The Dao that can be spoken of is not the ever-constant Dao. The name that can be named is not the ever-constant name. That which is without-name is the beginning of heaven and earth. That which possesses a name is the mother of the ten thousand creatures. Therefore : always without-desire, thus you observe its subtle mystery. Always possessing desires, thus you observe its external appearances. These two, they arise from the same source but have different names; This sameness is called their deep mystery. Deep mysteries, and again deep mysteries – The gateway of many subtle mysteries.
In the world, when all know that the action of beauty is beautiful, then ugliness ensues. When all know that the action of good is goodness, then not-good ensues. Therefore : being and non-being create each other, Difficult and easy complete each other, Long and short contrast each other, High and low lean on each other, Tone and voice harmonize each other, Before and after follow each other. Thus the sage : Lives by using non-action in his duties, And practicing no-talking in his teachings. The ten thousand creatures arise, but do not have a beginning. Creating but not possessing; Acting, but not concerned with the results; Accomplishing tasks, but not dwelling on them. Now : only because there is no dwelling, Thus the results do not depart.
Not honoring those who are esteemable Ensures that the citizens do not strive. Not valuing rare goods Ensures that the citizens do not act like thieves. Not showing that which can be desired Ensures that the citizens’ heart/minds do not become confused. Thus the governing of the sage Empties their heart/minds, fills their stomachs, Weakens their ambitions, strengthens their bones. By always ensuring that the citizens are without-knowledge and without-desire, Those who make men wise will not dare to act. Act with non-action, then all will be governed!
Dao is like a cup or bowl, yet use it and there exists no need to fill it. Profound and deep!, it appears to be the ancestor of the ten thousand creatures. It blunts their sharpness, Loosens their tangles, Softens their brightness, Makes them the same as the dust of the world. Deep and profound!, it seems to barely exist. I do not know whose child it is – Its image came before that of god.
Heaven and earth are not kind – Thus the ten thousand creatures become as straw dogs to them. The sage is not kind – Thus the 100 families become as straw dogs to him. The space between heaven and earth, How is it just like a bellows or flute? It is empty, yet does not run out. The more it moves, and the more it produces. Too much talking is exceptionally exhausting, Which is not as good as maintaining what is within.
The spirit of the valley does not die – It is called the deep and mysterious feminine. The gateway of this deep and mysterious feminine – It is called the source of heaven and earth. Unbroken, it seems to exist. Using it takes no effort.
Heaven is eternal, earth is enduring. The reason that heaven and earth can be eternal and enduring Is because they do not live for themselves. Therefore they can live forever. Thus the sage : Puts his self behind others, yet finds his self before them. Considers his self extraneous, yet his self survives. Is this not because he has no self-interests? Therefore he can achieve his self-interests.
The highest virtue is like water – Water’s virtue benefits the ten thousand creatures, yet it does not strive. It dwells in places that everyone detests, Therefore it is almost comparable to Dao! In dwelling, the virtue is in the land. In your heart/mind, the virtue is in being profound and deep. In relations, the virtue is in being kind. In speech, the virtue is in being truthful. In governing, the virtue is in being honest and just. In your duties, the virtue is in being competent. In action, the virtue is in the timing. Now : only because there is no striving, Therefore there is no blame.
Holding and filling it Are not as good as your stopping short. Hammering and sharpening it Can not be forever maintained. When gold and jade fill a room, There is no one who can protect it. To have wealth and high rank, but with arrogance – Then naturally their loss is your own fault. When the task is successful, the self should let go of it. This is the Way of heaven.
Carrying and managing a body while embracing the One, Are you able to not separate them? Concentrating your Qi to become soft, Are you able to be like a newborn infant? Cleansing and clearing your deep and mysterious perception, Are you able to be without blemish? Loving the citizens and governing the nation, Are you able to use non-action? Opening and closing the gateway of heaven, Are you able to serve as the feminine? Attaining clear insight in all directions, Are you able to not use your knowledge? Creating them and raising them, Creating but not possessing, Acting but not concerned with the results, Leading yet not governing – This is called deep and mysterious De.
Thirty spokes of a wheel share one hub; In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the cart. Mix water with clay thus making a vessel; In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows thus making a room; In their emptiness exists the usefulness of the room. Therefore : what exists thus makes a thing profitable; Emptiness thus makes it useful.
The five colors can make people’s eyes blind. The five tones can make people’s ears deaf. The five flavors can make people’s mouths dull. Excessive hunting and horse racing can make people’s heart/minds become wild. Rare goods can make people’s behavior corrupt. Thus the sage : Acts on what is inside, he does not act on what he sees. Therefore he leaves that and chooses this.
Favor and disgrace seem alarming. High rank brings great suffering if you have a self. What is meant by “favor and disgrace seem alarming”? Favor makes you the inferior, so gaining it seems alarming. Losing it also seems alarming. This is what is meant by “favor and disgrace seem alarming”. What is meant by “high rank brings great suffering if you have a self”? I am the reason that I have great suffering, I who act like I have a self. When I am without a self, how could I have suffering? Therefore : he who is high ranking and uses his self to serve the world – It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world! He who is loving and uses his self to serve the world – It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world!
Look, it is not seen; its name is called elusive. Listen, it is not heard; its name is called tenuous. Grasp, it is not gotten; its name is called subtle and obscure. These three things can not be investigated any further – Therefore they blend and become one. This one thing : Its highest point is not bright; Its lowest point is not dark. Continuous and unending!, it can not be named; It returns to non-existence. It is called the form of that which is without-form; The image of non-existence. It is called confusing and indistinct. Meet it and you do not see its beginning; Follow it and you do not see its end. Hold fast to the Way of the ancients In order to master the present moment. The ability to know the ancient beginning – This is called the main principle of Dao.
The virtue of the ancients made they who were scholars subtle, mysterious, obscure, deep, and penetrating. Their mysterious depths can not be understood. Now : only because they can not be understood, Therefore we try to emulate their appearance : Hesitant!, as if crossing a winter stream. Wary!, as if afraid of their neighbors all around. Respectful!, they are like a visiting guest. Yielding!, like ice that is about to to break off. Honest and genuine!, they are like the uncarved block. Wide and open!, they are like a valley. Unclear!, they are like muddy water. Who can take muddy water and use stillness to slowly and gently make it pure and clear? Who can take what is tranquil and use continual movement to slowly and gently bring it to life? He who maintains this Way does not desire to be full. Now : only because he is not full, Thus he can be hidden and unfinished.
Attain the utmost emptiness. Maintain a profound stillness. The ten thousand creatures arise in unison, And thus I observe their return. Now : all the myriad creatures return to their source. Returning to the source speaks of stillness. Stillness is called returning to the natural order. Returning to the natural order speaks of the ever-constant. Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight. Not knowing the ever-constant is foolish and creates misfortune. Knowing the ever-constant leads to tolerance. Being tolerant leads to being just and unbiased. Being just and unbiased leads to being kingly. Being kingly leads to heaven. Heaven leads to Dao. Dao leads to what endures. When the self disappears, there can be no danger.
The existence of the best ruler is barely known to the people. Next is one who they love and praise. Next is one who they fear. Next is one who they ridicule. If the ruler does not trust enough, then he will not have anyone’s trust. Thoughtful!, he values his words. When tasks are accomplished and duties are successful, The 100 families all say “we are naturally so”.
When the great Dao is abandoned, There exists kindness and morality. When intelligence and wisdom arise, There exists a great deal of deception. When the six relationships are not in harmony, There exists devoted children and loving parents. When the nation and the families are very confused, There exists loyal officials.
Renounce sacredness, abandon wisdom, And the citizens benefit 100-fold. Renounce kindness, abandon morality, And the citizens return to being devoted children and loving parents. Renounce cleverness, abandon profit, And thieves and bandits will not exist. These three things thus make a civilized society, but are not enough. Therefore : to ensure the citizens have a place to belong – See the simplicity, Embrace the concept of the uncarved block, Less selfishness, Fewer desires.
Renounce learning and be without worry. “Yes” together with “yeah” – What is their mutual distance or nearness? Beautiful together with ugliness – What is their mutual distance or similarity? That which people fear, they are not able to not fear. How ridiculous! They are not yet centered! Everyone is very festive, As if enjoying the Tai Lao sacrifice, As if climbing terraces in the spring. I alone am unmoved! – Like one who has not yet given any sign, Like a newborn infant who does not yet act like a baby. Very tired and worn out!, as if without a place to return to. Everyone all has more than they need; I alone seem to have lost everything. I have the heart/mind of a foolish person, indeed!! I am very mixed up and confused! Common people are very clear and bright; I alone seem confused. Common people are very observant and alert; I alone am very gloomy and depressed. Tranquil!, they are like the ocean; I drift on the wind!, as if without a place to rest. Everyone all has a purpose; I alone am stupid and stubborn, and appear mean and shallow. I alone am different compared to other people, And value the food of the mother.
The greatest De is possible only when Dao is followed. The action of Dao on creatures is just indistinct, just confusing. Confusing! and indistinct!, within it exists image. Indistinct! and confusing!, within it exists things. Obscure! and dark!, within it exists essence. Its essence is extremely real and true. Within it exists truth. From the present, reaching to antiquity, Its name has not departed – Thus I observe the father of the multitudes. How do I thus know the father of the multitudes is like this? By means of this.
What is wrong then becomes whole and perfect. What is bent then becomes straight. What is hollow then becomes filled. What is worn out then becomes new. Have little, then gain. Have too much, then become confused. Thus the sage : Embraces the One, thus serving as an example to the world – He does not display himself, therefore he has insight. Does not consider himself correct, therefore he distinguishes himself. Does not boast about himself, therefore he possesses merit. Does not brag about himself, therefore he endures. Now : only because he does not strive, Therefore no one in the world can strive against him. That which the ancients say : “He who is wrong then becomes whole and perfect” – How can these be empty words? Be truly whole and perfect, and return to it.
Minimal words are naturally so. Therefore : strong winds do not last the entire morning, Sudden rains do not last the entire day. Who makes these things? Heaven and earth. Even heaven and earth can not maintain them forever, And so how much less can people? Therefore : of those who engage in Dao – He who Daos is one with Dao. He who Des is one with De. He who loses is one with the loss. For he who is one with Dao, Dao is also pleased to have him. For he who is one with De, De is also pleased to have him. For he who is one with loss, Loss is also pleased to have him. If you do not trust enough, then you will not have anyone’s trust.
He who stands on tiptoe does not really stand. He who stands astride can not travel. He who displays himself does not have insight. He who considers himself correct does not distinguish himself. He who boasts about himself is without merit. He who brags about himself does not endure. He who lives in Dao – Calls these leftover food and unnecessary behavior. Creatures detest them, no matter what. Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live by them.
Something existed unformed yet complete, Before heaven and earth were created. Silent! Empty! Standing alone, not changing. It circulates everywhere, and causes no danger. It can be considered the mother of the world. I do not know its name; Its symbol is called Dao. If I tried to make its name, I would call it great. Being great speaks of departing. Departing speaks of being remote. Being remote speaks of returning. Dao is great, Heaven is great, Earth is great, The king is also great. Within the realm exist four that are great, And the king resides as one of them! People follow the earth. The earth follows heaven. Heaven follows Dao. Dao follows what is naturally so.
Serious serves as the source of frivolous. Stillness serves as the ruler of restlessness. Thus the noble man travels the entire day, And does not stray from his wagon. He is serious, even though glorious sights and feasts exist; He lives above them, like this. So how could one be the master of ten thousand chariots, And conduct his self frivolously in the world? Be frivolous, then lose the source. Be restless, then lose the rulership.
A good traveler is without wagon track or footprint. A good speaker is without flaw or disgrace. A good accountant does not use counting tokens. A good barrier is without bar or lock, yet can not be opened. A good binding is without cord or restraint, yet can not be loosened. Thus the sage : Is always good at helping people, Therefore he does not abandon people. Is always good at helping creatures, Therefore he does not abandon creatures. This is called following your insight. Therefore : he who is a virtuous person is the teacher of he who is not a virtuous person. He who is not a virtuous person is the resource of he who is a virtuous person. If the latter does not value his teacher, Or the former does not love his resource, Even if there is wisdom, there will be great confusion. This is called the essential subtle mystery.
Know your maleness, but maintain your femaleness. Serve as a stream to the world. Serving as a stream to the world, The ever-constant De will not depart, Returning you to the state of the newborn infant. Know your brightness, but maintain your darkness. Serve as an example to the world. Serving as an example to the world, The ever-constant De will not falter, Returning you to the state of the limitless. Know your honor, but maintain your disgrace. Serve as a valley to the world. Serving as a valley to the world, The ever-constant De will then be sufficient, Returning you to the state of the uncarved block. When the uncarved block is broken up, then it becomes tools. When the sage uses it, then he becomes the senior government official. Therefore : the greatest cutting does not divide.
Would you take hold of the world and control it? I see you have no choice. Now : the world is a divine vessel, You can not control it (indeed!). He who acts, ruins it; He who grasps, loses it. Therefore : creatures are Sometimes active, sometimes passive, Sometimes breathe heavy, sometimes breathe easy, Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, Sometimes oppressed, sometimes overthrown. Thus the sage : Removes the extremes, Removes the extravagant and wasteful, Removes the arrogance.
He who uses Dao to assist the master of the people Does not use weapons or strength on the world, For his troubles would likely return – In the dwelling places of armies, thorns and brambles are produced, And so what is left behind a great army must have a bad year. He who has virtue gets results and stops. He does not dare to take by using strength. He gets results, but never brags. Gets results, but never boasts. Gets results, but is not arrogant. Gets results, but only when he has no choice. Gets results, but never uses strength. When creatures are robust but old, This is called “not Dao”. That which is “not Dao” has an early finish.
Now : fine weapons, they are not tools of good fortune. Creatures detest them, no matter what. Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live by them. When a noble man is in his dwelling, then he honors the left. When he commands troops, then he honors the right. Weapons, they are not tools of good fortune. They are not the tools of a noble man. When he has no choice but to use them, To be calm and indifferent is superior – Never pleased, indeed! And he who is pleased enjoys killing people. Now : he who enjoys killing people Can not get what he desires from the world! Therefore : in fortunate affairs honor the left, In unfortunate affairs honor the right. Thus the assistant general of the army resides on the left, The supreme general of the army resides on the right. Thus we say they are dwelling at a funeral : When many people are killed, Then mourn and weep with grief for them. Victory in war thus means they will dwell at a funeral.
Dao is ever-constantly without-name. Even though the concept of the uncarved block seems insignificant, No one in the world can conquer it. If nobles and kings could maintain it, The ten thousand creatures would naturally obey. Heaven and earth would join with each other, Thus dropping a sweet dew. There are no citizens who would make this happen, Yet it would be naturally fair and impartial. And so, begin to divide and you have names. Once names exist, Men should also be ready to know when to stop. Knowing when to stop is the reason that there is no danger. An analogy for the action of Dao in the world : It is similar to a stream in a valley that becomes part of a large river or ocean.
He who knows people is wise; He who knows himself has insight. He who is victorious over people possesses power; He who is victorious over himself is strong. He who knows he has enough is wealthy; He who uses force possesses ambition. He who does not lose his place endures; He who dies yet does not perish has longevity.
Great Dao is like a vast flood! It is able to flow left and right. The ten thousand creatures depend on it in order for life, And are not rejected. It accomplishes its tasks successfully, Yet does not possess a name. It clothes and supports the ten thousand creatures, But does not act as their master. Therefore : since it is ever-constantly without-desire, It can then be named insignificant. Since the ten thousand creatures return to it But it does not act as their master, It can then be named great. Thus the sage can achieve greatness Because he does not act great. Therefore he can achieve greatness.
Holding fast to the great image, The entire world comes towards you. Comes towards you, and meeting with no harm, There is the greatest peace and calm. Music together with good food make passing guests stay, But Dao’s words are bland! They are without flavor. Look for it, there is not enough to see. Listen for it, there is not enough to hear. Use it, there is not enough to exhaust.
When you are about to gather something, You must have originally spread it out. When you are about to weaken something, You must have originally strengthened it. When you are about to abandon something, You must have originally been interested in it. When you are about to seize something, You must have originally given it. This is called subtle and obscure insight. What is soft and weak conquers what is hard and strong. Fish can not escape from the deep; The sharp tools of the nation Can not be shown to the people.
Dao ever-constantly practices non-action, Yet nothing is left undone. If nobles and kings could maintain it, The ten thousand creatures would naturally transform. Transform, and if desire arises, I would restrain it by means of the nameless uncarved block. In the state of the nameless uncarved block, Men also would be without-desire. Not desiring, thus they would be still – And the world would naturally settle.
A man of highest De does not use his De, thus he possesses De. A man of inferior De does not lose his De, thus he is without De. A man of highest De uses non-action, and acts without motive. A man of inferior De coerces others, and has a motive to act. A man of highest kindness coerces others, and acts without motive. A man of highest morality coerces others, and has a motive to act. A man of highest propriety coerces others, and if there is no one who responds, Then he rolls up his sleeves and keeps doing it. Therefore : lose Dao, and later comes De. Lose De, and later comes kindness. Lose kindness, and later comes morality. Lose morality, and later comes propriety. Now : propriety is that which is merely the appearance of loyalty and honesty, And the beginning of confusion. He who is ahead in knowledge has the flower of Dao, But the beginning of stupidity and foolishness. Thus the greatest elders : Live by Dao’s substance, and do not dwell on Dao’s appearance. Live on Dao’s fruit, and do not dwell on Dao’s flower. Therefore they leave that and choose this.
Of those who in ancient times attained oneness : Heaven attained oneness, thus becoming pure and clear. Earth attained oneness, thus becoming stable. Spirit attained oneness, thus becoming potent. The valley attained oneness, thus becoming full. The ten thousand creatures attained oneness, thus becoming alive. Nobles and kings attained oneness, thus serving the world faithfully. They attained it. If heaven could not use its purity and clarity, I fear it would split apart. If earth could not use its stability, I fear it would erupt. If spirit could not use its potency, I fear it would cease to be. If the valley could not use its fullness, I fear it would be used up. If the ten thousand creatures could not use their life, I fear they would be destroyed. If nobles and kings could not use their high rank and prominence, I fear they would fall. Therefore : humility thus serves as the source of high rank; Low thus serves as the foundation of high. Thus nobles and kings call themselves orphaned, lonely, and unlucky. Does this not mean that humility thus serves as the source? Does it not? Therefore : to attain exceptional popularity is to be without popularity – Do not desire to be scarce like jade, But common like rock.
The movement of Dao returns things. The function of Dao is to weaken things. The ten thousand creatures of the world are created from being; Being is created from non-being.
The superior scholar hearing of Dao works hard and practices it. The average scholar hearing of Dao seems to keep it, seems to lose it. The inferior scholar hearing of Dao laughs greatly at it. If he did not laugh, it would not be qualified to be Dao. Therefore : in the established sayings that exist, it is said – Insight into Dao seems like darkness. Advancing in Dao seems like retreating. Smooth Dao seems knotted. Superior De seems like a valley. The greatest purity seems like disgrace. The most extensive De seems like it is not enough. Established De seems aimless. Real and true character seems inconsistent. The greatest region is without borders. The greatest vessel is last to be completed. The greatest tone is a tenuous sound. The greatest image is without-form. Dao is hidden and without-name. Now : only Dao is good at beginning and also good at completing.
Dao creates one. One creates two. Two creates three. Three creates the ten thousand creatures. The ten thousand creatures carry Yin and embrace Yang, Pouring their Qi together, thus becoming harmonious. That which people detest : Being alone, orphaned, lonely, and unlucky – Yet kings and nobles thus name themselves. Therefore : creatures Sometimes lose, yet they gain; Sometimes gain, yet they lose. That which people teach, I also teach : Those who are bullies and hoodlums do not meet their natural death. I will thus become their elder teacher.
The softest things of the world Overrun the hardest things of the world. Non-being can enter where there is no space in between. Thus I know that non-action has benefits. The teaching of no-talking, The benefit of non-action – Few in the world attain these.
Fame and self : which do you love? Self and property : which is greater? Gain and loss : which is the affliction? Extreme desire must lead to great expense. Collecting too much must lead to substantial loss. Knowing when you have enough, there can be no disgrace. Knowing when to stop, there can be no danger. Then you can forever endure.
Great achievement seems incomplete, But its usefulness is not impaired. Great fullness is like a cup or bowl, Its usefulness is not exhausted. Great straightness seems bent. Great skillfulness seems clumsy. Great debaters seem slow of speech. Restlessness conquers cold. Stillness conquers heat. Purity and clarity along with stillness makes the world proper and correct.
When the world possesses Dao, Riding horses are nonetheless used for manure. When the world is without Dao, War-horses are bred in the countryside. There is no fault greater than the capacity for desire. There is no misfortune greater than not knowing when you have enough. There is no error greater than desire for gain. Therefore : knowing the sufficiency of having enough, there is always enough!
You do not have to go out the door In order to to know the world. You do not have to look out the window In order to to know the Way of heaven. The farther you go out, You know even less. Thus the sage : Does not travel, yet knows. Does not display himself, yet has a reputation. Does not act, yet accomplishes.
The actions of those who learn daily increase. The actions of those who Dao daily decrease. Decreasing and again decreasing, In order to arrive at non-action. Use non-action, and nothing is left undone. To take hold of the world, always use non-interference. When you are compelled to interfere, Then you are not qualified to take hold of the world.
The sage does not have a constant heart/mind, Thus the 100 families’ heart/minds become his heart/mind. He who is virtuous, I am virtuous to him. He who is not virtuous, I am also virtuous to him. Because De is virtue. He who is honest, I am honest with him. He who is not honest, I am also honest with him. Because De is honesty. The sage lives in the world, gathering it all in. And so he serves the world, merging with their heart/minds. The 100 families all pay attention to their ears and eyes, And the sage treats them all like his children.
Between coming out into life and entering death, Followers of life are 3 in 10. Followers of death are 3 in 10. People whose lives are merely moving them towards the place of death Are also 3 in 10. Now : what is the reason? Because they live life for its substance. But I have heard that he who is skilled at taking in life Can travel the mountains and does not meet rhino or tiger, Can enter a battle not wearing armor or weapons. The rhino has no place to thrust its horns, The tiger has no place to use its claws, The weapon has no place to allow its blade. Now : what is the reason? Because for him there is no place of death.
Dao creates them, De raises them, Things shape them, Circumstances complete them. Thus among the ten thousand creatures, There are none who do not respect Dao and honor De. Respect of Dao, Honor of De – Now : there is no one who commands this, Yet it is always naturally so. Therefore : Dao creates them, De raises them. Leads them, nourishes them, Shelters them, heals them, Supports them, protects them. Creating but not possessing, Acting but not concerned with the results, Leading yet not governing – This is called deep and mysterious De.
The world had a beginning, Which can be considered the mother of the world. Once you have realized its mother, You thus know her children. Once you know her children, Return to and maintain their mother. When the self disappears, there can be no danger. Block your senses, close your gateway – All your life you will not struggle. Open your senses, be successful in your duties – All your life you will not have relief. Seeing the insignificant speaks of insight. Maintaining softness speaks of strength. Use your brightness to return to your insight. Do not lose your self in misfortune. This is called practicing the ever-constant.
If I correctly use the tiniest bit of knowledge that I possess While travelling on the great Way, It is only walking off the path that I need to fear. The great Way is extremely even, But the citizens are fond of side paths. Although the royal court is very well-kept, The fields are very overgrown with weeds, The granaries are very empty. While at the court they wear refined multicolored silks, Carry sharp swords, Stuff themselves with drink and food, And have an excess of wealth and goods. This is called robbery and extravagance, Not Dao, indeed!!
That which is well established is not uprooted. That which is well embraced is not abandoned. Thus children and grandchildren offer sacrifices, and so sacrifices do not stop. Cultivate it in the self – your De will then be true and real. Cultivate it in the family – its De will then be more than enough. Cultivate it in the village – its De will then last forever. Cultivate it in the nation – its De will then be abundant. Cultivate it in the world – its De will then be everywhere. Therefore : use your self to contemplate the self. Use your family to contemplate the family. Use your village to contemplate the village. Use your nation to contemplate the nation. Use the world to contemplate the world. How do I thus know the world is like this? By means of this.
He who embodies the substance of De Can be compared to a newborn child : Wasps, scorpions, snakes, and serpents do not sting him, Fierce beasts do not seize him, Birds of prey do not claw him. His bones are weak, his muscles are soft, yet his grasp is firm and strong. He has not yet known the union of female and male, yet his penis rises. He has the utmost essence, indeed! He cries the entire day yet does not get hoarse. He has the utmost harmony, indeed! Knowing harmony speaks of the ever-constant. Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight. Benefitting life speaks of good fortune. Heart/mind making Qi speaks of strength. When creatures are robust but old, We call them “not Dao”. That which is “not Dao” has an early finish.
He who knows does not speak; He who speaks does not know. Block your senses, close your gateway. Blunt your sharpness, Loosen your tangles, Soften your brightness, Be the same as the dust of the world. This is called a deep and mysterious sameness. Therefore : you can not gain it and be friendly, Can not gain it and be unfriendly, Can not gain it and benefit, Can not gain it and cause harm, Can not gain it and have high rank, Can not gain it and be lowly. Therefore you become valuable to the world.
Use honesty and justness when governing a nation. Use strange and unusual tactics when commanding troops. Use non-interference to take hold of the world. How do I thus know it is like this? By means of this : The world has many prohibitions and taboos, And the citizens become even poorer. The citizens have many sharp tools, And the nation and the families grow in confusion. The people have too much knowledge and cleverness, And strange things begin to increase. Matters of law are increasingly proclaimed, And more thieves and bandits exist. Therefore : the sage says – I use non-action, and the citizens naturally transform. I cherish stillness, and the citizens naturally become honest and just. I use non-interference, and the citizens naturally become wealthy. I am without-desire, and the citizens naturally return to the state of the uncarved block.
If their government is very restrained, Its citizens will be very genuine and honest. If their government is very observant and alert, Its citizens will be very lacking and deficient. Misfortune! is that which good fortune leans on. Good fortune! is that which misfortune lies on. Who knows their limits? They are not honest and just. Honesty and justness returns, becoming strange and unusual. Virtue returns, becoming weird and strange. The confusion of the people – Its days have indeed been everlasting. Thus the sage : Is honest and does not divide, Is honorable and does not injure, Is straightforward and does not indulge in excess, Is bright but does not dazzle.
When governing people or doing heaven’s duties, It is better to be sparing. Now : only when you can be sparing, This is called early acceptance. Early acceptance is called doubling your accumulation of De. With a double accumulation of De, Then everything can be overcome. When everything can be overcome, Then no one knows your limits. When no one knows your limits, You can possess the nation. Possessing the mother of the nation, You can forever endure. This is called having a deep source and a firm foundation, The Way of long life and enduring sight.
Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish. Because Dao is present in the world, Its ghosts do not have spirit. Not that its ghosts do not have any spirit, But their spirit does not injure people. Not only does their spirit not injure people, The sage also does not injure people. Now : since these two do not injure each other, Therefore their De merges and returns!
A great nation is like the lowest places water can flow – The merging place of the world, The female of the world. The female always uses stillness to conquer the male. By using stillness, she becomes lower-than. Therefore : if a great nation is lower-than a small nation, Then it takes hold of the small nation. If a small nation is lower-than a great nation, Then it is taken hold of by the great nation. Therefore : sometimes one nation is lower-than in order to take hold of, Sometimes one nation is lower-than and then it is taken hold of. A great nation merely desires to combine livestock and people, A small nation merely desires to get work for its people. Now : for both nations to each get that which is their desire, It is proper for the great nation to be lower-than.
That which Daos is the obscure mystery of the ten thousand creatures. This is the treasure of a virtuous person, And that which is the protection of a person who is not virtuous. Beautiful speech can be used in the market, Respectful behavior can benefit people. People who are not virtuous, Why abandon them? Therefore : when inaugurating the son of heaven, Or installing the three nobles – Even if you possessed jade disks drawn by a team of four horses, That is not as good as sitting and offering this Way. What was the ancients’ reason that they valued this Way? Did they not say : Seek in order to obtain, Have faults in order to be forgiven? Therefore Dao becomes valuable to the world.
Act with non-action. Handle duties with non-interference. Taste that which is without-flavor. Greatness is insignificant, too much is less. Repay animosity with De. Plan for the difficult while it is easy. Act on the great while it is tiny. In the world, difficult duties certainly start while easy. In the world, great duties certainly start while tiny. Thus the sage in the end does not act great, Therefore he can achieve his greatness. Men who make promises lightly, certainly few will trust. Men who expect most duties to be easy will certainly have many difficulties. Thus the sage plans for things to be difficult, Therefore in the end he is without difficulty!
What is peaceful is easy to hold. What has not yet been revealed is easy to plan for. What is brittle is easy to shatter. What is minute is easy to scatter. Act on it while it does not yet exist. Govern them while they are not yet confused. A tree too big to embrace is created from the tiniest shoot. A terrace of nine stories rises from a pile of dirt. A journey of a thousand miles begins from under the feet. He who acts, ruins it. He who grasps, loses it. Thus the sage : Does not act, therefore he does not ruin. Does not grasp, therefore he does not lose. Citizens are always on the verge of achieving their undertakings, yet they ruin them. Be as careful in the end as if it was the beginning, Then you will not ruin your affairs. Thus the sage : Desires to not desire, Does not value rare goods, Learns to not learn. He returns to that which everyone else has passed over, Thus helping the ten thousand creatures to be naturally so, Yet not daring to act.
The virtue of the ancients (they who acted in Dao), Did not use it to enlighten the citizens, But would have used it to keep them ignorant – The citizens are hard to govern Because they have too much knowledge. Therefore : using knowledge to govern the nation Is the bane of the nation. Not using knowledge to govern the nation Is the good fortune of the nation. He who has knowledge of these two also has them as examples. To always understand these examples – This is called deep and mysterious De. Deep and mysterious De is so profound! and remote! That when creatures return, it returns with them! Then they reach the greatest harmony.
The reason that rivers and seas can act as kings of the 100 valleys Is because they are good at being lower-than them. Therefore : they can act as kings of the 100 valleys. Thus the sage : In desiring to be above the citizens, He must by means of his speech be lower-than them. In desiring to be before the citizens, He must by means of his self be behind them. Thus the sage : Lives above them, but the citizens are not burdened. Lives in front of them, but the citizens are not harmed. Thus the world is pleased to promote him, and does not tire of him. Because he does not strive, Therefore no one in the world can strive against him.
In the world, all say I am great, But do not seem to be like everyone else. Now : only because I am not like everyone else, therefore I can be great. If I was like everyone else, Long ago! I would have become insignificant, indeed! Now : I possess three treasures – Hold and maintain them. The first is called compassion, The second is called economy, The third is called not daring to act first in the world. With compassion, you can therefore be brave. With economy, you can therefore expand. By not daring to act first in the world, Therefore you can achieve the capacity for leadership. At present, people abandon compassion but also try to be brave, Abandon economy but also try to expand, Abandon being behind but also try to be first – This is death! Now : when compassion is used in war, the consequence is victory. When it is used for protection, the consequence is strength. When heaven would help you, Using compassion it protects you.
He who is good at being a scholar is not militant. He who is good at war does not get angry. He who is good at conquering the enemy does not engage them. He who is good at making use of people acts lower-than them. This is called the De of not striving. This is called the power of making use of people. This is called joining the elite of heaven’s ancients, indeed!
Those who command troops have a saying : I dare not act like the master, but instead act like a guest. Dare not advance an inch, but instead retreat a foot. This is called marching without marching, Seizing without using your arms, Routing without having an enemy, Defending without using weapons. There is no misfortune greater than underestimating the enemy. By underestimating the enemy, I nearly lose my treasures. Therefore : when armies on opposing sides are evenly matched, Then they who mourn will be victorious!
My words are very easy to understand, Very easy to practice. But there is no one in the world who can understand them, There is no one who can practice them. My words possess a lineage, My duties possess a ruler. Now : only because I am without-knowledge, Thus I am not understood. Those who understand me are rare, Consequently I am one who is valued! Thus the sage wears coarse cloth, but carries jade in his heart.
Knowing that you do not know is honorable! Not knowing that you know is a sickness! Now : only when you are sick of sickness, Thus you are not sick. The sage is not sick Because he is sick of sickness. Thus he is not sick.
If the citizens do not fear your authority, Then a greater authority will arrive! Do not disrespect their dwellings, Do not despise their livelihood. Now : only because you do not despise them, Thus they will not tire of you. Thus the sage : Knows himself but not display himself, Loves himself but does not exalt himself. Therefore he leaves that and chooses this.
When your courage lies in daring, The consequence is killing. When your courage lies in not daring, The consequence is survival. These two choices, they sometimes cause benefit, sometimes cause harm. That which heaven detests – who knows its reasons? The Way of heaven : Does not strive, yet skillfully achieves its goals. Does not speak, yet skillfully responds. Does not summon, yet everything naturally comes to it. Is certainly unhurried, yet skillfully prepares. Heaven’s net is extremely vast; It is wide meshed, yet does not fail.
If the citizens do not fear death, How can you use death to frighten them? Assuming you could ensure that the citizens always fear death, And I get hold of those who act strange and unusual and kill them, Then who would be daring? There will always exist an executioner. Now : to take the place of the executioner to do the killing, This is called taking the place of a great craftsman to carve wood. Now : of those who take the place of a great craftsman to carve wood, Few will not injure their hand!
The citizens are hungry Because their superiors eat too much of their taxes. Thus they are hungry. The citizens are hard to govern Because their superiors are compelled to take action. Thus they are hard to govern. The citizens take death lightly Because they seek the substance of life. Thus they take death lightly. Now : only he who has no use for being alive Is virtuous compared to he who values living.
The people are born (indeed!) soft and weak. They die (indeed!) hard and inflexible. The ten thousand creatures, the grass and trees, are born (indeed!) soft and fragile. They die (indeed!) dried and withered. Therefore : that which is hard and inflexible is a follower of death. That which is soft and weak is a follower of life. Thus if a weapon is inflexible, the consequence is defeat. If a tree is inflexible, then it snaps. Inflexible and great dwell below. Soft and weak dwell above.
The Way of heaven, how it is just like stretching a bow? He who is high is pressed down by it. He who is low is lifted by it. He who has excess is reduced by it. He who does not have enough is filled by it. The Way of heaven Reduces what has excess and fills what does not have enough. The Way of people on the other hand is not like this, And takes from those who do not have enough in order to offer it to those who have too much. Who can have too much and offer it to the world? Only he who possesses Dao. Thus the sage : Acts, but is not concerned with the results. Accomplishes his tasks, but does not dwell on them. He does not desire to display his virtue.
In the world, nothing is softer and weaker than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong, There is nothing that can surpass it. This is because it endlessly replaces itself. Weakness conquers strength. Softness conquers hardness. In the world, there is no one who does not know this, But there is no one who can practice it. Thus the sage says : Accepting upon oneself the disgrace of the nation Is called being master of the shrines. Accepting upon oneself the misfortune of the nation Is called being king of the world. Honest words seem contrary.
Harmonize a great resentment, And there must exist some remaining resentment. How can this be considered good? Thus the sage : Holds the left side of an agreement, But does not demand payment of people. Therefore : to have De is to take charge of your agreements; To be without De is to take charge of taking away from others. The Way of heaven, while without favor, Is always with virtuous people.
In a small nation with few citizens : Ensure that it has the weapons of ten nobles, but does not use them. Ensure that the citizens take death seriously, and do not migrate far. Even though they have boats and carriages, there is no place to take advantage of them. Even though they have armor and weapons, there is no place to display them. Ensure that the citizens return to knotting ropes and using them, Find deliciousness in their food, Beauty in their clothes, Contentment in their dwellings, Happiness in their customs. Although neighboring nations overlook one another, And sounds of roosters and dogs can be heard in one another – The citizens reach old age and die, And do not come and go between one another.
True words are not beautiful; Beautiful words are not true. He who has virtue does not argue; He who argues does not have virtue. He who knows is not learned; He who is learned does not know. The sage does not accumulate things – Since through serving people, the more one has; Since through giving to people, one has even more. The Way of heaven benefits and does not cause harm. The Way of the sage acts yet does not strive.