Byrn (Translator)


"Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Teh Ching is probably the most influential work of Asian thought. . . . This lucid translation demonstrates that these teachings are useful in the arts of leadership as they are in developing a sense of balance and harmony in everyday life."— Branches of Light

When you read the translator's book, you will benefit tremendously by his/her footnotes and insights, without which the Daodejing's wisdom and magic is not totally revealed. This project is concerned only with comparing line by line translations of the various masters. To unlock the beauty and depth of the Daodejing's wisdom, you can do better than simply reading the translated text, we need the expertise of a good guide and the author is such a person.


Click on the book to buy John Wu's Daodejing 


1.1 The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
1.2 The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of creation.
1.3 Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
1.4 Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source. This source is called darkness.
1.5 Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.

2.1 When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created.
2.2 When people see things as good, evil is created.
2.3 Being and non-being produce each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short define each other.
2.4 High and low oppose each other. Fore and aft follow each other.
2.5 Therefore the Master can act without doing anything and teach without saying a word.
2.6 Things come her way and she does not stop them; things leave and she lets them go.
2.7 She has without possessing, and acts without any expectations. When her work is done, she takes no credit. That is why it will last forever.

3.1 If you over esteem talented individuals, people will become overly competitive.
3.2 If you overvalue possessions, people will begin to steal.
3.3 Do not display your treasures or people will become envious.
3.4 The Master leads by emptying people's minds, filling their bellies, weakening their ambitions, and making them become strong.
3.5 Preferring simplicity and freedom from desires, avoiding the pitfalls of knowledge and wrong action.
3.6 For those who practice not-doing, everything will fall into place.

4.1 The Tao is like an empty container: it can never be emptied and can never be filled.
4.2 Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things.
4.3 It dulls the sharp, unties the knotted, shades the lighted, and unites all of creation with dust.
4.4 It is hidden but always present.
4.5 I don't know who gave birth to it. It is older than the concept of God.

5.1 Heaven and Earth are impartial; they treat all of creation as straw dogs.
5.2 The Master doesn't take sides; she treats everyone like a straw dog.
5.3 The space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows; it is empty, yet has not lost its power. The more it is used, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you comprehend.
5.4 It is better not to speak of things you do not understand.

6.1 The spirit of emptiness is immortal. It is called the Great Mother because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
6.2 -
6.3 It is like a vapour, barely seen but always present. Use it effortlessly.

7.1 The Tao of Heaven is eternal, and the earth is long enduring. Why are they long enduring?
7.2 They do not live for themselves; thus they are present for all beings.
7.3 The Master puts herself last; And finds herself in the place of authority.
7.4 She detaches herself from all things; Therefore she is united with all things.
7.5 She gives no thought to self. She is perfectly fulfilled.

8.1 The supreme good is like water, which benefits all of creation without trying to compete with it. It gathers in unpopular places. Thus it is like the Tao.
8.2 The location makes the dwelling good. Depth of understanding makes the mind good. A kind heart makes the giving good.
8.3 Integrity makes the government good. Accomplishment makes your labors good. Proper timing makes a decision good.
8.4 Only when there is no competition will we all live in peace.

9.1 It is easier to carry and empty cup than one that is filled to the brim.
9.2 The sharper the knife the easier it is to dull.
9.3 The more wealth you possess the harder it is to protect.
9.4 Pride brings its own trouble.
9.5 When you have accomplished your goal simply walk away. This is the pathway to Heaven.

10.1 Nurture the darkness of your soul until you become whole. Can you do this and not fail?
10.2 Can you focus your life-breath until you become supple as a newborn child?
10.3 While you cleanse your inner vision will you be found without fault?
10.4 Can you love people and lead them without forcing your will on them?
10.5 When Heaven gives and takes away can you be content with the outcome?
10.6 When you understand all things can you step back from your own understanding?
10.7 Giving birth and nourishing, making without possessing, expecting nothing in return. To grow, yet not to control: This is the mysterious virtue.

11.1 Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that allows the wheel to function.
11.2 We mold clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that makes the vessel useful.
11.3 We fashion wood for a house, but it is the emptiness inside that makes it livable.
11.4 We work with the substantial, but the emptiness is what we use.

12.1 Five colors blind the eye. Five notes deafen the ear. Five flavours make the palate go stale.
12.2 Too much activity deranges the mind. Too much wealth causes crime.
12.3 The Master acts on what she feels and not what she sees. She shuns the latter, and prefers to seek the former.

13.1 Success is as dangerous as failure, and we are often our own worst enemy.
13.2 What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? He who is superior is also someone's subordinate. Receiving favor and losing it both cause alarm. That is what is meant by success is as dangerous as failure.
13.3 What does it mean that we are often our own worst enemy? The reason I have an enemy is because I have "self". If I no longer had a "self", I would no longer have an enemy.
13.4 Love the whole world as if it were your self; then you will truly care for all things.

14.1 Look for it, and it can't be seen. Listen for it, and it can't be heard. Grasp for it, and it can't be caught.
14.2 These three cannot be further described, so we treat them as The One.
14.3 Its highest is not bright. Its depths are not dark. Unending, unnamable, it returns to nothingness.
14.4 Formless forms, and imageless images, subtle, beyond all understanding. Approach it and you will not see a beginning; follow it and there will be no end.
14.5 When we grasp the Tao of the ancient ones, we can use it to direct our life today. To know the ancient origin of Tao: this is the beginning of wisdom.

15.1 The Sages of old were profound and knew the ways of subtlety and discernment.
15.2 Their wisdom is beyond our comprehension. Because their knowledge was so far superior I can only give a poor description. They were careful as someone crossing an frozen stream in winter. Alert as if surrounded on all sides by the enemy. Courteous as a guest.
15.3 Fluid as melting ice. Whole as an uncarved block of wood. Receptive as a valley. Turbid as muddied water.
15.4 Who can be still until their mud settles and the water is cleared by itself? Can you remain tranquil until right action occurs by itself?
15.5 The Master doesn't seek fulfilment. For only those who are not full are able to be used which brings the feeling of completeness.

16.1 If you can empty your mind of all thoughts your heart will embrace the tranquillity of peace.
16.2 Watch the workings of all of creation, but contemplate their return to the source.
16.3 All creatures in the universe return to the point where they began. Returning to the source is tranquillity because we submit to Heavens mandate. Returning to Heavens mandate is called being constant. Knowing the constant is called 'enlightenment'. Not knowing the constant is the source of evil deeds because we have no roots.
16.4 By knowing the constant we can accept things as they are. By accepting things as they are, we become impartial. By being impartial, we become one with Heaven.
16.5 By being one with Heaven, we become one with Tao. Being one with Tao, we are no longer concerned about losing our life because we know the Tao is constant and we are one with Tao.

17.1 The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist. The next best is a leader who is loved and praised. Next comes the one who is feared. The worst one is the leader that is despised.
17.2 If you don't trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.
17.3 The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly. When she has accomplished her task, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!"

18.1 When the great Tao is abandoned, charity and righteousness appear.
18.2 When intellectualism arises, hypocrisy is close behind.
18.3 When there is strife in the family unit, people talk about 'brotherly love'.
18.4 When the country falls into chaos, politicians talk about 'patriotism'.

19.1 Forget about knowledge and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times better off.
19.2 Throw away charity and righteousness, and people will return to brotherly love.
19.3 Throw away profit and greed, and there won't be any thieves.
19.4 These three are superficial and aren't enough to keep us at the center of the circle, so we must also:
19.5 Embrace simplicity. Put others first. Desire little.

20.1 Renounce knowledge and your problems will end. What is the difference between yes and no? What is the difference between good and evil?
20.2 Must you fear what others fear? Nonsense, look how far you have missed the mark!
20.3 Other people are joyous, as though they were at a spring festival. I alone am unconcerned and expressionless, like an infant before it has learned to smile.
20.4 Other people have more than they need; I alone seem to possess nothing. I am lost and drift about with no place to go. I am like a fool, my mind is in chaos.
20.5 Ordinary people are bright; I alone am dark. Ordinary people are clever; I alone am dull. Ordinary people seem discriminating; I alone am muddled and confused. I drift on the waves on the ocean, blown at the mercy of the wind.
20.6 Other people have their goals, I alone am dull and uncouth. I am different from ordinary people. I nurse from the Great Mother's breasts.

21.1 The greatest virtue you can have comes from following only the Tao;
21.2 which takes a form that is intangible and evasive. Even though the Tao is intangible and evasive, we are able to know it exists. Intangible and evasive, yet it has a manifestation. Secluded and dark, yet there is a vitality within it. Its vitality is very genuine. Within it we can find order.
21.3 Since the beginning of time, the Tao has always existed. It is beyond existing and not existing.
21.4 How do I know where creation comes from? I look inside myself and see it.

22.1 If you want to become whole, first let yourself become broken. If you want to become straight, first let yourself become twisted. If you want to become full, first let yourself become empty. If you want to become new, first let yourself become old. Those whose desires are few get them, those whose desires are great go astray.
22.2 For this reason the Master embraces the Tao, as an example for the world to follow.
22.3 Because she isn't self centered, people can see the light in her. Because she does not boast of herself, she becomes a shining example. Because she does not glorify herself, she becomes a person of merit.
22.4 Because she wants nothing from the world, the world can not overcome her.
22.5 When the ancient Masters said, "If you want to become whole, then first let yourself be broken," they weren't using empty words. All who do this will be made complete.

23.1 Nature uses few words: when the gale blows, it will not last long; when it rains hard, it lasts but a little while;
23.2 What causes these to happen? Heaven and Earth. Why do we humans go on endlessly about little when nature does much in a little time?
23.3 If you open yourself to the Tao, you and Tao become one. If you open yourself to Virtue, then you can become virtuous. If you open yourself to loss, then you will become lost.
23.4 If you open yourself to the Tao, the Tao will eagerly welcome you. If you open yourself to virtue, virtue will become a part of you. If you open yourself to loss, the lost are glad to see you.
23.5 "When you do not trust people, people will become untrustworthy."

24.1 Those who stand on tiptoes do not stand firmly. Those who rush ahead don't get very far.
24.2 Those who try to outshine others dim their own light. Those who call themselves righteous can't know how wrong they are.
24.3 Those who boast of their accomplishments diminish the things they have done.
24.4 Compared to the Tao, these actions are unworthy. If we are to follow the Tao, we must not do these things.

25.1 Before the universe was born there was something in the chaos of the heavens. It stands alone and empty, solitary and unchanging. It is ever present and secure. It may be regarded as the Mother of the universe.
25.2 Because I do not know its name, I call it the Tao. If forced to give it a name, I would call it 'Great'.
25.3 Because it is Great means it is everywhere. Being everywhere means it is eternal. Being eternal means everything returns to it.
25.4 Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. Humanity is great. Within the universe, these are the four great things.
25.5 Humanity follows the earth. Earth follows Heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. The Tao follows only itself.

26.1 Heaviness is the basis of lightness. Stillness is the standard of activity.
26.2 Thus the Master travels all day without ever leaving her wagon. Even though she has much to see, she is at peace in her indifference.
26.3 Why should the lord of a thousand chariots be amused at the foolishness of the world? If you abandon yourself to foolishness, you lose touch with your beginnings.
26.4 If you let yourself become distracted, you will lose the basis of your power.

27.1 A good traveller leaves no tracks, and a skilful speaker is well rehearsed. A good bookkeeper has an excellent memory,
27.2 and a well made door is easy to open and needs no locks. A good knot needs no rope and it can not come undone.
27.3 Thus the Master is willing to help everyone, and doesn't know the meaning of rejection. She is there to help all of creation, and doesn't abandon even the smallest creature. This is called embracing the light.
27.4 What is a good person but a bad person's teacher? What is a bad person but raw material for his teacher?
27.5 If you fail to honor your teacher or fail to enjoy your student, you will become deluded no matter how smart you are. It is the secret of prime importance.

28.1 Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine: and become a watershed to the world. If you embrace the world, the Tao will never leave you and you become as a little child.
28.2 Know the white, yet keep to the black: be a model for the world. If you are a model for the world, the Tao inside you will strengthen and you will return whole to your eternal beginning.
28.3 Know the honorable, but do not shun the disgraced: embracing the world as it is. If you embrace the world with compassion, then your virtue will return you to the Uncarved Block.
28.4 The block of wood is carved into utensils by carving void into the wood. The Master uses the utensils, yet prefers to keep to the block because of its limitless possibilities. Great works do not involve discarding substance.

29.1 Do you want to rule the world and control it? I don't think it can ever be done.
29.2 The world is sacred vessel and it can not be controlled. You will only it make it worse if you try. It may slip through your fingers and disappear.
29.3 Some are meant to lead, and others are meant to follow; Some must always strain, and others have an easy time; Some are naturally big and strong, and others will always be small; Some will be protected and nurtured, and others will meet with destruction.
29.4 The Master accepts things as they are, and out of compassion avoids extravagance, excess and the extremes.

30.1 Those who lead people by following the Tao don't use weapons to enforce their will. Using force always leads to unseen troubles.
30.2 In the places where armies march, thorns and briars bloom and grow. After armies take to war, bad years must always follow.
30.3 The skilful commander strikes a decisive blow then stops.
30.4 When victory is won over the enemy through war it is not a thing of great pride. When the battle is over, arrogance is the new enemy. War can result when no other alternative is given, so the one who overcomes an enemy should not dominate them.
30.5 The strong always weakened with time. This is not the way of the Tao. That which is not of the Tao will soon end.

31.1 Weapons are the bearers of bad news; all people should detest them.
31.2 The wise man values the left side, and in time of war he values the right.
31.3 Weapons are meant for destruction, and thus are avoided by the wise. Only as a last resort will a wise person use a deadly weapon.
31.4 If peace is her true objective how can she rejoice in the victory of war? Those who rejoice in victory delight in the slaughter of humanity. Those who resort to violence will never bring peace to the world.
31.5 The left side is a place of honor on happy occasions. The right side is reserved for mourning at a funeral. When the lieutenants take the left side to prepare for war, the general should be on the right side, because he knows the outcome will be death.
31.6 The death of many should be greeted with great sorrow, and the victory celebration should honor those who have died.

32.1 The Tao is nameless and unchanging. Although it appears insignificant, nothing in the world can contain it.
32.2 If a ruler abides by its principles, then her people will willingly follow.
32.3 Heaven would then reign on earth, like sweet rain falling on paradise. People would have no need for laws, because the law would be written on their hearts.
32.4 Naming is a necessity for order, but naming can not order all things. Naming often makes things impersonal, so we should know when naming should end. Knowing when to stop naming, you can avoid the pitfall it brings.
32.5 All things end in the Tao just as the small streams and the largest rivers flow through valleys to the sea.

33.1 Those who know others are intelligent; those who know themselves are truly wise.
33.2 Those who master others are strong; those who master themselves have true power.
33.3 Those who know they have enough are truly wealthy. Those who persist will reach their goal. Those who keep their course have a strong will.
33.4 Those who embrace death will not perish, but have life everlasting.

34.1 The great Tao flows unobstructed in every direction.
34.2 All things rely on it to conceive and be born, and it does not deny even the smallest of creation. When it has accomplished great wonders, it does not claim them for itself. It nourishes infinite worlds, yet it doesn't seek to master the smallest creature.
34.3 Since it is without wants and desires, it can be considered humble.
34.4 All of creation seeks it for refuge yet it does not seek to master or control.
34.5 Because it does not seek greatness; it is able to accomplish truly great things.

35.1 She who follows the way of the Tao will draw the world to her steps. She can go without fear of being injured, because she has found peace and tranquillity in her heart.
35.2 Where there is music and good food, people will stop to enjoy it.
35.3 But words spoken of the Tao seem to them boring and stale. When looked at, there is nothing for them to see. When listen for, there is nothing for them to hear. Yet if they put it to use, it would never be exhausted.

36.1 If you want something to return to the source, you must first allow it to spread out. If you want something to weaken, you must first allow it to become strong. If you want something to be removed, you must first allow it to flourish. If you want to possess something, you must first give it away.
36.2 This is called the subtle understanding of how things are meant to be. The soft and pliable overcomes the hard and inflexible.
36.3 Just as fish remain hidden in deep waters, it is best to keep weapons out of sight.

37.1 The Tao never acts with force, yet there is nothing that it can not do.
37.2 If rulers could follow the way of the Tao, then all of creation would willingly follow their example. If selfish desires were to arise after their transformation, I would erase them with the power of the Uncarved Block.
37.3 By the power of the Uncarved Block, future generations would lose their selfish desires. By losing their selfish desires, the world would naturally settle into peace.

38.1 The highest good is not to seek to do good, but to allow yourself to become it. The ordinary person seeks to do good things, and finds that they can not do them continually.
38.2 The Master does not force virtue on others, thus she is able to accomplish her task. The ordinary person who uses force, will find that they accomplish nothing.
38.3 The kind person acts from the heart, and accomplishes a multitude of things. The righteous person acts out of pity, yet leaves many things undone. The moral person will act out of duty, and when no one will respond will roll up his sleeves and uses force.
38.4 When the Tao is forgotten, there is righteousness. When righteousness is forgotten, there is morality. When morality is forgotten, there is the law.
38.5 The law is the husk of faith, and trust is the beginning of chaos.
38.6 Our basic understandings are not from the Tao because they come from the depths of our misunderstanding. The master abides in the fruit and not in the husk. She dwells in the Tao, and not with the things that hide it. This is how she increases in wisdom.

39.1 The masters of old attained unity with the Tao. Heaven attained unity and became pure. The earth attained unity and found peace. The spirits attained unity so they could minister.
39.2 The valleys attained unity that they might be full. Humanity attained unity that they might flourish. Their leaders attained unity that they might set the example. This is the power of unity.
39.3 Without unity, the sky becomes filthy. Without unity, the earth becomes unstable. Without unity, the spirits become unresponsive and disappear.
39.4 Without unity, the valleys become dry as a desert. Without unity, human kind can't reproduce and becomes extinct. Without unity, our leaders become corrupt and fall.
39.5 The great view the small as their source, and the high takes the low as their foundation. Their greatest asset becomes their humility.
39.6 They speak of themselves as orphans and widows, thus they truly seek humility.
39.7 -
39.8 Do not shine like the precious gem, but be as dull as a common stone.

40.1 All movement returns to the Tao. Weakness is how the Tao works.
40.2 All of creation is born from substance. Substance is born of nothing-ness.

41.1 When a superior person hears of the Tao, She diligently puts it into practice. When an average person hears of the Tao, he believes half of it, and doubts the other half.
41.2 When a foolish person hears of the Tao, he laughs out loud at the very idea. If he didn't laugh, it wouldn't be the Tao.
41.3 Thus it is said: The brightness of the Tao seems like darkness, the advancement of the Tao seems like retreat, the level path seems rough, the superior path seems empty, the pure seems to be tarnished, and true virtue doesn't seem to be enough.
41.4 The virtue of caution seems like cowardice, the pure seems to be polluted, the true square seems to have no corners, the best vessels take the most time to finish, the greatest sounds cannot be heard, and the greatest image has no form.
41.5 The Tao hides in the unnamed, Yet it alone nourishes and completes all things.

42.1 The Tao gave birth to One. The One gave birth to Two. The Two gave birth to Three. The Three gave birth to all of creation.
42.2 All things carry Yin yet embrace Yang. They blend their life breaths in order to produce harmony.
42.3 People despise being orphaned, widowed and poor. But the noble ones take these as their titles.
42.4 In losing, much is gained, and in gaining, much is lost.
42.5 What others teach I too will teach: "The strong and violent will not die a natural death."

43.1 That which offers no resistance, overcomes the hardest substances. That which offers no resistance can enter where there is no space.
43.2 Few in the world can comprehend the teaching without words, or understand the value of non-action.

44.1 Which is more important, your honor or your life? Which is more valuable, your possessions or your person? Which is more destructive, success or failure?
44.2 Because of this, great love extracts a great cost and true wealth requires greater loss.
44.3 Knowing when you have enough avoids dishonour, and knowing when to stop will keep you from danger and bring you a long, happy life.

45.1 The greatest accomplishments seem imperfect, yet their usefulness is not diminished. The greatest fullness seems empty, yet it will be inexhaustible. The greatest straightness seems crooked.
45.2 The most valued skill seems like clumsiness. The greatest speech seems full of stammers.
45.3 Movement overcomes the cold, and stillness overcomes the heat. That which is pure and still is the universal ideal.

46.1 When the world follows the Tao, horses run free to fertilize the fields. When the world does not follow the Tao, war horses are bread outside the cities.
46.2 There is no greater transgression than condoning peoples selfish desires, no greater disaster than being discontent, and no greater retribution than for greed.
46.3 Whoever knows contentment will be at peace forever.

47.1 Without opening your door, you can know the whole world. Without looking out your window, you can understand the way of the Tao. The more knowledge you seek, the less you will understand.
47.2 The Master understands without leaving, sees clearly without looking, accomplishes much without doing anything.

48.1 One who seeks knowledge learns something new every day. One who seeks the Tao unlearns something new every day.
48.2 Less and less remains until you arrive at non-action. When you arrive at non-action, nothing will be left undone. Mastery of the world is achieved by letting things take their natural course.
48.3 You can not master the world by changing the natural way.

49.1 The Master has no mind of her own. She understands the mind of the people.
49.2 To those who are good she treats as good. To those who aren't good she also treats as good. This is how she attains true goodness.
49.3 She trusts people who are trustworthy. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy. This is how she gains true trust.
49.4 The Master's mind is shut off from the world. Only for the sake of the people does she muddle her mind. They look to her in anticipation. Yet she treats them all as her children.

50.1 Those who leave the womb at birth and those who enter their source at death,
50.2 of these; three out of ten celebrate life, three out of ten celebrate death, and three out of ten simply go from life to death. What is the reason for this? Because they are afraid of dying, therefore they can not live.
50.3 I have heard that those who celebrate life walk safely among the wild animals. When they go into battle, they remain unharmed. The animals find no place to attack them and the weapons are unable to harm them.
50.4 Why? Because they can find no place for death in them.

51.1 The Tao gives birth to all of creation. The virtue of Tao in nature nurtures them, nd their family gives them their form. Their environment then shapes them into completion. That is why every creature honors the Tao and its virtue.
51.2 No one tells them to honor the Tao and its virtue, it happens all by itself.
51.3 So the Tao gives them birth, and its virtue cultivates them, cares for them, nurtures them, gives them a place of refuge and peace, helps them to grow and shelters them. It gives them life without wanting to posses them, and cares for them expecting nothing in return. It is their master, but it does not seek to dominate them. This is called the dark and mysterious virtue.

52.1 The world had a beginning which we call the Great Mother. Once we have found the Mother, we begin to know what Her children should be.
52.2 When we know we are the Mothers child, we begin to guard the qualities of the Mother in us. She will protect us from all danger even if we lose our life.
52.3 Keep your mouth closed and embrace a simple life, and you will live care-free until the end of your days.
52.4 If you try to talk your way into a better life there will be no end to your trouble.
52.5 To understand the small is called clarity. Knowing how to yield is called strength.
52.6 To use your inner light for understanding regardless of the danger is called depending on the Constant.

53.1 If I understood only one thing, I would want to use it to follow the Tao. My only fear would be one of pride.
53.2 The Tao goes in the level places, but people prefer to take the short cuts.
53.3 If too much time is spent cleaning the house the land will become neglected and full of weeds, and the granaries will soon become empty because there is no one out working the fields.
53.4 To wear fancy clothes and ornaments, to have your fill of food and drink and to waste all of your money buying possessions is called the crime of excess. Oh, how these things go against the way of the Tao!

54.1 That which is well built will never be torn down. That which is well latched can not slip away. Those who do things well will be honored from generation to generation.
54.2 If this idea is cultivated in the individual, then his virtue will become genuine. If this idea is cultivated in your family, then virtue in your family will be great. If this idea is cultivated in your community, then virtue will go a long way. If this idea is cultivated in your country, then virtue will be in many places. If this idea is cultivated in the world, then virtue will be with everyone.
54.3 Then observe the person for what the person does, and observe the family for what it does, and observe the community for what it does, and observe the country for what it does, and observe the world for what it does.
54.4 How do I know this saying is true? I observe these things and see.

55.1 One who is filled with the Tao is like a newborn child. The infant is protected from the stinging insects, wild beasts, and birds of prey. Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak, but its grip is firm and strong.
55.2 It doesn't know about the union of male and female, yet his penis can stand erect, because of the power of life within him.
55.3 It can cry all day and never become hoarse. This is perfect harmony. To understand harmony is to understand the Constant. To know the Constant is to be called 'enlightened'.
55.4 To unnaturally try to extend life is not appropriate. To try and alter the life-breath is unnatural.
55.5 The master understands that when something reaches its prime it will soon begin to decline. Changing the natural is against the way of the Tao. Those who do it will come to an early end.

56.1 Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know.
56.2 Stop talking, meditate in silence, blunt your sharpness, release your worries, harmonize your inner light, and become one with the dust. Doing this is called the dark and mysterious identity.
56.3 Those who have achieved the mysterious identity can not be approached, and they can not be alienated. They can not be benefited nor harmed. They can not be made noble nor to suffer disgrace. This makes them the most noble of all under the heavens.

57.1 Govern your country with integrity, Weapons of war can be used with great cunning, but loyalty is only won by not-doing. How do I know the way things are? By these:
57.2 The more prohibitions you make, the poorer people will be. The more weapons you posses, the greater the chaos in your country.
57.3 The more knowledge that is acquired, the stranger the world will become. The more laws that you make, the greater the number of criminals.
57.4 Therefore the Master says: and people become good by themselves. I seek peace, and people take care of their own problems.
57.5 I do not meddle in their personal lives, and the people become prosperous. I let go of all my desires, and the people return to the Uncarved Block.

58.1 If a government is unobtrusive, the people become whole. If a government is repressive, the people become treacherous.
58.2 Good fortune has its roots in disaster, and disaster lurks with good fortune.
58.3 Who knows why these things happen, or when this cycle will end? Good things seem to change into bad, and bad things often turn out for good. These things have always been hard to comprehend.
58.4 Thus the Master makes things change without interfering. She is probing yet causes no harm. Straightforward, yet does not impose her will. Radiant, and easy on the eye.

59.1 There is nothing better than moderation for teaching people or serving Heaven.
59.2 Those who use moderation are already on the path to the Tao. Those who follow the Tao early will have an abundance of virtue. When there is an abundance of virtue, there is nothing that can not be done. Where there is limitless ability, then the kingdom is within your grasp.
59.3 When you know the Mother of the kingdom, then you will be long enduring.
59.4 This is spoken of as the deep root and the firm trunk, the Way to a long life and great spiritual vision.

60.1 Governing a large country is like frying small fish. Too much poking spoils the meat.
60.2 When the Tao is used to govern the world then evil will lose its power to harm the people.
60.3 Not that evil will no longer exist, but only because it has lost its power.
60.4 Just as evil can lose its ability to harm, the Master shuns the use of violence. If you give evil nothing to oppose, then virtue will return by itself.

61.1 A large country should take the low place like a great watershed, which from its low position assumes the female role. The female overcomes the male by the power of her position. Her tranquillity gives rise to her humility.
61.2 If a large country takes the low position, it will be able to influence smaller countries.
61.3 If smaller countries take the lower position, then they can allow themselves to be influenced.
61.4 So both seek to take the lower position in order to influence the other, or be influenced. Large countries should desire to protect and help the people, and small countries should desire to serve others.
61.5 Both large and small countries benefit greatly from humility.

62.1 The Tao is the tabernacle of creation, it is a treasure for those who are good, and a place of refuge for those who are not.
62.2 How can those who are not good be abandoned? Words that are beautiful are worth much, but good behavior can only be learned by example.
62.3 When a new leader takes office, don't give him gifts and offerings. These things are not as valuable as teaching him about the Tao.
62.4 Why was the Tao esteemed by the ancient Masters? Is it not said: "With it we find without looking. With it we find forgiveness for our transgressions." That is why the world can not understand it.

63.1 Act by not acting; do by not doing. Enjoy the plain and simple. Find that greatness in the small.
63.2 Take care of difficult problems while they are still easy;
63.3 Do easy things before they become too hard. Difficult problems are best solved while they are easy.
63.4 Great projects are best started while they are small.
63.5 The Master never takes on more than she can handle, which means that she leaves nothing undone.
63.6 When an affirmation is given too lightly, keep your eyes open for trouble ahead. When something seems too easy, difficulty is hiding in the details.
63.7 The master expects great difficulty, so the task is always easier than planned.

64.1 Things are easier to control while things are quiet. Things are easier to plan far in advance. Things break easier while they are still brittle. Things are easier hid while they are still small.
64.2 Prevent problems before they arise. Take action before things get out of hand.
64.3 The tallest tree begins as a tiny sprout. The tallest building starts with one shovel of dirt. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single footstep.
64.4 If you rush into action, you will fail. If you hold on too tight, you will lose your grip.
64.5 Therefore the Master lets things take their course and thus never fails. She doesn't hold on to things and never loses them. By pursing your goals too relentlessly, you let them slip away. If you are as concerned about the outcome as you are about the beginning, then it is hard to do things wrong.
64.6 The master seeks no possessions. She learns by unlearning, thus she is able to understand all things. This gives her the ability to help all of creation.

65.1 The ancient Masters who understood the way of the Tao, did not educate people, but made them forget.
65.2 Smart people are difficult to guide, because they think they are too clever. To use cleverness to rule a country, is to lead the country to ruin. To avoid cleverness in ruling a country, is to lead the country to prosperity.
65.3 Knowing the two alternatives is a pattern. Remaining aware of the pattern is a virtue.
65.4 This dark and mysterious virtue is profound. It is opposite our natural inclination, but leads to harmony with the heavens.

66.1 Rivers and seas are rulers of the streams of hundreds of valleys because of the power of their low position.
66.2 If you want to be the ruler of people, you must speak to them like you are their servant. If you want to lead other people, you must put their interest ahead of your own. The people will not feel burdened, if a wise person is in a position of power.
66.3 The people will not feel like they are being manipulated, if a wise person is in front as their leader. The whole world will ask for her guidance, and will never get tired of her.
66.4 Because she does not like to compete, no one can compete with the things she accomplishes.

67.1 The world talks about honoring the Tao, but you can't tell it from their actions. Because it is thought of as great, the world makes light of it. It seems too easy for anyone to use.
67.2 There are three jewels that I cherish: compassion, moderation, and humility.
67.3 With compassion, you will be able to be brave, With moderation, you will be able to give to others, With humility, you will be able to become a great leader.
67.4 To abandon compassion while seeking to be brave, or abandoning moderation while being benevolent, or abandoning humility while seeking to lead will only lead to greater trouble.
67.5 The compassionate warrior will be the winner, and if compassion is your defense you will be secure. Compassion is the protector of Heaven's salvation.

68.1 The best warriors do not use violence. The best generals do not destroy indiscriminately.
68.2 The best tacticians try to avoid confrontation. The best leaders becomes servants of their people.
68.3 This is called the virtue of non-competition. This is called the power to manage others. This is called attaining harmony with the heavens.

69.1 There is an old saying: "It is better to become the passive in order to see what will happen. It is better to retreat a foot than to advance only an inch."
69.2 This is called being flexible while advancing, pushing back without using force, and destroying the enemy without engaging him.
69.3 There is no greater disaster than underestimating your enemy. Underestimating your enemy means losing your greatest assets.
69.4 When equal forces meet in battle, victory will go to the one that enters with the greatest sorrow.

70.1 My words are easy to understand and easier to put into practice. Yet no one in the world seems to understand them, and are not able to apply what I teach.
70.2 My teachings come from the ancients, the things I do are done for a reason. Because you do not know me, you are not able to understand my teachings
70.3 Because those who know me are few, my teachings become even more precious.

71.1 Knowing you don't know is wholeness. Thinking you know is a disease. Only by recognizing that you have an illness can you move to seek a cure.
71.2 The Master is whole because she sees her illnesses and treats them, and thus is able to remain whole.

72.1 When people become overly bold, then disaster will soon arrive.
72.2 Do not meddle with people's livelihood; by respecting them they will in turn respect you.
72.3 Therefore, the Master knows herself but is not arrogant. She loves herself but also loves others. This is how she is able to make appropriate choices.

73.1 Being overbold and confidant is deadly. The wise use of caution will keep you alive.
73.2 One is the way to death, and the other is the way to preserve your life. Who can understand the workings of Heaven?
73.3 The Tao of the universe does not compete, yet wins; does not speak, yet responds; does not command, yet is obeyed; and does act, but is good at directing.
73.4 The nets of Heaven are wide, but nothing escapes its grasp.

74.1 If you do not fear death, then how can it intimidate you? If you aren't afraid of dying, there is nothing you can not do.
74.2 -
74.3 Those who harm others are like inexperienced boys trying to take the place of a great lumberjack. Trying to fill his shoes will only get them seriously hurt.

75.1 When people go hungry, the government's taxes are too high.
75.2 When people become rebellious, the government has become too intrusive.
75.3 When people begin to view death lightly, wealthy people have too much which causes others to starve. Only those who do not cling to their life can save it.

76.1 The living are soft and yielding; the dead are rigid and stiff.
76.2 Living plants are flexible and tender; the dead are brittle and dry.
76.3 Those who are stiff and rigid are the disciples of death. Those who are soft and yielding are the disciples of life.
76.4 -
76.5 The rigid and stiff will be broken. The soft and yielding will overcome.

77.1 The Tao of Heaven works in the world like the drawing of a bow. The top is bent downward; the bottom is bent up. The excess is taken from, and the deficient is given to.
77.2 The Tao works to use the excess, and gives to that which is depleted. The way of people is to take from the depleted, and give to those who already have an excess.
77.3 Who is able to give to the needy from their excess? Only someone who is following the way of the Tao.
77.4 This is why the Master gives expecting nothing in return. She does not dwell on her past accomplishments, and does not glory in any praise.

78.1 Water is the softest and most yielding substance. Yet nothing is better than water, for overcoming the hard and rigid, because nothing can compete with it.
78.2 Everyone knows that the soft and yielding overcomes the rigid and hard, but few can put this knowledge into practice.
78.3 Therefore the Master says: "Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom, is worthy to become its ruler. He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks, is the best ruler in the world." True sayings seem contradictory.

79.1 Difficulties remain, even after solving a problem. How then can we consider that as good?
79.2 Therefore the Master does what she knows is right, and makes no demands of others.
79.3 A virtuous person will do the right thing, and persons with no virtue will take advantage of others.
79.4 The Tao does not choose sides, the good person receives from the Tao because she is on its side.

80.1 Small countries with few people are best. Give them all of the things they want, and they will see that they do not need them. Teach them that death is a serious thing, and to be content to never leave their homes.
80.2 Even though they have plenty of horses, wagons and boats, they won't feel that they need to use them. Even if they have weapons and shields, they will keep them out of sight.
80.3 Let people enjoy the simple technologies, let them enjoy their food, let them make their own clothes, let them be content with their own homes, and delight in the customs that they cherish.
80.4 Although the next country is close enough that they can hear their roosters crowing and dogs barking, they are content never to visit each other all of the days of their life.

81.1 True words do not sound beautiful; beautiful sounding words are not true.
81.2 Wise men don't need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise.
81.3 Wise men are not scholars, and scholars are not wise.
81.4 The Master desires no possessions. Since the things she does is for the people, she has more than she needs. The more she gives to others, the more she has for herself.
81.5 TheTao of Heaven nourishes by not forcing. The Tao of the Wise person acts by not competing.

Beck (Translator)


"Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Teh Ching is probably the most influential work of Asian thought. . . . This lucid translation demonstrates that these teachings are useful in the arts of leadership as they are in developing a sense of balance and harmony in everyday life."— Branches of Light

When you read the translator's book, you will benefit tremendously by his/her footnotes and insights, without which the Daodejing's wisdom and magic is not totally revealed. This project is concerned only with comparing line by line translations of the various masters. To unlock the beauty and depth of the Daodejing's wisdom, you can do better than simply reading the translated text, we need the expertise of a good guide and the author is such a person.


Click on the book to buy John Wu's Daodejing 


1.1 The Way that can be described is not the absolute Way; the name that can be given is not the absolute name.
1.2 Nameless it is the source of heaven and earth; named it is the mother of all things.
1.3 Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life. Whoever desires, sees its manifestations.
1.4 These two are the same, but what is produced has names.
1.5 They both may be called the cosmic mystery: from the cosmic to the mystical is the door to the essence of all life.

2.1 When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the recognition of ugliness.
2.2 When they all know the good as good, there arises the recognition of bad.
2.3 Therefore being and non-being produce each other; difficult and easy complete each other; long and short contrast each other;
2.4 high and low distinguish each other; sound and voice harmonize with each other; beginning and end follow each other.
2.5 Therefore the wise manage affairs without interfering and teach beyond the words.
2.6 All things rise, and they do not turn away from them. They give them life, but do not take possession of them. They act, but do not rely on their own ability.
2.7 They accomplish, but claim no credit. Because they claim no credit, their accomplishment remains with them.

3.1 Do not exalt the worthy, so that people will not compete.
3.2 Do not value rare treasure, so that people will not steal.
3.3 Do not display objects of desire, so that people's hearts will not be disturbed.
3.4 Therefore the wise lead by keeping their hearts pure, their bellies full, their ambitions weak, and their bones strong,
3.5 so that the people may be purified of their thoughts and desires; and the cunning ones will not interfere.
3.6 By acting without interfering, all may live in peace.

4.1 The Way is infinite; its use is never exhausted.
4.2 It is bottomless, like the fountainhead of all things.
4.3 It smoothes its roughness; it unties its tangles. It softens its light; it calms its turmoil.
4.4 Deep and still, ever present.
4.5 I do not know its source. It seems to have existed before the Lord.

5.1 Nature is not humane. It treats all things like sacrificial objects.
5.2 The wise are not humane. They regard people like sacrificial objects.
5.3 How the universe is like a bellows! While empty, it is never exhausted. The more it is worked, the more it produces.
5.4 Much talk brings exhaustion. It is better to keep to the center.

6.1 The spirit of the valley never dies. It is called the mystical female.
6.2 The door of the mystical female is the root of heaven and earth.
6.3 It seems to be continuously within us. Use it, and it will never fail.

7.1 Heaven is eternal, and the earth is very old.
7.2 They can be eternal and long lasting, because they do not exist for themselves, and for this reason can long endure.
7.3 Therefore the wise put themselves last, but find themselves foremost.
7.4 They are indifferent to themselves, and yet they always remain.
7.5 Is it not because they do not live for themselves that they find themselves fulfilled?

8.1 The best are like water. Water benefits all things and does not compete with them. It flows to the lowest level. In this it comes near to the Way.
8.2 In their dwellings, they love the earth. In their hearts, they love what is profound. In their friendship, they love humanity. In their words, they love sincerity.
8.3 In government, they love peace. In business, they love ability. In their actions, they love timeliness.
8.4 It is because they do not compete that there is no resentment.

9.1 Stretch a bow to the very full, and you will wish you had stopped in time.
9.2 Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest, and the edge will not last long.
9.3 When gold and jade fill your hall, you will not be able to keep them safe.
9.4 To be proud with honor and wealth is to cause one's own downfall.
9.5 Withdraw as soon as your work is done. Such is heaven's way.

10.1 Can you embrace the One with your soul, and never depart from the Way?
10.2 Can you concentrate your vital force to achieve the gentleness of a new-born baby?
10.3 Can you cleanse and purify your mystic vision until it is clear?
10.4 Can you love the people and govern the state without interfering?
10.5 Can you play the role of the female in opening and closing the doors of heaven?
10.6 Can you understand all and penetrate all without using the mind?
10.7 To give birth and to nourish, to give birth without taking possession, to act without obligation, to lead without dominating - this is mystical power.

11.1 Thirty spokes are united around the hub of a wheel, but the usefulness of the wheel depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.2 Clay is molded into a vessel, but the usefulness of the vessel depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.3 Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house, and the usefulness of the house depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.4 Therefore take advantage of what exists, and use what does not exist.

12.1 The five colors blind the eyes; the five musical tones deafen the ears; the five flavors dull the taste.
12.2 Racing and hunting madden the mind. Precious goods keep their owners on guard.
12.3 Therefore the wise satisfy the inner self rather than external senses. They accept the one and reject the other.

13.1 Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension. Regard great trouble as you regard your self.
13.2 What is meant by "Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension?" Those with good fortune are apprehensive of their gain. Those with misfortune are apprehensive of their loss.
13.3 What is meant by "Regard great trouble as you regard your self?" Great trouble comes from being selfish. Being selfless, what trouble is there?
13.4 Therefore those who value the world as themselves may be entrusted to govern the world. Those who love the world as themselves may be entrusted to care for the world.

14.1 We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible. We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible. We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
14.2 These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.
14.3 Not by its rising, is it bright, nor by its sinking, is it dark. Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined. It returns to nothingness.
14.4 This is the form of the formless, being in non-being. It is nebulous and elusive. Meet it, and you do not see its beginning. Follow it, and you do not see its end.
14.5 Stay with the ancient Way in order to master what is present. Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.

15.1 The wise have ancient mystic wisdom and profound understanding, too deep to comprehend.
15.2 Because they can not be comprehended, they can only be described by analogy: cautious, like crossing a stream in winter; alert, like one aware of danger on all sides; courteous, like a visiting guest;
15.3 self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt; genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood; open and receptive, like a valley; freely mixing, like muddy water.
15.4 Who can make sense of a muddy world? Let it be still, and it becomes clear. Who can remain calm, and through activity come back to life?
15.5 Those who embrace this Way do not over-extend themselves. Because they do not over-extend themselves, they do not wear out and are not replaced.

16.1 Empty yourself of everything. Maintain a steady serenity.
16.2 All things take shape and become active, but I see them return to their source, like vegetation that grows and flourishes, but returns to the root from which it springs.
16.3 Returning to the source is serenity; it is to realize one's destiny. To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal. To know the eternal is to be enlightened. Not to know the eternal is to act blindly and court disaster.
16.4 Whoever knows the eternal is open to everything. Whoever is open to everything is impartial. To be impartial is to be universal. To be universal is to be in accord with heaven. To be in accord with heaven is to be in accord with the Way.
16.5 To be in accord with the Way is to be eternal and to live free from harm even though the body dies.

17.1 The best leaders the people barely know. The next best they love and praise. The next they fear. And the next they hate.
17.2 Those who lack trust will not be trusted. Then they resort to promises.
17.3 But when they accomplish their task and complete their work, the people say, "We did it ourselves."

18.1 When the great Way is forgotten, the doctrines of humanity and morality arise.
18.2 When knowledge and cleverness appear, there emerges great hypocrisy.
18.3 When family relationships are not in harmony, filial piety and parental love are advocated.
18.4 When a country falls into chaos and disorder, there is praise of loyal patriots.

19.1 Abandon religion and discard cleverness, and people will benefit a hundredfold.
19.2 Abandon humanity and discard morality, and people will rediscover love and duty.
19.3 Abandon skill and discard profit, and there will be no thieves or robbers.
19.4 These three things relate to externals and are inadequate.
19.5 People need what they can depend on: reveal simplicity; embrace the natural; control selfishness; reduce desires.

20.1 Abandon memorizing, and vexations end. How much difference is there between yes and no? How much difference is there between good and evil?
20.2 Is what people fear really to be feared? How very remote the actual occurrence!
20.3 The people of the world make merry as though at a holiday feast or a spring carnival. I alone am inactive and desireless, like a new-born baby who cannot yet smile, unattached, as though homeless.
20.4 The people of the world possess more than enough. I alone seem to have lost all. I must be a fool, so indiscriminate and nebulous.
20.5 Most people seem knowledgeable and bright. I alone am simple and dull. Most people see differences and are sharp. I alone make no distinctions, seeming aimless, drifting as the sea, like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
20.6 People of the world all have a purpose. I alone seem impractical and out of place. I am different from others, and value drawing sustenance from the Mother.

21.1 All-embracing power proceeds only through the Way.
21.2 What is called the Way is elusive and intangible. Intangible and elusive, yet within it are thought-images. Elusive and intangible, yet within it are objects. Deep and obscure, yet within it is the life-force. The life-force is very real, and within it is certainty.
21.3 From the ancient times till now its manifestations have never ceased, by which we may see the beginning of all things.
21.4 How do I know that the beginnings of all things are so? Through this certainty.

22.1 To yield is to preserve unity. To bend is to become straight. To empty oneself is to become full. To wear oneself out is to be renewed. To have little is to be content. To have abundance is to be troubled.
22.2 Therefore the wise embrace the One and become examples for the world.
22.3 They do not display themselves and are therefore illumined. They do not justify themselves and are distinguished. They do not make claims and are therefore given credit. They do not seek glory and therefore are leaders.
22.4 Because they do not compete, the world cannot compete with them.
22.5 Is not the ancient saying true, "To yield is to preserve unity?" for true wholeness comes from turning within.

23.1 Nature says few words. A whirlwind does not last all morning, nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
23.2 What causes them? Nature. If even Nature's utterances do not last long, how much less should human beings'?
23.3 Those who follow the Way are one with the Way. Those who follow power are one with power. Those who abandon it are one with abandonment.
23.4 Those one with the Way are welcomed by the Way. Those one with power are welcomed by power. Those one with abandonment are welcomed by abandonment.
23.5 Those who lack trust will not be trusted.

24.1 Those who stand on tiptoe are not steady. Those who strain their strides cannot long keep up the pace.
24.2 Those who display themselves do not illuminate. Those who justify themselves are not distinguished.
24.3 Those who make claims are not given credit. Those who seek glory are not leaders.
24.4 According to the Way these are like extra food and waste, which all creatures detest. Therefore followers of the Way avoid them.

25.1 There is something mysterious and whole which existed before heaven and earth, silent, formless, complete, and never changing. Living eternally everywhere in perfection, it is the mother of all things.
25.2 I do not know its name; I call it the Way. If forced to define it, I shall call it supreme.
25.3 Supreme means absolute. Absolute means extending everywhere. Extending everywhere means returning to itself.
25.4 Thus the Way is supreme. Heaven is supreme. Earth is supreme. And the person is supreme. There are four supremes in the universe, and the person is one of them.
25.5 The person reflects the earth. The earth reflects heaven. Heaven reflects the Way. And the Way reflects its own nature.

26.1 Gravity is the foundation of levity. Serenity masters hastiness.
26.2 Therefore the wise travel all day without leaving their baggage. In the midst of honor and glory they remain leisurely and calm.
26.3 How can a leader of a great country behave lightheartedly and frivolously?
26.4 In frivolity, the foundation is lost. In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.

27.1 A good traveler leaves no trace. A good speaker makes no slips. A good accountant uses no devices.
27.2 A good door needs no bolts to remain shut. A good fastener needs no rope to hold its bond.
27.3 Therefore the wise are good at helping people, and consequently no one is rejected. They are good at saving things, and consequently nothing is wasted. This is called using the Light.
27.4 Therefore the good teach the bad, and the bad are lessons for the good.
27.5 Those who neither value the teacher nor care for the lesson are greatly deluded, though they may be learned. Such is the essential mystery.

28.1 Know the male and keep to the female. Become the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world is eternal power and returning to the innocence of a baby.
28.2 Know the bright and keep to the obscure. Become an example for the world. Being an example for the world is eternal power and returning to the infinite.
28.3 Know glory and keep to humility. Become the valley of the world. Being the valley of the world is eternal power and returning to the natural.
28.4 Breaking up the natural makes instruments. The wise use them and become leaders. Therefore a leader does not break.

29.1 Those who take over the world and act upon it, I notice, do not succeed.
29.2 The world is a sacred vessel, not to be tampered with. Those who tamper with it, spoil it. Those who seize it, lose it.
29.3 Some lead, and some follow. Some blow hot, and some blow cold. Some are strong, and some are weak. Some are up, and some are down.
29.4 Therefore the wise avoid excess, extravagance, and pride.

30.1 Whoever advises a leader according to the Way opposes conquest by force of arms. The use of force tends to rebound.
30.2 Where armies march, thorns and brambles grow. Whenever a great army is formed, scarcity and famine follow.
30.3 The skillful achieve their purposes and stop. They dare not rely on force.
30.4 They achieve their purposes, but do not glory in them. They achieve their purposes, but do not celebrate them. They achieve their purposes, but do not take pride in them. They achieve their purposes, but without violence.
30.5 Things reach their prime and then decline. Violence is contrary to the Way. Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.

31.1 Weapons are tools of destruction hated by people. Therefore followers of the Way never use them.
31.2 In peace leaders favor the creative left. In war they favor the destructive right.
31.4 Weapons are tools of destruction, not used by good leaders. When their use cannot be avoided, the best policy is calm restraint.
31.5 Even in victory there is no glory. Those who celebrate victory delight in slaughter. Those who delight in slaughter will not be successful leaders.
31.6 The killing of many should be mourned with sorrow. A victory should be celebrated with funeral ceremonies.

32.1 The Way is absolute and undefined. Like natural uncarved wood in simplicity, yet none in the world can overcome it.
32.2 If leaders would hold to it, the whole world would serve them spontaneously.
32.3 Heaven and earth join, and gentle rain falls, beyond the command of anyone, evenly upon all.
32.4 When civilization arose, names began. With names, one should know when to stop. Knowing when to stop, frees one from danger.
32.5 The Way in the world is like rivers and streams flowing into the sea.

33.1 Those who know others are wise. Those who know themselves are enlightened.
33.2 Those who overcome others require force. Those who overcome themselves need strength.
33.3 Those who are content are wealthy. Those who persevere have will power.
33.4 Those who do not lose their center endure. Those who die but maintain their power live eternally.

34.1 The great Way flows everywhere, both left and right.
34.2 All things derive their life from it, and it does not turn away from them. It accomplishes its work, but does not take possession. It provides for and nourishes everything, but does not control them.
34.3 Always without desires, it may be considered small.
34.4 The destination of all things, yet claiming nothing, it may be considered great.
34.5 Because it never claims greatness, its greatness is achieved.

35.1 Hold to the great form, and all the world follows, following without meeting harm, in health, peace, and happiness.
35.2 Music and delicacies to eat induce travelers to stay.
35.3 But the Way is mild to the taste. Looked at, it is invisible. Listened to, it is inaudible. Applied, it is inexhaustible.

36.1 In order to contract, it is necessary first to expand. In order to weaken, it is necessary first to strengthen. In order to reduce, it is necessary first to build up. In order to receive, it is necessary first to give.
36.2 This is called the mystic Light. The soft and gentle overcome the hard and strong.
36.3 As fish stay in the deep water, so sharp weapons of the state should not be displayed.

37.1 The Way never interferes, yet through it everything is done.
37.2 If leaders would follow the Way, the world would be reformed of its own accord. When reformed and desiring to act, let them be restrained by what is simply natural. Undefined simplicity is free of desires.
37.3 Being free of desires, it is serene; and the world finds peace of its own accord.

38.1 Superior power does not emphasize its power, and thus is powerful. Inferior power never forgets its power, and thus is powerless.
38.2 Superior power never interferes nor has an ulterior motive. Inferior power interferes and has an ulterior motive.
38.3 Superior humanity takes action but has no ulterior motive. Superior morality takes action and has an ulterior motive. Superior custom takes action, and finding no response, stretches out arms to force it on them.
38.4 Therefore when the Way is lost, power arises. When power is lost, humanity arises. When humanity is lost, morality arises. When morality is lost, custom arises. Now custom is a superficial expression of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder.
38.5 Foreknowledge is the flowering of the Way and the beginning of folly.
38.6 Therefore the mature dwell in the depth, not in the thin, in the fruit and not in the flowering. They reject one and accept the other.

39.1 The ancients attained oneness. Heaven attained oneness and became clear. Earth attained oneness and became stable. Spirits attained oneness and became divine.
39.2 The valleys attained oneness and became fertile. Creatures attained oneness and lived and grew. Kings and nobles attained oneness and became leaders. What made them so is oneness.
39.3 Without clarity, heaven would crack. Without stability, the earth would quake. Without divinity, spirits would dissipate.
39.4 Without fertility, the valleys would be barren. Without life and growth, creatures would die off. Without leadership, kings and nobles would fall.
39.5 Therefore humility is the basis for nobility, and the low is the basis for the high.
39.6 Thus kings and nobles call themselves orphans, lonely, and unworthy. Do they not depend upon the common people for support?
39.7 Dismantle the parts of a chariot, and there is no chariot.
39.8 Rather than tinkle like jade, rumble like rocks.

40.1 Returning is the movement of the Way. Gentleness is the method of the Way.
40.2 All things in the world come from being, and being comes from non-being.

41.1 When the wise hear the Way, they practice it diligently. When the mediocre hear of the Way, they doubt it.
41.2 When the foolish hear of the Way, they laugh out loud. If it were not laughed at, it would not be the Way.
41.3 Therefore it is said, "The enlightenment of the Way seems like dullness; progression in the Way seem like regression; the even path of the Way seems to go up and down."
41.4 Great power appears like a valley. Great purity appears tarnished. Great character appears insufficient. Solid character appears weak. True integrity appears changeable. Great space has no corners. Great ability takes time to mature. Great music has the subtlest sound. Great form has no shape.
41.5 The Way is hidden and indescribable. Yet the Way alone is adept at providing for all and bringing fulfillment.

42.1 The Way produced the One; the One produced two; two produced three; and three produced all things.
42.2 All things have the receptivity of the female and the activity of the male. Through union with the life force they blend in harmony.
42.3 People hate being orphaned, lonely, and unworthy. Yet kings and nobles call themselves such.
42.4 Often gain can be a loss, and loss can be a gain.
42.5 What others teach, I teach also: "The violent die a violent death." I shall make this primary in my teaching.

43.1 The softest things in the world overcome the hardest. Non-being penetrates even where there is no space. Through this I know the value of non-action.
43.2 Teaching without words and the value of non-action are understood by few in the world.

44.1 Fame or your life, which do you love more? Life or material wealth, which is more valuable? Loss or gain, which is worse?
44.2 Therefore those who desire most spend most. Those who hoard most lose most.
44.3 Those who are contented are not disappointed. Those who know when to stop prevent danger. Thus they can long endure.

45.1 The greatest perfection seems incomplete, but its utility is never impaired. The greatest fullness seems empty, but its use cannot be exhausted. What is most direct seems devious.
45.2 he greatest skill seems awkward. The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.
45.3 Movement overcomes cold. Stillness overcomes heat. The serene and calm are guides for all.

46.1 When the world lives in accord with the Way, horses work on farms. When the world does not live in accord with the Way, the cavalry practices in the parks.
46.2 The greatest temptation to crime is desire. The greatest curse is discontent. The greatest calamity is greed.
46.3 Whoever is content with contentment is always content.

47.1 One can know the world without going outside. One can see the Way of heaven without looking out the window. The further one goes the less one knows.
47.2 Therefore the wise know without going about, understand without seeing, and accomplish without acting.

48.1 The pursuit of learning is to increase day by day. The practice of the Way is to decrease day by day. Less and less is done until one reaches non-action.
48.2 When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. The world is led by not interfering.
48.3 Those who interfere cannot lead the world.

49.1 The wise have no mind-set. They regard the people's minds as their own.
49.2 They are good to people who are good. They are also good to people who are not good. This is the power of goodness.
49.3 They are honest to those who are honest. They are also honest to those who are dishonest. This is the power of honesty.
49.4 The wise live in the world peacefully and harmoniously. The people share a common heart, and the wise treat them as their own children.

50.1 Coming into life and going out at death,
50.2 the organs of life are thirteen; the organs of death are thirteen; and these thirteen make life vulnerable to death. Why is this so? Because they feed life too grossly.
50.3 It is said that those who preserve life walk the earth without fearing tigers and wild buffalo, and in battle they are not touched by weapons of war.
50.4 The wild buffalo's horns find nothing to gore; the tiger's claws find nothing to tear; and weapons' points find nothing to pierce. Why is this so? Because they have nothing for death to enter.

51.1 The Way produces all things. Power nourishes them. Matter gives them physical form. Environment shapes their abilities. Therefore all things respect the Way and honor power.
51.2 The Way is respected, and power is honored without anyone's order and always naturally. Therefore the Way produces all things, and power nourishes them, caring for them and developing them, sheltering them and comforting them, nurturing them and protecting them,
51.3 producing them but not possessing them, helping them but not obligating them, guiding them but not controlling them. This is mystical power.

52.1 The beginning of the universe is the mother of all things. Those who discover the mother understand the children.
52.2 Understanding the children and returning to the mother, they live always free from harm.
52.3 Close the mouth, shut the doors, and all of life is without strain.
52.4 Open the mouth, meddle with affairs, and all of life is beyond help.
52.5 Seeing the small is insight; to stay with the gentle is strength.
52.6 Use the Light, return to insight, and thereby be preserved from harm. This is practicing the eternal.

53.1 Those with even a scrap of sense walk on the main way and fear only straying from the path.
53.2 The main way is smooth and easy, but people like to be side-tracked.
53.3 While the courts are arrayed in splendor, the fields are full of weeds, and the granaries are empty.
53.4 Yet some wear embroidered clothes, carry sharp swords, over-indulge themselves with food and drink, and have more possessions than they can use. They are leaders in robbery. This is not the Way.

54.1 What is well established cannot be uprooted. What is firmly held cannot slip away. The power of sacrifice continues on from generation to generation.
54.2 Cultivated in the person, power becomes real. Cultivated in the family, power becomes abundant. Cultivated in the community, power endures. Cultivated in the nation, power flourishes. Cultivated in the world, power becomes universal.
54.3 Therefore see the person as a person, the family as a family, the community as a community, the nation as a nation, and the world as universal.
54.4 How do I know that the world is like this? By this.

55.1 Those filled with power are like new-born children. Poisonous insects will not sting them; ferocious beasts will not pounce upon them; predatory birds will not swoop down on them. Their bones are pliable, their muscles tender, but their grip is firm.
55.2 They have never known the union of man and woman, but the organ is fully formed, meaning that the vital essence is strong.
55.3 They may cry all day without getting hoarse, meaning that the harmony is perfect. To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal. To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
55.4 To try to force life is ominous. To force the vital essence with the mind is violence.
55.5 The prime is past, and decay follows, meaning that it is contrary to the Way. Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.

56.1 Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
56.2 Close the mouth; shut the doors. Smooth the sharpness; untie the tangles. Dim the glare; calm the turmoil. This is mystical unity.
56.3 Those achieving it are detached from friends and enemies, from benefit and harm, from honor and disgrace. Therefore they are the most valuable people in the world.

57.1 States are governed by justice. Wars are waged by violations. The world is mastered by nonintervention. How do I know this? By this:
57.2 The more restrictions there are, the poorer the people. The more sharp weapons, the more trouble in the state.
57.3 The more clever cunning, the more contrivances. The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.
57.4 Therefore the wise say, "Do not interfere, and people transform themselves. Love peace, and people do what is right.
57.5 Do not intervene, and people prosper. Have no desires, and people live simply."

58.1 When the government is relaxed, people are happy. When the government is strict, people are anxious.
58.2 Good fortune leans on bad fortune; bad fortune hides behind good fortune.
58.3 Who knows the results of process? Is there no justice? When the just become unjust, goodness becomes evil. People have been deluded for a long time.
58.4 Therefore the wise are square but not cornered, sharp but not cutting, straight but not strained, brilliant but not dazzling.

59.1 In leading people and serving heaven it is best to be frugal.
59.2 Being frugal is to be prepared from the start. Being prepared from the start is to build up power. By building up power nothing is impossible. If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits. Those without limits are capable of leading a country.
59.3 Those with maternal leadership can long endure.
59.4 This is to be deeply rooted in a firm foundation, the way of long life and eternal vision.

60.1 Leading a large country is like cooking a small fish.
60.2 When the world is led in accord with the Way, spirits lose their powers.
60.3 It is not that they lose their powers, but that their powers no longer harm people. Not only do the spirits not harm people, but the wise also do not harm people.
60.4 Not harming each other, spiritual power grows.

61.1 A large country is like low land where rivers flow, a place where everything comes together, the female of all. The female overcomes the male with tranquillity. Tranquillity is underneath.
61.2 A large country wins over a small country by placing itself below the small country. A small country wins over a large country by placing itself below the large country.
61.3 Thus some win by placing themselves below, and others win by being below.
61.4 A large country wants to protect people, and a small country wants to join and serve.
61.5 Thus both get what they want. It is best for the large country to place itself below.

62.1 The Way is sacred to all things. It is treasure for the good and sanctuary for the bad.
62.2 Fine words can buy honor. Good deeds can gain respect. Though there be bad people, why reject them?
62.3 Therefore at the crowning of the emperor or at the installation of the three ministers, instead of sending gifts of jade and a team of four horses, remain still and send the Way.
62.4 Why did the ancients prize this Way? Did they not say, "Seek, and you will find; let go, and you will be forgiven." Therefore the Way is valued by the world.

63.1 Act without interfering. Work without doing. Taste the tasteless.
63.2 Large or small, many or few, repay injury with goodness.
63.3 Handle the difficult while it is still easy. Handle the big while it is still small.
63.4 Difficult tasks begin with what is easy. Great accomplishments begin with what is small.
63.5 Therefore the wise never strive for the great and thus achieve greatness.
63.6 Rash promises inspire little trust. Taking things too lightly results in much difficulty.
63.7 Thus the wise always confront difficulties and therefore have no difficulty.

64.1 What stays still is easy to hold. Without omens it is easy to plan. The brittle is easy to shatter. The minute is easy to scatter.
64.2 Handle things before they appear. Organize things before there is confusion.
64.3 A tree as big as a person's embrace grows from a tiny shoot. A tower nine stories high begins with a mound of earth. A journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet.
64.4 To act is to fail. To grab is to lose. Therefore the wise do not act and do not fail. They do not grab and do not lose.
64.5 In handling things people usually fail when they are about to succeed. Be as careful at the end as at the beginning, and there will be no failure.
64.6 Therefore the wise desire to have no desires. They do not value rare treasures. They learn what is unknown, returning to what many have missed so that all things may be natural without interference.

65.1 The ancients who ruled skillfully did not try to enlighten people but kept them in the dark.
65.2 People are hard to lead when they are too clever. Those who lead with cleverness rob the country. Those who lead without cleverness bless the country.
65.3 Understanding these two is to know the eternal standard. Knowing the eternal standard is mystical power.
65.4 Mystical power is deep and far-reaching, leading all things to return to perfect harmony.

66.1 Great rivers and seas are lords of all mountain streams, because they are good at staying below them. Therefore they are lords of the streams.
66.2 Thus the wise in watching over the people speak humbly from below the people, and in leading the people get behind them.
66.3 In this way the wise watch over the people but do not oppress them; they lead the people but do not block them. Thus everyone happily goes along without getting tired.
66.4 Because they do not compete, the world cannot compete with them.

67.1 Everyone says the Way is great and beyond comparison. Because it is great, it cannot be compared. If it were compared, it already would have seemed small.
67.2 I have three treasures to be maintained and cherished: the first is love; the second is frugality; the third is not pushing oneself ahead of others.
67.3 From love comes courage; from frugality comes generosity; from not pushing oneself ahead of others comes leadership.
67.4 Now courage without love, generosity without frugality, and leadership by pushing oneself ahead of others are fatal.
67.5 For love wins all battles and is the strongest defense. Heaven gives love to save and protect.

68.1 The best soldier is not violent. The best fighter is not angry.
68.2 The best winner is not contentious. The best employer is humble.
68.3 This is known as the power of not striving, as ability in human relations, and as being in accord with heaven.

69.1 The strategists say, "Do not be the aggressor but the defender. Do not advance an inch, but retreat a foot instead."
69.2 This is movement without moving, stretching the arm without showing it, confronting enemies with the idea there is no enemy, holding in the hand no weapons.
69.3 No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy.
69.4 Underestimating the enemy will destroy my treasures. Thus when the battle is joined, it is the kind who will win.

70.1 My ideas are easy to understand and easy to practice. Yet no one understands them or practices them.
70.2 My ideas have a source; my actions have a master. Because people do not understand this, they do not know me. Since few know me, I am very precious.
70.3 Therefore the wise wear coarse clothes and keep the jewel inside.

71.1 To know that you do not know is the best. To think you know when you do not is a disease. Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.
71.2 The wise are free of disease, because they recognize the disease as a disease. Therefore they are free of disease.

72.1 When people lack a sense of awe, then something awful will happen.
72.2 Do not constrict people's living space. Do not suppress their livelihoods. If you do not harass them, they will not harass you.
72.3 Therefore the wise know themselves but do not display themselves. They love themselves but do not exalt themselves. They let go of one and accept the other.

73.1 Those brave in killing will be killed. Those brave in not killing will live.
73.2 Of these two, one is good, and one is harmful. Some are not favored by heaven. Who knows why? Even the wise consider it a difficult question.
73.3 The Way of heaven does not strive; yet it wins easily. It does not speak; yet it gets a good response. It does not demand; yet all needs are met. It is not anxious; yet it plans well.
73.4 The net of heaven is vast; its meshes are wide, but nothing slips through.

74.1 People are not afraid to die. So why threaten them with death?
74.2 If people were afraid of death, and lawbreakers could be caught and put to death, who would dare to do so?
74.3 There is the Lord of Death who executes. Trying to do his job is like trying to cut wood for the Master Carpenter. Those who try to cut wood for the Master Carpenter rarely escape injuring their own hands.

75.1 People are hungry, because rulers eat too much tax-grain. That is why people are starving.
75.2 People are hard to govern, because rulers interfere too much. That is why they are hard to govern.
75.3 People do not care about death, because rulers demand too much of life. That is why they do not care about death. Only those who do not interfere with living are best at valuing life.

76.1 When people are born, they are tender and supple. At death they are stiff and hard.
76.2 All things, like plants and trees, are tender and pliant while alive. At death they are dried and withered.
76.3 Therefore the stiff and hard are companions of death. The tender and supple are companions of life.
76.4 Thus strong arms do not win. A stiff tree will break.
76.5 The hard and strong will fall. The tender and supple will rise.

77.1 The Way of heaven is like bending a bow. The high is lowered; the low is raised. The excessive is reduced; the deficient is increased.
77.2 The Way of heaven takes from those who have too much and gives to those who do not have enough. The human way is different. It takes from those who do not have enough and gives to those who have too much.
77.3 Who has more than enough to give to the world? Only the person of the Way.
77.4 Therefore the wise act but do not rely on their own ability. They accomplish the task but claim no credit. They have no desire to seem superior.

78.1 Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water. Yet nothing is better at attacking the hard and strong. There is no substitute for it.
78.2 The weak overcomes the strong; the soft overcomes the hard. Everyone knows this, but no one puts it into practice.
78.3 Therefore the wise say, "Those who bear the humiliation of the people are able to minister to them. Those who take upon themselves the sins of the society are able to lead the world." Words of truth seem paradoxical.

79.1 Compromising with great hatred surely leaves some hatred. How can this be considered good?
79.2 Therefore the wise keep their part of an agreement and do not blame the other party.
79.3 The good fulfill their obligations; the bad exact obligations from others.
79.4 The Way of heaven is impartial. It always stays with the good.

80.1 In a small country with few people machines that can work ten or a hundred times faster are not needed. People who care about death do not travel far.
80.2 Even if there are ships and carriages, no one takes them. Even if there are armor and weapons, no one displays them.
80.3 People return to knotted rope for records. Food is tasty; clothes are beautiful; home is comfortable; customs are delightful.
80.4 Though neighboring communities see each other and hear each other's cocks crowing and dogs barking, they may grow old and die without going there.

81.1 True words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful.
81.2 The good do not argue. Those who argue are not good.
81.3 Those who know are not scholarly. The scholarly do not know.
81.4 The wise do not hoard. The more they give to others, the more they have.
81.5 The Way of heaven sharpens but does no harm. The Way of the wise accomplishes without striving.

Bynner (Translator)


"Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Teh Ching is probably the most influential work of Asian thought. . . . This lucid translation demonstrates that these teachings are useful in the arts of leadership as they are in developing a sense of balance and harmony in everyday life."— Branches of Light

When you read the translator's book, you will benefit tremendously by his/her footnotes and insights, without which the Daodejing's wisdom and magic is not totally revealed. This project is concerned only with comparing line by line translations of the various masters. To unlock the beauty and depth of the Daodejing's wisdom, you can do better than simply reading the translated text, we need the expertise of a good guide and the author is such a person.


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1.1 Existence is beyond the power of words To define: Terms may be used But are none of them absolute.
1.2 In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words, Words came out of the womb of matter;
1.3 And whether a man dispassionately Sees to the core of life Or passionately Sees the surface,
1.4 The core and the surface Are essentially the same, Words making them seem different Only to express appearance.
1.5 If name be needed, wonder names them both: From wonder into wonder Existence opens.

2.1 People through finding something beautiful Think something else unbeautiful,
2.2 Through finding one man fit Judge another unfit.
2.3 Life and death, though stemming from each other, seem to conflict as stages of change, Difficult and easy as phases of achievement, Long and short as measures of contrast,
2.4 High and low as degrees of relation; But, since the varying to tones gives music to a voice And what is is the was of what shall be,
2.5 The sanest man Sets up no deed, Lays down no law,
2.6 Takes everything that happens as it comes, As something to animate, not to appropriate,
2.7 To earn, not to own, To accept naturally without self-importance: If you never assume importance You never lose it.

3.1 It is better not to make merit a matter of reward Lest people conspire and contend,
3.2 Not to pile up rich belongings Lest they rob,
3.3 Nor to excite by display Lest they covet.
3.4 A sound leader's aim Is to open people's hearts, Fill their stomachs, Calm their wills, Brace their bones
3.5 And so to clarify their thoughts and cleanse their needs That no cunning meddler could touch them:
3.6 Without being forced, without strain or constraint, Good government comes of itself.

4.1 Existence, by nothing bred, Breeds everything
4.2 Parent of the universe,
4.3 It smooths rough edges, Unties hard knots, Tempers the sharp sun, Lays blowing dust,
4.4 Its image in the wellspring never fails.
4.5 But how was it conceived? - this image Of no other sire.

5.1 Nature, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs, Faces the decay of its fruits.
5.2 A sound man, immune as to a sacrifice of straw dogs, Faces the passing of human generations.
5.3 The universe, like a bellows, Is always emptying, always full: The more it yields, the more it holds.
5.4 Men come to their wit's end arguing about it And had better meet it at the marrow.

6.1 The breath of life moves through a deathless valley Of mysterious motherhood
6.2 Which conceives and bears the universal seed, The seeming of a world never to end,
6.3 Breath for men to draw from as they will: And the more they take of it, the more remains.

7.1 The universe is deathless,
7.2 Is deathless because, having no finite self, It stays infinite.
7.3 A sound man by not advancing himself Stays the further ahead of himself,
7.4 By not confining himself to himself Sustains himself outside himself:
7.5 By never being an end in himself He endlessly becomes himself.

8.1 Man is at his best, like water, Serves as he goes along: Like water he seeks his own level, The common level of life,
8.2 Loves living close to the earth, Living clear down in his heart, Loves kinship with his neighbours, The pick of words that tell the truth,
8.3 The even tenor of a well-run state, The fair profit of able dealing, The right timing of useful deeds,
8.4 And for blocking no one's way No one blames him.

9.1 Keep stretching a bow You repent of the pull,
9.2 A whetted saw Goes thin and dull,
9.3 Surrounded with treasure Your lie ill at ease,
9.4 Proud beyond measure You come to your knees:
9.5 Do enough, without vying, Be living, not dying.

10.1 Can you hold the door of your tent Wide to the firmament?
10.2 Can you, with the simple stature Of a child, breathing nature, Become, notwithstanding, A man?
10.4 Can you continue befriending With no prejudice, no ban?
10.5 Can you, mating with heaven, Serve as the female part?
10.6 Can your learned head take leaven From the wisdom in your heart?
10.7 If you can bear issue and nourish its growing. If you can guide without claim or strife, If you can stay in the lead of men without their knowing, You are at the core of life.

11.1 Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub By vacancies joining them for a wheel's use.
11.2 The use of clay in moulding pitchers Comes from the hollow of its absence;
11.3 Doors, windows, in a house, Are used for their emptiness:
11.4 Thus we are helped by what is not to use what is.

12.1 The five colours can blind, The five tones deafen, The five tastes cloy.
12.2 The race, the hunt, can drive men mad And their booty leave them no peace.
12.3 Therefore a sensible man Prefers the inner to the outer eye: He has his yes, - he has his no.

13.1 Favour and disfavour have been called equal worries, Success and failure have been called equal ailments.
13.2 How can favour and disfavour be called equal worries? Because winning favour burdens a man With the fear of losing it.
13.3 How can success and failure be called equal ailments? Because a man thinks of the personal body as self. When he no longer thinks of the personal body as self Neither failure nor success can ail him.
13.4 One who knows his lot to be the lot of all other men Is a safe man to guide them, One who recognizes all men as members of his own body Is a sound man to guard them.

14.1 What we look for beyond seeing And call the unseen, Listen for beyond hearing, Grasp for beyond reaching and call the
14.2 Merge beyond understanding In a oneness
14.3 Which does not merely rise and give light, Does not merely set and leave darkness, But forever sends forth a succession of living things as mysterious As the unbegotten existence to which they return.
14.4 That is why men have called them empty phenomena, Meaningless images, In a mirage With no face to meet, No back to follow.
14.5 Yet one who is anciently aware of existence Is master of every moment, Feels no break since time beyond time In the way life flows.

15.1 Long ago the land was ruled with a wisdom Too fine, too deep, to be fully understood
15.2 And, since it was beyond men's full understanding, Only some of it has come down to us, as in these sayings: 'Alert as a winter-farer on an icy stream,' 'Wary as a man in an ambush,' 'Considerate as a welcome guest,'
15.3 'Selfless as melting ice,' 'Green as an uncut tree,' 'Open as a valley,' And this one also, 'Roiled as a torrent.'
15.4 Why roiled as a torrent? Because when a man is in turmoil how shall he find peace Save by staying patient till the stream clears? How can a man's life keep its course If he will not let it flow?
15.5 Those who flow as life flows know They need no other force: They feel no wear, they feel no tear, They need no mending, no repair.

16.1 Be utterly humble And you shall hold to the foundation of peace.
16.2 Be at one with all these living things which, having arisen and flourished, Return to the quiet whence they came, Like a healthy growth of vegetation Falling back upon the root.
16.3 Acceptance of this return to the root has been called 'quietism,' Acceptance of quietism has been condemned as 'fatalism.' But fatalism is acceptance of destiny And to accept destiny is to face life with open eyes, Whereas not to accept destiny is to face death blindfold.
16.4 He who is open-eyed is open-minded, He who is open-minded is open-hearted, He who is open-hearted is kingly, He who is kingly is godly, He who is godly is useful, He who is useful is infinite,
16.5 He who is infinite is immune, He who is immune is immortal.

17.1 A leader is best When the people barely know that he exists, Not so good when people obey and acclaim him, Worst when they despise him.
17.2 'Fail to honour people, They fail to honour you;'
17.3 But of a good leader, who talks little, When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, They will all say, 'We did this ourselves.'

18.1 When people lost sight of the way to live Came codes of love and honesty,
18.2 Learning came, charity came, Hypocrisy took charge;
18.3 When differences weakened family ties Came benevolent fathers and dutiful sons;
18.4 And when lands were disrupted and misgoverned Came ministers commended as loyal.

19.1 Rid of formalized wisdom and learning People would be a hundredfold happier,
19.2 Rid of conventionalized duty and honour People would find their families dear,
19.3 Rid of legalized profiteering People would have no thieves to fear.
19.4 These methods of life have failed, all three,
19.5 Here is the way, it seems to me: Set people free, As deep in their hearts they would like to be, From private greeds And wanton needs.

20.1 Leave off fine learning! End the nuisance Of saying yes to this and perhaps to that, Distinctions with how little difference! Categorical this, categorical that, What slightest use are they!
20.2 If one man leads another must follow, How silly that is and how false!
20.3 Yet conventional men lead an easy life With all their feast-days, A constant spring visit to the Tall Tower, While I am a simpleton, a do-nothing, Not big enough yet to raise a hand, Not grown enough to smile, A homeless, worthless waif.
20.4 Men of the world have a surplus of goods, While I am left out, owning nothing. What a booby I must be Not to know my way round, What a fool!
20.5 The average man is so crisp and so confident That I ought to be miserable Going on and on like the sea, Drifting nowhere.

21.1 The surest test if a man be sane Is if he accepts life whole, as it is,
21.2 Without needing by measure or touch to understand The measureless untouchable source Of its images, The measureless untouchable source Of its substances, The source which, while it appears dark emptiness, Brims with a quick force Farthest away And yet nearest at hand
21.3 From oldest time unto this day, Changing its images with origin:
21.4 What more need I know of the origin Than this?

22.1 "Yield and you need not break:" Bent you can straighten, Emptied you can hold, Torn you can mend; And as want can reward you So wealth can bewilder.
22.2 Aware of this, a wise man has the simple return Which other men seek:
22.3 Without inflaming himself He is kindled, Without explaining himself Is explained, Without taking credit Is accredited, Laying no claim Is acclaimed
22.4 And, because he does not compete, Finds peaceful competence.
22.5 How true is the old saying "Yield and you need not break"! How completely it comes home!

23.1 Nature does not have to insist, Can blow for only half a morning, Rain for only half a day,
23.2 And what are these winds and these rains but natural? If nature does not have to insist, Why should man?
23.3 It is natural too That whoever follows the way of life feels alive, That whoever uses it properly feels well used, Whereas he who loses the way of life feels lost,
23.4 That whoever keeps to the way of life Feels at home, Whoever uses it properly Feels welcome, Whereas he who uses it improperly Feels improperly used:
23.5 'Fail to honour people, They fail to honour you.'

24.1 Standing tiptoe a man loses balance, Walking stride he has no pace,
24.2 Kindling himself he fails to light, Acquitting himself he forfeits his hearers,
24.3 Admiring himself he does so alone. Pride has never brought a man greatness
24.4 But, according to the way of life, Brings the ills that make him unfit, Make him unclean in the eyes of his neighbour, And a sane man will have none of them.

25.1 Before creation a presence existed, Self-contained, complete, Formless, voiceless, mateless, Changeless, Which yet pervaded itself With unending motherhood.
25.2 Though there can be no name for it, I have called it 'the way of life.' Perhaps I should have called it 'the fullness of life,'
25.3 Since fullness implies widening into space, Implies still further widening, Implies widening until the circle is whole.
25.4 In this sense The way of life is fulfilled, Heaven is fulfilled, Earth fulfilled And a fit man also is fulfilled: These are the four amplitudes of the universe And a fit man is one of them:
25.5 Man rounding the way of earth, Earth rounding the way of heaven, Heaven rounding the way of life Till the circle is full.

26.1 Gravity is the root of all grace, The mainstay of all speed.
26.2 A traveler of true means, whatever the days pace, Remembers his provision-van And, however fine prospect be offered, is a man With a calm head.
26.3 What lord of countless chariots would ride them in vain, Would make himself fool of the realm,
26.4 With pace beyond rein, Speed beyond helm?

27.1 One may move so well that a footprint never shows, Speak so well that the tongue never slips, Reckon so well that no counter is needed,
27.2 Seal an entrance so tight, though using no lock, That it cannot be opened, Bind a hold so firm, though using no cord, That it cannot be untied.
27.3 All these are traits not only of a sound man But of many a man thought to be unsound. A sound man is good at salvage, At seeing than nothing is lost. Having what is called insight,
27.4 A good man, before he can help a bad man, Finds in himself the matter with the bad man.
27.5 And whichever teacher Discounts the lesson Is as far off the road as the other, Whatever else he may know. That is the heart of it.

28.1 'One who has a man's wings And a woman's also Is in himself a womb of the world' And, being a womb of the world, Continuously, endlessly, Gives birth;
28.2 One who, preferring light, Prefers darkness also Is in himself an image of the world And, being an image of the world, Is continuously, endlessly The dwelling of creation;
28.3 One who is highest of men And humblest also Is in himself a valley of the world, And, being a valley of the world, Continuously, endlessly Conducts the one source From which vessels may be usefully filled;
28.4 Servants of the state are such vessels, To be filled from an undiminishing supply.

29.1 Those who would take over the earth And shape it to their will Never, I notice, succeed.
29.2 The earth is like a vessel so sacred That at the mere approach of the profane It is marred And when they reach out their fingers it is gone.
29.3 For a time in the world some force themselves ahead And some are left behind, For a time in the world some make a great noise And some are held silent, For a time in the world some are puffed fat And some are kept hungry, For a time in the world some push aboard And some are tipped out:
29.4 At no time in the world will a man who is sane Over-reach himself, Over-spend himself, Over-rate himself.

30.1 One who would guide a leader of men in the uses of life Will warn him against the use of arms for conquest. Weapons often turn upon the wielder,
30.2 An army's harvest is a waste of thorns, Conscription of a multitude of men Drains the next year dry.
30.3 A good general, daring to march, dares also to halt, Will never press his triumph beyond need.
30.4 What he must do he does but not for glory, What he must do he does but not for show, What he must do he does but not for self; He has done it because it had to be done, Not from a hot head.
30.5 Let life ripen and then fall, Force is not the way at all: Deny the way of life and you are dead.

31.1 Even the finest arms are an instrument of evil, A spread of plague, And the way for a vital man to go is not the way of a soldier.
31.2 But in time of war men civilized in peace Turn from their higher to their lower nature.
31.3 Arms are an instrument of evil, No measure for thoughtful men Until there fail all other choice But sad acceptance of it.
31.4 Triumph is not beautiful. He who thinks triumph beautiful Is one with a will to kill, And one with a will to kill Shall never prevail upon the world.
31.5 It is a good sign when man's higher nature comes forward, When retainers take charge And the master stays back As in the conduct of a funeral.
31.6 The death of a multitude is a cause for mourning: Consider your triumph as a funeral.
32.4 But men of culture came, with their grades and their distinctions; And as soon as such differences had been devised No one knew where to end them, Though the one who does know the end of all such differences Is the sound man:

32.1 Existence is infinite, not to be defined; And, though it seems a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, It is not to be lightly played with and laid down.
32.2 When rulers adhered to the way of life, They were upheld by natural loyalty:
32.3 Heaven and earth were joined and made fertile, Life was a freshness of rain, Subject to none, Free to all.
32.5 Existence Might be likened to the course Of many rivers reaching the one sea.

33.1 Knowledge studies others, Wisdom is self-known;
33.2 Muscle masters brothers, Self mastery is bone;
33.3 Content need never borrow, Ambition wanders blind:
33.4 Vitality cleaves to the marrow Leaving death behind.

34.1 Bountiful life, letting anyone attend, Making no distinction between left or right.
34.2 Feeding everyone, refusing no one, Has not provided this bounty to show how much it owns, Has not fed and clad its guests with any thought of claim;
34.3 And, because it lacks the twist Of mind and body in what it has done, The guile of head or hands, Is not always respected by a guest.
34.4 Others appreciate welcome from the perfect host
34.5 Who, barely appearing to exist, Exists the most.

35.1 If the sign of life is in your face He who responds to it Will feel secure and fit
35.2 As when, in a friendly place, Sure of hearty care, A traveler gladly waits.
35.3 Though it may not taste like food And he may not see the fare Or hear the sound of plates, How endless it is and how good!

36.1 He who feels punctured Must once have been a bubble, He who feels unarmed Must have carried arms, He who feels belittled Must have been consequential, He who feels deprived Must have had privilege,
36.2 Whereas a man with insight Knows that to keep under is to endure.
36.3 What happens to a fish pulled out of a pond? Or to an implement of state pulled out of a scabbard? Unseen, they survive.

37.1 The way to use life is to do nothing through acting, The way to use life is to do everything through being.
37.2 When a leader knows this, His land naturally goes straight. And the world's passion to stray from straightness Is checked at the core By the simple undatable cleanness Through which men cease from coveting,
37.3 And to a land where men cease from coveting Peace comes of course.

38.1 A man of sure fitness, without making a point of his fitness, Stays fit; A man of unsure fitness, assuming an appearance of fitness, Becomes unfit.
38.2 The man of sure fitness never makes an act of it Nor considers what it may profit him; The man of unsure fitness makes an act of it And considers what it may profit him.
38.3 However a man with a kind heart may proceed, He forgets what it may profit him; However a man with a just mind proceed, He remembers what it may profit him; However a man of conventional conduct proceed, if he be not complied with Out goes his fist to enforce compliance.
38.4 Here is what happens: Losing the way of life, men rely first on their fitness; Losing fitness, they turn to kindness; Losing kindness, they turn to justness; Losing justness, they turn to convention.
38.5 Conventions are fealty and honesty gone to waste, They are the entrance of disorder. False teachers of life use flowery words And start nonsense.
38.6 The man of stamina stays with the root Below the tapering. Stays with the fruit Beyond the flowering: He has his no and he has his yes.

39.1 The wholeness of life has, from of old, been made manifest in its parts: Clarity has been made manifest in heaven, Firmness in earth, Purity in the spirit,
39.2 In the valley conception, In the river procreation; And so in a leader are the people made manifest For wholeness of use.
39.3 But for clarity heaven would be veiled, But for firmness earth would have crumbled, But for purity spirit would have fumbled,
39.4 But for conception the valley would have failed, But for procreation the river have run dry; So, save for the people, a leader shall die:
39.5 Always the low carry the high On a root for growing by. What can stand lofty with no low foundation?
39.6 No wonder leaders of a land profess Their stature and their station To be servitude and lowliness!
39.7 If rim and spoke and hub were not, Where would be the chariot?
39.8 Who will prefer the jingle of jade pendants if He once has heard stone growing in a cliff!

40.1 Life on its way returns into a mist, Its quickness is its quietness again:
40.2 Existence of this world of things and men Renews their needing to exist.

41.1 Men of stamina, knowing the way of life, Steadily keep to it; Unstable men, knowing the way of life, Keep to it or not according to occasion;
41.2 Stupid men, knowing the way of life And having once laughed at it, laugh again the louder. If you need to be sure which way is right, you can tell by their laughing at it.
41.3 They fling the old charges: 'A wick without oil,' 'For every step forward a step or two back,' To such laughers a level road looks steep, Top seems bottom,
41.4 'White appears black,' 'Enough is a lack,' Endurance is a weakness, Simplicity a faded flower.
41.5 But eternity is his who goes straight round the circle, Foundation is his who can feel beyond touch, Harmony is his who can hear beyond sound, Pattern is his who can see beyond shape: Life is his who can tell beyond words Fulfilment of the unfulfilled.

42.1 Life, when it came to be, Bore one, then two, then three Elements of things; And thus the three began - Heaven and earth and man - To balance happenings:
42.2 Cool night behind, warm day ahead, For the living, for the dead.
42.3 Though a commoner be loth to say That he is only common clay, Kings and princes often state How humbly they are leading,
42.4 Because in true succeeding High and low correlate.
42.5 It is an ancient thought, Which men have taught, That he who over-reaches And tries to live by force Shall die thereby of course, And is what my own heart teaches.

43.1 As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, So to yield with life solves the insoluble: To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.
43.2 but this unworded lesson, This easy example, Is lost upon men.

44.1 Which means more to you, You or your renown? Which brings more to you, You or what you own? And which would cost you more If it were gone?
44.2 The niggard pays, The miser loses.
44.3 The least ashamed of all men Goes back if he chooses: He knows both ways, He starts again.

45.1 A man's work, however finished it seem, Continue as long as he live; A man, however perfect he seem, Is needed as long as he live: As long as truth appears falsity, The seer a fool, The prophet a dumb lout,
45.2 -
45.3 If you want to keep warm keep stirring about, Keep still if you want to keep cool, And in all the world one day no doubt Your way shall be the rule.

46.1 In a land where the way of life is understood Race-horses are led back to serve the field; In a land where the way of life is not understood War-horses are bred on the autumn yield.
46.2 Owning is the entanglement, Wanting is the bewilderment, Taking is the presentiment:
46.3 Only he who contains content Remains content.

47.1 There is no need to run outside For better seeing, Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide At the center of your being; For the more you leave, the less you learn.
47.2 Search your heart and see If he is wise who takes each turn: The way to do is to be.

48.1 A man anxious for knowledge adds more to himself every minute; A man acquiring life loses himself in it, Has less and less to bear in mind, Less and less to do,
48.2 Because life, he finds, is well inclined, Including himself too. Often a man sways the world like a wind But not by deed;
48.3 And if there appear to you to be need Of motion to sway it, it has left you behind.

49.1 A sound man's heart is not shut within itself But is open to other people's hearts:
49.2 I find good people good, And I find bad people good If I am good enough
49.3 I trust men of their word And I trust liars If I am true enough;
49.4 I feel the heart-beats of others Above my own If I am enough of a father, Enough of a son.

50.1 Death might appear to be the issue of life,
50.2 Since for every three out of ten being born Three out of ten are dying. They why Should another three out of ten continue breeding death? Because of sheer madness to multiply.
50.3 But there is one out of ten, so sure of life That tiger and wild bull keep clear of his inland path, Weapons turn from him on the battle-field,
50.4 No bull-horn could tell where to gore him, No tiger-claw where to tear him, No weapon where to enter him And why? Because he has no death to die.

51.1 Existence having born them And fitness bred them, While matter varied their forms And breath empowered them, All created things render, to the existence and fitness they depend on, An obedience
51.2 Not commanded but of course. And since this is the way existence bears issue And fitness raises, attends, Shelters, feeds and protects, Do you likewise:
51.3 Be parent, not possessor, Attendant, not master, Be concerned not with obedience but with benefit, And you are at the core of living.

52.1 The source of life Is as a mother.
52.2 Be fond of both mother and children but know the mother dearer And you outlive death.
52.3 Curb your tongue and senses And you are beyond trouble,
52.4 Let them loose And you are beyond help.
52.5 Discover that nothing is too small for clear vision, Too insignificant for tender strength,
52.6 Use outlook And insight, Use them both And you are immune: For you have witnessed eternity.

53.1 If I had any learning Of a highway wide and fit, Would I lose it at each turning?
53.2 Yet look at people spurning Natural use of it!
53.3 See how fine the palaces And see how poor the farms, How bare the peasants' granaries
53.4 While gentry wear embroideries Hiding sharpened arms, And the more they have the more they seize, How can there be such men as these Who never hunger, never thirst Yet eat and drink until they burst! There are other brigands, but these are the worst Of all the highway's harms.

54.1 'Since true foundation cannot fail But holds as good as new, Many a worshipful son shall hail A father who lived true.'
54.2 Realized in one man, fitness has its rise; Realized in a family, fitness multiplies; Realized in a village, fitness gathers weight; Realized in a country, fitness becomes great; Realized in the world, fitness fills the skies.
54.3 And thus the fitness of one man You find in the family he began, You find in the village that accrued, You find in the country that ensued, You find in the world's whole multitude.
54.4 How do I know this integrity? Because it could all begin in me.

55.1 He whom life fulfills, Though he remains a child, Is immune to the poisonous sting Of insects, to the ravening Of wild beasts or to vultures' bills. He needs no more bone or muscle than a baby's for sure hold.
55.2 Without thought of joined organs, he is gender Which grows firm, unfaltering.
55.3 Though his voice should cry out at full pitch all day, it would not rasp but would stay tender Through the perfect balancing Of a man at endless ease with everything Because of the true life he has led.
55.4 To try for more than this bodes ill. It is said, ' there's a way where there's a will;'
55.5 But let life ripen and then fall. Will is not the way at all: Deny the way of life and you are dead.

56.1 Those who know do not tell, Those who tell do not know.
56.2 Not to set the tongue loose But to curb it, Not to have edges that catch But to remain untangled, Unblinded, Unconfused, Is to find balance,
56.3 And he who holds balance beyond sway of love or hate, Beyond reach of profit or loss, Beyond care of praise or blame, Has attained the highest post in the world.

57.1 A realm is governed by ordinary acts, A battle is governed by extraordinary acts; The world is governed by no acts at all. And how do I know? This is how I know.
57.2 Act after act prohibits Everything but poverty, Weapon after weapon conquers Everything but chaos,
57.3 Business after business provides A craze of waste, Law after law breeds A multitude of thieves.
57.4 Therefore a sensible man says: If I keep from meddling with people, they take care of themselves, If I keep from commanding people, they behave themselves,
57.5 If I keep from preaching at people, they improve themselves, If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves.

58.1 The less a leader does and says The happier his people, The more a leader struts and brags The sorrier his people.
58.2 Often what appears to be unhappiness is happiness And what appears to be happiness is unhappiness.
58.3 Who can see what leads to What When happiness appears and yet is not, When what should be is nothing but a mask Disguising what should not be? Who can but ask An end to such a stupid plot!
58.4 Therefore a sound man shall so square the circle And circle the square as not to injure, not to impede: The glow of his life shall not daze, It shall lead.

59.1 To lead men and serve heaven, weigh the worth Of the one source:
59.2 Use the single force Which doubles the strength of the strong By enabling man to go right, disabling him to go wrong, Be so charged with the nature of life that you give your people birth,
59.3 That you mother your land, are the fit
59.4 And ever living root of it: The seeing root, whose eye is infinite.

60.1 Handle a large kingdom with as gentle a touch as if you were cooking a small fish.
60.2 If you manage people by letting them alone, Ghosts of the dead shall not haunt you.
60.3 Not that there are no ghosts But that their influence become propitious
60.4 In the sound existence of a living man: There is no difference between the quick and the dead, They are one channel of vitality.

61.1 A large country is the low level of interflowing rivers. It draws people to the sea-end of a valley As the female draws the male, Receives it into absorbing depth Because depth always absorbs.
61.2 And so a large country, inasfar as it is deeper than a small country, Absorbs the small - Or a small country, inasfar as it is deeper than a large country, Absorbs the large.
61.3 Some countries consciously seek depth into which to draw others. Some countries naturally have depth into which to draw others:
61.4 A large country needs to admit, A small country needs to emit,
61.5 And so each country can naturally have what it needs If the large country submit.

62.1 Existence is sanctuary: It is a good man's purse, It is also a bad man's keep.
62.2 Clever performances come dear or cheap, Goodness comes free; And how shall a man who acts better deny a man who acts worse This right to be.
62.3 Rather, when an emperor is crowned, let the three Ministers whom he appoints to receive for him fine horses and gifts of jade Receive for him also the motionless gift of integrity,
62.4 The gift prized as highest by those ancients who said, 'Only pursue an offended to show him the way.' What men in all the world could have more wealth than they?

63.1 Men knowing the way of life Do without acting, Effect without enforcing, Taste without consuming;
63.2 'Through the many they find the few, Through the humble the great;' They 'respect their foes,'
63.3 They 'face the simple fact before it becomes involved. Solve the small problem before it becomes big.'
63.4 The most involved fact in the world Could have been faced when it was simple, The biggest problem in the world Could have been solved when it was small.
63.5 The simple fact that he finds no problem big Is the sane man's prime achievement.
63.6 If you say yes too quickly You may have to say no, If you think things are done too easily You may find them hard to do:
63.7 If you face trouble sanely It cannot trouble you.

64.1 Before it move, hold it, Before it go wrong, mould it, Drain off water in winter before it freeze, Before weeds grow, sow them to the breeze,
64.2 You can deal with what has not happened, can foresee Harmful events and not allow them to be.
64.3 Thought - as naturally as a seed becomes a tree of arm-wide girth -/ There can rise a nine-tiered tower from a man's handful of earth Or here at your feet a thousand-mile journey have birth,
64.4 Quick action bruises, Quick grasping loses. Therefore a sane man's care is not to exert One move that can miss, one move that can hurt.
64.5 Most people who miss, after almost winning, Should have 'known the end from the beginning.'
64.6 The cultured might call him heathenish, This man of few words, because his one care Is not to interfere but to let nature renew The sense of direction men undo.

65.1 Sound old rulers, it is said, Left people to themselves, instead Of wanting to teach everything And start the people arguing.
65.2 With mere instruction in command, So that people understand Less than they know, woe is the land; But happy the land that is ordered so
65.3 That they understand more than they know. For everyone's good this double key Locks and unlocks equally.
65.4 If modern man would use it, he Could find old wisdom in his heart And clear his vision enough to see From start to finish and finish to start The circle rounding perfectly.

66.1 Why are rivers and seas lords of the waters? Because they afford the common level And so become lords of the waters.
66.2 The common people love a sound man Because he does not talk above their level, Because, though he lead them, He follows them,
66.3 He imposes no weight upon them; And they in turn, because he does not impede them, Yield to him, content:
66.4 People never tire of anyone Who is not bent upon comparison.

67.1 Everyone says that my way of life is the way of a simpleton. Being largely the way of a simpleton is what makes it worth while. If it were not the way of a simpleton It would long ago have been worthless,
67.2 These possessions of a simpleton being the three I choose And cherish: To care, To be fair, To be humble.
67.3 When a man cares he is unafraid, When he is fair he leaves enough for others, When he is humble he can grow;
67.4 Whereas if, like men of today, he be bold without caring, Self-indulgent without sharing, Self-important without shame, He is dead.
67.5 The invincible shield Of caring Is a weapon from the sky Against being dead.

68.1 The best captain does not plunge headlong Nor is the best soldier a fellow hot to fight.
68.2 The greatest victor wins without a battle: He who overcomes men understands them.
68.3 There is a quality of quietness Which quickens people by no stress: 'Fellowship with heaven,' as of old, Is fellowship with man and keeps its hold.

69.1 The handbook of the strategist has said: 'Do not invite the fight, accept it instead,' 'Better a foot behind than an inch too far ahead,'
69.2 Which means: Look a man straight in the face and make no move, Roll up your sleeve and clench no fist, Open your hand and show no weapon, Bare your breast and find no foe.
69.3 But as long as there be a foe, value him, respect him, measure him, be humble toward him; Let him not strip from you, however strong he be, Compassion, the one wealth which can afford him.

70.1 My way is so simple to feel, so easy to apply, That only a few will feel it or apply it.
70.2 If it were not the lasting way, the natural way to try, If it were a passing way, everyone would try it. But however few shall go my way Or feel concerned with me, Some there are and those are they Who witness what they see:
70.3 Sanity is a haircloth sheath With a jewel underneath.

71.1 A man who knows how little he knows is well, A man who knows how much he knows is sick. If, when you see the symptoms, you can tell, Your cure is quick.
71.2 A sound man knows that sickness makes him sick And before he catches it his cure is quick.

72.1 Upon those who defy authority It shall be visited,
72.2 But not behind prison walls Nor through oppression of their kin; Men sanely led Are not led by duress.
72.3 To know yourself and not show yourself, To think well of yourself and not tell of yourself, Be that your no and your yes.

73.1 A man with outward courage dares to die, A man with inward courage dares to live;
73.2 But either of these men Has better and a worse side than the other. And who can tell exactly to which qualities heaven objects?
73.3 Heaven does nothing to win the day, Says nothing - Is echoed, Orders nothing - Is obeyed, Advises nothing - Is right:
73.4 And which of us, seeing that nothing is out side the vast Wide-meshed net of heaven, knows just how it is cast?

74.1 Death is no threat to people Who are not afraid to die;
74.2 But even if these offenders feared death all day, Who would be rash enough To act as executioner?
74.3 Nature is executioner. When man usurps the place, A carpenter's apprentice takes the place of the master: And 'an apprentice hacking with the master's axe May slice his own hand.'

75.1 People starve If taxes eat their grain,
75.2 And the faults of starving people Are the fault of their rulers. That is why people rebel.
75.3 Men who have to fight for their living And are not afraid to die for it Are higher men than those who, stationed high, Are too fat to dare to die.

76.1 Man, born tender and yielding, Stiffens and hardens in death.
76.2 All living growth is pliant, Until death transfixes it.
76.3 Thus men who have hardened are 'kin of death' And men who stay gentle are 'kin of life.'
76.4 Thus a hard-hearted army is doomed to lose. A tree hard-fleshed is cut down:
76.5 Down goes the tough and big, Up comes the tender sprig.

77.1 Is not existence Like a drawn bow? The ends approach, The height shortens, the narrowness widens.
77.2 True living would take from those with too much Enough for those with too little, Whereas man exacts from those with too little Still more for those with too much.
77.3 Now what man shall have wealth enough to share with all men Save one who can freely draw from the common means?
77.4 A sane man needs no better support, no richer reward, Than this common means, Through which he is all men's equal.

78.1 What is more fluid, more yielding than water? Yet it comes back again, wearing down the rigid strength which cannot yield to withstand it.
78.2 So it is that the strong are overcome by the weak, The haughty by the humble. This we know But never learn,
78.3 So that when wise men tell us, 'He who bites the dust Is owner of the earth, He who is scapegoat Is king,' They seem to twist the truth.

79.1 If terms to end a quarrel leave bad feeling, What good are they?
79.2 So a sensible man takes the poor end of the bargain Without quibbling.
79.3 It is sensible to make terms, Foolish to be a stickler:
79.4 Though heaven prefer no man, A sensible man prefers heaven.

80.1 If a land is small and its people are few, With tenfold enough to heave and do, And if no one has schooled them to waste supply In the country for which they live and would die,
80.2 Then not a boat, not a cart Tempts this people to depart, Not a dagger, not a bow Has to be drawn or bent for show,
80.3 People reckon by knots in a cord, Relish plain food on the board, Simple clothing suits them well, And they remain content to dwell In homes their customs can afford.
80.4 Though so close to their own town another town grow They can hear its dogs bark and its roosters crow, Yet glad of life in the village they know, Where else in the world shall they need to go?

81.1 Real word are not vain, Vain words not real;
81.2 And since those who argue prove nothing A sensible man does not argue.
81.3 A sensible man is wiser than he knows, While a fool knows more than is wise.
81.4 Therefore a sensible man does not devise resources: The greater his use to others The greater their use to him, The more he yields to others The more they yield to him.
81.5 The way of life cleaves without cutting: Which, without need to say, Should be man's way.

Blackney (Translator)


"Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Teh Ching is probably the most influential work of Asian thought. . . . This lucid translation demonstrates that these teachings are useful in the arts of leadership as they are in developing a sense of balance and harmony in everyday life."— Branches of Light

When you read the translator's book, you will benefit tremendously by his/her footnotes and insights, without which the Daodejing's wisdom and magic is not totally revealed. This project is concerned only with comparing line by line translations of the various masters. To unlock the beauty and depth of the Daodejing's wisdom, you can do better than simply reading the translated text, we need the expertise of a good guide and the author is such a person.


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1.1 There are ways but the Way is uncharted; There are names but not nature in words:
1.2 Nameless indeed is the source of creation But things have a mother and she has a name.
1.3 The secret waits for the insight Of eyes unclouded by longing; Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.
1.4 These two come paired but distinct By their names.
1.5 Of all things profound, Say that their pairing is deepest, The gate to the root of the world.

2.1 Since the world points up beauty as such, There is ugliness too.
2.2 If goodness is taken as goodness, Wickedness enters as well.
2.3 For is and is-not come together; Hard and easy are complementary; Long and short are relative;
2.4 High and low are comparative; Pitch and sound make harmony; Before and after are a sequence.
2.5 Indeed the Wise Man's office Is to work by being still He teaches not by speech But by accomplishment;
2.6 He does for everything, Neglecting none; Their life he gives to all, Possessing none;
2.7 And what he brings to pass Depends on no one else. As he succeeds, He takes no credit And just because he does not take it, Credit never leaves him.

3.1 If those who are excellent find no preferment, The people will cease to contend for promotion.
3.2 If goods that are hard to obtain are not favoured, The people will cease to turn robbers or bandits.
3.3 If things much desired are kept under cover, Disturbance will cease in the minds of the people.
3.4 The Wise Man's policy, accordingly, Will be to empty people's hearts and minds, To fill their bellies, weaken their ambition, Give them sturdy frames
3.5 and always so, To keep them uninformed, without desire, And knowing ones not venturing to act.
3.6 Be still while you work And keep full control Over all.

4.1 The Way is a void, Used but never filled:
4.2 An abyss it is, From which all things come.
4.3 It blunts sharpness, Resolves tangles; It tempers light, Subdues turmoil.
4.4 A deep pool it is, Never to run dry!
4.5 Whose offspring it may be I do not know: It is like a preface to God.

5.1 Is then the world unkind? And does it treat all things Like straw dogs used in magic rights
5.2 The Wise man too, is he unkind? And does he treat the folk Like straw dogs made to throw away?
5.3 Between the earth and sky The space is like a bellows, Empty but unspent. When moved its gift is copious.
5.4 Much talk means much exhaustion; Better far it is to keep your thoughts!

6.1 The valley spirit is not dead; They say it is the mystic female.
6.2 Her gateway is, they further say, The base of heaven and earth.
6.3 Constantly, and so forever, Use her without labour.

7.1 The sky is everlasting And the earth is very old.
7.2 Why so? Because the world Exists not for itself; It can and will live on.
7.3 The Wise Man chooses to be last And so becomes the first of all;
7.4 Denying self, he too is saved.
7.5 For does he not fulfilment find In being an unselfish man?

8.1 The highest goodness, water-like, Does good to everything and goes Unmurmuring to places men despise; But so, is close in nature to the Way.
8.2 If the good of the house is from land, Or the good of the mind is depth, Or love is the virtue of friendship, Or honesty blesses one's talk,
8.3 Or in government, goodness is order, Or in business, skill is admired, Or the worth of an act lies in timing,
8.4 Then peace is the goal of the Way By which no one ever goes astray.

9.1 To take all you want Is never as good As to stop when you should.
9.2 Scheme and be sharp And you'll not keep it long.
9.3 One can never guard His home when it's full Of jade and fine gold:
9.4 Wealth, power and pride Bequeath their own doom.
9.5 When fame and success Come to you, then retire. This is the ordained Way.

10.1 Can you govern your animal soul, hold to the One and never depart from it?
10.2 Can you throttle your breath, down to the softness of breath in a child?
10.3 Can you purify your mystic vision and wash it until it is spotless?
10.4 Can you love all your people, rule over the land without being known?
10.5 Can you be like a female, and passively open and shut heaven's gates?
10.6 Can you keep clear in your mind the four quarters of earth and not interfere?
10.7 Quicken them, feed them; Quicken but do not possess them. Act and be independent; Be the chief but never the lord: This describes the mystic virtue.

11.1 Thirty spokes will converge In the hub of a wheel; But the use of the cart Will depend on the part Of the hub that is void.
11.2 With a wall all around A clay bowl is molded; But the use of the bowl Will depend on the part Of the bowl that is void.
11.3 Cut out windows and doors In the house as you build; But the use of the house Will depend on the space In the walls that is void.
11.4 So advantage is had From whatever is there; But usefulness rises From whatever is not.

12.1 The five colours darken the eye; The five sounds will deaden the ear; The five flavours weary the taste.
12.2 Chasing the beasts of the field Will drive a man mad. The goods that are hard to procure Are hobbles that slow walking feet.
12.3 So the Wise Man will do What his belly dictates And never the sight of his eyes. Thus he will choose this but not that.

13.1 "Favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it; High rank, like self, Involves acute distress."
13.2 What does that mean, to say That "favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it"? When favour is bestowed On one of low degree, Trouble will come with it. The loss of favour too Means trouble for that man. This, then, is what is meant By "favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it."
13.3 What does it mean, to say That "rank, like self, Involves acute distress"? I suffer most because Of me and selfishness. If I were selfless, then What suffering would I bear?
13.4 In governing the world, Let rule entrusted be To him who treats his rank As if it were his soul; World sovereignty can be Committed to that man Who loves all people As he loves himself.

14.1 They call it elusive, and say That one looks But it never appears. They say that indeed it is rare, Since one listens, But never a sound. Subtle, they call it, and say That one grasps it But never gets hold.
14.2 These three complaints amount To only one, which is Beyond all resolution.
14.3 At rising, it does not illumine; At setting, no darkness ensues; It stretches far back To that nameless estate Which existed before the creation.
14.4 Describe it as form yet unformed; As shape that is still without shape; Or say it is vagueness confused: One meets it and it has no front; One follows and there is no rear.
14.5 If you hold ever fast To that most ancient Way, You may govern today. Call truly that knowledge Of primal beginnings The clue to the Way.

15.1 The excellent masters of old, Subtle, mysterious, mystic, acute, Were much too profound for their times.
15.2 Since they were not then understood, It is better to tell how they looked. Like men crossing streams in the winter, How cautious! As if all around there were danger, How watchful! As if they were guests on every occasion,
15.3 How dignified! Like ice just beginning to melt, Self-effacing! Like a wood-block untouched by a tool, How sincere! Like a valley awaiting a guest, How receptive! Like a torrent that rushes along, And so turbid!
15.4 Who, running dirty, comes clean like still waters? Who, being quiet, moves others to fullness of life?
15.5 It is he who, embracing the Way, is not greedy; Who endures wear and tear without needing renewal

16.1 Touch ultimate emptiness, Hold steady and still.
16.2 All things work together: I have watched them reverting, And have seen how they flourish And return again, each to his roots.
16.3 This, I say, is the stillness: A retreat to one's roots; Or better yet, return To the will of God, Which is, I say, to constancy. The knowledge of constancy I call enlightenment and say That not to know it Is blindness that works evil.
16.4 But when you know What eternally is so, You have stature And stature means righteousness And righteousness is kingly And kingliness divine And divinity is the Way Which is final.
16.5 Then, though you die, You shall not perish.

17.1 As for him who is highest, The people just know he is there. His deputy's cherished and praised; Of the third, they are frightened; The fourth, they despise and revile.
17.2 If you trust people less than enough, Some of them never trust you.
17.3 He is aloof, as if his talk Were priced beyond the purchasing; But once his project is contrived, The folk will want to say of it: "Of course! We did it by ourselves!"

18.1 The mighty Way declined among the folk And then came kindness and morality.
18.2 When wisdom and intelligence appeared, They brought with them a great hypocrisy.
18.2 The six relations were no more at peace, So codes were made to regulate our homes.
18.4 The fatherland grew dark, confused by strife: Official loyalty became the style.

19.1 Get rid of the wise men! Put out the professors! Then people will profit A hundredfold over.
19.2 Away with the kind ones; Those righteous men too! And let people return To the graces of home.
19.3 Root out the artisans; Banish the profiteers! And bandits and robbers Will not come to plunder.
19.4 But if these three prove not enough To satisfy the mind and heart,
19.5 More relevant, then, let there be A visible simplicity of life, Embracing unpretentious ways, And small self-interest And poverty of coveting.

20.1 Be done with rote learning And its attendant vexations; For is there distinction Of a "yes" from a "yea" Comparable now to the gulf Between evil and good?
20.2 "What all men fear, I too must fear"- How barren and pointless a thought!
20.3 The reveling of multitudes At the feast of Great Sacrifice, Or up on the terrace At carnival in spring, Leave me, alas, unmoved, alone, Like a child that has never smiled. Lazily, I drift As though I had no home.
20.4 All others have enough to spare; I am the one left out. I have the mind of a fool, Muddled and confused!
20.5 When common people scintillate I alone make shadows. Vulgar folks are sharp and knowing: Only I am melancholy. Restless like the ocean, Blown about, I cannot stop.
20.6 Other men can find employment, But I am stubborn; I am mean. Alone I am and different, Because I prize and seek My sustenance from the Mother!

21.1 The omnipresent Virtue will take shape According only to the Way.
21.2 The Way itself is like some thing Seen in a dream, elusive, evading one. In it are images, elusive, evading one. In it are things like shadows in twilight. In it are essences, subtle but real, Embedded in truth.
21.3 From of old until now, Under names without end, The First, the Beginning is seen.
21.4 How do I know the beginning of all, What its nature may be? By these!

22.1 The crooked shall be made straight And the rough places plain; The pools shall be filled And the worn renewed; The needy shall receive And the rich shall be perplexed.
22.2 So the Wise Man cherishes the One, As a standard to the world:
22.3 Not displaying himself, He is famous; Not asserting himself, He is distinguished; Not boasting his powers, He is effective; Taking no pride in himself, He is chief.
22.4 Because he is no competitor, No one in all the world can compete with him.
22.5 The saying of the men of old Is not in vain: "The crooked shall be made straight - " To be perfect, return to it.

23.1 Sparing indeed is nature of its talk: The whirlwind will not last the morning out; The cloudburst ends before the day is done.
23.2 What is it that behaves itself like this? The earth and sky! And if it be that these Cut short their speech, how much more yet should man!
23.3 If you work by the Way, You will be of the Way; If you work through its virtue you will be given the virtue; Abandon either one And both abandon you.
23.4 Gladly then the Way receives Those who choose to walk in it; Gladly too its power upholds Those who choose to use it well; Gladly will abandon greet Those who to abandon drift.
23.5 Little faith is put in them Whose faith is small.

24.1 On tiptoe your stance is unsteady; Long strides make your progress unsure;
24.2 Show off and you get no attention; Your boasting will mean you have failed;
24.3 Asserting yourself brings no credit; Be proud and you will never lead.
24.4 To persons of the Way, these traits Can only bring distrust; they seem Like extra food for parasites. So those who choose the Way, Will never give them place.

25.1 Something there is, whose veiled creation was Before the earth or sky began to be; So silent, so aloof and so alone, It changes not, nor fails, but touches all: Conceive it as the mother of the world.
25.2 I do not know its name: A name for it is "Way"; Pressed for designation, I call it Great.
25.3 Great means outgoing, Outgoing, far-reaching, Far-reaching, return.
25.4 The Way is great, The sky is great, The earth is great, The king also is great. Within the realm These four are great; The king but stands For one of them.
25.5 Man conforms to the earth; The earth conforms to the sky; The sky conforms to the Way; The Way conforms to its own nature.

26.1 The heavy is foundation for the light; So quietness is master of the deed.
26.2 The Wise Man, though he travel all the day, Will not be separated from his goods. So even if the scene is glorious to view, He keeps his place, at peace, above it all.
26.3 For how can one who rules Ten thousand chariots Give up to lighter moods As all the world may do?
26.4 If he is trivial, His ministers are lost; If he is strenuous, There is no master then.

27.1 A good runner leaves no tracks. A good speech has no flaws to censure. A good computer uses no tallies.
27.2 A good door is well shut without bolts and cannot be opened. A good knot is tied without rope and cannot be loosed.
27.3 The Wise Man is always good at helping people, so that none are cast out; he is always good at saving things, so that none are thrown away. This is called applied intelligence.
27.4 Surely the good man is the bad man's teacher; and the bad man is the good man's business.
27.5 If the one does not respect his teacher, or the other doesn't love his business, his error is very great. This is indeed an important secret.

28.1 Be aware of your masculine nature; But by keeping the feminine way, You shall be to the world like a canyon, Where the Virtue eternal abides, And go back to become as a child.
28.2 Be aware of the white all around you; But remembering the black that is there, You shall be to the world like a tester, Whom the Virtue eternal, unerring, Redirects to the infinite past.
28.3 Be aware of your glory and honour; But in never relinquishing shame, You shall be to the world like a valley, Where Virtue eternal, sufficient, Sends you back to the Virginal Block.
28.4 When the Virginal Block is asunder, And is made into several tools, To the ends of the Wise Man directed, They become then his chief officers: For "The Master himself does not carve."

29.1 As for those who would take the whole world To tinker as they see fit, I observe that they never succeed:
29.2 For the world is a sacred vessel Not made to be altered by man. The tinker will spoil it; Usurpers will lose it.
29.3 For indeed there are things That must move ahead, While others must lag; And some that feel hot, While others feel cold; And some that are strong, While others are weak; And vigorous ones, While others worn out.
29.4 So the Wise Man discards Extreme inclinations To make sweeping judgements, Or to a life of excess.

30.1 To those who would help The ruler of men By means of the Way: Let him not with his militant might Try to conquer the world; This tactic is like to recoil.
30.2 For where armies have marched, There do briars spring up; Where great hosts are impressed, Years of hunger and evil ensue.
30.3 The good man's purpose once attained, He stops at that; He will not press for victory.
30.4 His point once made, he does not boast, Or celebrate the goal he gained, Or proudly indicate the spoils. He won the day because he must: But not by force or violence.
30.5 That things with age decline in strength, You well may say, suits not the Way; And not to suit the Way is early death.

31.1 Weapons at best are tools of bad omen, Loathed and avoided by those of the Way.
31.2 In the usage of men of good breeding, Honour is had at the left; Good omens belong on the left Bad omens belong on the right; And warriors press to the right!
31.3 When the general stands at the right His lieutenant is placed at the left. So the usage of men of great power Follows that of the funeral rite.
31.4 Weapons are tools of bad omen, By gentlemen not to be used; But when it cannot be avoided, They use them with calm and restraint.
31.5 Even in victory's hour These tools are unlovely to see; For those who admire them truly Are men who in murder delight. As for those who delight to do murder, It is certain they never can get From the world what they sought when ambition Urged them to power and rule.
31.6 A multitude slain! - and their death Is a matter for grief and for tears; The victory after a conflict Is a theme for a funeral rite.

32.1 The Way eternal has no name. A block of wood untooled, though small, May still excel the world.
32.2 And if the king and nobles could Retain its potency for good, Then everything would freely give Allegiance to their rule.
32.3 The earth and sky would then conspire To bring the sweet dew down; And evenly it would be given To folk without constraining power.
32.4 Creatures came to be with order's birth, And once they had appeared, Came also knowledge of repose, And with that was security.
32.5 In this world, Compare those of the Way To torrents that flow Into river and sea.

33.1 It is wisdom to know others; It is enlightenment to know one's self.
33.2 The conqueror of men is powerful; The master of himself is strong.
33.3 It is wealth to be content; It is willful to force one's way on others.
33.4 Endurance is to keep one's place; Long life it is to die and not perish.

34.1 O the great Way o'erflows And spreads on every side!
34.2 All beings come from it; No creature is denied. But having called them forth, It calls not one its own. It feeds and clothes them all And will not be their lord.
34.3 Without desire always, It seems of slight import.
34.4 Yet, nonetheless, in this Its greatness still appears: When they return to it, No creature meets a lord.
34.5 The Wise Man, therefore, while he is alive, Will never make a show of being great: And that is how his greatness is achieved.

35.1 Once grasp the great Form without form, And you roam where you will With no evil to fear, Calm, peaceful, at ease.
35.2 At music and viands The wayfarer stops.
35.3 But the Way, when declared, Seems thin and so flavourless! It is nothing to look at And nothing to hear; But used, it will prove Inexhaustible.

36.1 What is to be shrunken Is first stretched out; What is to be weakened Is first made strong; What will be thrown over Is first raised up; What will be withdrawn Is first bestowed.
36.2 This indeed is Subtle Light; The gentle way Will overcome The hard and strong.
36.3 As fish should not Get out of pools, The realm's edged tools Should not be shown To anybody.

37.1 The Way is always still, at rest, And yet does everything that's done.
37.2 If then the king and nobles could Retain its potency for good, The creatures all would be transformed. But if, the change once made in them, They still inclined to do their work, I should restrain them then By means of that unique Original simplicity Found in the Virgin Block,
37.3 Which brings disinterest, With stillness in its train, And so, an ordered world.

38.1 A man of highest virtue Will not display it as his own; His virtue then is real. Low virtue makes one miss no chance To show his virtue off; His virtue then is nought.
38.2 High virtue is at rest; It knows no need to act. Low virtue is a busyness Pretending to accomplishment.
38.3 Compassion at its best Consists in honest deeds; Morality at best Is something done, aforethought; High etiquette, when acted out Without response from others, Constrains a man to bare his arms And make them do their duty!
38.4 Truly, once the Way is lost, There comes then virtue; Virtue lost, comes then compassion; After that morality; And when that's lost, there's etiquette, The husk of all good faith, The rising point of anarchy.
38.5 Foreknowledge is, they say, The Doctrine come to flower; But better yet, it is The starting point of silliness.
38.6 So once full-grown, a man will take The meat and not the husk, The fruit and not the flower. Rejecting one, he takes the other.

39.1 These things in ancient times received the One: The sky obtained it and was clarified; The earth received it and was settled firm; The spirits got it and were energized;
39.2 The valleys had it, filled to overflow; All things, as they partook it came alive; The nobles and the king imbibed the One In order that the realm might upright be; Such things were then accomplished by the One.
39.3 Without its clarity the sky might break; Except it were set firm, the earth might shake; Without their energy the gods would pass;
39.4 Unless kept full, the valleys might go dry; Except for life, all things would pass away; Unless the One did lift and hold them high, The nobles and the king might trip and fall.
39.5 The humble folk support the mighty ones; They are base on which the highest rest.
39.6 The nobles and the king speak of themselves As "orphans," "desolate" and "needy ones." Does this not indicate that they depend Upon the lowly people for support?
39.7 Truly a cart is more than the sum of its parts.
39.8 Better to rumble like rocks Than to tinkle like jade.

40.1 The movement of the Way is a return; In weakness lies its major usefulness.
40.2 From What-is all the world of things was born But What-is sprang in turn from What-is-not.

41.1 On hearing of the Way, the best of men Will earnestly explore its length. The mediocre person learns of it And takes it up and sets it down.
41.2 But vulgar people, when they hear the news, Will laugh out loud, and if they did not laugh, It would not be the Way.
41.3 And so there is a proverb: "When going looks like coming back, The clearest road is mighty dark." Today, the Way that's plain looks rough, And lofty virtue like a chasm; The purest innocence like shame, The broadest power not enough,
41.4 Established goodness knavery, Substantial worth like shifting tides. Great space has no corners; Great powers come late; Great music is soft sound; The great Form no shape.
41.5 The Way is obscure and unnamed; It is a skilled investor, nonetheless, The master of accomplishment.

42.1 The Way begot one, And the one, two; Then the two begot three And three, all else.
42.2 All things bear the shade on their backs And the sun in their arms; By the blending of breath From the sun and the shade, Equilibrium comes to the world.
42.3 Orphaned, or needy, or desolate, these Are conditions much feared and disliked; Yet in public address, the king And the nobles account themselves thus.
42.4 So a loss sometimes benefits one Or a benefit proves to be loss.
42.5 What others have taught I also shall teach: If a violent man does not come To a violent death, I shall choose him to teach me.

43.1 The softest of stuff in the world Penetrates quickly the hardest; Insubstantial, it enters Where no room is. By this I know the benefit Of something done by quiet being;
43.2 In all the world but few can know Accomplishment apart from work, Instruction when no words are used.

44.1 Which is dearer, fame or self? Which is worth more, man or pelf? Which would hurt more, gain or loss?
44.2 The mean man pays the highest price; The hoarder takes the greatest loss;
44.3 A man content is never shamed, And self-restrained, is not in danger: He will live forever.

45.1 Most perfect, yet it seems Imperfect, incomplete: Its use is not impaired. Filled up, and yet it seems Poured out, an empty void: It never will run dry. The straightest, yet it seems To deviate, to bend;
45.2 The highest skill and yet It looks like clumsiness. The utmost eloquence, It sounds like stammering.
45.3 As movement overcomes The cold, and stillness, heat, The Wise Man, pure and still, Will rectify the world.

46.1 When the Way rules the world, Coach horses fertilize the fields; When the Way does not rule, War horses breed in the parks.
46.2 No sin can exceed Incitement to envy; No calamity's worse Than to be discontented, Nor is there an omen More dreadful than coveting.
46.3 But once be contented, And truly you'll always be so.

47.1 The world may be known Without leaving the house; The Way may be seen Apart from the windows. The further you go, The less you will know.
47.2 Accordingly, the Wise Man Knows without going, Sees without seeing, Does without doing.

48.1 The student learns by daily increment. The Way is gained by daily loss, Loss upon loss until At last comes rest.
48.2 By letting go, it all gets done; The world is won by those who let it go!
48.3 But when you try and try, The world is then beyond the winning.

49.1 The Wise Man's mind is free But tuned to people's need:
49.2 "Alike to be good and bad I must be good, For Virtue is goodness.
49.3 To honest folk And those dishonest ones Alike, I proffer faith, For Virtue is faithful."
49.4 The Wise Man, when abroad, Impartial to the world, Does not divide or judge. But people everywhere Mark well his ears and eyes; For wise men hear and see As little children do.

50.1 On leaving life, to enter death:
50.2 Thirteen members form a living body; A corpse has thirteen, too: Thirteen spots by which a man may pass From life to death. Why so? Because his way of life Is much too gross.
50.3 As I have heard, the man who knows On land how best to be at peace Will never meet a tiger or a buffalo; In battle, weapons do not touch his skin.
50.4 There is no place the tiger's claws can grip; Or with his horn, the buffalo can jab; Or where the soldier can insert his sword. Why so? In him there is no place of death.

51.1 The Way brings forth, Its virtue fosters them, With matter they take shape, And circumstance perfects them all: That is why all things Do honour the Way And venerate its power.
51.2 The exaltation of the Way, The veneration of its power, Come not by fate or decree; But always just because By nature it is so. So when the Way brings forth, Its power fosters all: They grow, are reared, And fed and housed until They come to ripe maturity.
51.3 You shall give life to things But never possess them; Your work shall depend on none; You shall be chief but never lord. This describes the mystic power.

52.1 It began with a matrix: The world had a mother Whose sons can be known As ever, by her.
52.2 But if you know them, You'll keep close to her As long as you live And suffer no harm.
52.3 Stop up your senses; Close up your doors; Be not exhausted As long as you live.
52.4 Open your senses; Be busier still: To the end of your days There's no help for you.
52.5 You are bright, it is said, If you see what is small; A store of small strengths Makes you strong.
52.6 By the use of its light, Make your eyes again bright From evil to lead you away. This is called "practicing constancy."

53.1 When I am walking on the mighty Way, Let me but know the very least I may, And I shall only fear to leave the road.
53.2 The mighty Way is easy underfoot, But people still prefer the little paths.
53.3 The royal court is dignified, sedate, While farmers' fields are overgrown with weeds; The granaries are empty
53.4 and yet they Are clad in rich-embroidered silken gowns. They have sharp swords suspended at their sides; With glutted wealth, they gorge with food and drink. It is, the people say, The boastfulness of brigandage, But surely not the Way!

54.1 Set firm in the Way: none shall uproot you; Cherish it well and none shall estrange you; Your children's children faithful shall serve Your forebears at the altar of your house.
54.2 Cultivate the Way yourself, and your Virtue will be genuine. Cultivate it in the home, and its Virtue will overflow. Cultivate it in the village, and the village will endure. Cultivate it in the realm, and the realm will flourish. Cultivate it in the world, and Virtue will be universal.
54.3 Accordingly, One will be judged by the Man of the Way; Homes will be viewed through the Home of the Way; And the Village shall measure the village; And the Realm, for all realms, shall be standard; And the World, to this world, shall be heaven.
54.4 How do I know the world is like this? By this.

55.1 Rich in virtue, like an infant, Noxious insects will not sting him; Wild beasts will not attack his flesh Nor birds of prey sink claws in him. His bones are soft, his sinews weak, His grip is nonetheless robust;
55.2 Of sexual union unaware, His organs all completely formed, His vital force is at its height.
55.3 He shouts all day, does not get hoarse: His person is a harmony. Harmony experienced is known as constancy; Constancy experienced is called enlightenment;
55.4 Exuberant vitality is ominous, they say; A bent for vehemence is called aggressiveness.
55.5 That things with age decline in strength, You well may say, suits not the Way; And not to suit the Way is early death.

56.1 Those who know do not talk And talkers do not know.
56.2 Stop your senses, Close the doors; Let sharp things be blunted, Tangles resolved, The light tempered And turmoil subdued; For this is mystic unity
56.3 In which the Wise Man is moved Neither by affection Nor yet by estrangement Or profit or loss Or honour or shame. Accordingly, by all the world, He is held highest.

57.1 "Govern the realm by the right, And battles by stratagem." The world is won by refraining. How do I know this is so? By this:
57.2 As taboos increase, people grow poorer; When weapons abound, the state grows chaotic;
57.3 Where skills multiply, novelties flourish; As statutes increase, more criminals start.
57.4 So the Wise Man will say: As I refrain, the people will reform: Since I like quiet, they will keep order;
57.5 When I forebear, the people will prosper; When I want nothing, they will be honest.

58.1 Listlessly govern: Happy your people; Govern exactingly: Restless your people.
58.2 "Bad fortune will Promote the good; Good fortune, too, Gives rise to the bad."
58.3 But who can know to what that leads? For it is wrong and would assign To right the strangest derivations And would mean that goodness Is produced by magic means! Has man thus been so long astray?
58.4 Accordingly, the Wise Man Is square but not sharp, Honest but not malign, Straight but not severe, Bright but not dazzling.

59.1 "For ruling men or serving God, There's nothing else like stores saved up."
59.2 By "stores saved up" is meant forehandedness, Accumulate Virtue, such that nothing Can resist it and its limit None can guess: such infinite resource Allows the jurisdiction of the king;
59.3 Whose kingdom then will long endure If it provides the Mother an abode.
59.4 Indeed it is the deeply rooted base, The firm foundation of the Way To immortality of self and name.

60.1 Rule a large country As small fish are cooked.
60.2 The evil spirits of the world Lose sanction as divinities When government proceeds According to the Way;
60.3 But even if they do not lose Their ghostly countenance and right, The people take no harm from them; And if the spirits cannot hurt the folk, The Wise Man surely does no hurt to them.
60.4 Since then the Wise Man and the people Harm each other not at all, Their several virtues should converge.

61.1 The great land is a place To which the streams descend; It is the concourse and The female of the world: Quiescent, underneath, It overcomes the male.
61.2 By quietness and by humility The great land then puts down the small And gets it for its own; But small lands too absorb the great By their subservience.
61.3 Thus some lie low, designing conquest's ends; While others lowly are, by nature bent To conquer all the rest.
61.4 The great land's foremost need is to increase The number of its folk; The small land needs above all else to find Its folk more room to work.
61.5 That both be served and each attain its goal The great land should attempt humility.

62.1 Like the gods of the shrine in the home, So the Way and its mystery waits In the world of material things: The good man's treasure, The bad man's refuge.
62.2 Fair wordage is ever for sale; Fair manners are worn like a cloak; But why should there be such waste Of the badness in men?
62.3 On the day of the emperor's crowning, When the three noble dukes are appointed, Better than chaplets of jade Drawn by a team of four horses, Bring the Way as your tribute.
62.4 How used the ancients to honour the Way? Didn't they say that the seeker may find it, And that sinners who find are forgiven? So did they lift up the Way and its Virtue Above everything else in the world.

63.1 Act in repose; Be at rest when you work; Relish unflavoured things.
63.2 Great or small, Frequent or rare, Requite anger with virtue.
63.3 Take hard jobs in hand while they are easy And great affairs too while they are small.
63.4 The troubles of the world Cannot be solved except Before they get too hard. The business of the world Cannot be done except While relatively small.
63.5 The wise man, then, throughout his life Does nothing great yet achieves A greatness of his own.
63.6 Again, a promise lightly made Inspires little confidence; Or often trivial, sure that man Will come to grief.
63.7 Choosing hardship, then, the Wise Man Never meets with hardship all his life.

64.1 A thing that is still easy to hold. Given no omen, it is easy to plan. Soft things are easy to melt. Small particles scatter easily.
64.2 The time to take care is before it is done. Establish order before confusion sets in.
64.3 Tree trunks around which you can reach with your arms were at first only minuscule sprouts. A nine-storied terrace began with a clod. A thousand-mile journey began with a foot put down.
64.4 Doing spoils it, grabbing misses it; So the Wise Man refrains from doing and doesn't spoil anything; He grabs at nothing and so never misses.
64.5 People are constantly spoiling a project when it lacks only a step to completion. To avoid making a mess of it, be as careful of the end as you were of the beginning.
64.6 So the Wise Man wants the unwanted; he sets no high value on anything because it is hard to get. He studies what others neglect and restores to the world what multitudes have passed by. His object is to restore everything in its natural course, but he dares take no steps to that end.

65.1 Those ancients who were skilled in the Way Did not enlighten people by their rule But had them ever held in ignorance:
65.2 The more the folk know what is going on The harder it becomes to govern them. For public knowledge of the government Is such a thief that it will spoil the realm; But when good fortune brings good times to all The land is ruled without publicity.
65.3 To know the difference between these two Involves a standard to be sought and found. To know that standard always, everywhere, Is mystic Virtue, justly known as such;
65.4 Which Virtue is so deep and reaching far, It causes a return, things go back To that prime concord which at first all shared.

66.1 How could the rivers and the seas Become like kings to valleys? Because of skill in lowliness They have become the valley's lords.
66.2 So then to be above the folk, You speak as if you were beneath; And if you wish to be out front, Then act as if you were behind.
66.3 The Wise Man so is up above But is no burden to the folk; His station is ahead of them To see they do not come to harm. The world will gladly help along The Wise Man and will bear no grudge.
66.4 Since he contends not for his own The world will not contend with him.

67.1 Everywhere, they say the Way, our doctrine, Is so very like detested folly; But greatness of its own alone explains Why it should be thus held beyond the pale. If it were only orthodox, long since It would have seemed a small and petty thing!
67.2 I have to keep three treasures well secured: The first, compassion; next, frugality; And third, I say that never would I once Presume that I should be the whole world's chief.
67.3 Given compassion, I can take courage; Given frugality, I can abound; If I can be the world's most humble man, Then I can be its highest instrument.
67.4 Bravery today knows no compassion; Abundance is, without frugality, And eminence without humility: This is the death indeed of all our hope.
67.5 In battle, 'tis compassion wins the day; Defending, 'tis compassion that is firm: Compassion arms the people God would save!

68.1 A skillful soldier is not violent; An able fighter does not rage;
68.2 A mighty conqueror does not give battle; A great commander is a humble man.
68.3 You may call this pacific virtue; Or say that it is mastery of men; Or that it is rising to the measure of God, Or to the stature of the ancients.

69.1 The strategists have a saying: "If I cannot be host, Then let me be guest. But if I dare not advance Even an inch, Then let me retire a foot."
69.2 This is what they call A campaign without a march, Sleeves up but no bare arms, Shooting but no enemies, Or arming without weapons.
69.3 Than helpless enemies, nothing is worse: To them I lose my treasures.
69.4 When opposing enemies meet, The compassionate man is the winner!

70.1 My words are easy just to understand: To live by them is very easy too; Yet it appears that none in all the world Can understand or make them come to life.
70.2 My words have ancestors, my works a prince; Since none know this, unknown I too remain. But honour comes to me when least I'm known:
70.3 The Wise Man, with a jewel in his breast, Goes clad in garments made of shoddy stuff.

71.1 To know that you are ignorant is best; To know what you do not, is a disease; But if you recognize the malady Of mind for what it is, then that is health.
71.2 The Wise Man has indeed a healthy mind; He sees an aberration as it is And for that reason never will be ill.

72.1 If people do not dread your majesty, A greater dread will yet descend on them.
72.2 See then you do not cramp their dwelling place, Or immolate their children or their stock, Nor anger them by your own angry ways.
72.3 It is the Wise Man's way to know himself, And never to reveal his inward thoughts; He loves himself but so, is not set up; He chooses this in preference to that.

73.1 A brave man who dares to, will kill; A brave man who dares not, spares life;
73.2 And from them both come good and ill; "God hates some folks, but who knows why?" The Wise Man hesitates there too:
73.3 God's Way is bound to conquer all But not by strife does it proceed. Not by words does God get answers: He calls them not and all things come. Master plans unfold but slowly,
73.4 Like God's wide net enclosing all: Its mesh is coarse but none are lost.

74.1 The people do not fear at all to die; What's gained therefore by threat'ning them with death?
74.2 If you could always make them fear decease, As if it were a strange event and rare, Who then would dare to take and slaughter them?
74.3 The executioner is always set To slay, but those who substitute for him Are like would-be master carpenters Who try to chop as that skilled craftsman does And nearly always mangle their own hands!

75.1 The people starve because of those Above them, who consume by tax In grain and kind more than their right. For this, the people are in want.
75.2 The people are so hard to rule Because of those who are above them, Whose interference makes distress. For this, they are so hard to rule.
75.3 The people do not fear to die; They too demand to live secure: For this, they do not fear to die. So they, without the means to live, In virtue rise above those men Who value life above its worth.

76.1 Alive, a man is supple, soft; In death, unbending, rigorous.
76.2 All creatures, grass and trees, alive Are plastic but are pliant too, And dead, are friable and dry.
76.3 Unbending rigour is the mate of death, And wielding softness, company of life:
76.4 Unbending soldiers get no victories; The stiffest tree is readiest for the axe.
76.5 The strong and mighty topple from their place; The soft and yielding rise above them all.

77.1 Is not God's Way much like a bow well bent? The upper part has been disturbed, pressed down; The lower part is raised up from its place; The slack is taken up; the slender width Is broader drawn;
77.2 for thus the Way of God Cuts people down when they have had too much, And fills the bowls of those who are in want. But not the way of man will work like this: The people who have not enough are spoiled For tribute to the rich and surfeited.
77.3 Who can benefit the world From stored abundance of his own? He alone who has the Way,
77.4 The Wise Man who can act apart And not depend on others' whims; But not because of his high rank Will he succeed; he does not wish To flaunt superiority.

78.1 Nothing is weaker than water, But when it attacks something hard Or resistant, then nothing withstands it, And nothing will alter its way.
78.2 Everyone knows this, that weakness prevails Over strength and that gentleness conquers The adamant hindrance of men, but that Nobody demonstrates how it is so.
78.3 Because of this the Wise Man says That only one who bears the nations shame Is fit to be its hallowed lord; That only one who takes upon himself The evils of the world may be its king. This is paradox.

79.1 How can you think it is good To settle a grievance too great To ignore, when the settlement Surely evokes other piques?
79.2 The Wise Man therefore will select The left-hand part of contract tallies: He will not put the debt on other men.
79.3 This virtuous man promotes agreement; The vicious man allots the blame.
79.4 "Impartial though the Way of God may be, It always favours good men."

80.1 The ideal land is small Its people very few, Where tools abound Ten times or yet A hundred-fold Beyond their use; Where people die And die again But never emigrate;
80.2 Have boats and carts Which no one rides. Weapons have they And armour too, But none displayed.
80.3 The folk returns To use again The knotted chords. Their meat is sweet; Their clothes adorned, Their homes at peace, Their customs charm.
80.4 And neighbour lands Are juxtaposed So each may hear The barking dogs, The crowing cocks Across the way; Where folks grow old And folks will die And never once Exchange a call.

81.1 As honest words may not sound fine, Fine words may not be honest ones;
81.2 A good man does not argue, and An arguer may not be good!
81.3 The knowers are not learned men And learned men may never know.
81.4 The Wise Man does not hoard his things; Hard-pressed, from serving other men, He has enough and some to spare; But having given all he had, He then is very rich indeed.
81.5 God's Way is gain that works no harm; The Wise Man's way, to do his work Without contending for a crown.

Feng (Translator)


"Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Teh Ching is probably the most influential work of Asian thought. . . . This lucid translation demonstrates that these teachings are useful in the arts of leadership as they are in developing a sense of balance and harmony in everyday life."— Branches of Light

When you read the translator's book, you will benefit tremendously by his/her footnotes and insights, without which the Daodejing's wisdom and magic is not totally revealed. This project is concerned only with comparing line by line translations of the various masters. To unlock the beauty and depth of the Daodejing's wisdom, you can do better than simply reading the translated text, we need the expertise of a good guide and the author is such a person.


Click on the book to buy John Wu's Daodejing 


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other: High and low rest upon each other; Voice and sound harmonize each other; Front and back follow one another.
Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease, Creating, yet not.
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling.
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.
The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
If men lack knowledge and desire, then clever people will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.

The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled.
Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things! Blunt the sharpness, Untangle the knot, Soften the glare, Merge with dust.
Oh, hidden deep but ever present! I do not know from whence it comes.
It is the forefather of the gods.

Heaven and Earth are impartial; They see the ten thousand things as straw dogs.
The wise are impartial; They see the people as straw dogs.
The space between heaven and Earth is like a bellows.
The shape changes but not the form; The more it moves, the more it yields.
More words count less.
Hold fast to the center.

The valley spirit never dies; It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and Earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.

Heaven and Earth last forever.
Why do heaven and Earth last forever? They are unborn, So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

The highest good is like water.
Water give life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In daily life, be competent.
In action, be aware of the time and the season.
No fight: No blame.

Better to stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, Can you avoid separation? Attending fully and becoming supple, Can you be as a newborn babe? Washing and cleansing the primal vision, Can you be without stain? Loving all men and ruling the country, Can you be without cleverness? Opening and closing the gates of heaven, Can you play the role of woman? Understanding and being open to all things, Are you able to do nothing? Giving birth and nourishing, Bearing yet not possessing, Working yet not taking credit, Leading yet not dominating, This is the Primal Virtue.

Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.

The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.

Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by "Accept disgrace willingly"? Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called "accepting disgrace willingly." What do you mean by "Accept misfortune as the human condition"? Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune? Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.

Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable; Therefore they are joined in one.
From above it is not bright; From below it is not dark: An unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
The form of the formless, The image of the imageless, It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.
Stand before it and there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the ancient Tao, Move with the present.
Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.

The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable, All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles? Who can remain still until the moment of action? Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment.
Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.

Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind become still.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

The very highest if barely known.
Then comes that which people know and love.
Then that which is feared, Then that which is despised.
Who does not trust enough will not be trusted.
When actions are performed Without unnecessary speech, People say, "We did it!"

When the great Tao is forgotten, Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born, The great pretense begins.
When there is no peace within the family, Filial piety and devotion arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos, Loyal ministers appear.

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.
Give up kindness, renounce morality, And men will rediscover filial piety and love.
Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, And bandits and thieves will disappear.
These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves.
It is more important To see the simplicity, To realize one's true nature, To cast off selfishness And temper desire.

Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no? Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense! Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park, and climb the terrace, But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile, I am alone, without a place to go.
Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool.
Oh, yes! I am confused.
Others are clear and bright, But I alone am dim and weak.
Others are sharp and clever, But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea, Without direction, like the restless wind.
Everyone else is busy, But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.

The greatest Virtue is to follow Tao and Tao alone.
The Tao is elusive and intangible.
Oh, it is intangible and elusive, and yet within is image.
Oh, it is elusive and intangible, and yet within is form.
Oh, it is dim and dark, and yet within is essence.
This essence is very real, and therein lies faith.
From the very beginning until now its name has never been forgotten.
Thus I perceive the creation.
How do I know the ways of creation?
Because of this.

Yield and overcome; Bend and be straight; Empty and be full; Wear out and be new; Have little and gain; Have much and be confused.
Therefore the wise embrace the one And set an example to all.
Not putting on a display, They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves, They are distinguished.
Not boasting, They receive recognition.
Not bragging, They never falter.
They do not quarrel, So no one quarrels with them.
Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome." Is that an empty saying? Be really whole, And all things will come to you.

To talk little is natural.
High winds do not last all morning.
Heavy rain does not last all day.
Why is this? Heaven and Earth! If heaven and Earth cannot make things eternal, How is it possible for man? He who follows the Tao Is at one with the Tao.
He who is virtuous Experiences Virtue.
He who loses the way Is lost.
When you are at one with the Tao, The Tao welcomes you.
When you are at one with Virtue, The Virtue is always there.
When you are at one with loss, The loss is experienced willingly.
He who does not trust enough Will not be trusted.

He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
He who makes a show is not enlightened.
He who is self-righteous is not respected.
He who boasts achieves nothing.
He who brags will not endure.
According to followers of the Tao, "These are extra food and unnecessary luggage." They do not bring happiness.
Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.

Something mysteriously formed, Born before heaven and Earth.
In the silence and the void, Standing alone and unchanging, Ever present and in motion.
Perhaps it is the mother of ten thousand things.
I do not know its name Call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, I call it great.
Being great, it flows I flows far away.
Having gone far, it returns.
Therefore, "Tao is great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; The king is also great." These are the four great powers of the universe, And the king is one of them.
Man follows Earth.
Earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
Tao follows what is natural.

The heavy is the root of the light.
The still is the master of unrest.
Therefore the sage, traveling all day, Does not lose sight of his baggage.
Though there are beautiful things to be seen, He remains unattached and calm.
Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots act lightly in public? To be light is to lose one's root.
To be restless is to lose one's control.

A good walker leaves no tracks; A good speaker makes no slips; A good reckoner needs no tally.
A good door needs no lock, Yet no one can open it.
Good binding requires no knots, Yet no one can loosen it.
Therefore the sage takes care of all men And abandons no one.
He takes care of all things And abandons nothing.
This is called "following the light."
What is a good man? A teacher of a bad man.
What is a bad man? A good man's charge.
If the teacher is not respected, And the student not cared for, Confusion will arise, however clever one is.
This is the crux of mystery.

Know the strength of man, But keep a woman's care! Be the stream of the universe! Being the stream of the universe, Ever true and unswerving, Become as a little child once more.
Know the white, But keep the black! Be an example to the world! Being an example to the world, Ever true and unwavering, Return to the infinite.
Know honor, Yet keep humility.
Be the valley of the universe! Being the valley of the universe, Ever true and resourceful, Return to the state of the uncarved block.
When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus, "A great tailor cuts little."

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.
So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind; Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily; Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness; Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.
Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao, Counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe.
For this would only cause resistance.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed.
Lean years follow in the wake of a great war.
Just do what needs to be done.
Never take advantage of power.
Achieve results, But never glory in them.
Achieve results, But never boast.
Achieve results, But never be proud.
Achieve results, Because this is the natural way.
Achieve results, But not through violence.
Force is followed by loss of strength.
This is not the way of Tao.
That which goes against the Tao comes to an early end.

Good weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them.
Therefore followers of Tao never use them.
The wise man prefers the left.
The man of war prefers the right.
Weapons are instruments of fear; they are not a wise man's tools.
He uses them only when he has no choice.
Peace and quiet are dear to his heart, And victory no cause for rejoicing.
If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing; If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself.
On happy occasions precedence is given to the left, On sad occasions to the right.
In the army the general stands on the left, The commander-in-chief on the right.
This means that war is conducted like a funeral.
When many people are being killed, They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
That is why a victory must be observed like a funeral.

The Tao is forever undefined.
Small though it is in the unformed state, it cannot be grasped.
If kings and lords could harness it, The ten thousand things would come together And gentle rain fall.
Men would need no more instruction and all things would take their course.
Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.
There are already enough names.
One must know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea.

Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force; Mastering the self needs strength.
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of willpower.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.

The great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right.
The ten thousand things depend upon it; it holds nothing back.
It fulfills its purpose silently and makes no claim.
It nourishes the ten thousand things, And yet is not their lord.
It has no aim; it is very small.
The ten thousand things return to it, Yet it is not their lord.
It is very great.
It does not show greatness, And is therefore truly great.

All men will come to him who keeps to the one, For there lie rest and happiness and peace.
Passersby may stop for music and good food, But a description of the Tao Seems without substance or flavor.
It cannot be seen, it cannot be heard, And yet it cannot be exhausted.

That which shrinks Must first expand.
That which fails Must first be strong.
That which is cast down Must first be raised.
Before receiving There must be giving.
This is called perception of the nature of things.
Soft and weak overcome hard and strong.
Fish cannot leave deep waters, And a country's weapons should not be displayed.

Tao abides in non-action, Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this, The ten thousand things would develop naturally.
If they still desired to act, They would return to the simplicity of formless substance.
Without for there is no desire.
Without desire there is.
And in this way all things would be at peace.

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness, And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good, And is therefore not good.
A truly good man does nothing, Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing, Yet much remains to be done.
When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds, He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order.
Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.
Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real and not what is on the surface, On the fruit and not the flower.
Therefore accept the one and reject the other.

These things from ancient times arise from one: The sky is whole and clear.
The earth is whole and firm.
The spirit is whole and strong.
The valley is whole and full.
The ten thousand things are whole and alive.
Kings and lords are whole, and the country is upright.
All these are in virtue of wholeness.
The clarity of the sky prevents its falling.
The firmness of the earth prevents its splitting.
The strength of the spirit prevents its being used up.
The fullness of the valley prevents its running dry.
The growth of the ten thousand things prevents their drying out.
The leadership of kings and lords prevents the downfall of the country.
Therefore the humble is the root of the noble.
The low is the foundation of the high.
Princes and lords consider themselves "orphaned", "widowed" and "worthless".
Do they not depend on being humble? Too much success is not an advantage.
Do not tinkle like jade Or clatter like stone chimes.

Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
The ten thousand things are born of being.
Being is born of not being.

The wise student hears of the Tao and practices it diligently.
The average student hears of the Tao and gives it thought now and again.
The foolish student hears of the Tao and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, the Tao would not be what it is.
Hence it is said: The bright path seems dim; Going forward seems like retreat; The easy way seems hard; The highest Virtue seems empty; Great purity seems sullied; A wealth of Virtue seems inadequate; The strength of Virtue seems frail; Real Virtue seems unreal; The perfect square has no corners; Great talents ripen late; The highest notes are hard to hear; The greatest form has no shape; The Tao is hidden and without name.
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.

The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
And three begot the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.
Men hate to be "orphaned," "widowed," or "worthless," But this is how kings and lords describe themselves.
For one gains by losing And loses by gaining.
What others teach, I also teach; that is: "A violent man will die a violent death!" This will be the essence of my teaching.

The softest thing in the universe Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.
Teaching without words and work without doing Are understood by very few.

Fame or self: Which matters more? Self or wealth: Which is more precious? Gain or loss: Which is more painful? He who is attached to things will suffer much.
He who saves will suffer heavy loss.
A contented man is never disappointed.
He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble.
He will stay forever safe.

Great accomplishment seems imperfect, Yet it does not outlive its usefulness.
Great fullness seems empty, Yet cannot be exhausted.
Great straightness seems twisted.
Great intelligence seems stupid.
Great eloquence seems awkward.
Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
Stillness and tranquillity set things in order in the universe.

When the Tao is present in the universe, The horses haul manure.
When the Tao is absent from the universe, War horses are bred outside the city.
There is no greater sin than desire, No greater curse than discontent, No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without traveling; He sees without looking; He works without doing.

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others.
I am good to people who are good.
I am also good to people who are not good.
Because Virtue is goodness.
I have faith in people who are faithful.
I also have faith in people who are not faithful.
Because Virtue is faithfulness.
The sage is shy and humble - to the world he seems confusing.
Others look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child.

Between birth and death, Three in ten are followers of life, Three in ten are followers of death, And men just passing from birth to death also number three in ten.
Why is this so? Because they live their lives on the gross level.
He who knows how to live can walk abroad Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn, Tigers no place to use their claws, And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so? Because he has no place for death to enter.

All things arise from Tao.
They are nourished by Virtue.
They are formed from matter.
They are shaped by environment.
Thus the ten thousand things all respect Tao and honor Virtue.
Respect of Tao and honor of Virtue are not demanded, But they are in the nature of things.
Therefore all things arise from Tao.
By Virtue they are nourished, Developed, cared for, Sheltered, comforted, Grown, and protected.
Creating without claiming, Doing without taking credit, Guiding without interfering, This is Primal Virtue.

The beginning of the universe Is the mother of all things.
Knowing the mother, on also knows the sons.
Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother, Brings freedom from the fear of death.
Keep your mouth shut, Guard the senses, And life is ever full.
Open your mouth, Always be busy, And life is beyond hope.
Seeing the small is insight; Yielding to force is strength.
Using the outer light, return to insight, And in this way be saved from harm.
This is learning constancy.

f I have even just a little sense, I will walk on the main road and my only fear will be of straying from it.
Keeping to the main road is easy, But people love to be sidetracked.
When the court is arrayed in splendor, The fields are full of weeds, And the granaries are bare.
Some wear gorgeous clothes, Carry sharp swords, And indulge themselves with food and drink; They have more possessions than they can use.
They are robber barons.
This is certainly not the way of Tao.

What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
It will be honored from generation to generation.
Cultivate Virtue in your self, And Virtue will be real.
Cultivate it in the family, And Virtue will abound.
Cultivate it in the village, And Virtue will grow.
Cultivate it in the nation, And Virtue will be abundant.
Cultivate it in the universe, And Virtue will be everywhere.
Therefore look at the body as body; Look at the family as family; Look at the village as village; Look at the nation as nation; Look at the universe as universe.
How do I know the universe is like this? By looking!

He who is filled with Virtue is like a newborn child.
Wasps and serpents will not sting him; Wild beasts will not pounce upon him; He will not be attacked by birds of prey.
His bones are soft, his muscles weak, But his grip is firm.
He has not experienced the union of man and woman, but is whole.
His manhood is strong.
He screams all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.
Knowing harmony is constancy.
Knowing constancy is enlightenment.
It is not wise to rush about.
Controlling the breath causes strain.
If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows.
This is not the way of Tao.
Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the Earth.
This is primal union.
He who has achieved this state Is unconcerned with friends and enemies, With good and harm, with honor and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man.

Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
Become master of the universe without striving.
How do I know that this is so? Because of this! The more laws and restrictions there are, The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons, The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are, The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations, The more thieves and robbers.
Therefore the sage says: I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.

When the country is ruled with a light hand The people are simple.
When the country is ruled with severity, The people are cunning.
Happiness is rooted in misery.
Misery lurks beneath happiness.
Who knows what the future holds? There is no honesty.
Honesty becomes dishonest.
Goodness becomes witchcraft.
Man's bewitchment lasts for a long time.
Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting, Pointed but not piercing, Straightforward but not unrestrained, Brilliant but not blinding.

In caring for others and serving heaven, There is nothing like using restraint.
Restraint begins with giving up one's own ideas.
This depends on Virtue gathered in the past.
If there is a good store of Virtue, then nothing is impossible.
If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits.
If a man knows no limits, then he is fit to be a ruler.
The mother principle of ruling holds good for a long time.
This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation, The Tao of long life and eternal vision.

Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Approach the universe with Tao, And evil is not powerful, But its power will not be used to harm others.
Not only will it do no harm to others, But the sage himself will also be protected.
They do not hurt each other, And the Virtue in each one refreshes both.

A great country is like low land.
It is the meeting ground of the universe, The mother of the universe.
The female overcomes the male with stillness, Lying low in stillness.
Therefore if a great country gives way to a smaller country, It will conquer the smaller country.
And if a small country submits to a great country, It can conquer the great country.
Therefore those who would conquer must yield, And those who conquer do so because they yield.
A great nation needs more people; A small country needs to serve.
Each gets what it wants.
It is fitting for a great nation to yield.

Tao is source of the ten thousand things.
It is the treasure of the good man, and the refuge of the bad.
Sweet words can buy honor; Good deeds can gain respect.
If a man is bad, do not abandon him.
Therefore on the day the emperor is crowned, Or the three officers of state installed, Do not send a gift of jade and a team of four horses, But remain still and offer the Tao.
Why does everyone like the Tao so much at first? Isn't it because you find what you seek and are forgiven when you sin? Therefore this is the greatest treasure of the universe.

Practice non-action.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Magnify the small, increase the few.
Reward bitterness with care.
See simplicity in the complicated.
Achieve greatness in little things.
In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy.
In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds.
The sage does not attempt anything very big, And thus achieved greatness.
Easy promises make for little trust.
Taking things lightly results in great difficulty.
Because the sage always confronts difficulties, He never experiences them.

Peace is easily maintained; Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered; The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man's embrace springs up from a small shoot; A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth; A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.
He who acts defeats his own purpose; He who grasps loses.
The sage does not act, and so is not defeated.
He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning; Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He help the ten thousand things find their own nature, But refrains from action.

In the beginning those who knew the Tao did not try to enlighten others, But kept it hidden.
Why is it so hard to rule? Because people are so clever.
Rulers who try to use cleverness Cheat the country.
Those who rule without cleverness Are a blessing to the land.
These are the two alternatives.
Understanding these is Primal Virtue.
Primal Virtue is deep and far.
It leads all things back Toward the great oneness.

Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed; When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.
Because he does not compete, He does not meet competition.

Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great and beyond compare.
Because it is great, it seems different.
If it were not different, it would have vanished long ago.
I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy; the second is economy; The third is daring not to be ahead of others.
From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity; From humility comes leadership.
Nowadays men shun mercy, but try to be brave; They abandon economy, but try to be generous; They do not believe in humility, but always try to be first.
This is certain death.
Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
It is the means by which heaven saves and guards.

A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful A good employer is humble.
This is known as the Virtue of not striving.
This is known as ability to deal with people.
This since ancient times has been known as the ultimate unity with heaven.

There is a saying among soldiers: I dare not make the first move but would rather play the guest; I dare not advance and inch but would rather withdraw a foot.
This is called marching without appearing to move, Rolling up your sleeves without showing your arm, Capturing the enemy without attacking, Being armed without weapons.
There is no greater catastrophe than underestimating the enemy.
By underestimating the enemy, I almost lost what I value.
Therefore when the battle is joined, The underdog will win.

My words are easy to understand and easy to perform, Yet no man under heaven knows them or practices them.
My words have ancient beginnings.
My actions are disciplined.
Because men do not understand, they have no knowledge of me.
Those that know me are few; Those that abuse me are honored.
Therefore the sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart.

Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
If one is sick of sickness, then one is not sick.
The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness.
Therefore he is not sick.

When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.
Do not intrude in their homes.
Do not harass them at work.
If you do not interfere, they will not weary of you.
Therefore the sage knows himself but makes no show, Has self-respect but is not arrogant.
He lets go of that and chooses this.

A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed.
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two which is good and which is harmful? Some things are not favored by heaven.
Who knows why? Even the sage is unsure of this.
The Tao of heaven does not strive, and yet it overcomes.
It does not speak, and yet is answered.
It does not ask, yet is supplied with all its needs.
It seems to have no aim and yet its purpose is fulfilled.
Heaven's net casts wide.
Though its meshes are course, nothing slips through.

If men are not afraid to die, It is no avail to threaten them with death.
If men live in constant fear of dying, And if breaking the law means that a man will be killed, Who will dare to break the law? There is always an official executioner.
If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood.
If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

Why are the people starving? Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious? Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.
Why do the people think so little of death? Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take death lightly.
Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.

A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
The high is lowered, and the low is raised.
If the string is too long, it is shortened; If there is not enough, it is made longer.
The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much and give to those who do not have enough.
Man's way is different.
He takes from those who do not have enough and give to those who already have too much.
What man has more than enough and gives it to the world? Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the sage works without recognition.
He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it.
He does not try to show his knowledge.

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong; The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this, Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says: He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country's disasters deserves to be king of the universe.
The truth often sounds paradoxical.

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it? Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain But does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part, But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations.
The Tao of heaven is impartial.
It stays with good men all the time.

A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure; They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors, And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way, Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.
The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Tao of the sage is work without effort.


The Lotus Sūtra (Sanskrit: Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra).

The earliest known Sanskrit title for the sūtra is the Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra, which translates to "Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma". In English, the shortened form Lotus Sūtra is common. The Lotus Sūtra has also been highly regarded in a number of Asian countries.

The Lotus Sutra was revealed in the mid 70s of the first century CE. It "came out of nowhere" and presented a challenge for authenticity to Buddhist Scholars. Parts of it, especially the dharanis were written in the Magadhi dialect, mother tongue of Mari of Magadha, beloved companion of the Lord. At about the time of the return of the Lord in His glorified Avalokitesvara form as Christ, Saviour of the World, an international council of Buddhist leaders was held in Kashmir. On the agenda for that council was the task to decide what to do with the Lotus Sutra, is it authentic and orthodox or not. The decision came out in favour of the Sutra and it found immediate wide acceptance. Today, it is the most revered and most read of Buddhist literature.

The Lotus Sutra forms the basis of, and embodies all of Wayism in the East.


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