honors the left, and, for inauspicious matters, one honors the right.
A deputy general takes his place on the left, but a general-in-chief takes his place on the right, where mourning rites are observed.
When masses of people are slaughtered, one should weep for them with utmost sadness, so, when victorious in war, one should observe it with mourning rites.


up

32

The Dao in its constancy is "nameless."
Although the uncarved block is small, none under Heaven can make it his servitor [chen], but, if any lord or prince could hold on to it, the myriad folk would submit spontaneously.
As when Heaven and Earth unite to send down sweet dew, though not one of the people are ordered to do so, they live in harmony of their own accord.
When the cutting of it starts, names come into existence.
Once names exist, one should know to stop.
It is by knowing to stop that danger can be avoided.
As an analogy, the relationship between the Dao and all under Heaven is similar to the way streams and tributaries respond to the river and the sea.


up

33

One who knows others is wise, but one who knows himself is perspicacious.
One who conquers others has strength, but one who conquers himself is powerful.
One who knows contentment is rich.
One who acts with power has his goal fulfilled.
One who does not lose his place lasts long.
One who dies but is not destroyed has longevity.


up

34

The way the great Dao floods, oh, it can go left or right.
The myriad folk rely on it for life, but it does not tell them to do so.
It achieves success but enjoys no reputation for doing so.
It clothes and feeds the myriad folk but does not become their master.
It is always without desire and so can be named among the small.
The myriad things return to it, but it does not become their master, so it can be named among the great.
Therefore it is because he himself never tries to be great that he fulfills his greatness.


up

35

Grasp the great image, and all under Heaven will turn to you.
Turning to you means not harm but safety and peace in great measure.
Music and fine food make the passing visitor stay.
When the Dao is spoken of, how bland: it has no flavor at all!
We look for it, but not enough is there to see anything.
We listen for it, but not enough is there to hear anything.
We try to use it, but not enough is there to use up.


up

36

If you would like to gather him in, you must resolve yourself to let him aggrandize himself.
If you would like to weaken him, you must resolve yourself to let him grow strong.
If you would like to nullify him, you must resolve yourself to let him flourish.
If you would like to take him, you must resolve yourself to let him have his way.
Such an approach is called subtle and perspicacious.
Softness and pliancy conquer hardness and forcefulness.
Fish must not be allowed to escape to the depths.
The sharp instruments of the state may not be disclosed to the people.


up

37

The Dao in its constancy engages in no conscious action,
Yet nothing remains undone.
If any lord or prince could hold on to it, the myriad folk would undergo moral transformation spontaneously.
Once nurtured, should desire arise, I would press down on it with the nameless uncarved block.
With the nameless uncarved block, they too would stay free of desire.
Achieving tranquillity by keeping them free of desire, all under Heaven would govern themselves.


up

38

A person of superior virtue is not virtuous, and this is why he has virtue.
A person of inferior virtue never loses virtue, and this is why he lacks virtue.
A person of superior virtue takes no conscious action and so acts out of nothing.
A person of inferior virtue takes conscious action and so acts out of something.
When a person of superior benevolence takes action, he acts out of nothing.
When a person of superior righteousness takes action, he acts out of something.
When a person of superior propriety takes action and no one responds, he pushes up his sleeves and leads them to it.
Therefore one resorts to virtue only after losing the Dao, resorts to benevolence only after losing virtue, resorts to righteousness only after losing benevolence, and resorts to propriety only after losing righteousness.
Propriety consists of the superficial aspects of loyalty and trust and is thus the beginning of disorder.
Foresight consists of the flower of the Dao and is thus the origin of duplicity.
This is why the really great man involves himself with its substance and not with its superficial aspects.
He involves himself with its fruit and not with its flower.
Therefore he rejects the one and takes the other.


up

39

As for those who obtained the One long, long ago,
Heaven is pure by having obtained the One;
Earth is stable by having obtained the One;
the gods have their spiritual power by having obtained the One;
valleys can be filled by having obtained the One;
the myriad things live by having obtained the One;
lords and princes provide constancy to all under Heaven by having obtained the One.
This is how they attain to these states.
If Heaven had not this means to be pure, it would, we fear, deteriorate.
If Earth had not this means to be stable, it would, we fear, disintegrate.
If the gods had not this means to have spiritual power, they would, we fear, terminate.
If valleys had not this means to achieve fullness, they would, we fear, dry up.
If the myriad things had not this means to live, they would, we fear, expire.
If lords and princes did not have this means to achieve loftiness and nobility, they would, we fear, collapse.
Thus it is that nobility uses humility as its roots and loftiness uses lowliness as its foundation.
This is why lords and princes refer to themselves as "the orphan," "the widower," or "the unworthy."
Is this not using humility as the roots?
Is this not so?
Therefore the ultimate number of praises amounts to no praise, so one wants neither "he glows with luster like the jade" nor "he is as hard as hard can be like the stone."


up

40

Reversion is the action of the Dao.
Softness is the function of the Dao.
The myriad things under Heaven achieve life in existence.
Existence arises from nothingness.


up

41

When the superior man hears the Dao, he diligently practices it.
When the average man hears the Dao, sometimes he retains it, sometimes he forgets it.
When the inferior man hears the Dao, he laughs loudly at it.
If he did not laugh, what he heard would not be worthy of being the Dao.
Therefore, as the established adage has it:
The bright Dao seems dark.
Advancing on the Dao seems retreat.
The smooth Dao seems rough.
Superior Virtue is like a valley.
Great whiteness seems soiled.
Vast virtue seems wanting.
Established virtue seems stealthy.
Simple authenticity seems compromised.
The great square has no corners.
The great vessel is slow to form.
The great note is inaudible.
The great image is formless.
The Dao may be hidden and nameless, but it alone is good at bestowing and completing.


up

42

The Dao begets the One;
the One begets two;
two beget three;
and three beget the myriad things.
The myriad things, bearing yin and embracing yang, form a unified harmony through the fusing of these vital forces.
What people most hate are "the orphan," "the widower," and "the unworthy," yet lords and princes use these terms to refer to themselves.
Thus it is that some are augmented by being diminished, and others are diminished by being augmented.
What others teach, I also teach.
The dangerously bold do not get to die a natural death, so I am going to use them as the fathers of my teaching.


up

43

The softest things under Heaven gallop through the hardest things.
That which has no physical existence can squeeze through where there is no space, so from this I know how advantageous it is to act without conscious purpose.
The teaching that is not expressed in words, the advantage that is had by acting without conscious purpose, rare is it that anyone under Heaven ever reaches them.


up

44

Reputation or one's person, which is dear?
One's person or what he possesses, which is more?
Gain or loss, which is harm?
Thus it is that extreme meanness is sure to result in great expense, and much hoarding is sure to result in heavy loss.
One who knows contentment will not suffer damage to his reputation, and one who knows how to stop will not place himself in danger.
As such, he will last long.


up

45

Great completion seems incomplete, but its functioning is never exhausted.
Great fullness seems empty, but its functioning is limitless.
Great straightness seems crooked.
Great skill seems clumsy.
Great eloquence seems inarticulate.
Although the heat of activity conquers cold, quietude conquers heat, so pure quietude is the right way to govern all under Heaven.


up

46

When the Dao prevails among all under Heaven, one relegates coursers to producing manure.
When the Dao does not prevail among all under Heaven, war horses are born in the fields outside towns.
Nothing causes greater disaster than not being content, and nothing brings about greater blame than craving something.
When contentment fills one perfectly, this is indeed constant contentment!


up

47

Know all under Heaven without even leaving your gate;
see the Dao of Heaven without even peering out your window.
The farther one goes out, the less he will know.
Thus it is that the sage knows without making a move and names without seeing.
He brings about the completion of things without taking action.


up

48

The pursuit of learning means having more each day,
But the pursuit of the Dao means having less each day.
Having less upon having less, eventually one reaches the point where one engages in no conscious action, yet nothing remains undone.
One who takes all under Heaven as his charge always tends to matters without deliberate action.
But when it comes to one who does take conscious action,
Such a one is not worthy to take all under Heaven as his charge.


up

49

The sage has no constant heart/mind [changxin] but takes the heart/mind of the common folk as his heart/mind.
The good I regard as good;
those who are not good I also regard as good.
This is to transform goodness into virtue.
The trustworthy I trust;
those who are not trustworthy I also trust.
This is to transform trust into virtue.
The sage resides among all under Heaven with perfect equanimity and impartiality and for the sake of all under Heaven merges his heart/mind with theirs.
[The common folk all fix their ears and eyes on him,]
And the sage treats them all as his children.


up

50

We emerge into life, enter into death.
Three out of ten are adherents of life;
three out of ten are adherents of death;
and there are three out of ten whose way of life also leads them to death.
Why is this so?
It is due to placing too much emphasis on life.
For I have heard that one good at preserving life, when traveling by land, does not encounter the wild buffalo and, when entering the army, suffers no wound from weapons.
The wild water buffalo has no way to strike at him with horn, the tiger has no way to strike at him with claw, and weapons of war have no way to use point or edge against him.
Why is this so?
It is due to the fact that he stays free of the land of death.


up

51

The Dao gives life to them; virtue nurtures them, matter gives them physical form, and characteristic potential completes them.
This is why the myriad things without exception must honor the Dao and esteem virtue.
This honoring of the Dao and this esteeming of virtue, none are ordered to do so, yet it always happens spontaneously.
The Dao gives them life, and virtue nurtures them, that is, grows them, rears them, ensures them their proper shapes, matures them, and protects them.
He gives them life yet possesses them not.
He acts, yet they do not depend on him.
They mature, yet he is not their steward.
This we call mysterious virtue.


up

52

All under Heaven has a generatrix, which we regard as the mother of all under Heaven.
Once one has access to the mother, through it he can know the child.
Once one knows the child, if he again holds on to the mother, as long as he lives, no danger shall befall him.
Block up your apertures; close your door,
And to the end of your life you will never be exhausted.
But if you open your apertures and deal consciously with things, to the end of your life you will never have relief.
To see the small is called "perspicacious."
To hold on to softness is called "strength."
Make use of its brightness,
But always let its brightness revert.
Never let one's person be exposed to disaster: this is a matter of practicing constancy.


up

53

If, with firm resolve, I had the knowledge to travel on the great Dao [Way], I need only fear that I might try to meddle with it.
The great Dao [Way] might be very smooth, yet the common folk prefer byways.
The court is kept in good order,
But the fields are overgrown with weeds, the granaries empty.
Garbed in patterned and colorful clothes, wearing sharp swords, satiated with food and drink, and overflowing with wealth and goods: all this is stolen extravagance and has nothing to do with the Dao!


up

54

The well-founded will not be pulled up.
The well-embraced will not get dropped.
Such a one's descendants, accordingly, will never let sacrifices to him cease.
If you cultivate it within your own person, your virtue will be authentic.
If you cultivate it within your family, your virtue will exceed all need.
If you cultivate it within your village, your virtue will endure.
If you cultivate it within your state, your virtue will be abundant.
If you cultivate it among all under Heaven, your virtue will reach everywhere.
Look at the person from the point of view of the person.
Look at the family from the point of view of the family.
Look at the village from the point of view of the village.
Look at the state from the point of view of the state.
Look at all under Heaven from the point of view of all under Heaven.
How do I know that all under Heaven is so?
It is by this.


up

55

One who has profoundly internalized virtue is comparable to the infant.
Wasps, scorpions, adders, and vipers do not sting or bite him.
Fierce animals do not attack him.
Birds of prey do not seize him.
His bones are soft and sinews pliant, but his grip is firm.
That he is ignorant of the union of male and female yet completely erect
Is because his semen is at the full.
That he can cry all day long yet never grow hoarse
Is because his bodily balance is perfect.
To know how to maintain balance is called "constancy."
To understand constancy is called "perspicacity."
To extend life beyond its natural span is called "inauspicious."
For the heart/mind to control the vital force is called "forcing strength."
Once a thing reaches its prime, it grows old.
We say it goes against the Dao, and what is against the Dao comes to an early end.


up

56

He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.
Block up your apertures;
Close your door;
Blunt your sharpness;
Cut away the tangled;
Merge with the brilliant;
Become one with the very dust.
We call this "one with mystery."
Thus one can neither get close to such a one nor get distant from him.
One can neither benefit nor harm him.
One can neither ennoble him nor debase him.
Thus such a one is esteemed by all under Heaven.


up

57

If one governs the state with governance, he will use the military with perversity.
It is by tending to matters without conscious purpose that one takes all under Heaven as his charge.
How do I know that this is so?
It is by this:
The more all under Heaven are beset with taboos and prohibitions, the poorer the common folk grow.
The more the common folk are beset with sharp instruments, the more muddled the state becomes.
The more people have skill and cleverness, the more often perverse [ji] things will happen.
The more laws and ordinances are displayed, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
Thus the sage says:
I engage in no conscious effort, and the common folk undergo moral transformation spontaneously.
I love quietude, and the common folk govern themselves.
I tend to matters without conscious purpose, and the common folk enrich themselves.
I am utterly free of desire, and the common folk achieve pristine simplicity by themselves.


up

58

When the government is completely muddled, the common folk become pure and simple.
When the government conducts meticulous scrutiny, the common folk become devious and inscrutable.
It is on disaster that good fortune depends;
it is in good fortune that disaster lurks.
Who understands what the very best is?
It is to have no government at all!
Correctness turns into perversion.
Goodness turns into deviancy.
The people's confusion has certainly lasted a long time.
This is why the sage is square but does not cut,
He is pointed but does not stab.
He is straight but does not align.
He is bright but does not shine.


up

59

For ordering the people and serving Heaven, nothing is better than husbandry.
Only husbandry can be called the quick way to submission.
By "quick way to submission" we mean the repetitive accumulation of virtue.
If one repetitively accumulates virtue, there is nothing that he cannot conquer.
As there is nothing that he cannot conquer, no one knows the limits he can reach.
As no one knows his limits, he can, accordingly, keep his state.
If one maintains the mother of the state, he can, accordingly, long endure.
This we refer to as having deep roots firmly established, for it is the Dao of long life and enduring oversight.


up

60

Ruling a large state is like cooking a small fish.
If one uses the Dao to oversee all under Heaven, the malign spirits there will lose their numinous power.
It is not that these malign spirits have no numinous power;
it is just that they will do no harm to the people.
It is not these numinous powers that do not harm the people but the sage, in fact, who does not harm the people.
It is because neither of these two cause any harm that they unite their virtues and revert to it.


up

61

A large state is a catchment into which flow occurs.
It is where all under Heaven unite.
It is the female for all under Heaven.
The female always conquers the male because of quietude.
She is able to take the low position because of quietude.
Thus the large state, by placing itself beneath the small state,
Consequently takes over the small state.
The small state, by placing itself beneath the large state, subsequently is taken over by the large state.
Thus some, by taking a place beneath, take over, and some, by taking a place beneath, are taken over.
The large state should desire nothing more than to bring people together and nurture them, and the small state should desire nothing more than to join in and serve people.
In order that both obtain what they desire, it is fitting that the large one place itself beneath.


up

62

The Dao is the shelter of the myriad things.
It is the treasure of the good man
And the protector of the man who is not good.
Fine words can be used to market it, and noble behavior can be used to influence others by it.
As for men who are not good, how could they ever be discarded?
Thus the son of Heaven is established, and the three dukes are installed.
Although one could promote it by providing them with disks of jade to hold and teams of four horses to lead, this falls short of promoting this Dao by just letting them sit quietly.
How did the ancients show their esteem for the Dao?
Did they not say:
"When beseeching it, one obtains, and, when in violation of it, one is forgiven"?
Thus it was that it was esteemed by all under Heaven.


up

63

Act by not acting;
do by not doing;
find flavor in that which has no flavor.
Deal with the small as if it were the great, and deal with the few as if it were the many, but respond to resentment in terms of virtue.
Plan for the difficult while it is still easy;
work on the great while it is still small.
Every difficult matter under Heaven surely originates in something easy, and every great matter under Heaven surely originates in something small.
Therefore it is because the sage never tries to be great that he fulfills his greatness.
Assent lightly given surely inspires little trust.
Regarding many things as easy is sure to result in many difficulties.
Therefore the sage still regards them as difficulties.
Thus he never has difficulties.


up

64

The secure is easy to maintain; the premanifest [weizhao] is easy to plan for.
The fragile is easy to melt; the tiny is easy to dissolve.
So take action while it still does not exist
And control it before it turns into disorder.
A tree that takes both arms to clasp grows from a tiny shoot;
a nine-story terrace starts from a pile of dirt;
a journey of a thousand li begins under one's feet.
One who takes deliberate action [wei] will become ruined;
one who consciously administers will become lost.
This is why the sage engages in no deliberate action and so never becomes ruined, does not consciously administer and so never becomes lost.
People pursue matters in such a way that they always suffer ruin just when they are about to succeed.
If one is as mindful of ends as he is of beginnings, his endeavors will never end in defeat.
This is why the sage desires to have no desire and does not value goods hard to get.
He learns not to learn and redeems the errors that the mass of common folk make.
Accordingly, he enhances the natural state of the myriad folk but dares not engage in deliberate action.


up

65

Those in antiquity who were good at practicing the Dao did not use it to make the common folk intelligent but used it to make them stupid.
The reason the common folk are hard to govern is that they have too much knowledge.
Thus to use knowledge to govern the state is to bring about the theft of the state.
Not to use knowledge to govern the state is to enrich the state.
One should understand these two, for they constitute a consistent rule.
Constant understanding of this consistent rule is called "mysterious virtue."
Mysterious virtue is indeed profound, indeed far-reaching!
Such a one helps the people revert,
For only then will perfect compliance be attained.


up

66

The reason the river and the sea are able to be kings of all the river valleys is that they are good at keeping below them.
Thus they are able to be kings of all the river valleys.
This is why, if one wishes to be above the common folk, he must use his words to place himself below them.
If one wishes to be at the front of the common folk, he must use his person in such a way that they think of him as behind them.
Therefore the sage positions himself above, yet the common folk do not regard him as heavy;
he positions himself in front, yet the common folk do not regard him as an obstacle.
Therefore all under Heaven happily promote him without ever tiring of it.
It is because he does not contend that none among all under Heaven can contend with him.


up

67

All under Heaven say that my Dao is great but seems to have no likeness [buxiao].
The reason why it seems to have no likeness is that greatness is its only attribute.
If it had a likeness, all this time it would have been insignificant!
I have three treasures, which I hold tight and protect.
The first is called "kindness," the second "frugality," and the third is "no presumption that I am first among all under Heaven."
It is thanks to kindness that one can be brave.
It is thanks to frugality that one can be generous.
It is by not presuming to be first among all under Heaven that one can make one's ready device last long.
Now, if one abandons kindness and takes bravery, abandons frugality and takes generosity, and abandons the back and takes first place, such a one will die!
Thanks to kindness, when one takes the field, he is victorious, and, when he takes a defensive position, he holds firm, for it is Heaven that will save him by protecting him with guards of kindness.


up

68

One good at being a warrior is not warlike.
One good at warfare avoids anger.
One good at conquering the enemy does not join with him.
One good at using men places himself below them.
We refer to these as the virtue in not fighting and the power in using men.
Such a one is called a companion worthy of Heaven, the ultimate attainment achieved for all time.


up

69

Military specialists have a saying:
"I dare not play the host but instead play the guest.
I dare not advance an inch but instead retreat a foot."
In other words,
campaign in such a way that there is no campaign;
push up your sleeve so that no arm is exposed;
wield weapons in such a way that no weapons are involved;
and lead in such a way that you face no opponent.
There is no greater disaster than having no viable opponent.
If one has no viable opponent, he will soon lose my [the Laozi's] treasures.
Thus, when they raise armies that are equally matched, he who feels pity will be the victor.


up

70

My words are very easy to understand, very easy to practice, yet none among all under Heaven can understand them, and none can practice them.
My words have a progenitor, and my undertakings have a sovereign.
It is just because there is no understanding of this that they do not understand me.
As long as those who understand me are rare, someone like me is precious.
Thus it is that the sage wears coarse woolen cloth but harbors jade in his bosom.


up

71

To regard not knowing as knowing is the highest;
not to regard knowing as knowing is harmful.
It is only by regarding harm as harm that one suffers no harm.
That the sage suffers no harm is because he regards harm as harm, and this is why he suffers no harm.


up

72

If the common folk do not fear force, then such great force will arrive that there will be no restricting them to the boundaries within which they should dwell, no satisfying them within the limits in which they should live.
It is just because one is insatiable
That there is no satisfying him.
Therefore what the sage himself knows he does not himself reveal.
He cherishes himself but does not value himself.
Thus he rejects the one and keeps the other.


up

73

If one's bravery is expressed in daring, he will be killed.
If one's bravery is expressed in not daring, he will live.
But both these two sometimes result in benefit, sometimes in harm.
When Heaven is cruel, who understands why?
Therefore even the sage finds this fraught with danger.
The Dao of Heaven is such that one excels at winning without contending.
He excels at making people respond without speaking.
He spontaneously attracts without summoning.
He excels at planning while utterly at ease.
The net of Heaven spreads far and wide.
Though its mesh is coarse, it never loses anything.


up

74

If the common folk did not fear death, trying to use death to intimidate them would have no effect.
If one caused the common folk always to fear death, there would still be those who behaved perversely, but these I could seize and put to death, so who would dare be perverse?
There is the constant executioner who puts people to death.
If one puts people to death instead of this executioner, this means that he is doing the hewing instead of the great carpenter.
It rarely happens that one who tries to do the hewing instead of the great carpenter does not injure his own hand.


up

75

The reason the common folk starve is that the ruler eats too much grain tax.
This is why they starve.
The reason the common folk are hard to govern is that the ruler takes deliberate actions [you-wei].
This is why they are hard to govern.
The reason the common folk take death lightly is that they place too much emphasis on life.
This is why they take death lightly.
It is only by acting without regard for life that one becomes more of a worthy than one who values life.


up

76

While alive, humans are soft and pliable, but, when dead, they are hard and stiff.
While alive, plants, trees, and all the other myriad things are also soft and fragile, but, when dead, they are dried up and withered.
Thus it is that the hard and stiff are adherents of death, and the soft and pliable are adherents of life.
This is why, if military power is stiff, it will not be victorious.
If a tree is stiff, it will be attacked.
The stiff [strong] and great occupy a position below.
The soft and pliant occupy a position above.


up

77

The Dao of Heaven, is it not like when a bow is pulled?
As the high end gets pulled down, the low end gets pulled up: so those who have more than enough are diminished, and those who have less than enough get augmented.
The Dao of Heaven diminishes those who have more than enough and augments those who have less than enough, but the Dao of man is not like this,
For it diminishes those who have less than enough in order to give to those who have more than enough.
Who can take his more than enough and give it to all under Heaven?
It is only one who has the Dao.
Thus it is that the sage acts, yet they [the people] do not depend on him, and he achieves success yet takes no pride in it, for he does not want to appear as a worthy [xian].


up

78

Of all under Heaven, nothing is more soft and pliable than water, yet for attacking the hard and stiff, nothing can beat it, so it is impossible to take its place.
That the soft conquers the stiff and the pliable conquers the hard, none among all under Heaven fails to know, yet none can practice it.
Therefore, according to what the sage says, he who sustains disgrace on behalf of the state is referred to as the master of altars dedicated to the soil and grain [its rightful ruler], and he who sustains misfortune on behalf of the state is referred to as a sovereign for all under Heaven.
These are true words that seem false.


up

79

Bring harmony to great resentment, and some resentment is sure to remain.
How could this be considered good?
This is why the sage holds the left half of the tally
And does not place blame on the other party.
A person of virtue concerns himself with his contracts,
And the person of no virtue concerns himself with scrutinizing others.
The Dao of Heaven has no favorites but is always with the good man.


up

80

Let the state be small and the common folk few.
Let there be military equipment for a company, then it would not be used.
Let the common folk take death seriously, then they would not travel far.
Although they had boats and carriages, they would have no occasion to ride in them.
Although they had shields and weapons, they would have no occasion to array them for battle.
Let the people again knot cords, then they would use them.
They would find their food so delicious, their clothes so beautiful, their dwellings so satisfying, and their customs so delightful that, though neighboring states might provide distant views of each other and the sounds of each other's chickens and dogs might even be heard, the common folk would reach old age without ever going back and forth between such places.


up

81

Sincere words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not sincere.
Those who are good do not engage in disputation;
those who engage in disputation are not good.
Those who know are not broadly learned;
those who are broadly learned do not know.
The sage is not acquisitive.
The more he does for others, the more he himself has.
The more he gives to others, the more he himself possesses.
The Dao of Heaven is to provide benefit without doing harm.
The Dao of the sage is to act without causing contention.