Asia Online (TAO)
Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu
Man-Ho Kwok is the foremost practitioner of traditional Chinese religion in the UK. Trained for twenty years by both Taoist and Buddhist masters in Hong Kong, he is renowned as a scholar of Chinese religion and, together with Martin Palmer, has translated many ancient texts. Martin Palmer, the Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture (ICOREC), is an expert on interfaith work and author of many books including The Elements of Taoism and Living Christianity. He has translated numerous ancient texts, including many from China on which he has collaborated with Man-Ho Kwok. Jay Ramsay is a poet and found of the Chrysalis poetry project. He has published numerous books of poetry, including his main work, The Great Return, and is particularly interested in the role of the artist healer.
More English versions
The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
Everything in the universe comes out of Nothing.
Nothing - the nameless is the beginning;
While Heaven, the mother is the creatrix of all things.
the nothingness of the Tao,
and you can be like it, not needing anything,
seeing the wonder and the root of everything.
even if you cannot grasp this nothingness,
you can still see something of the Tao in everything.
two are the same only called by different names
- and both are mysterious and wonderful.
mysteries are Tao, and Heaven is their mother:
She is the gateway and the womb-door.
Beauty and mercy are only recognized by people
Because they know the opposite, which is ugly and mean.
the people think they know goodness
Then all they really know is what evil is like!
and Heaven share the same root -
Difficulty and ease are a part of all work.
long and the short are in your hands,
Above and below exist because they each do,
What you want and what you say should be the same...
Neither future nor past can exist alone.
sage has no attachment to anything,
and he therefore does what is right without speaking
by simply being in the Tao.
Life, all life began without words.
Life is made-and no one owns it.
The Tao is neither selfish nor proud.
Tao is generous and graceful in what it does
Without ever claiming any merit
the sage's greatness lies
in taking no credit.
If the sage refuses to be proud
then people won't compete for his attention:
the sage does not buy treasures
Then the people won't want to steal them:
the sage governs with vision
Then his people will not go wrong.
So in his wisdom, he restrains himself:
- by not being greedy for food
- by not dominating the State
- by keeping himself healthy and fit.
sage always makes sure
that the people don't know what he's done,
so they never want to be in control -
and are never driven by ambition.
He keeps them in truth like this acting invisibly.
see, if there is nothing to fight for
then there is nothing that can break the flow.
The Tao pours out everything into life -
It is a cornucopia that never runs dry.
is the deep source of everything -
it is nothing, and yet in everything.
smooths round sharpness
and untangles the knots.
glows like the lamp
that draws the moth...
exists, Tao is
but where It came from I do not know.
has been shaping things from before the First Being,
from the before the Beginning of Time.
Heaven and earth are not like humans.
The Tao does not act like a human.
don't expect to be thanked
for making life,
so they view it without expectation.
and earth are like a pair of bellows:
they are empty, and yet they can never be exhausted.
Work them, and they produce more and more
- there's too much talking, it's really better to stay quiet.
are too many laws, when all you have to do
is to hold on to the centre.
The Tao is the breath that never dies.
It is a Mother to All Creation.
It is the root and ground of every soul
- the fountain of Heaven and Earth, laid open.
source, endless river
River of no shape, river of no water
Drifting invisibly from place to place
it never ends and it never fails.
Heaven and earth are enduring.
universe can live for ever,
because it does not live for itself.
And so both last - outliving themselves.
sage guides his people
by putting himself last.
nothing for himself,
he knows how to channel desires.
is it not because he wants nothing
that he is able to achieve everything?
The sage's way,
Tao is the way of water.
must be water for life to be,
and it can flow wherever.
water, being true to being water
is true to Tao.
on the Way of Tao, like water
need to accept where they find themselves;
and that may often be where water goes to the lowest places, and that is right.
a lake the heart must be calm and quiet
having great depth beneath it.
sage rules with compassion,
and his word needs to be trusted.
sage needs to know like water
how to flow around the blocks
and how to find the way through without violence.
water, the sage should wait
for the moment to ripen and be right:
water, you know, never fights
flows around without harm.
Hold yourself back from filling yourself up,
or you'll tip off your stand.
can hammer a blade until it's razor-sharp -
and in seconds, it can blunt.
may amass gold and jade in plenty
but then the more you have, the less safety...
you strutting your wealth like a peacock?
Then you've set yourself up to be shot.
You bring about your own disaster
Because you've got too much.
Let go, when your work is done:
is the Way of Heaven.
Can you nurture your souls by holding them
in unity with the One?
you focus your ch'i - your energy
and become as supple, as yielding as a baby?
you clear your mind of all its dross
without throwing out the Tao with it?
you do it without self-interest
so you shine like a diamond?
you love the people of your nation
without being pulled into action?
Can you turn yourself around and let Her rise up over you?
world spans out in four directions -
and can you be as embracing?
nurturing and sustaining:
the Tao does this unceasingly...
It gives without holding on to what it's made,
It gives everything essence, without reward
It knows, without flaunting it
It is serene, beyond desiring
and this is its Virtue and its Source.
Thirty spokes on a cartwheel
Go towards the hub that is the centre
but look, there is nothing at the centre
and that is precisely why it works!
you mould a cup you have to make a hollow:
it is the emptiness within it that makes it useful.
a house or room it is the empty spaces
- the doors, the windows - that make it useable.
all use what they are made of
to do what they do,
without their nothingness they would be nothing.
The five colours blind the eye -
The five notes deafen the ear...
The five tastes deaden the mouth:
the chase on horseback over the fields
drives you crazy when you overdo it;
wanting what's precious
you do what distorts your being.
sage knows this in his gut,
And is guided by his instinct
not by what his eyes want.
Most people fret about themselves and their status,
but you don't have to do this.
What is success and what is failure?
you have prestige and favour,
all you worry about is that it'll get taken away.
And if you have a lowly place,
you are still basically afraid.
So both, at the root, make for fear.
What does it mean that success is a problem?
means people are too bound up in themselves.
If they weren't so self-obsessed
they'd have no need to be worried.
you can put yourself aside -
then you can do things for the whole of the world.
And if you love the world, like this
then you are ready to serve it.
When you gaze at something but see - nothing;
When you listen for a sound but cannot hear it;
When you try to grasp it and find it has no substance
then these three things
That go beyond your mind
Are moulded together in the One.
Its surface doesn't shine, but nor is its base dull.
Given this, it is only knowable as a no-thing.
Confront it - it has no head;
Come behind it, and it has no tail...
people could follow the ancient way,
then they would be masters of the moment.
if you know this way
then you have seen the timeless way of the Tao.
In ancient times, the leaders were as subtle as sorcerers.
No one knew what they were about to do.
How can we describe them to you?
were like soldiers about to cross a cold river,
hesitant, watchful and uncertain.
were cautious like people who know
there is danger.
They were over-polite, like practised guests.
They gave way like ice, melting
They were simple like uncarved wood
They were empty like deserted valleys
They were muddy like unreflecting water.
mud will settle, and it is hard to wait for it.
But if you can, then you can act.
you follow the Tao without pretension
You will never burn yourself out.
The sage rules from the purest motives
Relying wholly on quiet and inner peace.
He watches the seasons rise and fall
And if he knows how things grow, he know
They are fed by their roots
return to their roots;
To grow and flower and flow.
thing must have its roots,
and the tendrils work quietly underground.
This quite feeding is the Way of Nature.
you understand ch'ang - this principle of nurturing,
you can understand everything.
Not understanding it will lead you to disaster.
a sage knows this, he can rule
And he will do so with patience and justice.
man can become wise in this
And he can walk the Way of Heaven
if you walk that way
you will be royal in the mastery
can end in pain
But if you live like this,
under the Tao
will fill your days with breath.
The highest form of government
Is what people hardly even realize is there.
is that of the sage
Who is seen, and loved, and respected.
down is the dictatorship
That thrives on oppression and terror -
the last is that of those who lie
And end up despised and rejected.
The sage says little -
and does not tie the people down;
the people stay happy
Believing that what happens
When the Great Tao is lost sight of -
Then people have to try to be kind and gentle.
try to compensate by being clever
But this only breeds hypocrisy and sleight-of-hand.
families fall out
relationships sour into useless formality.
the nation is misled and in chaos
ministers mouth empty promises.
If the sage could abandon his wisdom and skill,
Then everyone would be a hundred times better off.
the sage could let go of holding the scales,
Then everyone would flow in the web of harmony...
if the sage can give up looking to gain,
Then there will be no theft or exploitation.
while these three things are important
they are not enough:
The people themselves need to learn simplicity.
shouldn't need to know more than they do,
And should have as few things as possible.
Listen, give up trying to be so learned
And things will be a lot easier.
there really any difference between a yes
And a no said insincerely?
there really much of a difference
Between being angry and pretending not to be?
What the people are afraid of I also need to fear.
what do most people do? They go
looking for a good time.
go looking for fool's gold
and auspicious signs.
you see, I am lazy
And I don't give a damn about fame or money.
I am like a child who cannot bring himself to smile.
do that people want? Money and things.
And yet I find I have nothing, and I don't care.
I am as unambitious as any fool.
people seem to be bright and sharp
And how do I feel? Like a blunted sword.
people, the people are like waves of sea
And I am drifting between them wherever they are blown.
the people, the people are so busy!
But I have nothing to bother about. I am a bumpkin, a lout.
am different, I am strange.
I live for the Mother.
The Body of The Tao
is a mist beyond your eyes
of No Body,
and yet within it is All Creation.
a seed in the dark, and a dim light
And from it, comes everything.
Root, stem, leaf . . . its essence is in everything.
is born from this Tao
I say so, and I can prove it!
the beginning of time until now
the Tao is eternal because it is Creation.
How do I know the Tao is the root of all being?
I know this.
Learn to yield and be soft
If you want to survive.
And you will stand in your full height.
to empty yourself
and be filled by the Tao
. . . the way a valley empties itself into a river.
up all you are
And then you can be made new.
to have nothing
And you will have everything.
always act like this,
and are Children of the Tao.
trying to impress, their being shines forth
Never saying 'this is it', people see what the truth is -
boasting, they leave the space they can be valued in
And never claiming to be who they are, people can see them
And since they never argue, no one argues with them either . . .
the ancient ones say
'Bend, and you will rule'.
Is this a lie? You'll find it is true.
true to yourself, and all will go well with you.
It is a natural thing
to talk sparingly.
surely, this is right - because even a great wind
and lashing rain do not go on forever.
It is naturally so. Both Heaven and Earth know it.
if neither can hold on to such an outpouring for long
what makes people think they can?
you follow the Tao,
all you do will belong to it.
you act with Virtue,
All you do will have its power.
you lose these -
Then everyway you will be lost.
you go the Way of Tao, it can only be with you.
If you go the Way of Virtue, its purity will sustain you.
if you go the way of loss, then that will be your name;
And if you cannot trust, no one will trust you.
A man on tiptoe
can't walk easily.
The man who strides on ahead is bound to tire.
kind of person who always insists
on his way of seeing things
can never learn anything from anyone.
who always want to be seen
will never help others to be.
showman is never
secretly respected by anyone.
like these, say the Wise Ones
are as useless as the left-over food at the feast:
No true follower can relate to them.
Before the world was
And the sky was filled with stars . . .
There was a strange, unfathomable Body.
This Being, this Body is silent
and beyond all substance and sensing.
stretches beyond everything
spanning the empyrean.
It has always been here, and it always will be.
comes from it, and then
it is the Mother of Everything.
I do not know its name. So I call it TAO.
am loath to call it 'greater than everything',
but it is.
being greater, it infuses all things
moving far out and returning to the Source.
Tao, the Great!
is greater than Heaven,
Greater than the Earth -
Greater than the king.
are the four great things,
and the ruler is the least of them.
Humanity is schooled by the Earth;
Earth is taught by Heaven,
And Heaven is guided by the Tao.
goes with what is absolutely natural.
What holds, what you can trust
Is the same as this quietness -
And it is light-hearted.
quiet light-hearted silence
Is the key to being free from emotion.
sage never abandons the Tao,
HE never lets its weight out of his sight.
may live in a fabulous house
But he never gets caught up wanting to -
though there are always temptations,
He stays unswayed, and smiles.
why is it that our rulers
Seem so bright, but are
Glib and insubstantial?
the weight of the Tao
Means you lose your root;
when you can't sit still
The sage who goes by the way leaves no traces
The sage who speaks the true law never slips up -
He never calculates what profit he can make from what he does.
keeps out thieves with wisdom! He's never robbed -
He makes sure the rules are binding, then no one can undo them:
is aware of everyone, leaving no one uncounted;
He cares like a parent, and wastes nothing.
This is the essence of harmony.
a good man is a model for a bad one
And, misguided, he is touched by his goodness.
to follow a teacher here
Or to love his precious message
Is to lose the Way, however clever you are -
is the essence of the matter.
Understand the thrust of the yang -
But be more like the yin in your being.
like a valley
that parts to its stream;
like a stream
for the earth . . .
so it flows - to the sea.
newborn - be free of yourself,
be a valley for the whole world.
a channel for the energies here -
weave them in a true and practical way
so they can link up with the Way and become one again.
Oneness generates everything:
the sage rules in the light of it,
He rules everything.
wise man never tries to break up the Whole.
If a rules behaves as if he's invented the world,
He will do no good at all.
earth is a sacred vessel -
and it cannot be owned or improved.
you try to possess it, you will destroy it:
If you try to hold on to it - you will lose it.
are leaders, then, and other follow.
Some drift like the wind, and other drive hard.
Some are thick-skinned, and other have no armour;
And some are the destroyers, and others they destroy.
So now you know why
sage abandons greed,
all false charm -
and every last iota of pride.
The Emperor's advisors will never recommend violence
if they know what the Tao is.
If you use the strategy of warfare
it can only result in revenge.
troops have tramped by
only weeds and nettles grow in the broken ground.
There can be no harvest,
and everyone is left starving.
you need to take action, only do what is necessary.
Never abuse your power.
if you're successful, don't be smug;
If you are a success, don't trumpet it -
If you think you've won, never overdo it -
Those who use force soon end up without it -
And this is not the Way.
if you do not follow the Way, you will die.
The guide who walks the Way
Never resorts to violence.
sage goes to the left side of the Emperor;
while the man of war goes to the right.
are terrible things -
and no sage will have anything to do with them,
unless there is no alternative.
The sage wants peace and quiet.
victory is free of grief,
and so to celebrate one is to glory
in the death of innocent people.
one who revels in death like this
can be true to the Way
or is fit to rule in our world.
glad times, the place of honour is on the left:
after disaster, it is on the right.
So in the army, the officers stand to the left
while the general stands to the right.
So the whole things is staged like a funeral.
a war kills many, we must mourn for them -
And if you win the war, you must grieve it.
The Tao has no name
it is a cloud that has no shape.
follows it faithfully,
then every living thing under heaven will say yes to him.
and earth make love,
And a sweet dew-rain falls.
The people do not know why,
But they are gathered together like music.
have been given names from the beginning.
We need to know when we have enough names: this is wisdom.
the beginning of time
The sage gave names to everything - see, and unseen.
ruler who walks the Way
Is like a river reaching the sea
Gathering the waters of the streams
as he goes.
When you know the true being of another,
You can judge -
if you truly know the Tao
you will be in the light.
takes force to control people:
but if I am humble, I can never be overcome.
you know what you have is enough
you will be satisfied.
if you think you don't have enough
then you will never have enough!
If you follow the Tao, what you are will last.
will live, and live, and outlive yourself again.
The Great Tao goes everywhere
past your left hand and your right -
filling the whole of space.
is breath to every thing, and yet it asks for nothing back;
It feeds and creates everything, but it will never tell you so.
nurtures all things
without lording it over anything.
It names itself in the lowest of the low.
holds what it makes,
Yet never fights to do so:
that is why we call it Great.
Because it never tires to be so.
Everyone will gather to the man
Who rules in the light of the One.
trust such a being is to live
In true happiness and healing.
food and sweet music
May make you stop -
You listen, in passing.
the Tao: how does it seem?
Oh, tasteless and shapeless by comparison.
cannot even hear it.
It is even worth trying to?
because it is unending.
What is going to be diminished
Must first be allowed to inflate.
you want to weaken
Must first be convinced of its strength.
you want to overcome
You must first of all submit to . . .
you want to take over
You must first of all give to -
This is called discerning.
see, what is yielding and weak
Overcomes what is hard and strong:
just as a fish can't be seen
when he stays down in the deep
show your power to anyone).
The Tao goes on forever
wu-wei - doing nothing
And yet everything gets done.
It does it by being,
And by being everything it does.
people and rulers go by this
then every living thing will be well.
if parts still want to separate
the true leader will use
of this original
It is simple:
no one wants anything for themselves
then there can be peace
and all things will know peace
ends in peace.
The highest kind of man
Has innate goodness,
And that is what he rules with.
lesser man brags about how good he is -
And isn't much good, I can tell you.
man of Te rules by wu-wei
Doing nothing for himself or of himself.
lesser man acts from his ego
And what he wants is gratification.
man who rules with compassion
Acts through it - and no one even realizes.
legal man acts judiciously
But he is still serving his own ends.
the rigid man uses laws
And if people don't like it, force.
the true Tao is lost
then morality takes its place.
that fails, we have 'conscience'.
When that fades, we get 'justice'.
When that disappears, we have the status quo.
reigns. No one knows
what's going on. Forecasts
and prophecies abound -
and they are merely a gloss on the Tao,
they are the root of all
the sage only looks at what is really real.
He doesn't just look at the surface -
He blows away the dust and drinks the water . . .
He doesn't just go for the flower
But also for the roots and the fruit.
away the dust, now:
Come to the living water.
From its first days, the universe came from the One:
The heavens are one, and clear, and round because of it
The earth is one, and is its firm infused foundation . . .
The spirit force is one, with all it brings into being -
The valley is a oneness, and so it flows and renews all things,
Everything is one - every living thing is one, and alive!
Kinds and lords are one in a kingdom that is one:
And they can only rule truly because of the One.
Heaven wasn't clear, then the sky would fall down.
If the earth cannot be peaceful, it will tear itself apart.
If the Spirit cannot bless, then no one will believe in it -
If the valley can't rebirth, then the valley will run dry.
If life can't be itself, then life will be nothing:
And if the king is nothing, then the world will be at war.
has both yin and yang in it -
and from their rise-and-fall-coupling comes new life.
highest authority needs the basement as its base,
And the depths are the foundation of the heights.
is why rulers call themselves lonely,
like souls in a wilderness who have no home.
And, in doing so, don't they see then
that their roots lie with the people?
see yourself as extraordinary
is to stand out like jade among ordinary stones;
what people ignore - the lonely, and the worthless
is the rock a true leader finds himself on.
see, you win by losing - and you lose by succeeding.
The Tao moves
in every direction at once -
its essence is fluid and yielding.
is the marker of everything under the sun:
And everything comes
out of nothing.
When the wisest student hears about the Tao,
He follows it without ceasing
the average student hears about it
He follows too, but not all the time . . .
when the poor student gets wind of it
he laughs at it like an idiot!
And if he didn't, then it wouldn't be the Tao!
That is why the ancient ones said:
path that is bright seems dull,
And the one who is going towards the Tao
Seems, in fact, to be going backwards -
And those who think that the Way is easy
Will find it extremely hard.
greatest virtue is to be empty like a valley.
Those who think they are perfect never are -
those who feel that they are feel inadequate to the task,
and morals seem to be no more than a contrivance.
great square has no corners:
A great work is never done with;
A great shout comes from a whisper,
And the greatest of forms
is beyond shape.
without substance -
gives birth to the One:
gives birth to the two;
give birth to the three -
The Three give birth to every living thing.
All things are held in yin, and carry yang:
they are held together in the ch'i of teeming energy.
The very softest thing of all
can ride like a galloping horse
through the hardest of things.
water, like water penetrating rock.
And so the invisible enters in.
is why I know it is wise
to act by doing nothing.
And how few, how very few understand this!
teach in the world
what I know to be true:
you live violently
that is how you will die.
What really matters most,
Your image or your soul?
What do you care about
You money, or your life?
What's actually the best,
Making it - or losing?
you pour all your energy into one thing,
You're sure to harm the rest of your being
And if you invest it all in profit -
You'll end up losing the whole lot.
you're not always wanting, you can be at peace.
And if you're not always trying to be someone
You can be who you really are
go the whole way.
A great thing done is never perfect -
But that doesn't mean it fails: it does what it is.
richness means to act as if you had nothing,
Because then you will never be drained of it.
greatest straightness seems bend,
The greatest ability seems awkward,
And the greatest speech, like a stammering.
calmly, not coldly.
Peace is greater than anger.
Tranquillity and harmony
the true order of things.
'When the Tao runs the world,
the horses work the farms.'
the horses are led into war along the borders.
see, if people want more and more
it can only lead to disaster.
the seed of apocalypse -
it is the rocket-fuel of selfishness:
me, me, me!
people could only be glad with all they have,
if they only knew it, they'd be happy.
Without going anywhere,
you can know the whole world.
Without even opening your window,
you can know the ways of Heaven.
You see: the further away you go, the less you know
sage doesn't need to travel around:
Why? Because he can still understand.
sees without needing 'to see',
He never does anything, and yet
it all happens.
Usually, people read because they want to know -
but the more you study the Tao, the less you want knowledge.
as you want less and less, you come closer to not-doing.
Wu-wei - this is the way to get things done.
best way to run the world
is to let it take its course
- and to get yourself
out of the way of it!
'The sage is never opinionated,
He listens to the mind of the people.'
am kind to people when they are kind to me.
I am kind to them even if they hate me.
Virtue - te - is its own reward.
trust those who trust me,
I also trust those who have no faith in me:
What I give, I receive.
sage is self-effacing and mindful of offence.
He sets himself as his own example.
How shall I treat you, my son?
Like a child.
In the normal way of things
every three in ten live long,
while every three in ten die young -
and for those just passing through their lives
(that is, every three in ten) the chances are the same.
Well, it all depends on how identified
they are with the mundane world of matter.
who know how to live
will never do things that threaten their lives,
any more than a traveler who knows
will run into a tiger or a wild buffalo.
well is like wearing
a kind of armour that nothing can penetrate.
Living badly is like being attacked!
practiced sage is invulnerable to attacks
that punch like a buffalo's horn,
that claw like a leaping tiger -
or that stab like a knife in the back.
And why is this?
he is impeccable.
Everything streams from the Tao,
Everything is nurtured by Te
Everything is made out of substance.
is created by the Tao of Nature
- and from everything on earth that surrounds it.
every living thing
should bow to the Tao,
the Tao and its Virtue
because they are what it is.
that breathes comes from the Tao,
And the Virtue feeds and takes care of it.
grace things without possessing them,
They benefit everything but ask for nothing back,
They give themselves into everything without seeking control.
is the essence
of the original intention.
Every living thing
Comes from the Mother of Us All:
we can understand the Mother
Then we can understand her children;
if we know ourselves as children
We can see the source is Her.
well, if your body dies -
there's nothing to be frightened about.
you keep your mouth shut
And stay inside -
Then you'll live a long time.
you blurt out
What you think to everyone,
Then you won't last long.
Value littleness. This wisdom.
bend like a reed
in the wind
- that is real strength.
your mind, but stay close to the light
And it will lengthen its glow
right through your life.
If all I know is a fraction -
then all my only fear is of losing the thread . . .
Great Way is easy
but people are forever being taken down sidetracks.
look after the palaces,
But ignore the fields!
granaries are empty
- but they wear wonderful clothes!
go about with arms
and gorge themselves on find food and drink.
rich they are -
and they have stolen it all from the poor.
They are the robber barons of now -
is not the real Tao!
What is build on rock
cannot be pulled down;
What is held lightly
can never be lost.
on virtue within yourself,
and you will find the benefit of virtue.
it as the ground for the family,
and your virtue will last for generations.
it as your guidance for the village,
and the place will blossom for years to come.
it to guide the nation,
and that nation will create abundance.
guided by it for the Whole,
and it will flood its way over the world.
look at someone else as you would yourself
And treat other families as you would your own;
See your community in other communities,
Think of all countries as part of your being
And treasure the world as the round centre of everything.
can I see the would like this?
Because I have eyes.
'Those who have true te
Are like a newborn baby.'
and if they seem like this, they will not be stung
by wasps or snakes, or pounced on
by animals in the wild or birds of prey.
baby is weak and supple, but his hand can grasp your finger.
He has no desire as yet, and yet he can be erect -
he can cry day and night without even getting hoarse
such is the depth of his harmony.
stupid to rush around.
When you fight against yourself, it shows in your face.
But if you draw your sap
from your heart
then you will be truly strong.
will be great.
If you know what it is, don't talk it away:
If you do, then you don't understand.
keep it in, and your doorway shut -
Steer clear of sharpness and untangle the knots.
your lightness and let it merge with others,
This, we say, is our basic oneness.
sage who does this doesn't have to worry
about people called 'friends' or 'enemies',
with profit or loss, honour or disgrace -
is a Master of Life, instead.
To rules a nation, use justice
To win a battle - cunning,
But remember: wu-wei is the only true way.
How do I know this?
I will explain:
more rules you have, the more unhappy people are;
And the more weapons there are, the worse things happen.
The more we want luxuries, the more we abandon simplicity -
And the more laws you pass, the more we will break them.
the sage says: I do nothing, and the people come together;
By leaving them alone I let them be on the path -
By not using my power, they become rich in themselves.
And if I want to nothing, they will return to the essence of their being.
'If you govern with a generous hand -
then your people will be good people.
But if your system is too constricting
then your people will outwit you . . .'
fortune, we say, can come from disaster:
And the reverse is true as well.
Who knows where all this will lead?
can flip into deceit in a moment,
People trying to be good can fall into the dark
And it can take them years to get out of it.
the sage is like a razor, but he doesn't cut
He is straight as a die, but not pointedly so -
He is bright, but not blindingly so . . .
When ruling the world and serving Heaven,
The sage uses simplicity in everything he does.
Simplicity comes from letting go of what you want.
you've been true to yourself earlier in your life
Then te builds up in you like a well that never fails.
Nothing is impossible, then - and nothing can stop you.
And if you have no limits - then you can hold the State.
the sage can find the Mother of a Nation
Then he will govern for a long, long time.
this comes form his rootedness in the Tao,
The Tao of Ages, the Mountain of Vision And Of Wings.
Ruling a big country
Is like cooking a small fish:
You have to handle it with care.
a sage uses the Tao
Then evil forces have no power:
He doesn't harm people either.
te, you see
We have harmony.
A great country is like a low-lying estuary -
It is a place where all the lesser streams mingle and merge.
Everything comes together there . . .
a woman wins her man: how does she do it?
By using the power of her yin like an anchor,
A still deep bowl
into which it all flows.
This is passiveness.
if a great country takes a low place
It wins over the trust of a smaller state;
And if a small country shows humility
It wins the trust of a whole nation.
it's like this: those who want to win must yield,
And those who are yielding should stay where they are.
great country needs to grow:
A small one needs protection.
way, everyone gets what they want -
when the greater learns to be below.
is the source of 'the ten thousand things',
It is the sage's priceless pearl,
know, people like to use nice words to impress you.
People act nicely to gain your respect -
but even if a person is bad,
neither the sage nor the Tao will desert him. They accept him.
when the Emperor is crowned and the three ministers appointed,
it's better to stay where you are and be with the Tao
than to hurry off with gifts of jade and a team of four horses.
old ones 'knew this gesture',
and by ruling this way they were never
guilty of transgressions or errors.
under Heaven matters more
than this kind of knowing.
The sage does nothing, and so he never fails -
He holds on to nothing, and so he never loses . . .
Whereas the rest of us always seem to mess up our lives
just at the moment when we seem to be succeeding!
why the sage wants nothing for himself.
He doesn't want precious things or possessions.
What is he? A Student OF The Unknowable,
so he doesn't make mistakes like the rest of us
but always tries to help us to be true to who we are
without ever standing in our way.
so he says: do things wu-wei, by doing nothing
Achieve without trying to achieve anything -
Savour the taste of what you cannot taste
a small thing great, and the few into many -
Take on the largest things when they're still small,
Start the hardest things while they're still easy.
always the person who thinks things are easy
that finds them the hardest in the end.
way he sees it: everything's potentially tricky,
so he never ends up out of his depth.
When everything is peaceful, don't forget the danger;
When things are safe, don't lose your edge -
A brittle thing can break
And a small thing fragment.
'act before it happens'.
'order things before chaos breaks out'.
great tree which takes a crowd to span its base
Started from being a tiny seed;
And a tower nice sections high began in the ground.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
act as if you know it all is catastrophic:
and if you try to control it
will stare into your empty hand.
In ancient times, the shrewdest rulers
Didn't try to give people too much know-how.
did they do? They kept them living simply.
So why are people so difficult to govern now?
Because they know too much in their so-called freedom.
a leader works deviously,
He will turn the people against him - look and see.
But if you refuse to use that kind of knowing,
Your people will be blessed and happy.
This is where two streams divide:
if you rule this way
You will be walking the great path of Te.
Deep Te - this Virtue is everywhere
into our final destiny:
Of The Source And The Sea . . .
Why is the sea
the king of a hundred tributaries?
everything comes down to it -
So it is kingly
By this name.
a sage that wants to rule the people must be below them.
If he wants to be their leader, he must be behind them.
If he has no desire to control
then the people will not feel oppressed;
And if he stands before them for their own sake, and not his
they will not harm him.
Trusted by everyone, no one will tire of him.
is his secret?
He never competes.
So there is no one else but him.
I have three priceless treasures:
The first is Compassion
the second, thrift
And the third is that I never want to be ahead of you.
I have compassion, you will die for me. I know that.
If I waste nothing, I can give myself to you all -
And if I don't seem perfect, then you'll trust me to lead you.
days people scorn compassion. They try to be tough.
They spend all they have, and yet want to be generous
They despise humility, and want to be the best.
I tell you that ways Death's.
you have loved your people, you will know it
they will fight tooth and nail for you in attack or defense.
is the protection of Heaven, and your harvest.
A canny soldier never provokes anyone,
And is never made to lose his temper.
good fighter never confronts his enemy head-on:
And those who know how to handle people do it humbly.
comes from the virtue of not-striving,
and from knowing how to link with other people's energy.
Since time gone in the mists
has been the way to 'pair up' with Heaven.
There is a saying, you know, which soldier have:
never use my force before my enemy uses his.
I'd sooner go back a foot than advance an inch.'
is called going forward without moving,
Rolling up your sleeve without showing your arm -
And by not, you defeat him without apparently doing anything.
This is like being armed, but no one sees what you have.
Never think your enemy is feeble. That's disastrous.
If I do that, I'm bound to lose all I have!
you see, when the battle begins
It is the one who seems weakest that will win.
My words are really very easy to understand
And be with, and walk in . . . but no one can!
words have roots, my actions have precedents
But people don't see this, and so they don't see me.
few of you know or understand me
And so the Tao becomes ever more important . . .
sage goes round like a supertramp,
Hiding the jade, the jewel he carries in his inmost heart.
Those who know seem not to know
And those who don't pretend they do -
This is what it means to be flawed.
you're sick at this, then you'll win through.
The sage is. He is sick of all faults -
He is sick of being sick. He is well.
When the people lack a sense of awe,
There is bound to be disorder or disaster.
oppress them in their own homes,
or interfere with their means of livelihood.
you don't oppose them,
They won't try to depose you.
the sage who really knows himself
never shows himself off to his people -
loves himself, without false pride -
the mask, and wears his true face.
A person who's brash and fearless will die,
A person who is cautious will survive -
two are right, and they are wrong
Heaven looks down on both
and who know the truth?
So even the sage admits some things are beyond him.
Tao of Heaven
doesn't struggle, but it wins through
yet it always hears the answer -
yet things come, because they want to be
has no desires
and yet everything works out as if planned.
though the Net Of Heaven is wide
Not even the tiniest whisper escapes it.
If the people are not afraid,
It is useless to try and scare them with death.
if people are afraid of death
And you make a point of hanging every criminal,
Then who would dare to do anything?
Any killing must be done by an official executioner.
someone else were to do it,
It would be like trying to copy a master carpenter -
And if you try to cut like him
you will only bloody your own hands!
Why are the people hungry?
Because you crush them with your taxes:
That is why they have nothing.
are the people angry?
Because you endlessly impose your laws:
That is why they can't take any more.
why aren't they scared of death?
Because you are voracious and you want everything.
So what have they got left to lose?
who only have a little
really know how to value life.
When a body is alive, it is soft and supple
- it is cold and rigid when it dies.
plants are alive, they are tender and trailing
and burnt and brittle when they're dead.
iron hard is what is dead, then
And what is fluid and sensuous and rippling is alive . . .
that is why a huge army
With all its strength and complacency will be defeated:
Like a great tree
hard and strong will come down,
And everything soft
shall rise, shall overcome.
The Tao of Heaven
is like the tensing of a bow:
what is above
is drawn down,
and what's below
is drawn up,
what has plenty is drawn from
and is given to what doesn't have enough.
Heavenly Tao takes from those who have too much,
And it gives to those who have little or nothing.
but the human way is different.
Even the wealthiest leech the poor
So they can have even more.
kind of person is it
Who has more than they need
And so gives it out, and gives it freely?
a being that is filled with the Tao.
Nothing in the world
is softer than water . . .
- but we know it can wear away the hardest of things.
Overcomes the hard,
And the so-called weak, the strong.
People know this, but no one quite believes it.
sage always shoulders the blame, and the grief
- that is why he is fit to rule
takes on his nation like a world
As if it was the world
- and so it is.
the truth is that the truth
is often a paradox . . .
If you've had a real set-to with someone
And you've tried to patch it up -
And there's still some bitterness, what can you do?
I tell you: repay bitterness with good.
who practice Te hold credit
- but don't demand repayment.
who practice Virtue do their bit
- and those without it will expect you to .
Tao of Heaven
doesn't deal in nepotism -
it just graces good people, like it always has and will.
If a nation could be small, with few enough people
Even if you had the means to produce more, they'd be useless.
Such a people would know that death is real,
And they wouldn't travel far, even if they were able to.
They would not vaunt their army or their weaponry.
They would count in their heads again and write by hand.
Their food would be simple, but it would feed them;
Their clothes would be fine, but homely
And they would have fires in their homes.
would be happy with what they have!
And even though they'd live along the border within earshot
Of their neighbor's cocks at dawn, and the dogs barking,
They wouldn't mind if they never went there.
is enough, for them, to live and let live.
No one likes the honest truth,
And all fine talk falls short of it.
words are never used to seduce you,
And those that do are no good.
one who really knows, knows without books
- the so-called learned know nothing.
sage holds nothing of himself back -
He uses all he has for you, and that is his reward.
He gives all he is
and that is why he's rich.
the Tao of Heaven
feeds everything, and harms nothing
the sage's Tao
without doing anything.