Tao te Ching

The Tau Te Ching (Classic of the Way) by Lau Tzu translated by Brother Brother McCarrol : transcribed audio literature company

The 81 brief verses known as the Tau te Ching comprise one of the most precious treasures that have come down to us from the great ancient civilizations of the Orient. It is something we cannot name. It is some subtle movement within ourselves that connects us to the universal reality.

“I do not know its name,” says Lau Tzu. I call it “the tau”. The Tau te Ching has undergone more translations than any book in the world apart from the Bible. The present translation by Tolbert McCarrol presented by Audio literature company and here transcribed. Brother McCarrol is a Christian monk of star cross monastery in California writes in his introduction. The Tao is universal. It is not Chinese. It is found in the quest of the Christian mystics, Native Americans, Zen monks, desert holymen and in every culture and age in the story of the earth. Before this story begins and after this story ends there is the tao.


The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things
Send your desires away and you will see the essence
Filled with desire and you will see only its manifestation
As these two come forth they differ in name
Yet at their source they are the same
This source is called a mystery
Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all mystery.


All under heaven see beauty as beauty only because they also see ugliness
All announce good is good, only because they also denounce what is bad
Therefore something and nothing give birth to one another.
Difficult and easy complete one another
Long and short fashion one another
High and low arise from one another
Notes and tones harmonize with one another
Front and back follow one another
Thus the true person acts without striving and teaches without words

Deny nothing to the ten thousand things
Nourish them without claiming authority
Benefit them without demanding gratitude
Do the work then move on
And the fruits of your labour will last forever


Not exalting the talented prevents rivalry
Not valuing goods that are hard to obtain prevents stealing
Not displaying desirable things prevents confusion of the heart

Therefore the true person governs by
Emptying the heart of desire
And filling the belly with food
Weakening ambitions
And strengthening bones

If the people are simple and free from desire
Then the clever ones never dare to interfere

Practice action without striving
And all will be in order


The Tao is empty
When utilized, it is not filled up
So deep! It seems to be the source of all things

It blunts the sharpness
Unravels the knots
Dims the glare
Mixes the dusts

It is hidden deep yet ever present
I do not know whose child it is
It existed before the common ancestor


Heaven and Earth are not moved by offerings of straw dogs
The true person is not moved by offerings of straw dogs

The space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows?
It is empty, and yet never exhausted
The more it works, the more that comes out.

Many words leads to exhaustion
Better to hold fast to your centre


The valley spirit, never dies
It is the unknown first mother
Whose gate is the root
From which grew Heaven and Earth

It is dimly seen yet always present
Draw from it all you wish.
It will never run dry.


Heaven and Earth last forever
The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
Is that they do not live for themselves
Hence they last forever

Therefore the true person
Leaves self behind and thus is found in front
Is not guarded and thus is preserved
Is self free and thus is able to find fulfilment


The highest goodness is like water
For water benefits the ten thousand things without striving
It settles in places that people avoid
And so it is like the Tao

In choosing your home look to the land
In preparing your heart go deep
In associating with others value gentleness
In speaking exhibit good faith
In governing provide good order
In the conduct of business be competent
And in action be timely

When there is no strife, nothing goes amiss.

* 9

Better to stop in time then to fill to the brim
Hone a blade to the sharpest point
And it will soon be blunt

Fill your house with Gold and jade
And no one can protect it
Be prideful about wealth and positions
And you bring disasters upon yourself

Retire when the work is done
This is the way of Heaven


While carrying your active life on your head
Can you embrace the quiet spirit in your arms and not let go
While being fully focused on your vital breath
Can you make it soft like that of a new born babe?
While cleaning your inner mirror
Can you leave it without blemish?
While loving the people and ruling the country
Can you dispense with cleverness?
While opening and closing the gates of heaven
Can you be like a mother bird?
While penetrating the four corners with your insight
Can you remain simple?

Help the people live
Nourish the people
Help them live yet lay no claim to them
Benefit them yet seek no gratitude
Guide them yet do not control them
This is called the Hidden Virtue


Thirty spokes connect to the wheels hub
Yet it is the centre hole that makes it useful.
Clay is shaped into a vessel.
Yet it is the emptiness within, that makes it useful
Doors and windows are cut for a room,
Yet it is the space where there is nothing that makes it useful.

Therefore, though advantage comes from what is
Real usefulness comes from what is not.


The five colors blind the eye
The five notes deafen the ear
The five flavors dull the pallette

Racing and hunting drive the heart wild
Goods that are hard to obtain hinder the journey

Therefore the true person is guided more by the abdomen than the eye
And prefers this within to that without.


Favor and disgrace brings fear
Great trouble comes from having a body
What is meant by “favor and disgrace bring fear”?
Favor leads to a fear of losing it;
And disgrace leads to a fear of greater trouble

What is meant by “great trouble comes from having a body “?
The reason you have trouble is that you are self involved
No trouble can befall a self free person
Therefore surrender your self interest
Love others as though they were yourself
Then you can be entrusted with all things under heaven


Look at it, you cannot see it
It is invisible
Listen to it, you cannot hear it
It is inaudible
Reach for it, you cannot grasp it
It is intangible
These three qualities are unfathomable
So they fuse together and become one

The upper part is not bright
The lower part is not dark
Ceaselessly the unnamed moves back to nothingness
It has the form of the formless
The image of the imageless
It is indefinable and shadowy
Go to it and you will not see its front
Follow it and you will not see its back

Yet, hold fast to this ancient Tao
You will experience the present now moment
Know its beginnings
And you can follow the path of the Tao


The ancient followers of the Tao were subtle mysterious and penetrating
They were too deep to be fathomed.
All we can do is describe their appearance

Hesitant, as if crossing a winter stream
Watchful, as if aware of neighbors on all sides
Respectful, like a visiting guest
Yielding, like ice beginning to melt
Simple, like an uncarved block
Open, like a valley
Obscure, like muddy water

Who else can be still
and let the muddy water slowly become clear?
Who else can remain at rest
And slowly come to life?

Those who hold fast to the Tao do not try to fill themselves to the brim
Because they do not try to be fill.
They can be worn out and yet ever new.


Empty everything out
Hold fast to your stillness
Even though all things are stirring together
Watch for their movement of return

The ten thousand things flourish
and then each returns to the root from which it came.
Returning to the root is stillness.
Through stillness each fulfils its destiny
That which has fulfilled its destiny becomes part of the always so.
To be aware of the always so is to awaken.

Those who innovate while in ignorance of the always so
Move towards disaster
Those who act with awareness of the always so
Embrace All
They are not possessed by particular desire
And move toward the Tao
Those who are one with the Tao abide forever
Even after their bodies waste away they are safe and whole.

* 17

The best leader is one whose existence is barely known by people
Next comes one who they love and praise
Next comes one they fear
Next comes one they defy
If you do not trust enough
You will not be trusted

True persons do not offer words lightly
When their task is accomplished and their work is completed
The people say, “We did it naturally”


When the great Tao is forgotten
Benevolence and moral codes arise
When shrewdness and cleverness appear
Great hypocrisy follows

When there is no harmony in the family
Filial manners are developed
When the country is in disorder
Ministers appear as loyal servants


Stop being learned and your troubles will end
Give up wisdom
Discard cleverness
And the people will benefit a hundred fold

Give up benevolence, discard moral judgement
The people will rediscover natural compassion

Give up shrewdness, discard gain
And thieves and robbers will disappear

These three false adornments are not enough to live by
They must give way to something more solid
Look for what is simple
And hold onto the uncarved block
Diminish thoughts of self and reduce desires


How great is the difference between yay and ye?
How great is the distinction between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear?
How silly.

Everyone else is joyous
As if enjoying the greatest feast or
going up the terraces in spring
I alone am drifting without direction
Like a baby who has not yet smiled
I alone am moping like I have no home
Everyone else has more than they need
I alone seem in want
I have the mind of a fool, how confused I am.
Other people are bright and clever
I alone am dark
Other people are alert and self assured
I alone am dull, muddled
I am unsettled like the waves of the sea
Like a restless wind

Everyone else has purpose
I alone am stubborn and awkward
I am different from other people
Even so I am nourished by the great mother


The great virtue
Is to follow the Tao and only the Tao
The Tao is shadowy and intangible.
Intangible and evasive and yet within it is a form
Evasive and intangible yet within it is a substance
Shadowy and dark yet within it is a vital force

This vital force is real
And can be relied upon
From ancient times to the present
The Tao’s instructions have not been forgotten
Through it can be perceived the beginning of the story of life
How do I know how it was at the beginning of the story of life?
Because of what is within me


Yield and overcome
Bend and be straight
Empty out and be full
Wear out and be renewed
Have little and gain
Have much and be confused
Therefore the true person embraces the one and becomes a model for all
Do not look only at oneself and you will see much
Do not justify yourself and you will be distinguished
Do not brag and you will have merit
Do not be prideful and your work will endure

It is because you do not strive, that no one under heaven can strive with you.
The saying of the old ones, “yield and overcome”
Is not an empty phrase?
True wholeness is achieved by blending with life.


To talk little is to follow nature
A whirl wind does not last all morning
A sudden shower does not last all day
Who produces these things? Heaven and Earth
Even Heaven and Earth cannot make wild things last long
How then can people hope to do so?

People of the Tao conform to the Tao
People of virtue conform to virtue
People who lose the way conform to the loss
Those who conform to the Tao, are welcomed into the Tao
Those who conform to virtue, are welcomed into virtue
Those who conform to the loss, are welcomed into the loss
Those who do not trust enough will not be trusted


The person on tiptoes is not steady
The person with legs astride cannot walk
Those who look only at themselves see little
Those who justify themselves are not distinguished
Those who brag have no merit
The work of prideful people will not endure

From the standpoint of the Tao these things are no more than
excessive food and tumors of the body
As they bring sickness,
followers of the Tao do not linger around them

* 25

Something formless yet complete
Existing before Heaven and Earth
Silent and limitless it stands alone
And does not change
Reaching everywhere it does not tire
Perhaps it is the mother of all things under Heaven

I do not know its name
I call it “Tao”
When I have to describe it, I call it great
Being great it flows
It flows far away
Having gone far away it returns
Therefore the Tao is great
Heaven is great
Earth is great
People are also great
Thus people constitute one of the four great things in the universe
People conform to Earth
The Earth conforms to Heaven
Heaven conforms to the Tao
The Tao conforms to its own nature


The solid must be the root of the light
The still must be the master of the restless

Therefore wise people when travelling all day
Do not lose sight of their baggage cart
Although there are beautiful scenes to see
They remain quietly in their own place

Should a lord of ten thousand chariots
appear more frivolous than a simple traveller?
To be light is to lose the root
To be restless is to lose the master


A skilful traveller leaves no tracks
A skilful speaker makes no slip
A skilful reckoner needs no counting rod
A skilfully made door requires no bolts yet it cannot be opened
A skilful binding has no chords or knots yet it cannot be untied

Therefore the true person is skilful in assisting people.
And abandons nobody
They are skilful in assisting things
And abandons nothing
This is called following the inner light

Therefore the skilful person is the teacher of the person without skill
The person without skill is the material of the skilful person
If you do not respect the teacher
If you do not care for the material
You are on the road to confusion
And your cleverness will not save you
This is an essential principle


Develop the strength of a man yet live as gently as a woman
Become a brook and receive all things under heaven
If you are such a brook
Then virtue will constantly flow into you
And you will become a simple child again
Know the pure, but live the life of the sullied
Become a fountain to all things under Heaven
If you become such a fountain
Then you will have abundant virtue
And you will return to the state of the uncarved block
When the uncarved block is cut up into pieces
It is turned into specialised instruments
But, the true person makes use of it whole
And becomes the master of the instruments
Hence it is said the finest carver cuts little

* 29

Whoever wishes to take over the world will not succeed
The world is a sacred vessel
And nothing should be done to it
Whoever tries to tamper with it will mar it
Whoever tries to grab it will lose it
Hence there is a time to go ahead and a time to stay behind
There is a time to breathe easy and a time to breathe hard
There is a time to be vigorous and a time to be gentle
There is a time to gather and a time to release
Therefore the true person avoids extremes, self indulgence and extravagance


If you would assist leaders of people by way of the Tao
You would oppose the use of armed force to overpower the world
Those who use weapons will be harmed by them

Where troops have camped only thorn bushes grow
Bad harvests follow in the wake of a great army
The skilful person strikes the blow and stops without taking advantage of the victory
Bring it to conclusion but do not be vain
Bring it to a conclusion but do not be boastful
Bring it to a conclusion but do not be arrogant
Bring it to a conclusion but only if there is a choice
Bring it to a conclusion but without violence

When force is used youthful strength decays
This is not the way of the Tao
That which goes against the Tao will quickly pass away


Weapons are ill omen things
Among gentle people the left side is the place of honour when at home
but in war the right side is the place of honour
Weapons are not proper instruments for gentle people
They use them only when they have no other choice.
Peace and quiet are what they value
They do not glory in victory
To glorify it is to delight in the slaughter of people
Those who delight in the slaughter of people
will never thrive among all that dwell under Heaven

The army that has killed people should be received with sorrow
Conquerors should be received with the rights of mourning


The Tao is forever nameless
Though the uncarved block is small it is not inferior to anything under Heaven
If leaders could keep hold of it the ten thousand things would submit to them freely

Heaven and Earth, would unite
And sweet dew will fall
The people would live in harmony without any law or decree

Only when the block is carved are there names
As soon as there are names it is time to stop
Knowing when to stop, prevents trouble

All under heaven will return to the Tao
As brooks and streams flow home to the sea


Knowing others is to be clever
Knowing yourself is to be enlightened

Overcoming others requires force
Overcome yourself requires strength

To know that you have enough is to be rich
Push through and you may get your way
but return home and you will endure.
Live fully your days and you have had a long life


The great Tao covers everything like a flood
It flows to the left and to the right

The ten thousand things depend upon it and it denies none of them
It accomplishes its task, yet claims no reward
It clothes and feeds the ten thousand things, yet it does not attempt to control them

Therefore it may be called the little
The ten thousand things returns to it even though it does not control them
Therefore it may be called the great

So it is that the true person does not wish to be great
and therefore becomes truly great


Hold onto the great image
And all under heaven will approach you
Coming to you and not being harmed they will find rest, peace and security

A passing guest will pause at the sound of music and the smell of fancy food.
By comparison the Tao is mild and flavourless

It is not solid enough to be seen
Nor loud enough to be heard
Yet it lasts forever


That which is to be shrunk must first be stretched out
That which is to be weakened must first be strengthen
That which is to be cast down must first be raised up
That which is to be taken must first be given
There is wisdom in dimming your light

The soft and gentle will overcome the hard and powerful
Fish are best left in deep waters
And weapons are best kept out of site


The Tao never strives
Yet nothing is left undone

If leaders were able to adhere to it
The ten thousand things would develop of their own accord
If after they have developed they experience desires to strive
They can bury those desires under the nameless uncarved block
The nameless uncarved block can protect against desire
When desires are reduced
There will be stillness
And then all under heaven will be at rest


Te Ching
Virtue Classic – Chapters 38 to 81


A person of high virtue does not think about virtue
And therefore possesses virtue
A person of little virtue tries to be virtuous
And therefore lacks virtue
A person of high virtue does not make a fuss and is not seen
A person of little virtue always makes a fuss and is always seen
A truly good person functions without ulterior motive
A moralist acts out of private desires
A ritualist acts and when no one responds roles up his sleeves and marches

When we lose the Tao we turn to virtue
When we lose virtue we turn to kindness
When we lose kindness we turn to morality
When we lose morality we turn to ritual
Ritual is the mere husk of good faith and loyalty
And the beginning of disorder
Knowledge of what is to come may be a flower of the Tao
But it is also the beginning of folly
Hence the well formed person relies on what is solid
And not on what is flimsy
On the fruit and not the flower
Therefore such a person lets go of that without and is content with this within


From ancient times these things have arisen from the one
Heaven is clear because of the one
The earth is firm because of the one
The spirit is strong because of the one
The valley is full because of the one
The ten thousand things reproduce because of the one
Leaders are able to lead because of the one
All of this comes from the one

If Heaven were not clear it would soon split
If earth were not firm it would soon bend and break
If the spirit were not strong it would soon wear out
If the valley were not full it would soon dry up
If the ten thousand things did not reproduce they would soon die out
If leaders could not lead they would soon fall

Therefore, greatness has its source in the little
The low is the foundation of the high
Princes call themselves alone, helpless, worthless
Is this not acknowledging a humble route?
Innumerate the parts of a carriage and you have not defined a carriage.

Better to resound like stone chimes
Then to tinkle like jade bells


Returning is the direction of the Tao
Yielding is the way of the Tao

The ten thousand things are born of being
And being is born of non-being


The wise student on hearing the Tao
Diligently puts it into practice
The average student on hearing the Tao
Keeps it one minute and then loses it the next
The half hearted student on hearing the Tao
Laughs at it loudly
If this student did not laugh at it, it would not be the Tao

Therefore the ancient proverb says:
The bright path seems dull
The path that goes forward seems to lead backward
The even path seems up and down
The greatest whiteness seems soiled
High virtue seems like a canyon
Abundant virtue seems deficient
Vigorous virtue seems limp
Simple virtue seems faded
The greatest square has no corners
The greatest vessel takes long to complete
The greatest note is hard to hear
The greatest image has no shape
The Tao is hidden and nameless
Yet it is the Tao alone that supports all things
And brings them to completion


The Tao gives birth to the one
The one gives birth to two
Two gives birth to three
And three gives birth to the ten thousand things
The ten thousand things have their backs in the shadow while they embrace the light
Harmony is achieved by blending the breaths of these two forces
People dislike the words; alone, helpless, worthless
Yet this is how princes describe themselves

So it is sometimes
A thing is increased by being diminished and
Diminished by being increased
What others teach
I will also teach
A violent person will not die a natural death
I shall make this the basis of my teaching


The most yielding of all things
Overcomes the hardest of all things

That which has no substance
Enters where there is no crevice

Hence I know the value of action without striving

Few things under heaven bring more benefit
Than the lessons learned under silence
And the actions taken without striving


Your integrity or your body
Which is more important?
Your body or your possessions
Which is worth more?
Gain or loss, which is more harmful?

Thus it is the miser will pay much
The hoarder will suffer great loss

Be content with what you have and you will not be disgraced
Know when to stop and you will be preserved from danger
Only in this way will you long endure


Great accomplishment seems incomplete yet
Its use is not impaired
Great fullness seems empty
Yet, it will never be drained
Great straightness looks crooked

Great skill appears clumsy
Great eloquence sounds like stammering
Movement overcomes cold
Stillness overcomes heat
The calm and quiet set right everything under Heaven


When the Tao prevails in the world
Swift horses are used to fertilise the fields
When the Tao is unheated
Warhorses are bred on the border lands

There is no greater offence then harbouring desires
There is no greater disaster than discontent
There is no greater misfortune than wanting more
Hence if you are content
You will always have enough


Without going outside, you can know the ways of the world
Without looking through the window, you can see the way of Heaven
The farther out you go
The less you know

Therefore the true person
Arrives without travelling
Perceives without looking
And acts without striving


In the pursuit of learning
Everyday something is added
In the pursuit of the Tao
Everyday something is dropped

Less and less is done
Until you come to action without striving
When you follow this practice nothing remains undone

All under heaven is won by letting things take their course
Nothing can be gained by interfering


The true person does not have an individual heart
But uses the heart of the people
I am kind to those who are kind
I am also kind to those that are not kind
Thus there is an increase in kindness
I keep faith with those who are in good faith
I also keep faith with those who lack good faith
Thus there is an increase of good faith

The true person is detached and humble
And to the world appears confusing
The people all strain their ears and eyes
Yet the true person remains childlike


When going off one way means living and going off the other way means dying
Three in ten are companions of life
Three in ten are companions of death
And three in ten value life but drift toward death
Why is this so?
Because these people are too greedy about living

It is said people who are skilful in caring for the life that is given to them
Travel abroad without fear of wild ox or tiger
And enter a battle without concern for sharp weapons
There is no place for the wild ox to thrust his horns
There is no place for the tiger to put his claws
There is no place for a weapon to lodge
How is this so?
Because there is no place for death to intervene


The tao gives life to all things
And its virtue nourishes them
Forms each according to its nature
And gives to each according to its inner strength

Therefore the ten thousand things all venerate the Tao and honour its virtue
It has never been decreed the Tao be venerated and its virtue be honoured
They have always been so treated spontaneously

Thus the Tao gives life to all things
And its virtue raises them, nourishes them
Brings them to their full growth
Feeds, shelters and protects them

Giving life without claiming authority
Benefiting without demanding gratitude
Guiding without control
This is called Hidden Virtue


All things under Heaven had a common beginning
That beginning could be considered the mother of all things
When you know the mother
You will also know the children
Know the children
Yet hold fast to the mother
And to the end of your days you will be free from danger

Block the passages
Shut the doors
And to the end of your days your strength will not fail you
Open the passages
Increase your activities
And to the end of your days you will be beyond help

See the small and develop clear vision
Practice yielding and develop strength
Use the outer light
To return to the inner light
Save yourself from harm
This is known as following the always so


If I have even a little sense
I will walk upon the great path of the Tao
And only fear straying from it
This great way is straight and smooth
Yet people often prefer the side roads

The courtyard is well kept
But the fields are full of weeds
The granaries stand empty

Still there are those of us who wear elegant clothes.
Carry sharp swords
Pamper ourselves with food and drink
And have more possessions than we can use.

These are the actions of robbers
This is certainly far from the Tao!


What is well rooted cannot be pulled up
What is firmly grasped will not slip lose
It will be honoured from generation to generation

When cultivated in your person, virtue will be real
When cultivated in your household, virtue will be plentiful
When cultivated in your village, virtue will endure
When cultivated in your country, virtue will abound
When cultivated in your world, virtue will be universal

Hence through yourself look at self
Through your household look at household
Through your community look at community
Through your country look at country
Through your world look at world
How do I know that the world is like this?
Because of what is within me


A person who is filled with virtue is like a new born child
Poisonous insects will not sting
Wild animals will not pounce
Birds of prey will not swoop down
Although bones are soft and sinews weak
A child’s grip is firm
The union of man and woman is not known but yet there is completeness
Because a child’s vital force is at height
Crying all day will not produce hoarseness
Because there is perfect harmony
To know harmony is to know the always so
To know the always so is to be awakened

Trying to fill life to the brim invites a curse
For the mind to make demands on the breath of life brings strain
Whatever has been forced to a peak of vigour approaches decay
This is not the way of the Tao
That which goes against the Tao will quickly pass away


Those who know do not speak
Those who speak do not know

Lock the passages
Shut the doors
Blunt the sharpness
Untangle the knots
Soften the glare
Settle with the dust
This is the mystery of evenness

Those who have achieved this cannot be enclosed nor kept at a distance
They cannot be benefited or harmed, honoured or disgraced
Therefore this is the noblest state under Heaven


Govern the country by being straight forward
Wage war by being crafty
Win all under Heaven by not meddling
How do I know that this is so?
By what is within me.

The more restrictions there are the poorer are the people
The more pointed the peoples weapons
The more disorder there is in the country
The more clever and ingenious are the people
The more strange are the contrivances that appear
The more laws and edicts that are posted
The more thieves and robbers that arise

Hence an old one has said
I act without striving and the people transform themselves
I love stillness, and the people straighten themselves
I do not meddle, and the people prosper by themselves
I am free from desires, and the people themselves return to the simplicity of the uncarved block


When the government is unseen
The people are simple and happy
When the government is lively
The people are cunning and discontented

On misery perches happiness
Beneath happiness crouches misery
Who knows when this will cease?
The straight changes into the crooked
The good becomes the ominous
Surely the people have been confused
For a long time

Therefore the true person squares without cutting
Carves without hacking
Straightens without dislocating
Gives forth light without blinding


For governing others and serving Heaven
There is nothing better than moderation
A person who is moderate returns to the path
Returning to the path brings an abundance of virtue
This good store of virtue cannot be conquered
Virtue that cannot be conquered knows no limit
Only a person who has limitless virtue is fit to lead
Only the leader who possesses the mother of the country will long endure
This is called making the roots go deep by restraining the trunk
Learn to focus your life and you will see many days


Governing a big country is like cooking a small fish
Let all under Heaven be governed in accordance with the Tao
And demons will not manifest their power
It is not that they lack power
But rather will not use their power to harm people

They are not the only ones who have power and do not use it to harm the people
The true person does not harm the people
Whenever there is no harm done
That power flows into a common virtue


The great country is like the lowland where all the streams unite
In all things under Heaven
The female overcomes the male by her stillness
Because she is still she lies below

Hence if the great country takes the low place it will win over the little country
If the little country will take the low place it will win over the great country
Thus the one gets below and prospers
And the other remains below and prospers
All that the great country wants is more people
All that the little country wants is a place for its people to go and to be employed
If each to get what it wants it is necessary for
The great country to take the low place


The Tao is to the ten thousand things what the shrine is in the home
It is the treasure of the virtuous
And the protection of the wrongdoer

Good words are appreciated
Good deeds are accepted as gifts
Even the wrongdoers are not abandoned

Hence, on the day an Emperor is installed
And appoints the three Ducal ministers
Remain where you are and make an offering of the Tao
It will be preferable to a gift of jade disks followed by a team of four horses

Why did the ancients value the Tao?
was it not because through it you can find what you seek?
And because of it you can escape what is hounding you
Therefore, it is the most valuable thing under Heaven


Act without striving
Work without interfering
Find the flavour in what is flavourless
Enlarge the small, increase the few
Heal injury with goodness

Handle the difficult while it is still easy
Cultivate the great while it is still small
All difficult things begin as easy things
All great things begin as small things
Therefore the true person never attempts anything great
And thereby accomplishes great things
Lightly made promises inspire little faith
Trying to make things easy results in great difficulties

The true person regards everything as difficult
And is never overcome by difficulties

* 64

Peaceful is easily maintained while things are still at rest
Trouble is easily handled before it starts
What is brittle is easily broken
What is minute is easily scattered
Handle a problem before it appears
Secure order before confusion begins
A tree as big as a person’s embrace begins as a tiny shoot
A terrace nine stories high rises from a shovel full of earth
A journey of a thousand miles begins under the feet

A person who interferes does harm
And those who grasp lose their hold
Therefore, the true person acts without striving and does no harm
Avoids grabbing and never loses hold

People often ruin their ventures when they are on the verge of success
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning
And your work will not be ruined

Therefore, the true person seeks freedom from desire
Does not value things that are hard to come by
Learns without scholarship
Brings people back to what they had passed by
And assists the ten thousand things to find its own natures
All without daring to interfere


The ancients who practiced the Tao
Did not use it to enlighten people
Rather to assist them in gaining simplicity
The reason people are difficult to govern
Is because they are too clever
Hence, a person who attempts to govern a country by cleverness will injure it
Those who govern without cleverness
Will be a blessing to the land

These are the two models
Knowing these models
Is called the Mystic Virtue
The Mystic Virtue is deep and so far-reaching
That it can lead all things back toward great harmony


How did the sea gain kingship of a hundred streams?
Because it takes the lower position
Hence it is king of a hundred streams
Therefore when true persons rule over the people
They put themselves below the people by their speech
When they lead the people they stay behind the people
When true persons are given spaces above the people
They do not crush the people with their weight
When they take their place ahead of the people
They do not obstruct the people’s progress
That is why everything under Heaven supports them gladly and does not tire of them
Because they strive with no-one, no-one can ever strive with them


Everyone under Heaven says my Tao is great
As if it resembles nothing else
It is because it is great that it seems different
If it were like anything on earth it would be small from the beginning

I have three treasures
That I cherish and hold fast
The first is gentleness
The second is simplicity
The third is daring not to be first among all things under Heaven
Because of gentleness I am able to be courageous
Because of simplicity I am able to be generous
Because of daring not to be first I am able to lead

If people forsake gentleness and try to be courageous
Forsake simplicity and try to be generous
Forsake the last place and try to get the first place
This is certain death
Gentleness conquers in battle and protects in defence
What Heaven guards it arms
With the gift of gentleness


A skilled warrior does not rush ahead of others
A skilled fighter does not make a show of anger
A skilled victor does not seek revenge
A skilled employer does not act superior
This is known as the virtue of not competing
This is known as making use of the abilities of others
This is known as being united with Heaven
As it was in ancient time


The master soldiers have a saying:
I dare not be the host, but prefer to be the guest
I dare not advance an inch, but prefer to retreat a foot

This is called marching without moving
Rolling up a sleeve without baring an arm
Capturing a foe without a battlefront
Arming yourself without weapons
There is no disaster greater than attacking and finding no enemy
Doing so will cost you your treasure

Thus it is when opposing forces meet
Victory will go to those who take no delight in the situation

* 70

My words are easy to understand, and easy to put into practice
Yet no one under Heaven understands them or puts them into practice
My words have an ancestor
My actions are governed
Because people do not understand this
They do not understand me
Those who understand me are few
Those who follow me should be respected
Therefore the true person wears home spun clothes and carries jade in the heart


It is well to know that you do not know
To think you know when you do not is sickness

When you are sick of sickness
You will no longer be sick

True persons are not sick
Because they are sick of sickness
This is the way to heal


When the people lack a sense of awe
Disaster will descend upon them

Do not constrict their living place
Do not harass them in their work
If you do not oppress them they will not wary of you

Therefore true persons
Know themselves but make no show of themselves
They know their value but do not exalt themselves
They prefer this within to that without

* 73

A person whose courage lies in daring will meet death
A person whose courage lies in not daring will encounter life

Of the two courses either may be beneficial or harmful
Heaven dislikes what it dislikes, who knows the reason why?
Even the true person has difficulty with such a question

The Tao of Heaven
Does not strive and yet it overcomes
Does not speak and yet it gets responses
Does not beckon and yet it attracts
Is at ease and yet it follows a plan
The net of heaven is cast wide
Though the mesh is course, nothing ever slips through


When the people do not fear death
What use is it to threaten them with death?
If the people were always afraid of death
Then those who did wrong
Would always be arrested and put to death
Who would do wrong?
There is always a lord of execution whose duty it is to kill
If you try to fill that function
It is like trying to hew wood in place of a master carpenter
You will probably injure your own hands

* 75

Why are the people starving?
Because their leaders eat up too much of the tax grain
That is why the people are starving
Why are the people difficult to govern?
Because their leaders interfere
That is why the people are difficult to govern
Why do the people treat death lightly
Because their leaders are so grossly absorbed in the pursuit of living
That is why the people treat death lightly
Therefore it is wisest to ignore life alltogether
Are better than those who value living


While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle
Therefore the hard and stiff
are attendants of death
That supple and soft
are attendants of life
Thus a hard weapon will be broken
A mighty tree will invite the axe
Therefore the hard and mighty belong below
The yielding and gentle belong above


The way of Heaven
Is like the bending of a bow
The high end is pulled down
The low end is raised up
The excessive is diminished
And the deficient is supplemented

It is the way of heaven
To take where there is too much
In order to give where there is not enough

The way of people is otherwise
They take where there is not enough
In order to increase where there is already too much

Who will take from their own excesses and give to all under Heaven?
Only those who hold to the Tao
Therefore the true person benefits yet expects no reward
Does the work and moves on
There is no desire to be considered better than others


Nothing under Heaven is softer or more yielding than water
Yet it has no equal for attacking things that are hard and stiff
Nothing can withstand it

Everyone knows that the yielding overcomes the stiff
And the soft overcomes the hard
Yet no-one applies this knowledge

Therefore an old one has said
Only a person who has accepted the countries dirt
Is a leader worthy to offer sacrifice at its shrines of earth and grain
Only a person who takes up the countries misfortunes
Is worthy to be a leader of those who dwell under Heaven
Straightforward words seem crooked

* 79

Even though a truce was made between great enemies
Some enmity is bound to remain
How can this be beneficial?
Therefore the true person undertakes the obligations of the agreement
But makes no claim upon others
The person who has virtue shares with others
The person who lacks virtue takes from others

The way of Heaven has no favorites
It always remains with what is good

* 80

In a small country with few people
Although there are machines that would increase production ten to a hundred times they are not used
The people take death seriously and do not travel about

Though they have boats and chariots
No-one uses them
Though they have armour and weapons
There is no occasion to display them

The people give up writing and return to the knotting of chords
They are satisfied with their food, they are pleased with their clothes
They are content with their homes, they are happy with their simple ways

Even though they live within sight of another country
And can hear dogs barking and cocks crowing
Still, the people grow old and die
Without ever coming into conflict

* 81

Sincere words are not elegant
Elegant words are not sincere
The good person does not argue
The person who argues is not good
The wise do not have great learning
Those with great learning are not wise

True persons do not hoard
Using all they have for others, they still have more
Giving all they have to others, they are richer than before

The way of heaven is to benefit and not to harm
They way of the true person is to assist without striving
In the unfolding of the story of the earth

Here end the sayings of the old ones :


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