Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


The Tao Teh Ching
by Lao Tzu

The Tao of Rivenrock , a personal interpretation

More English versions

Chapter 1

The Tao that is spoken of, cannot be truly explained.
The grandest eloquence cannot define it.
It has no name, and is the creator of Heaven and Earth.
Forced to name it, we can call it the Tao (the Way), and accept that it is great.
When we are lost in desire we can see only the outer manifestations of this greatness.
If we free ourselves from desire we can experience the unfathomable depths,
and know the mystery of the great Tao.
The Mystery and the Manifestations are separate, yet they arise from the same source.
This source is deep; so deep its depths cannot be plumbed.
Within its depths is darkness. The Great Mystery within the darkness,
it is the gateway to all understanding.

Chapter 2

It is the world of man that defines ugly by comparing it with that which man calls beautiful.
Skillful is considered such by comparison to that which is called 'without skill'.
Alive and non-alive are delineated by nature.
Difficult and easy are abstracted by our perception.
Long and short are defined by the one against the other.
High and low are reckoned so by the contrast of the one with the other.
Music is seen as pleasing if the notes and tones are recognized as being harmonious with each other.
One in front, and one behind are recognized as one following the other.
It is for this reason that the sage lives in the condition of wu-wei (unattached action, or; doing-not doing),
And teaches without words.
He knows that names and images are fleeting, and all things will transform.
One who seems to follow tonight might lead another time.
He sees all that is done as neither large nor small.
All things are neither grand nor miniscule.
Actions are neither difficult, nor done with ease. He acts without expectation.
Things spring up around him, and he accepts them, but does not possess them.
Things go away, and he recognizes their departure without grief or joy.
When the work is done he leaves it be.
Because he does not dwell in it, it will last.

Chapter 3

If you glorify the worthy, you will bring forth strife.
Overvaluing possessions induces thievery.
If you desire the expensive, your heart will never loosen.
The master leads by clearing people's minds,
He fills their inner being, weakens their ambitions, and strengthens their bones.
He helps people lose all that they know.
If people lack cleverness and desire, then they will not presume to act, and harmony will reign.
By not striving, he maintains his inner harmony,
And remains at peace within himself.

Chapter 4

The Tao is an inexhaustible container, as much of itself that it pours out, still there is more left.
It blunts the sharpness, untangles the knots and softens the glare.
Its depths are hidden, universal and eternal.
I don't know where it came from,
It existed before the beginning.

Chapter 5

The Sage does not take sides,
He welcomes both saints and sinners.
The Tao works upon man as it works upon the grasses of the fields.
Sages act out of the need for rightness, not purely compassion.
The Tao is like a bellows, even though it appears empty, its workings are obvious,
Yet the more you use it the more it produces, it is inexhaustible.
Yet speaking of it will not increase the comprehension.
Hold to the center path.

Chapter 6

The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet never-ending,
it gives birth to unlimited worlds.
It is always at hand within you.
Use it gently, and without force.

Chapter 7

The Tao is infinite and eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The Master stays behind;
that is why he is ahead.
He is removed from all things;
that is why he is one with them.
Because he has let go of himself,
he is perfectly fulfilled.

Chapter 8

The highest goodness is like water.
Water effortlessly benefits all things without struggling.
It is content to flow to the low places that people scorn.
In this way water is in accordance with the TAO.
In dwelling, live close to the Earth.
For the mind, depth should be sought.
In conflict, be fair and righteous.
In government, self-mastery, competence and timing is preferred.
The sage does not strive,
Therefore no one can strive against him.

Chapter 9

Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled.
Keep sharpening your knife,
and it will quickly dull.
When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe.
If you care about people's approval:
you will be their prisoner.
After finishing the work, depart.
This is the Way of Heaven.

Chapter 10

Can you coax your mind from its wandering...and still yourself?:
Are you able to avoid separation from creation?
Focusing your energy on oneness with all:
Can you be like a child?
Can you cleanse your inner vision,
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them,
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own notions
and understand all things?
The Tao Gives birth and nourishes,
it produces, but it does not possess.
The Tao acts with no expectations.
Be like the Tao: surpass, but don't take charge.
This is called The Mysterious Virtue.

Chapter 11

We join spokes together in a hub,
but it is the center hole that provides the utility of the wheel.
We form clay into a container,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We build walls for a house,
But it is the empty space inside
that we live in.
Therefore: we work with being,
But it is in non-being that there is true usefulness.

Chapter 12

Too many colors blind the eye,
Too much music deafens the ear,
Too many flavors dull the palate,
Racing and hunting madden the mind,
Too much desire withers the heart.
In this manner the sage cares for people:
He provides for the inner being,
not the insatiable longing of the mind.
He fulfills his needs,
not worldly temptations.

Chapter 13

Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Perceptions of success and failure both arise from concern for the self.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms,
they also arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?
Therefore, if you dedicate your life to the benefit of the world,
you can rely on the world.
To the likes of this, the world can be entrusted.

Chapter 14

Looked at it cannot be seen - it is beyond form; and is seen as remote.
Listened to it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound; it is indistinct.
Reach for it, and you cannot grasp it. It is beyond reach and is ephemeral.
These unknowable things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery,
called The Tao.
Its top is not bright;
Its bottom is not dark;
faultless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Thus, it is called the formless form,
The image with nothing to see,
something subtle, beyond all conception.
Draw near it and there is no beginning;
chase after it and there is no end.
By holding to the ancient Tao
You can manage current existence
And know the ancient beginnings.
This is called the very beginning thread of the Tao.

Chapter 15

The ancient masters of the Tao
had a subtle, perceptive, penetration.
Their wisdom was unfathomable and cannot be comprehended.
It is because they were unknowable that we can only describe the way they appeared.
They were as careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream,
They were as aware as a warrior in hostile territory.
They were as considerate and humble as a guest,
as changeable as melting ice.
They were as unpretentious as an un-carved block of wood,
and as approachable as a wide open valley.
They were as clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait...
till the mud settles and your water is clear?
Can you remain motionless...
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
He is at hand in every moment,
His vigor will not be easily exhausted,
And his need for renewal will be reduced.

Chapter 16

Empty the self completely; Embrace perfect peace.
Realize that all beings alike go through their processes of activity and life,
and then they return to the original source.
Returning to the source brings peacefulness and stillness.
This stillness is the flow of nature, and signifies that the beings have lived their allotted span of life.
Accepting this brings enlightenment and tranquility,
ignoring this brings confusion and sorrow
If one can accept this flow of nature; one can cherish all things.
Being all-cherishing you become impartial;
Being impartial you become magnanimous;
Being magnanimous you become natural;
Being natural you become one with The Way;
Being one with The Way you become immortal:
Though the body will decay, the Way will not.

Chapter 17

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Second best is a leader who is loved.
Next, is one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.
Such as these have no faith in their people,
and the people in turn become unfaithful to them.
The Master doesn't talk; he acts.
How sparing he is with his words!
When his work is complete and the purpose is achieved,
the people regard the triumph as their own.

Chapter 18

When the way of the Tao is forgotten,
morality and ethics need to be stressed.
When the body's innate intelligence is not heeded,
deception becomes routine, and men learn to pretend to be wise and good.
When genuine peace among people is not regarded;
filial piety and compassion are made apparent.
When a nation falls into chaos; loyalty and patriotism are renewed.

Chapter 19

If we could discard knowledge and wisdom,
then the people would be a hundred times happier.
If we could renounce our kindness and discard our righteousness;
the people's harmonious relationships and love would form of their own accord.
If cunning and profit were renounced, stealing and fraud would disappear.
Since the above three are merely words and slogans, they are not sufficient as they are lost in the world of man.
Therefore we must look to that to which they belong:
Cultivate simplicity and be like the uncarved wooden block.
Reduce your selfishness and diminish desire and ambition.
Stop worthless learning and you will reduce vexations of the spirit.

Chapter 20

Discard relentless learning, and put an end to the anxiety in your harried mind.
What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the distinction between success and failure?
Must the sage fear what all others fear?
How preposterous, these questions can be asked for as long as one seeks enlightenment.
It is to the sage's advantage that he need not fear what others fear.
But it is to the advantage of most that they can enjoy the feast,
and celebrate in the terraced parks in the springtime.
I alone seem tranquil and still amidst the smiling revelers.
I am as expressionless as an infant before it learns to smile.
I do not know the minds of other people,
My mind is that of a fool, muddied and cloudy.
I am alone, with no true home.
Other people have enough and to spare,
I alone seem to have lost everything.
Other people enjoy all they need and more,
I alone have left everything behind.
Other people appear bright;
I alone seem wrapped in darkness.
Other people seem razor-sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people are lucid,
I alone am obscure.
Everyone seems to know everything,
I alone have no knowledge.
I am like a wave on the ocean;
blowing as aimlessly as the wind, with no place to rest.
Others have purpose, taste and a sphere of action:
I alone am purposeless, unrefined and uncentered.
I do not share the fears of the people,
For creation nourishes me.

Chapter 21

The form of great virtue is something that only the Tao can follow.
The Tao as a "thing" is vague and obscure.
How obscure! How vague! Yet in it there is form.
How vague! How obscure! But in it there are things.
How deep! How dark! In it there is an essence.
The essence is so real--therein is belief.
Since before time and space were,
the Tao IS.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

Chapter 22

Yield, and maintain integrity.
If you want to become whole; let yourself become partial.
If you want to become straight; let yourself become crooked.
If you want to become full; let yourself become empty.
If you want to be reborn; you must let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything; you must give everything up.
The sage accepts the world as the world accepts the Way.
He is free from self-display; and therefore he shines.
Freed from self-assertion; he is distinguished.
Removed from self-boasting; his merit is acknowledged.
removed from self-complacency; he acquires superiority.
It is because he is free from striving that
no one in the world is able to strive with him.
When the ancient Masters said,
"If you want to be given everything, give everything up,"
they weren't mouthing empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly complete.

Chapter 23

Nature says only a few words:
To speak little is natural.
Express yourself completely,
and then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
a gale seldom blows the whole morning,
nor does a downpour last a whole day.
When the clouds pass, the sun shines through.
If nature's words do not last,
why should those of man?
If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
The Tao accepts this accordance gladly.
Virtue accepts this accordance gladly.
Loss also accepts this accordance gladly.
He who does not have trust in others
should not himself be trusted.

Chapter 24

He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm
he who travels at a speed beyond his means,
cannot maintain his pace.
He who tries to shine dims his own light.
If you boast, you will have no merit.
Pride yourself and you will not endure.
These behaviors are wasteful and indulgent,
so they attract disfavor;
therefore those who pursue
the Tao do not accept and allow them.

Chapter 25

There is a mystery, something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is tranquil. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of everything.
I don't know its name.
Hence, when forced to name it, I call it "Tao." (the Way).
When attempting to categorize it, I call it "great."
Being great it flows through all things,inside and outside.
And being limitless it returns to the origin of all things.
The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.
Man follows the laws of the earth.
Earth follows the laws of the universe.
The universe follows the laws of the Tao.
The law of the Tao is in being what it is.

Chapter 26

The heavy is the root of the light.
Composure is the ruler of instability.
An experienced traveler will journey all day, watching over his belongings;
Though there may be spectacles to see
He easily passes them by.
However splendid the views,
he stays serenely in himself.
Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If he is unstable, he will lose his rulership.
Rather than glitter like jade
He must stand like common stone.

Chapter 27

The sage follows the natural way.
Like an experienced tracker...he himself leaves no tracks.
Like a good speaker...his language lacks flaws and rebuke.
Like an experienced counter he needs no calculator.
He is like a well-made door, which needs no lock.
He is the perfect knot, leaving no end to be unraveled.
He attends to every detail.
It is in this way that the sage is skilful at saving men,
and so he does not cast away any man.
He is always skilful at saving things, and so he does not cast away anything.
This is called embodying the light.
It is in this way that the skillful master is the teacher of the one without skill.
And the one without skill is the charge and responsibility of the master.
From the teachings of the master, all might learn who wish to listen.
Not respecting the teacher, nor valuing the student, you will see confusion, no matter how intelligent you are.
This is called the Essential Subtlety.

Chapter 28

Know your male qualities,
Yet know how to use the female abilities.
Be like a channel for the world's waters;
Open and flowing, like the mind of a child.
Full of virtue, harmony and excellence.
Know the light,
But understand the dark.
Be an example for the world.
Act with honor, and retain humility.
Return to the state of the uncarved wooden block.

Chapter 29

Do you wish to change the world?
If you wish to change the world
and adjust it to your desires,
you cannot succeed.
The world is shaped by the Way;
the self cannot shape it.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
The world is as it is, so;
Some will be leaders;
while others will be followers.
Some will be warm, others cold.
Some will be strong, others weak.
Some will get where they are going,
While others will fall by the side of the road.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
He lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the path.

Chapter 30

If you guide your nation by use of the Tao,
You will not rule it by use of military arms.
For even well-intentioned aggression
Has a way of returning to oneself.
Thorns and brambles grow thickly where an army has camped.
And years of destitution are likely after a great war.
When necessary; the skillful leader will strike a decisive blow and achieve a lasting victory.
He will guard against vain, boastful or arrogant thoughts in the aftermath of the destruction.
He will accomplish only the killing and destruction that is necessary,
and not the least bit more.
Things flourish, and then they decline,
This is the way of the Tao.

Chapter 31

Instruments of war, however splendidly built can cause destruction and horror.
They should be regarded as inauspicious instruments,
the use of which should be avoided in all but the direst necessity, and utilized with the utmost restraint.
The King looks to His minister of Peace on His left, and leans to His General on His right.
On happy occasions the left is the prized position, in times of war the right is honored.
Peace and stillness are dear to the heart of the followers of Tao,
Do not rejoice in victory, for such is to delight in the slaughter of men.
Enter a battle gravely, for the dead come from the people, and deep and great will be their lamentation.
A battle should be regarded as the beginning of the funeral.

Chapter 32

The Tao is forever nameless, formless and shapeless.
Being so, it is like the uncarved wooden block; its value is not easily perceived.
No King can make the wooden block His subject;
yet if the King and the people were to embody the Tao,
the Earth would be like a paradise, all would live in harmony, and the equilibrium would flow without surcease.
But man cannot let the block sit; they divide it and number each piece, carving it and naming the functions.
Know when to stop the carving and naming, this will prevent you from carving into perilous territory.
Do not force the carving; let the functions of the Tao flow of their own accord as the rivers of the Earth flow to the sea.

Chapter 33

Understanding the world is knowledge,
Understanding yourself is enlightenment.
Mastering others is strength,
Mastering yourself is true power.
Having many things is affluence,
Being content with what you have is satisfaction.
Will power will increase perseverance,
But tranquility with the Tao brings eternal endurance.

Chapter 34

The Tao flows all around like a great river,
To the left and to the right it surrounds all.
It gives rise to all, and nourishes and clothes them, but lays no intention on control.
It is merged in all things, and hidden in their inner being;
Thus it may be termed small.
All things return to it at the end of life;
Thus it is called great.
The sage models himself after the Tao,
Unburdened, not striving, content with what is.

Chapter 35

The wise seek solace in the Tao,
Wherever they go they find comfort and succor that may be extended to others who seek.
A feast with roasting foods and spirited music may detain a traveler.
But words speaking of the Tao seem bland and dull.
Looked for nothing will be seen,
Listened for, nothing will be heard.
But when you use it, it will never diminish.

Chapter 36

It is the way of the Tao that:
To reduce the influence of something,
first allow it undue influence.
To reduce something, it must first be allowed to expand.
That which will be torn down, must first be raised up.
This is the subtle way the weak can overcome the strong.
A fish should not leave the water.
And one should not display ones weapons.

Chapter 37

The Tao does not do anything purely for the sake of action.
Yet all it does is perfect and complete.
If the ruler of a land were to be able to center in the Tao,
all would work in accord and harmony.
People would be content with simple lives, free from desire and conflict.

Chapter 38

True virtue is itself virtuous, and does not need to try to appear virtuous.
The common man may try to show the semblance of virtue, but this showing is in itself a revealing of the lack of virtue.
Those of high virtue never accomplish any act out of need for show, or ulterior motive.
The 'seemingly virtuous' will make a big show of the virtuous acts they perform.
A virtuous person will act according to what is right regardless of the situation at all times.
A common person will act according to the results he expects from the action, if the results are not to his benefit he will not do them.
A low person will act and expect response from others, if he does not secure his riches he will use force to extract it.
When the Tao is lost in a person or land one must resort to righteousness to rule society.
When righteousness is lost one has to use morality.
When morality has been abandoned there is only ritual to conduct society.
But ritual is only the outer clothing of true belief; this is nearing chaos.

Chapter 39

In the beginning of being, there were those that attained harmony with the Tao.
Heaven attained harmony and became clear.
Earth attained harmony and found peace.
The ancients attained harmony and were replenished.
The valleys attained harmony and became fertile.
All of nature embraced harmony with the Tao and became fruitful.
The ancient Sage-Kings sought harmony with the Tao and became natural leaders.
Without the blessings of the Tao, heaven itself might be riven.
Without the glue of the Tao the Earth might shake apart.
Without the guiding of the Tao mankind's spirit becomes confused, and disharmonious.
If the blessings of the Tao were withheld the valleys would become parched and barren,
Nature would be reduced to meager remnants and finally disappear,
And the leaders would become corrupt and strive to bring conflict and war to nations.
Therefore; humility is the root and treasure of the great,
And all great things are built on the foundation of the lowly.
It is for this reason that the truly great think of themselves as 'unworthy', 'abased' and 'low', for are these not the root of humility?
Count and describe the parts of a chariot, but without being whole what is its use?
Don't glitter like jade, keep your riches in your heart, while retaining an outward appearance as simple and rugged as a common stone.

Chapter 40

The Tao moves, and returns again. It functions with a soft gentleness.
Its use is realized through humility and quiet softness.
All of creation is made from tangible being; Tao created all being from nothing.

Chapter 41

When a deep person hears of the Tao, they study and put it into practice, embodying the practice of Tao in their life.
When a common person hears of the Tao, they half follow it, but half forget it in their daily life.
When a shallow person hears of the Tao, they laugh out loud. If they did not laugh out loud it would not be the Way.
Thus it is that the wise sages said:
Those understanding the brightness of Tao seem dim,
Those who walk the Way of Tao seem to go backward,
Those walking the direct path of Tao seem to wander long.
This is because the brightest light voluntarily dims itself,
The highest virtue is as deep as a valley,
And the Tao in its straightness seems rough and difficult.
The greatest caution can seem as cowardice,
The most insightful clarity can seem as opacity,
The greatest square can seem to have no apparent corner.
The greatest wisdom seems unsophisticated,
And the greatest form has no shape.
The Tao is great but hidden,
It is known by all, but remains nameless,
Yet it is the Tao alone that gives rise to all, and completes all.

Chapter 42

The Way creates one,
One gives birth to two,
Two gives rise to three,
And three produce all things.
All things are composed of yin and yang,
The proper blending of these attributes will ensure harmony.
The common man hates to be small, powerless and unworthy;
but this is how the masters describe themselves.
Thus it is that in gaining is oftentimes much lost,
And in the most profound loss can be found the most gain.
What others have taught I teach also, 'a violent man will lead himself to a violent death',
This is the essence and cornerstone of my teachings.

Chapter 43

The softest things in the world can with quietude, subtly and perfectly penetrate and wear away the hardest material.
Insubstantial, yielding, it enters where there is no place for entry.
From this one can see and value softness, subtlety, and non-action.
Yet few are the ones who can grasp the concept of teaching without words.
Nor are there many in the world who understand the great gains to be had by non-action.

Chapter 44

Fame or integrity, which do you hold most dear?
Your wealth or your life, to which will you cling?
Gain or loss, which one increases your anxiety?
In fame and wealth and gain can be found the seeds of failure,
And in integrity and life and loss can be found the root of treasures.
Thus it is that a contented person is never ashamed of what they have,
Having self-restraint he can avoid trouble,
In this way he can endure long, and live contentedly.

Chapter 45

The masters greatest perfection seems imperfect, yet when used it is inexhaustible,
The masters' greatest fullness appears empty, yet it can continue giving without end.
The masters' greatest straightness appears crooked, yet it is upright and righteous.
The masters' greatest skill appears rustic and clumsy, yet it works with unparalleled accuracy.
The masters' greatest eloquence appears as tongue-tied stammering, yet he teaches without words.
The masters' movement conquers cold,
The masters' stillness conquers heat,
The stillness and tranquility of the master conquers the world.

Chapter 46

When the world is in accord with the Tao horses work and fertilize the fields with their droppings,
When The Way is forgotten, war-horses are bred and feed on the people's autumn harvest in the parks of the suburbs.
There is no worse calamity than desire,
There is no greater misery than knowing no contentment,
There is no greater catastrophe than losing self-control.
Contentment can come from realizing one has enough,
Attaining contentment, one can attain internal peace.

Chapter 47

One can open oneself to the world without leaving the house,
Without looking out the window one can know the way of Heaven.
The further one goes and the more knowledge one accumulates, the less one knows.
With this way; the master knows and experiences without traveling,
Observes clearly without seeing,
And accomplishes much without doing anything.

Chapter 48

Common learning consists in adding something new each day,
In pursuit of the Tao, every day something is dropped.
Day after day something else is lost,
until one reaches the point where one is able to do much by doing nothing.
Less and less you know and desire, until you reach the state of non-action.
By not striving to control the world, it offers itself to you.
You cannot master the world by trying to enforce change on it.

Chapter 49

The master has no subjective conceptions,
His heart is open to the people.
He is kind to the kind.
He is also kind to the unkind.
This is the true practice of kindness.
To the honest he is trusting,
To the dishonest he is also trusting,
This is the true practice of trust.
The sage appears hesitant, and lives in harmonious peace in the world,
He considers his own mind as well as that of the people.
The people look to him lending their eyes and ears, and he treats them all as his children.

Chapter 50

Being born, we come into life, one day we must enter into death.
Out of ten people, three celebrate and are filled with life,
Three hasten their demise through excess,
And three pass through life without realizing it,
Why is this? They try too hard to protect and preserve this life; thereby they never learn to live.
But it is said that one in ten knows how to preserve his life by emptying himself to the world and the Way.
Such a one can go into the wilds unmolested by wild beasts;
the tigers claws and rhinoceros horns will find no place to catch him.
And he may enter battle unarmored; sharp points will find no place to pierce him.
Why is this? Because there is no place for death in him.

Chapter 51

The Tao is the mother of all beings,
The virtue of Tao nurtures them in nature,
The material world gives them form,
Environment and circumstance complete their abilities.
Therefore all things honor the Way, and venerate virtue.
This honoring of the Tao, and the veneration of virtue are not commanded,
They occur spontaneously and for this reason the Way continues to create beings,
while virtue continues to nurture and develop them.
The Tao gives birth to all, yet it lays no claim of ownership,
It nourishes all, but it does not control,
This is the mystic virtue.

Chapter 52

In the beginning was the Tao; this beginning can be considered as the mother of all.
Knowing the mother, one can come to know the children.
Knowing the children, but returning to the mother; this will keep your spirit alive through death and decay.
Keep your mouth shut, close the doors of desire, and you will live a virtuous and untroubled existence.
But if you let your mouth go on, and let the desires of the world into your heart,
your life will be one of unending toil and vexations.
To see the small, obscure and detailed is clarity of vision.
To live in gentleness and flexibility is strength.
Use outlook and insight, and return to clear-sightedness Then you will avoid life's troubles.
This is called cultivating consistency.

Chapter 53

If I possess even the smallest bits of wisdom,
I would walk the great way, and my only fear would be in straying from this great road.
The great way is wide and the going is easy, but how people seem to prefer the side paths.
When the offices of government, the palaces and temples are richly adorned, and lavishly outfitted...
when the ministers are concerned chiefly with pomp and display;
the fields will be dusty and overgrown with rank weeds, and the granaries of the land will be bare.
The gentry wear elaborate richly embroidered clothes,
eat and drink in excess with their sharp swords at their sides,
these are surely the robber barons.
This is not in keeping with the Way.

Chapter 54

What is skillfully rooted and well established cannot effortlessly be uprooted, what is well embraced cannot be easily torn away.
Hold onto the Tao firmly, and you will endure. This will pass on to your children and grandchildren also.
When virtue is cultivated in oneself, it becomes real.
When cultivated in the home, virtue will overflow.
When virtue is cultivated in the community it becomes lasting.
When cultivated in the nation, virtue becomes abundant.
When virtue is cultivated in the world, it becomes the Law of the land, and it leads to universal virtue, all pervading and all encompassing.
Therefore one can see that ones self influences the family.
The family influences the community. The community influences the nation. And the nation influences the world.
Therefore, bring virtue into your own life, and it will spread all about you, into the world.
How do I know this is true? Because I have seen virtue move and live.

Chapter 55

One who is abundant in virtue is much like a newborn child; bees, scorpions and snakes will not sting or bite such a one.
Wild beasts will not sink claws into the infant, nor will birds of prey strike a blow.
Though his bones be soft, and his sinews be weak, his grip will be strong.
The infant doesn't yet know of the union between male and female,
yet this one is perfectly formed, the ultimate in vitality.
Babbling and screaming all day, he does not become hoarse; this shows the harmony of the infant.
To know virtue and harmony like this, to keep it constant, this is illumination.
To try to force life: this bodes ill. To try to exceed nature brings calamity. To try to control nature brings violence.
And things that are over luxurious, overgrown and extremely fecund are not in keeping with the Tao. These things will wither and perish.

Chapter 56

Those who know of the Way do not speak of it,
Those who speak of the Way do not know it.
Close your mouth, shut the doors of your desires,
blunt your sharpness, untie the tangles of your life,
dim your glare, quiet life's turmoil,
this is the Mystic Virtue.
Those achieving Mystic Virtue are not affronted or thrilled either by hate or love;
they are removed from benefit and harm; beyond care of praise or blame,
they are the true humans, unequaled under Heaven.

Chapter 57

Rule the kingdom with justice. Use surprise tactics to fight a war.
But it takes letting go to win and hold the world.
How do I know it is so? Through this: -
The more restrictive the laws in the kingdom, the poorer the people will be.
The more sharp weapons the people have, the more troubled and chaotic the state will be
and the less secure the people will be.
The more clever and advanced the people, the stranger the contrivances they will invent.
Law after law promulgates robbers and thieves.
Therefore the Master says: "I will let go of the law,
and the people will act rightly of their own accord,
I will love tranquility and the people will act with righteousness."
"I will make no effort, and the people will prosper.
I will let go of all of my desires, and the people will return to native simplicity."

Chapter 58

When a government is unobtrusive and tolerant the people will be happy and prosperous;
when a government is suspicious and strict the people are dissatisfied and crafty.
Good fortune is linked to calamity; misery is tied to happiness.
So who can tell when the end of this will come?
Is there no measuring-stick for the norm?
What is seen now as right and true will certainly someday be seen as wrong and false.
The people have labored under this sea of vexations for a long time.
Therefore the Master is square without sharp cutting corners.
His straightness is not strained; he is pointed without being piercing.
And he is bright but not blinding.

Chapter 59

In governing the people and serving Heaven: there is nothing better than frugality.
To be frugal one must be prepared beforehand.
The accumulation of great virtue is the thing that will give you the strength to properly govern and serve.
With virtuous strength nothing is impossible.
This is spoken of this having deep roots and a firm stalk rooted in a solid foundation,
the way of long life and great insight.

Chapter 60

Govern a large country in the same way you would cook a small fish; you must be delicate.
Let the spirit of the Tao govern the land, and evil spirits will have no power.
Not that the evil spirits will depart, but the effects they have on the people will be insignificant,
and the effects of the Sage on the people will also not be burdensome.
Since the spirits and the Sage do not cause harm, all will be in balance.

Chapter 61

The great country may be compared to a low-lying lake where many rivers converge;
it is the mixing place of the world, the reservoir of all under heaven... the Feminine of the world.
Femininity always overcomes Masculinity, by stillness,
her tranquility gives rise to her humility.
Thus it is that the great country can win over the small country by this practicing of stillness and humility.
And the small state by the practice of humility and deference to the large country can gain the large country and become one with it.
So it is said that by practice of quiescence and humility the great can absorb and conquer the small without effort,
and the small and insignificant can gain riches and treasure by submitting to the great.
The great state wishes to keep and nourish its people, and help others.
The small state wishes to help its people by joining with the peace and strength of the larger state.
Both states get what they wish by submitting.
Greatness lies in placing oneself below.

Chapter 62

The Way is sanctuary: the mysterious secret of the universe.
It is the treasure of peaceful people and the bad man's refuge.
Honors can be bought with flattery and fine words;
admiration can be procured through good deeds.
But the Tao does not abandon even the sinner.
Therefore when the Emperor is crowned, and the three ministers appointed,
do not offer gifts of jade and fine horses, offer instead the lessons and learning of the Tao.
Why is it the ancient Masters esteemed the Tao?
It is because one who looked for it could find it.
And the guilty find forgiveness through it.
For these reasons it is truly the treasure of the world.

Chapter 63

The Tao can accomplish much without interfering,
it can achieve without forcing,
it can taste the tasteless.
Large or small, many or few,
repay hatred and injury with virtue and compassion.
Accomplish the hard task while it is still easy.
Handle large affairs while they are still small.
For even the most difficult and large of tasks and affairs have a point where they are still easy and small.
Thus it is that the Master never does anything hard or large,
yet he is able to accomplish a great many things.
A rashly made promise oftentimes is not carried through.
And those who think all will be easy do not prepare, and find the way difficult.
So the sage regards all things as being difficult, he prepares,
thus it is that he experiences less difficulty with them.

Chapter 64

Peace and tranquility are easy to hold onto and keep.
It is best to deal with matters before they present themselves.
What is brittle shatters easily.
What is small is easy to disperse.
Deal with troubles before they have arisen.
Establish order before disorder has reared itself.
A large tree grows from a small twig.
A terrace nine levels high starts with a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
If you rush into action heedlessly you will rush into your own failure.
If you try to grasp things you will lose your grip.
Therefore the sage does not try to rush to completion, and he does not grasp all about for things.
In this way he avoids failure and losing.
Often people fail in their endeavors on the verge of completion,
this is because they exercise care at the beginning, and then slacken near the end.
Take as full care of tasks at the end as at the beginning, this will ensure proper completion.
Therefore the sage desires nothing so much as to be free from desire.
He does not treasure things that are difficult to procure.
He learns to not know.
He practices a return to the natural origin of all things without a practice to that end.

Chapter 65

The ancient practitioners of the Tao did not try to educate or enlighten the people;
they led them instead to a return to a natural simplicity.
The more sophisticated the people, the harder it is to control and rule them.
It follows also that a clever ruler can be a scourge to his nation.
Therefore it is a blessing to the nation and the people if the rulers and the people alike are simple,
unsophisticated, and full of the virtue of the Tao.
To know these two things is to have a rule and a model to guide oneself, and to guide the nation.
And to understand the rule and the model is to be practicing the mystical virtue.
This deep and profound mystical virtue is so far reaching;
it causes all things to return to the source of harmony.

Chapter 66

The great rivers and streams all pour their tribute of the world onto the seas.
The seas gain this tribute and are called high and mighty because they lie low, humility gives the sea its power.
It is for this reason that the followers of Tao humble themselves before mankind.
They speak in tones of humility and lowborn status.
They do not attempt to lead, but learn to follow, and find themselves leading the people from behind.
In this way the wise sovereign will rule over the people, but they will not feel his weight.
He will lead the people, but they will not feel slighted or displeased.
The people will gladly uphold and support such a one as this.
The master does not strive, in this way no one can strive against him.

Chapter 67

Many in the world acknowledge the greatness of Tao,
but since it is so vast and far-reaching its greatness is difficult to comprehend.
But as it has been examined and studied for so long, if it were not so great it would long ago have seemed smaller.
I have three great treasures that I cherish and hold fast to.
The first is compassion.
The second is simplicity,
And the third is not trying to be first in anything.
Having compassion I can demonstrate the noblest of courage.
With simple thinking and methods I am able to easily see the heart of things.
And daring to not be first in anything, I can develop my abilities to the situation and accomplish much.
But courage without compassion leads to death,
looking deep into matters without simplicity will bog one down,
and developing ones abilities without taking the time to allow them to adequately mature will result in immature actions.
But all who exhibit compassion in all matters will find their way guarded by the Tao.
Even the mighty warrior will find compassion to be his greatest ally.
Those whom heaven wishes to help are naturally provided with compassion, this is your greatest treasure.

Chapter 68

The best warrior does not give free reign to violence.
The most skillful fighter will not let anger cloud his mind.
The skilful tactician wins without a battle.
A great commander overcomes men by placing himself below them.
This is known as the 'virtue of not striving'.
It is also called the ability to manage others.
This is regarded as the earthly embodiment of the way of Heaven.

Chapter 69

The military veteran has a saying, "rather then rushing in, it is better to wait to see what they will do".
They also say: "Rather than advancing an inch at great cost, it is better to retreat a foot and spare life".
This is advancing without wasting energy, effort and life.
It is like pushing back without using force.
Its semblance is that of engaging the enemy without actually invading them.
Surely there is no greater calamity in war than that of thinking too little of your enemy.
Underestimating him can lead to disaster and the loss of the three treasures of compassion,
economy and the desire not to be first.
When opposing armies clash in the field, the victory will go to the one with compassion for the people,
both his and the enemy's.
He who has the greatest economy in the use of all things will be able to better maintain the expenses of marches and provisions.
The desire not to be first will result in calculating actions, and the deferral of reckless abandon.

Chapter 70

My words are very easy to understand.
My teachings are very simple to put into everyday practice.
Yet no one who is tied to the world can understand them.
And if you are chained to the world, you cannot apply them in your life.
My doctrine comes from the source of Nature, my actions have a purpose in accord with the Law.
If you cannot understand this; you cannot understand me.
Because I cannot be understood I am a greater treasure than you know.
This is why the sage wears simple unpretentious clothes,
but his treasures are kept close to him, in his heart.

Chapter 71

To know that you do not know is the wisest and healthiest thing.
To think you know when you do not can be likened to an illness.
First you must rid yourself of the thought that you know, and then you are on the way to healing.
The sage does not have this sickness, he realizes that he does not know; therefore his sickness has vanished.

Chapter 72

When the people have no more fear of oppression; that is when oppressive forces will overtake them.
Do not restrict the people in their dwellings.
Do not oppress the people with heavy taxes and burdens.
If you do not wear the people out, they will not weary of you.
Therefore it is that sages know themselves well, but this self-knowledge is not displayed for all to see.
The sage respects himself, but does not try to become admired.
He will choose self-knowledge and love, and set conceit and opinion aside.

Chapter 73

The brave who value daring and killing will kill.
The brave who value life and virtue will let live.
Of these two kinds of bravery, Heaven sees one as good, and the other as bad, but why?
Even the sage has difficulty with such a question.
Who can understand the ways of Heaven?
The Way of heaven does not strive and yet it skillfully achieves victory.
It says nothing yet responds fully.
It does not summon, but all things come to it of their own accord.
It does not make a plan, but accomplishes all things perfectly.
The net of Heaven is wide and covers all. The mesh is widely woven, yet nothing slips through.

Chapter 74

When the people are no longer afraid of death, why threaten them with the executioner?
If the people feared death, and execution was imposed as a penalty; who would dare transgress The Law?
Heaven is the Master Executioner.
Whoever tries to take Heavens place is like an amateur trying to use the master carpenters' tools to hew wood,
if he tries to use the tools he will likely hew himself.

Chapter 75

When the nation is in want of food,
it can be seen that the government officials are eating too much of the grain in excessive taxes.
And why are the people restive and hard to govern?
They are in a state of near rebellion due to the intrusive machinations of the government.
The people learn to make light of death when they strive to obtain goods and extravagant items.
They are relentlessly working to acquire more, and look to death as a release from pursuit of material gain.
In this wise it is easy to not place too high a price on life.

Chapter 76

At birth a person is soft and supple; at their deaths they are firm and strong.
All creatures, plants and trees are born tender and flexible,
when they are dead they become brittle and dried.
Thus it is that people who are stiff and hard are companions of death.
The soft and yielding are the followers of life.
It can be seen that a great inflexible army will fall under it's own weight,
just as a stiff unyielding tree will break in the wind.
Dwelling in an inflexible unyielding manner will bring downfall.
The pliant and supple will survive.

Chapter 77

The way of nature is much like the drawing of a bow.
That which is high is lowered, and that which is low is brought up.
The excess is removed, and where there is deficiency more is added.
The way of nature is to reduce the excesses and spread them to where there is deficiency.
The way of the world is otherwise, Mans way is to take from those who have little, and give to those who have much.
Who is it that can offer more to the world, and have still more to offer? Only the person of the Tao.
Therefore the sage acts without laying claim to the act.
He can accomplish without boasting.
He has no wish to appear superior.

Chapter 78

There is nothing more flexible and yielding than water.
And yet there is nothing better for attacking the hard and rigid, there is nothing that can do what it can do.
So it is that the rigid can be overcome by the flexible, and the haughty by the humble.
Yet even knowing this; still no one will put this into adequate practice.
For this reason it is said that the ones who accept the humiliation of the country are fit to be its rulers.
Those who take the sins of the people onto themselves are able to act as King.
This is the paradox of truth!

Chapter 79

When conflicts and disputes are reconciled, there is certain to be some lingering ill-will and resentments.
How can this be rectified?
Consider this: The wise man will keep his part of the bargain, and not insist on fulfillment by the other party.
Thus it is that the good fulfill their end of obligations, while the ungood work hard to avoid payment.
While even though the way of Heaven is impartial, it smiles with favor on the good.

Chapter 80

I see a small country of small population.
A simple folk, who even if highly skilled work simply and easily.
Tools are seldom used. They do not bother to invent time-saving appliances.
They would dearly love life, and would take care to avoid death.
Since they would love their homes and land, they would not care to wander.
Even with their horses, boats and carts, they do not wish to travel about.
Though they may have armor and weapons, these are kept out of sight.
These people would return to simple techniques for record keeping.
Their food would be tasty but simple; their clothing would be unpretentious.
They would be content with their simple homes, and the simple pleasures and customs of a simple people.
And even though there might be a neighboring land within sight,
so that the crowing of roosters and the barking of dogs can be heard from it;
these people will have lived their entire life without ever having gone to that country.

Chapter 81

Truth is not spoken with rhetoric;
rhetoric does not embrace truth.
The good do not quarrel; those who quarrel are not good.
Those who know are not widely learned, those who are widely learned do not know.
The sage does not hoard for himself. The more he does to help others, the more he can do.
The more he gives to others the more his own treasures increase.
The way of Heaven is to cause benefit, not harm.
Therefore the sage observes this and imitates it.
He acts, serves, and does without relentless striving.