Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


The Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu

Translated by tom kunesh

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The atheism that one can come to
by argument
is not true atheism.
A definition given to atheism in one age
is not the unchanging atheism
nor its permanent meaning.
From the original experience
of being human
atheism arises.
Being the original human experience,
it is the parent of all religion.
From theism we derive the essence of atheism,
although from their names, we see only the conflict.
Both ways of experience
have the same origin
only different names.
Their mutual identity is the mystery
of experience.

And in this mystery
is found
the doorway
to the universe.


Everyone knows what god is --
that is how we know what is not god.
Everyone knows what good is --
that is how we know what is not good.

This is how being and not-being,
experience and non-experience,
theism and atheism
create each other
and are mutually dependent.
Light and dark complement each other,
long and short form one another,
low and high are relative,
sound and tone are harmonies.

Wise persons
do not judge good or bad
do not take action for or against
do not disown judgment or action
but practice a silent teaching.
Only together do opposites make a whole.

The world is acted upon by even the passive observer,
still nothing is taken and nothing is destroyed.
Things are created, actions taken,
but no claim is made upon them.
Things are controlled but not manipulated for personal gain.
Compensation -- verbal or material -- is never the desired goal.


By not saying
one is better than the other
we prevent argument.
By turning down
promises and rewards of another life
we eliminate competition for heaven.
If other realms of existence
are not promoted as new and improved
religions will not seek converts.
Empty the heart and mind of ambition,
fill the stomachs of the hungry,
live simply without material and intellectual treasures,
live simply by your own physical labor.

People are led best when information is value-free
and their basic needs and wants are fulfilled.
This way people in power cannot manipulate and interfere.

Through nonaction and noninterference
all becomes better.


Atheism is an empty bowl:
it cannot be filled
neither does it need filling.
It is at the beginning of all human consciousness
and is even the origin of theism.
Soften the sharpness
stop the debate
dissolve the confusion
reduce the glare
become like dust.

Like a spring-fed pool in a quiet forest
it has no bottom
no beginning
no end.

Is atheism born from theism?
No one knows.
But it is
the natural state
of all being.


The earth and the universe
have no attachments.
Everything is dust
to them, within them.
So, too, the wise
have no permanent attachments.
To them also
people are dust, ideas are dust.
Still, the earth is like a fan:
never filled,
constantly giving.
The more it works,
the more it gives.

The more one speaks
of theism or atheism,
the less is understood.
Better to keep quiet
and look inside.


human spirit
never dies
it is the eternal mystery.
The forces
of the earth
and the universe
are the doorway
to the mysterious.

It is here
within us

Use it
it will never run dry.


The sky is eternal,
the earth remains.
Energy is constant,
matter is always.
Why do these things outlive us beings?
Because they do not promote
their own existence.
Place yourself last
and thereby be first.
Keep apart
but thereby be included.

Through this disinterest
and selfless action,
the fulfillment of one's journey
is achieved.


The objective
is to become
like water.
Water is the basis of life in all living beings,
yet it is consciousless
and flows away from all high places.
It lives underground
and in the swamps that people disdain.
Thus it is the best example
of the way.
In building a physical structure, build close to the earth.
In constructing an intellectual edifice, keep it close to the heart.
In affairs of the heart and mind, be deep.
In affairs of money and human need, be generous.
In friendship, be gentle.
In words, be true.
In leadership, be just.
In work, be effective.
In action, precise.

By not contending with anyone
there is no strife,
and with no strife,
no failure.


Better to underfill
than to overfill a cup.
The overstretched bow
soon breaks.

The constantly sharpened blade
soon dulls.

A house full of possessions and wealth
cannot always be protected.

A mind full of morality and social convention
will not always be right.

Materialism and ambition
bring their own ruin.

Draw back
from your completed work and fame.
This is the way
of water.


Living both an emotional and intellectual life,
can you join them without separation?
Breathing and moving,
can you be as soft as a child?
can you narrow and sharpen your focus
on the universe till it is perfect?
can you care for and lead all the people
without becoming known as the care-provider and leader?
Opening and closing the gates of life and death
can you remain powerless?
Knowing and understanding science, reason and politics,
are you able to let it go?
Create and sustain ideas and things,
but do not attempt to control them.
Manage them, but do not ask them for credit or favors.
Guide them, but do not dominate.
This is the way of the universe.


Engine and alternator and U-joint and tires and accelerator and steering wheel and headlights and bucket seats
all together make a car,
but it is the space within
inside the empty seats
that makes it
Clay and glass and plastic are molded to create
jars and vases and cups and bags,
but it is the space inside
that is empty
that makes them

Houses and skyscrapers are built
and cut open with doors and windows
because it is the space inside
that is empty
that makes the buildings

Being and profit come from
what is there,
usefulness from
what is not.


All together
colors blind the eyes
sounds deafen the ears
tastes deaden the palate.
Seeking and pursuing and looking for and chasing
make for
Expensive tastes
make one a slave.
Wise people
attend to the intuition
of stomach and feelings
rather than the desires of eye, ear and hand.

Let go of that
take this.


Both favor and disgrace are disruptive.
Fortune and privilege cause physical pain.
What does it mean: favor and disgrace are both disruptive?
Favor impresses and disgrace depresses. Trying to get favor makes one anxious, losing it makes one anxious.

What does it mean: fortune and privilege cause physical pain?
The reason we feel pain is because we have material bodies.
If we didn't have bodies, how could we feel pain?
Fortune and privilege have material realities, too.
Without class rank or privilege, how could we feel loss?

Thus, persons who deal with the world and others
as they deal with their own bodies,
living simply,
accepting both joy and pain equally,
are the best people to be entrusted with leadership.
The persons who love and care for the earth
as they do their own bodies,
living simply,
are the best people to entrust with the care of the earth.


Because the eye cannot see it
it is called invisible.
Because the ear cannot hear it
it is called silent.
Because the hand cannot touch it
it is called vacuum.
These three absences point to
the empty way.
Its height does not illuminate,
its depth does not obscure.
It is infinite and beyond human terms,
collapsing in upon itself as it began.
Matter within vacuum
forms within the formless.
Facing it there is no front
behind it there is no back.

Knowing the past,
move with the present.

To know the past
of the universe
is to become
its essence.


Wise people
are so very subtle, deep, penetrating and mysterious
that they are
too profound to be understood.
Because they cannot be understood
one can only try to describe them.
They are
cautious, like a cat entering a strange house
alert, like a person walking through a strange city at midnight
reserved, like an invited guest
yielding, like lake ice in the spring
simple, like a block of wood
spacious, like night on the plains
obscure, like a muddied stream.

Can you wait quietly
or the muddy to become clear?
Can you calm yourself
in order to later become active?

Following the path of natural atheism
one has no desire for heaven or to believe.
When a person is not swayed by desire or belief,
one is able to remain one with the universe
without changing.


Sit next to the void
become empty
quiet and still
at peace.
Years go by
you contemplate your return.
You see the years,
they shrink and return.
Everything returns to its origin.
This return to origin is called stillness;
stillness is called accepting the natural laws of the universe.
Accepting the way of the universe
is enlightenment.

Not to know the nature of the universe is to wander aimlessly.
Knowing, one has room for everyone and everything.
Having room for all, one is without prejudice.
Without prejudice, one can be a leader.
To lead is to be of the earth.
To be of the earth is to be one with nature.

Being one with nature
is to be transformed.
Though the body falls
nothing is destroyed.


A master's existence
is rarely known.
A good person's presence
is widely known
and praised and imitated.
A person who collects power
scares others and makes them fearful, small and hateful.
Without total trust
there is no trust.
Better to have
no trust
and accept everything.

Without talking-about
without writing-about
a master takes action.
When it is done
everyone says
it just happened


When nature is forgotten and abandoned,
goodness, justice and morality are created,
and theisms flourish.
When intelligence and knowledge appear,
great advertising campaigns are created,
and religions compete.

When partners and family members are not at peace
they begin talking about relationships and
duties and responsibilities
and spiritual needs.

When there is tension, distrust,
and revolution
in a community,
we hear calls for
loyal followers.


Give up knowledge and wisdom
give up tests and degrees
and it will be a better for everyone.
Renounce kindness, morality, and justice,
and people will return to love and mercy.

Get rid of professionalism, eliminate profit, give up luxuries,
and theft and embezzlement will disappear.

If this advice is too complicated
then follow
and the lessening of desires.


Give up morality and social conventions
and be free of your problems.
What is really the difference between social classes?
Is it like the difference between good and bad?
between theism and atheism?
"That's the way it's always been done"
"Everybody else is doing it"
how artificial!
Everyone else is happy
celebrating the sacrifice of the lamb or the Son
or going to the opening party.
Yet I am alone and motionless
like a baby that has yet to smile
like an old man on a park bench.

Everyone else has more than enough to eat and
pay the rent and dream and take trips,
I alone have nothing.
My mind is so confused,
I must be stupid.
Everyone else can see the light,
I alone am blind.
Everyone else is happy and well-adjusted,
I alone am depressed.

Yet I am in motion like the bottom cycles of the ocean tides,
like flotsam and jetsam, never to rest.
Everyone else has a career or a job,
I alone am useless.
But I am also different from everyone else,
because the earth itself feeds me.


The universe acts only according to the laws of nature
even though such laws may seem chaotic and elusive.
still there are patterns.
still there is life.
Mysterious and obscure
still it contains the essential.
Power that is immeasurable
still is true and active

from before the beginning
til after the end,
through the next beginning and ending.

How do any of us know this?
Look inside.


Be less to become more
become broken to remain whole
bend like the grass to stand tall
be empty to receive
be used to become new
have little to gain more.
Those who have much
will not understand.
Wise persons
hold fast to the natural ways
as a standard for use by all.
Reclusive, yet known by all
unassertive, yet respected by all
modest, yet praised by all
ambitionless, yet followed by all.

Do not argue
and no one will argue with you.

These sayings,
"To remain whole, be twisted," or
"Yield and overcome," or
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,"
are not idle words.
It is the way of the earth.


Silence is our natural state.
Tornadoes don't last all afternoon, nor rainstorms all day.
Stars collapse and planets decay.
Does somebody create these things?
It is the nature of universe.
And if neither the universe nor the earth
can make something last forever, how can humanity?

So it is that those who use natural law as their teacher
will be at one with nature and the universe.
Truth to truth, power to power.
Let go of truth or power, and both will let go of you,
weakness to weakness.

For those who take the path of natural law,
nature is always giving.
For those who take the path of human order and control,
disorder and chaos will be everywhere.

As you trust in the universe
so will you be trusted by others.


On tiptoes
I am not steady.
With long strides
I do not walk the fastest or the farthest.
Looking around to see who can be seen
is blindness.
Making myself the center of attention
I am lost.
Judging others
I find myself lacking.
With great claims and projects
I will accomplish nothing.
Pride will bring me a future
in which no one knows who I am.
In nature such traits
are excessive and wasteful.
They rot the person.
Natural beings
avoid them.


Even before the earth and the sky existed,
there was already something
something not material, something silent.
Something free -- dependent on nothing, being nothing in itself,
empty and silent, everywhere yet unchanging and inexhaustible.
What was there before the Big Bang?
One can think of it as the pre-origin of the universe,
or god or goddess, or natural law, or physics.
Still, it really has no name.
The way, or the Dao, is simply the nickname I give it.
If I felt compelled to call it something else,
I'd call it "great" because it extends forever
and in going on forever,
it returns back to itself.

The Dao is great, so is the sky, the earth,
and also the human being.
In the universe there are four great things,
and humanity is one of them.

Humanity follows the nature of the earth,
earth follows the nature of the sky,
the sky follows the nature of the Dao,
and the Dao follows its own way -- naturally.


Gravity is the basis for judging what is light.
Stasis is the basis for judging activity.
So it is that when wise people travel
they don't stray far from the vehicle.
Even though everything about may be breathtaking,
a wise one
and peacefully.
Responsibility requires
focus and calm.

One who takes oneself too lightly
loses touch
with the foundation
and ground of being.
One who becomes too active
loses touch
with reality.


The best walkers leave no trail
the best speakers neither slip nor offend
the best accountants need no calculator
the safest places have no bolts or locks,
the best friendships have no need of vows or promises,
yet they cannot be broken
the best theology has no god or heaven
yet everyone is saved.
Thus the wise person
helps people, never becoming callous;
helps all living things, never becoming superior.
No one refused, no thing abandoned,
following an inner self-knowledge.

Although the educated are the teachers of the ignorant,
ignorance remains the foundation of knowledge and education.
When teachers lose respect
and students are not cared for,
ignorance prevails.
This is no secret.


One who knows religion
and holds close to atheism
is like the valley of the world
into which everything flows.
Being the valley
everything is drawn to it
like the actions of a young child.
Learn the simple and easy, the myths and traditions,
but study the deep and profound, the experiences and insights,
become the model of being.
By becoming the model of being,
loosing the boundaries and limits,
return to the source.

A person who has experienced glory and honor
yet lives a quiet and meager existence
is like the valley of the world.
Everything is drawn to it.
All power is there
all simplicity
all wholeness.
When power is divided, it is cut up up into departments, chain stores, churches, vice presidencies and district managers, ...
So they say, "the best sculptor does the least carving."


The person who believes that inner experience
can be governed or controlled or taught
will simply fail.
A person's inner universe is like a house of cards
beautiful, delicate, in perfect balance.
Tamper with it -- it falls.
Glue it together -- it serves no purpose.
In the world of religion
there are leaders and there are followers.
Some people speak a lot while others remain silent.
Some are active, some are passive.
Some ideas remain, others disappear.

The atheist has nothing to do with
absolutes, logical necessity, or agnosticism.


If you talk with others about the ways of the dao or atheism
advise them not to use force in action or word
because force returns upon its user
and creates resistance.
Where force is used
to convince or control,
nothing will grow.
Great campaigns against an enemy belief
bring years of animosity and withdrawal.
Do what you must, then withdraw.
Succeed, but do not revel in the results.
Keep your commitments, but do not boast about it.
Accomplish your objective, and be satisfied.
Do what you must, but only because it is the next step
that must be taken to keep from falling.
Without violence, without pride,
nature's way.

Remember that entropy begins
at the moment of accomplishment.
What is not natural will soon perish.


Weapons, whether
material, textual, verbal or rational,
are still instruments of fear and violence,
and at times even good people bear them.
Still, the atheist never considers them as proper tools.
To consider weapons adequate tools
means to use them
and to use them
means to hurt and destroy.
The person who enjoys hurting and destroying
will never learn the meaning of life or pleasure.

If in winning, you hurt or destroy,
accept it without joy, as at a funeral
with grief and mourning.


The Dao is eternal yet has no definition.
Such a minor concept of no great religion,
it is yet larger than everything put together.
If politicians and priests were able to use it
all beings and things would naturally obey,
the earth would heal,
and prosperity would cover the world.
Without laws there would be peace.
But as soon as a distinction is made,
wondering if it is atheist or theist,
and names given to every type of thing and idea,
definitions come in.
As soon as there are definitions ...
Knowing that enough is enough prevents trouble.
Like the river to the sea,
everything will come
to the person who is in unison with the Dao.


Understanding other people is wisdom,
understanding other religions is knowledge,
understanding oneself is enlightenment.
Strength is necessary to overcome others
power is necessary to overcome oneself.

Being content with what one already has is wealth.
Violence may achieve a quick result
but nothing permanent.
Stay in place, content with what you have,
to live a long life.
Death is a return to the native elements.


The follower of the way
is like a hawk
on unseen currents
back and forth
up and down.
All beings and things
are connected to it
solid or gas
bad or good
fact or fiction
sexual or neuter
nothing is denied
nor is anything controlled.
The way,
although existing in everything,
controls nothing
and seems nonexistent.

Everything follows it
although none of us know how
so it must be something great.

Quality is known
by the lack of its demonstration.


The person who follows the way
is invisible to others.
The earth is at one, quiet and peaceful.
Music, good smells, flashing lights
make people curious and want to stop.
Dao, though, is silent, tasteless,
and quite boring to the traveler.

Nothing to see, nothing to hear,
nothing to read, ...
just a tiny pool of water
on the prairie
always there
doing nothing.


Shrink to extend
exercise in order to weaken
stabilize for revolt
give in order to receive
die to live.
This is the balance of nature

soft overcomes hard,
weak overcomes strong.

Like a fish below the surface,
power should remain hidden.


The way never moves
or does anything
still, everything is done.
If politicians and priests knew this,
everything would be transformed by itself.

If they knew this and still wanted to do something
nothing would happen.
Change would become meaningless,
desire would be lost,
nature would return
to quiet.


Intelligent people have no need of degrees or titles or recognition to display their true knowledge.
Ignorant people need to demonstrate their intelligence in every way possible, and cannot shake the image of ignorance.
A truly good person does good unconsciously,
has no need of goodness or morality or ethics,
and is not viewed as being good.
An average person works hard at doing
good works and acting morally
but is still regarded as average.
Goodness is complete,
justice is always only partial.
When proper procedure is not followed
righteous people roll up their sleeves and enforce it.
When the path is lost, power remains;
when power is lost, religion remains;
when religion is lost, morality remains;
when morality is lost, patriotism remains.
Patriotism is only the appearance of civility
and is the first step to fighting and war.
Predicting what will happen is only a mirage of the way
and a step off of the path.

The wise person dwells in the here and now
and not in the past, the future, or the may-be,
choosing the fruit for sustenance, not the flower.
Embrace one, reject the other.


There are old things that have understood the unity of all ...
the sky is one and clear
the earth is one and solid
beauty is strong
space is one and empty
plants and animals reproduce
politicians and priests govern their people
... all because they are one with the way.
Clearness keeps the sky from falling
solidness keeps the earth from crumbling
meaning allows for beauty
emptiness allows for space and time
sex creates being
people create governments and honor and stability.

Humility is the root of greatness.
The low is the foundation of the high.
That's why politicians and priests make sure that
everybody knows they came from underprivileged families.
A simple case of basing political gain upon humble beginnings.

A list of parts still cannot explain the whole
the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Why sound like bells when others sound like chimes?
Why sound at all?


Returning is the natural movement of nature.
Letting go is nature's predominant quality.
Even though all being comes from something,
something itself comes from nothing.


When good persons hear of the way
they do their best to practice it.
When average persons hear of the way
they like to talk about it.
When lesser persons hear of the way
they disparage it by calling it godless or foreign.
If there were no derision, it would not be the way.
They say the true way,
compared to the light, often looks the darkest;
forward often looks like it goes backward;
flattest often looks the hilliest.
The best looks like the worst,
the clearest is the most obscure,
the most satisfying looks too little,
the strongest looks the weakest,
the most natural looks old and artificial.

The largest circle has no curves
great abilities take the longest to develop
the finest music has the faintest notes
the universe has no shape
the way is hidden, has no name, no map.
How can it? It is everywhere.


The way
is one
but soon one is made into two
and two becomes three and four ...
and everything else
all of which contain the elements of yin and yang
dark and light, water and fire, hard and soft, male and female
in whose blend and harmony all existence depends.
No one likes
to come from the lower class
to be poor, hungry, needy
yet politicians and priests gain by calling themselves such.
Still, a person
gains by losing
and loses by gaining,
becomes wise from disadvantage
and ignorant from privilege.

The truths of other religions and philosophies
are the same:
an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
turn the other cheek,
a violent person will die a violent death.


The softest
overcomes the hardest.
Having no form to maintain
it can go where there is no space.
Water wears down and splits rock with no intention
this is how I know the value of action that has no motivation.
Yet few people understand the value of
teaching without words
relationship without promise
being without doing
religion without god.


Being praised by others
or valued by oneself
which is most important?
You or things,
health or wealth
which is more valuable?

Having things
or losing things
which is better?

The person who saves the most will pay the most in the end;
the one who acquires the most possessions and property
will lose the most in the end.
Attachment causes suffering.

Be satisfied with where you are and what you have
and you will never be sorry.
Be satisfied with when you are
and you will be always
safe, always


Perfection seems to be missing something
but like an empty cup
it is perfect.
The fullest seems to be empty
but like the ocean
it is always there.
The perfectly straight line looks crooked
the most intelligent seem stupid
the best speech seems like stuttering.

Activity overcomes cold
but stillness overcomes heat.
Being still,
one puts everything
in its proper place.


When the way is followed
railroad tracks become bicycle paths

king lots and highways get plowed under
oil cushions the crust of the earth.
When the way is not followed
railroads haul weapons and fuel
food and energy are stockpiled
the earth is bled away and sold.

No motive is more compelling
than wanting what others have
no illness more debilitating
than dissatisfaction with what one has
no better forecast of failure
than wanting more.

the satisfaction
of being content
with the simple life
a wise person will always be satisfied.


Without leaving your house
without looking outside
you can understand
the whole world.
The more you search
the less you will find

the more information you acquire
the less you will know

the more you travel
the less you will feel at home.

Arrive without leaving
see without looking
do nothing yet everything.


Learning means accumulating something every day.
ollowing the way
means losing something every day.
Loss followed by loss
until everything is gone
and nothing
is to be done
and everything
is accomplished.

Win by letting things take their natural course
lose by interfering.


The follower of the way has
no constant heart or mind, no morality, no reason.
One uses the hearts and minds of others.
I am good to good people
I am also good to bad people
-- how else will they experience good?
I believe the truthful person
I also believe the liar and cheat
-- how else will they experience trust?

To others the follower of the way
looks like a gullible coward.
For others the follower of the way
is simply simple.

Others want to know the deeper meaning,
the real person, the true motive,
more photos, more sound bites.
The follower of the way
accepts the surface
and understands
the depths.


In wanting to live life more fully
one dies.
Some people live forcefully in order to evade death.
Some people die within themselves in order to evade life.
Some people just survive with a human body
as life becomes a thing to have or get or lose.

But others who follow the way seem to be impervious
to car accidents or woods at night or the bomb.
Stray cars find nothing to hit,
the woods contain no lions or tigers or bears,
the bomb finds no bodies to burn.

Because people prepared to die live
and those prepared to live die.
Life generates death
and death life.


The way creates
its truth sustains
its matter shapes
its energy is the spark of life
There is not one thing that does not know the way
or is not influenced by it
even though there is no instruction to follow
or bill to pay.
It is just so naturally.
As the universe creates everything,
sustains it, shapes it, enlivens it,
you are called
to care for the world but not own it,
use it but not abuse it,
lead but do not control.
This is the way of the universe.


We attribute the creation of many things to a
and so we imagine a beginner of all creation
and call it god or Dao or the Big Bang.
Knowing the origin we know the children.
Knowing the children we understand the origin better.
Knowing the one we know the many
knowing the many we know the one better.
Close your eyes, shut your doors,
and you will live forever.
Turn on the tv, become involved, get busy,
and you become vulnerable to everything.

Seeing small things clearly is good vision;
holding on to weak things is strength.
Seeing the outer light yet being able to return to the inner light
seeing the many and being able to return to the one
a person survives.
This is called


To travel the way is like
following a foot path
to your destination
you have nothing to fear
so long as you
stay on the path
and avoid turning.
Paths are safe and easy
but people like to stray
When government works at setting things right
farmers' fields lie fallow
the silos stay empty
people wear the latest fashion
carry weapons, go out to eat and drink a lot
buy more possessions than they can use
like thieves stocking up.

This is not the foot path.


What is well planted cannot be pulled up
what is well held cannot slip away
a good family will live on for generations.
Follow the way and free yourself of the meaningless
follow it in your home and prosper
follow it in your town and be secure
follow it in your nation and flourish
follow it in the world and expand your horizons.

Within you is the basis for the perfect home
in your own home is the basis for the perfect town
in your town is the basis for perfect nation
in your nation is the basis for perfect world
in our own world is the basis for the perfect universe.

How do I know all this?
By what is inside me.


Persons that follow the way are like
a baby that
bees and mosquitoes do not sting
dogs and cats do not bite
birds do not peck.
Soft bones, weak muscles, strong grip
no need of sex, but perfectly formed by it.
Baby lives completely
screaming all day without becoming hoarse
Its needs fulfilled
it sleeps in perfect harmony.
To understand this harmony
is to understand the universe;
to understand the universe
is enlightenment.

Filling one's life with busyness is to invite
pushing oneself to the edge
for every effort
there is a loss.

This is not the way
and what is not the way
will soon die away.


A person who knows the way
has no need or desire to talk about it.
People who talk about it
really don't know the way.
The atheist who knows atheism does not talk,
and those who talk about it don't know it.

Quit talking about
quit searching
quit your logic
quit trying to win
quit trying to impress
get down to the very basics
of existence.
This is the mystic way to understanding.

Then there are no friends or enemies,
no benefits, no disgrace
no rewards, no losses.
This is human being


Order is only maintained through law and justice.
Battles are only won by ignoring rules and propriety.
But the universe can only be understood by
How do I know?
Because ...
the more restrictions placed on people,
the more people will evade them, the poorer the people become.
The more weapons, the smarter people become,
the darker the land becomes.
The greater the science,
the deadlier the inventions.
The more laws,
the more criminals and jails.

Therefore, I do nothing,
and people are naturally transformed.
I love peace and quiet,
and people naturally become better.
I do nothing,
and people have more than enough.
I want nothing, and people naturally return to
the simple life.


When politicians look depressed and inactive
people are satisfied and happy.
When politicians look happy and active
people are dissatisfied and depressed.
Bad times come after good times, good times after bad.

Few have found it, but there is a creek that runs
neither hot nor cold, good nor bad, right nor wrong.

For every straight there are two crookeds,
for every good two bads
what is the purpose of choosing one over the other?
who can make the necessary corrections?

Wise person
reach the end without resorting to means
shape without cutting
mold without pressure
straighten without pulling
illumine without shining.


No person has power to lead others or to serve the world
unless one has a store of energy.
Storing energy is done through breathing
breathing is done through meditation
and your power cannot be overcome.
If your power cannot be overcome
it is boundless
Only what is boundless
is large enough to understand the full dimensions of reality.
Only what is rooted deep within the earth
can keep the understanding of the full dimensions of reality.
Being rooted deep in the earth takes letting go,
living long necessitates long meditation.


Thinking big thoughts
of religion the dao atheism
is like cooking small fish
the less handled
the more remains.
Following the way
no force is used no bad
no coaxing is used no good

both merge
to the same end.


Religion should be like low land
everything flowing towards it
all ideas converging on it.
By receiving it absorbs
by absorbing it becomes more basic.
When religion becomes more basic
it will be followed by others.
Large religions absorb small ones
by conquering and converting with force and argument
small ones absorb large ones
by being underneath.

Large ideas, small followings;
small ideas, large followings
one serves the other.


Atheism, like a fireplace,
offers warmth in the cold
to the good and bad person alike.
Arguing for or against god is a profitable business
charismatic speakers and serious writers are well respected
even bad people buy their books and attend their talks.

for your brother's wedding or sister's graduation
instead of offering money or a vcr
and send your reflections on the way.

About the way the elders of the past have said
Seek, and you will find
Apologize, and you will be

These are benefits of the way
better than anything else.


You --
do without working
work without doing
find flavor in water
make the small big
the few into many
turn the other cheek
reward bad actions with good
mold the hard while it is still soft
create the great while it is still small.
Wise person --
deal with the microcosm,
never the macrocosm,
the individual not the group,
and thus succeed.
Little commitment creates little faith
and many easy little things create one big difficult thing.

The wise person knows how to make
the simple
and by knowing this
avoids complications.


Silence is easy to break
future is easy to plan
gentle is easy to hurt
tiny is easy to lose
Look ahead, see forms before they become things
deal with them before they become
set them in order before they collide
the sequoia began as small as a bean sprout
the skyscraper began as a hole in the earth
the longest trip begins with the first step.

Act, and you hurt
grab, and it slips away
own, and it is stolen
believe, and it is shown false.
The wise
do not act, and nothing is hurt
do not grab, and nothing slips
do not own, and nothing is lost
do not believe, and nothing is false

Others fall short right before their long-awaited success.
The end is as important as the beginning,
thus the wise person
wants only the unwanted;
values the common, not the scarce;
teaches the things that others don't;
returns others to the past they left behind,
such that everything is valued for itself by itself
all done by not doing.


In the past, when the path has been walked well
the walkers not only
did not show others the way
but even made others more ignorant about it
the smarter people become
the harder they are to control.
People who want to lead by promoting higher intelligence
and higher educational standards and harder tests
are thieves stealing from farmers and factories.
People who lead without pushing education
bless the people and the land.
Education causes discontent for what one has,
creates desire for more and better and higher
ignorance makes people feel good where they are.

To understand the difference here is to know quality
to be able to apply this quality in life is to be on the path
This path ...
so long so old so deep so mysterious
going all the way back
to when all was one.


Why are oceans greater than creeks and rivers and lakes?
Because they lay lower than the rest
because gravity carries the high to the low
because they are the lowest they are the greatest.
Wise one
to speak to people you must be lower than them,
to lead people you must be behind them,
to be first you must be last,
so that people will listen without feeling alienated ,
so that people will follow without feeling like sheep,
so that your quality can shine without contention.

This way the whole earth will feel your push
and not be bothered with the direction.
Without pushing

and without pushing
no one pulls back.


People say that this path is so easy,
simply the way things go
without trying.
because it is so simple, so basic, so minimal
it is so great.
created from wants and desires, from miracles and visions,
from conflict between mortal and immortal,
is not normal, not natural.
From its ancient manufacture and people's need of it
you can see its smallness.

I have three commandments
compassion, simplicity, and humility
only with compassion is a person able to be truly brave
only by living simply can one be truly generous
only by humility does one become the leader.

Today your courage is based on the ease of attack and victory, your generosity on your wealth, not poverty, and your humility on being the first, not the last. You will die, and it will all pass.
But compassion cannot fight without winning, or give without gaining, or be nobody without being somebody.

Nature gives a natural defense of lowliness -- like the "death" of the possum, or the bared neck of the wolf, the sea depths of the ancient coelacanth -- to that which it wants to protect.


The best leaders stay with their local people
the best fighters are cool and calm
the best commanders win without engaging the enemy
the best supervisors act like the lowest employees
the best healers cure without medicine
the best laws have no transgressors
the best priests have no faith.
This is called power

power that comes with flowing with the way
power that is able to guide people
power that is mate to the universe
the oldest power.


Military strategists have said
When you don't think you have a good defense,
take the offense
When you don't think you have a good offense,
Retreat is called marching in place
rolling up your sleeves but not showing any muscle
the rose in the fisted glove
confronting without threatening.

In life there is nothing worse than
getting mad and attacking
and finding
nothing there ...

Only by losing your possessions
and your self
can you have no enemy.

In war, when armies are recruited and conscripted
when battles are waged
the victor will be the reluctant nation
who takes no joy or glory from fighting.


These words of mine
are easy to translate and understand and discuss and practice.
So why is it
nobody anywhere
understands them? practices them?

My words
have culture, have reason, have a system
but try to make sense of them and you will fail,
try to apply them like rules and you will fail.
This is why people do not understand
my words.

So few understand it
but then
that is its value
guarded like
a pond
in the winter.


Knowing the depths of your own ignorance is healthy.
Thinking that you know
what you really don't
is a cancer.
Only by realizing that you don't know
can you be healed.

The way to heal this cancer
is to recognize your false knowledge
as a disease,
thereby freeing yourself
of it.


If your authority is not sufficient
let go
the power of the universe will suffice.
Do not restrict others
or make them do things you want
let go
and they will stop running from you.

The wise
know themselves,
know their power
but do not show it,
know their own quality
but do not use praises or titles.

Let go
of that
take this.


People who are brave and who like dares
kill and destroy.
People who are brave and have no taste for daring
live and create.
Either may be appropriate,
both may be good and bad
the universe has no taste for blood,
neither does the follower of the way.
The universe never tries to win
it always does;
never tries to speak
there is always an answer;
never tries to command
everything is ordered.

The net of the universe is wide ,
its mesh is wide
nothing escapes.


People not afraid of death
cannot be threatened with
What, then, is the use of threats?
Even if people feared death
and were afraid of its strangeness,
who should be responsible
for carrying out the threat
and killing them?
Famine, rain, drought, hurricanes, snow, tornadoes
are more than sufficient.

For people to do the work of nature
is like
assuming the job of a master carpenter
and doing the sawing
you would be lucky
not to lose a finger.


People starve because
governments and religions and businesses spend
too much money
That is the only reason there is hunger.
People demonstrate and rebel because
religions and businesses and governments make laws
to restrict them.
That is the only reason there isn't peace.

People have no fear of death because
businesses and governments and religions are
so busy trying
to survive.
That is why death carries so little fear for common people,
for having so little to get out of life themselves,
their lives are fuller.


At birth a human is soft and flexible,
at death a human is hard and fixed.
In life all things, plants and animals,
are soft and flexible,
in death all things
are hard and fixed.
What is hard and fixed is death's friend;
what is soft and flexible is life's friend.

The hard and fixed weapon will break,
the hardwood tree will be cut down,
the high shall be made low,
the first shall be last,
the poor and the meek
will win.


The way of the universe
is like
pulling the string of a bow
the bow bends
the top descends
the bottom ascends.
The way of the universe is
to take from the wealthy
and give to the poor.
The way of humanity is
to take from the poor
and give to the wealthy.

There is only one way that a person can have so much
that there is enough to give to poor and wealthy alike.
By following the way,
directing but never with force,
accomplishing but never praised,
better than others
but unknown.


Nothing is softer, more flexible, or more giving than
nothing can resist it
nothing can take it away
nothing can endure it
there is no way to hurt it.
The flexible overcomes what resists it,
the giving overcomes what takes it,
the soft overcomes the hard,
but who uses this knowledge?

Only the person who knows the earth
as intimately as the trees and grasses
can rule the earth,
only the person who accepts
the guilt and evil of humanity
can rule the universe.

Straight tongues seem forked.
Straight talk seems crooked.


Stopping wars
feeding the hungry in foreign lands
building inner-city housing projects
not using racist or sexist language
will not succeed
because the deeper problems are not solved.
Stay at home
claiming nothing from others
giving everything

and the universe will give to you.


A small land
with small groups of people
using horses instead of cars
plows instead of tractors,
themselves and their families attached,
dying on the land rather than leave it.
Ships never boarded, airplanes never sat in,
missiles never aimed, guns never loaded.

Ribbons around fingers to remind us
instead of newspapers
simple talk
simple food
simple clothing
simple fireplace
simple work

Imagine growing up and dying
hearing the neighbors' dogs and chickens and cows
but never
having been


True words are not pleasant to hear
sweet-sounding words are not true.
Good people do not prove things by argument
those who prove things by argument are not good.

Wisdom is different from book learning
book learning means little wisdom.

Wise people have no need to store things up
when all has been given to others
they have more than before.

The path of the universe
is to attain the end
without means

without acting.