The Dao De Jing
Book (Jing) of the Way (Dao) and Virtue (De)
written by Laozi in the 6th century BC
The dao that can be described is not the Eternal Dao,
The name that can be called is not the Eternal Name.
One could say that the Dao is Non-Being, since It was present before the Creation of Heaven and Earth,
One could also say that the Dao is Being, since It is the Mother of all the myriad things.
Thus if one examines the Dao from the perspective of Non-Being, one could perceive Its Mystery;
And if one examines the Dao from the perspective of Being, one could trace Its Pattern.
Fundamentally Being and Non-Being are just two different ways of describing things,
But they both come from the same Source.
This commonality of Source is called Deep Mystery.
The deepest of all deep mysteries,
It is the Source of all the beauties and mysteries in the Universe.
When one pursues beauty solely for the sake of making himself beautiful,
Beauty becomes ugliness,
When one pursues righteousness solely for the sake of making himself righteous,
Righteousness becomes evil.
Being and Non-Being rely on one another, difficulty and ease create one another,
Long and short are relative to one another, high and low direct one another,
A sound and its echo harmonise with one another, front and back follow one another.
Thus, the job of the Sage is superior to every job that requires conscious deliberation,
And the teachings of the Sage transcend every other teaching of words.
It is the Sage who makes the myriad things prosperous, yet He is not arrogant and takes no pride in this;
It is the Sage who gives birth to and nurtures all things, yet He is not possessive about anything,
It is the Sage who provides for all of Creation, yet He never boasts about His own ability to do this;
Even when the Sage finally completes His work,
He does not rest in it or take credits for it,
He does not rest in or take credit for His own work, yet His work is eternal and will never fade away.
If people do not idolise those with great power and virtue, they could stop fighting with one another.
If people do not worship wealth and treasures, they could end stealing and robbery.
If people do not deliberately evoke selfish desires, they could live in peace and harmony.
Thus, the way in which the Sage rules the people is to make them humble in heart but rich in soul;
Calm in spirit but strong in essence.
People shall often live in a state without desires,
So even those who like to deliberately show off their knowledge and intelligence would not be able to conduct evil.
Obey the Dao of "Non-action", then peace and harmony could arrive in the world.
The Dao is empty and formless, yet Its great power is eternal and infinite;
It is deep and transcendental, It is like the Ancestor of the myriad things.
Abandon the aggressive and piercing Qi of a self-righteous person,
Escape from the confusion of the world's diverse myriad forms,
Become one with the Light of your own life,
Understand your dust-like intrinsic nature,
Then you could perceive the Dao within the depth of illusions,
An Existence that sometimes feels concrete, and at other times feels illusionary.
I don't know who created the Dao, for the Dao existed before any god with image came along.
Heaven and Earth is not benevolent in the worldly sense,
It sees the myriad things as mere straw dogs used on the Sacrificial Altar to worship Heaven.
The Sage also cares nothing about the so-called goodness in the world,
For Him, all the people are mere straw dogs used on the Sacrificial Altar to worship Heaven.
Isn't what is between Heaven and Earth like a huge blow chamber used for iron casting?
It is empty and calm yet never runs out of essence,
The more one moves in it the greater the wind.
But a teaching with too many words is prone to error,
Therefore it is prudent to stop at this point.
The deep and formless Spirit of God is eternal and never dies,
It is the deepest and most transcendental Mother of the Universe.
This Mother is the Source of Heaven and Earth.
In the mysterious depths, sometimes illusionary, sometimes concrete,
It carries on forever, Its essence is never used up.
Both Heaven and Earth are long lasting.
Heaven and Earth could be long lasting because they are not selfish and do not serve themselves.
By the same logic the Sage puts Himself last, yet this makes Him first;
He does not care about His own life, yet His life lives on.
Isn't it because of His selflessness that His personal needs are satisfied?
The highest level of virtue is like water,
Water is good at nourishing the myriad things, yet it does not conflict with them;
It flows to places that everyone hates, and therefore it is similar to the Dao.
The Sage lives humbly, has a depth of calmness in His heart,
He interacts with other people in a sincere and loving way,
He speaks with truthfulness, and conducts politics to gain the support of all under heaven,
He does things with great power, and acts according to the times.
Only by avoiding conflicts can one stop making mistakes.
To have an excessive countenance, like a container that is spilling out as one holds it in his hands,
Is not as good as giving the excesses up.
Even the sharpest of points that has undergone thousands of casting processes cannot be long lasting.
For how long can a person keep his roomful of gold and jade?
To be rich, noble and yet arrogant is to invite disaster on oneself.
After great success and gaining great fame, one should retire, for such is the Dao of Heaven.
Who can combine the human soul and the true Dao in a flawless way?
Who can make his spirit gentle and receptive like a newborn baby?
Who can remove all the impurities of his heart, and make it pure and transparent like a bright mirror?
Who can hold great power in his hands, yet still loves the people and governs with "Non-action",
Sacrifices himself and obey the Dao?
Who can have great intelligence, yet still obey the Will of Heaven like how the feminine follows the masculine?
Who can have great knowledge, yet still escape from its shackles and transcend human intelligence?
The One who created and nurtures the world,
It creates and nurtures but does not possess by force,
It leaves nothing undone for all things but does not take pride in Its own power,
It is the Lord of all things but does not rule like a dictator.
This is truly the deepest and most unimaginable virtue!
There are thirty spokes on the wheel,
But the wheel is only useful to the carriage because of the hole in the middle.
Potteries made of ceramics are only useful as houseware because of the emptiness within.
When a window is installed in the house, it is useful to the house only because it is a gap.
Things with form profit people as a result of the utility of the formless.
Excesses of the five colours make one's eyes blind,
Excesses of the five sounds make one's ears deaf,
Excesses of the five tastes destroys one's appetite,
To lose oneself in fast-paced hunting induces madness in one's heart,
To be seduced by rare treasures encourages immoral conduct.
Therefore the way in which the Sage governs people is to provide them with fullness of being within,
Instead of superficial pleasures without.
Thus He takes the former and discards the latter.
Both favour and disgrace should bring alarm,
And the greatest disaster is to care too much about one's own physical life.
Why do I say that favour should bring alarm just as disgrace does?
Because favour comes from Above, when I receive it I am alarmed, when I lose it I am also alarmed.
Therefore both favour and disgrace will disturb the heart.
Why do I say that the greatest disaster is to care too much about one's own life?
Because worrying about the greatest disaster comes from the fact that I have a physical life to protect,
Thus if I no longer concern myself with my physical life, what disasters would I need to worry about?
Therefore the Person who can sacrifice His own physical life for the people of all under heaven,
Can be considered as someone to whom all the people can entrust to the care of;
The Person who can abandon His own physical life in order to love the people of all under heaven,
Deserves the trust of all peoples under heaven.
To see but not perceive is called "Yi",
To listen but not understand is called "Xi",
To search but not find is called "Wei".
The three names of "Yi", "Xi" and "Wei" are difficult to investigate and impossible to comprehend,
Therefore the three combine together to form the One.
Above It there are no more light, below It there are no more darkness.
The One continues to eternity in a way that defies description,
And returns to emptiness and formlessness.
It is in a state of Being without a state of Being,
It is an image without an image,
Almost as if in a trance.
Facing It you cannot see Its front,
Following It you cannot find Its back.
Holding onto the Dao of the ancients, one can make sense of everything in the present age,
And thus know the origin of all things. Such are the essentials of the Great Dao.
People who were good at engaging in the Dao during the ancient times,
Their subtlety and depth were too deep to fully comprehend.
Because they were too deep to fully comprehend,
I can only describe them rather inadequately.
They were cautious like crossing a frozen river at winter,
They were careful as if they feared those who were around them,
They were reverent as if they were guests in someone else's home,
They were natural and unrestrained like melting ice,
They were pure and plain like uncarved jade,
They were vast like high mountains and deep ravines,
They were simple and honest as if they were ignorant.
Who can make the dirty gradually clear?
Who can gradually revive the stiff and numb?
Those who hold onto the Dao will not be proud and arrogant.
Only be discarding pride and arrogance can one truly gains new life from death and destitution.
Empty the inner heart to the extreme, hold onto calmness and return to the One,
I could then perceive the patterns within the activities of the myriad things.
The myriad things are diverse and exist in many different states,
But in the end everything returns to its root.
To return to the root is to have peace and calmness.
To have peace and calmness is to restore one's true life.
To restore one's true life is to know eternity.
To know eternity is to have the Light.
Not knowing eternity, one will act rashly and wilfully, which will result in danger and disaster.
To know the ever-present is to know the Light.
Knowing eternity, one could then forgive and contain all things.
Forgiving all things, one could then become just and honest.
Becoming just and honest, one could then become a complete person.
Becoming a complete person, one could then become an associate of Heaven.
To become an associate of Heaven is to return to and enter the Dao.
Returning to the Dao, one could then become long lasting,
Even if the physical life is destroyed, one will still be safe and well.
The greatest of all rulers does not make his presence felt among the people.
The next greatest rulers win the praise of the people.
The lesser rulers make the people fear them.
The least of all rulers is mocked and viewed with disdain.
When people do not have faith in the ruler, it is because the ruler himself is faithless.
The Great Dao acts in a leisurely manner, It never gives out direct orders.
When the great work is complete,
All the people will see it as something that has happened naturally,
And they will all say: "We were always like this to begin with!"
After the Great Dao is lost, goodness and justice appear.
After intelligence becomes evident, great deceit is created.
It is only when the six relations no longer live harmoniously with one another that filial piety is emphasised,
It is only when the state is corrupted and in disarray that loyal officials are called forth.
Abandon so-called success and intelligence,
This will benefit the people by a hundred fold.
Disregard so-called teachings of morality,
People will return to goodness and filial piety.
Turn away from so-called schemes and profits,
Criminals will cease to exist.
But it is not enough just to have these three points as rules,
A resting place must be found for peoples' hearts.
That is, people should understand the fundamental Root of life,
And hold onto the original Source of existence.
This way selfishness will gradually decrease,
And desires will become increasingly bland.
People will reject worldly teachings,
And preserve their carefree hearts.
How much difference is there between getting flattered and getting berated?
How much difference is there between praises and abominations?
What people fear must also be feared.
The great barren field! Vast and boundless!
Everyone is bustling with activity,
As if they were enjoying a great feast, as if they stepped onto the dancing platform of pleasures.
Only I am so different, simple and dull, primitive and undeveloped,
In a chaotic state like a newborn baby before he learnt how to smile,
Tired and depressed, almost like a homeless person who wanders around.
Everyone is so proud and arrogant, the excesses of their countenance spilling out,
Only I behave as if I have lost something important.
Truly I have the heart of a stupid man!
Every worldly person behaves as if he knows and understands everything,
Only I appear to be ignorant and confused.
Every worldly person makes an issue out of every little thing that happens to them,
Only I am both careless and casual.
The rivers flow vibrantly as if they were the oceans,
The high winds blow vigorously and cannot be traced.
Everyone is useful and capable at something,
Only I am both useless and stubborn.
Why am I so different from everyone else?
Because I view the Mother who feeds me as more important than all things.
The highest state of morality is to completely obey and submit to the Dao.
The Dao, as a form of existence, has a faint and almost trance-like presence.
But within this faint presence there is an image, within this trance-like existence there is a concreteness.
In Its transcendental essences, there exists a Spirit.
Nothing can be more true than this Spirit, It is filled with faithfulness.
From the ancient era to the present day, Its Name never disappears,
From Its Name people can perceive the Father of all things.
How do I know about the Father of all things?
From the Dao.
One who suffers disgrace will succeed,
One who is treated unjustly will be justified.
Those who are low and empty will be fulfilled,
Those who are deficient will receive new life.
Those who are poor will gain,
But those who are rich will be confused.
Therefore, the Sage is unified with the Dao,
And serves as an instrument for all peoples to know Heaven.
He does not think of Himself as perceptive, therefore He perceives very clearly.
He is not self-righteous, therefore He could effectively judge between right and wrong.
He does not seek glory for Himself, therefore He could succeed in great tasks.
He does not see himself as great, therefore He could become the King of all under heaven.
It is precisely because He does not conflict with anyone, that no one under heaven can conflict with Him.
The ancients said "Those who suffer disgrace will in the end succeed",
How could this saying be a mere fabrication?
The Person who can really succeed,
All under heaven will belong to Him.
Speak few words, in order to fit in with one's intrinsic nature.
Even the fiercest of winds cannot last for more than a single morning.
Even the heaviest of rain cannot last for more than an entire day.
Who created the winds and the rain? Heaven and Earth.
Even Heaven and Earth cannot create something that is long lasting, how could men?
Therefore, those who serve the Dao will identify with the Dao,
Those who are virtuous will identify with virtue,
But those who are lost will identify with loss.
The Dao will welcome whoever identifies with it.
Virtue will receive whoever identifies with it.
And loss will embrace those who identify with it.
Faithlessness is caused by the lack of faith.
One cannot stand for long if one is tiptoed,
One cannot walk properly if one always moves in huge steps.
Those who think they can see are actually blind,
Those who think they are clever are actually stupid.
Those who praise themselves will labour fruitlessly to no avail,
Those who see themselves as great and high will not last long.
From the perspective of the Dao,
These are like excesses of food, and works of great toil,
Things that would only make people hate them.
A person who has the Dao will not behave in these ways.
Before the creation of Heaven and Earth,
There existed an incomprehensible One.
Calm and formless! Independent and self-existent, It never changes.
It transforms and moves, never getting tired.
It can be considered as the Mother of Heaven and Earth, and of the myriad things.
I don't really know Its Name, tentatively I will call It the Dao.
I also label It as Great, though such a title is really inadequate.
Great, It moves away towards the farthest distance, and after reaching there It returns.
Therefore the Dao is Great, Heaven is Great, Earth is Great, and Man can also be considered as Great.
In the entire Universe there are four things that can be considered as Great, Man is one of them.
But Man must obey the Laws of Earth,
Earth obeys the Laws of Heaven, Heaven obeys the Laws of the Dao,
And the Dao uses Itself as a standard of Law.
The heavy is the foundation of the light,
Calmness is the master of restlessness.
This is the reason for why when the feudal lords go out each day, they always carry with them a heavy carriage.
This shows that even though the lords possess glory and wealth, they are still detached and at peace.
However, there are some feudal lords of great states who only put a heavy importance on themselves.
They view all under heaven in a contemptuous way, and in the end this will lead to their destruction.
Behaving frivolously, one will lose the root of one's self,
Behaving arrogantly and restlessly, one will lose control.
Those who are truly good at walking do not leave a trace behind,
Those who are truly good at conversation do not make mistakes,
Those who are truly good at calculations do not use an abacus.
Those who are truly good at closing doors do not use locks, yet no one can open them,
Those who are truly good at binding things do not use ropes, yet no one can untie them.
The Sage has always acted in a similar manner,
Being good at saving the people of the world, no one is being abandoned.
Being good at saving the myriad things of the world, nothing is being abandoned.
This is called inheriting and passing on the Light.
Thus it is said that good people are the teachers of the bad people,
Yet bad people are also a capital for the good people.
If one does not revere the teachers, or does not treasure the capital,
Then even if one has great intelligence and knowledge one is still seriously lost.
This is indeed an extremely important secret.
Knowing the aggressive and the masculine, but preferring to hold onto the submissive and the feminine,
And thus becoming a stream for all under heaven.
Becoming a stream for all under heaven, eternal virtue is with Him,
And through this He helps people to return to the state of a pure baby.
Knowing the presence of knowledge and the Light, but willing to hold onto darkness and ignorance,
And thus becoming an instrument for people of the world to know Heaven.
Becoming an instrument for people of the world to know Heaven,
Eternal virtue reaches the state of perfect sincerity, and remains constant.
Through this He helps people to return to the realm of the infinite.
Knowing glory and honour, but willing to endure shame and disgrace,
And thus becoming an empty valley for all under heaven.
Becoming an empty valley for all under heaven, eternal virtue is fulfilled.
Through this He helps people to return to the fundamental Origin of existence.
This fundamental Origin is spread onto different peoples, and in them it becomes different instruments.
The Sage utilises all of them, and thus becomes the Ruler of all.
Thus the greatest wisdom is a unified whole and cannot be divided.
Attempting to win all under heaven through deliberate human efforts is bound to be futile and in vain.
For all under heaven is an instrument of God, it is not something that can be possessed by human efforts.
Deliberate human efforts are certain to fail,
What people deliberately hold onto is bound to get lost.
This is how the world is like:
There are people who move forward,
So there are people who pursue them.
There are people who create warmth,
So there are people who blow cold wind.
There are people who try to make things prosper,
So there are people who try to weaken things.
There are people who carry and hold onto things,
So there are people who overthrow them.
Thus the Sage discards everything that is forceful, extravagant or arrogant.
Those who utilise the Dao to rule the people do not dominate all under heaven with military power,
For violence has a tendency to backfire.
Where an army is stationed, weed grows out,
After every great battle, a cursed year follows.
Goodness will eventually reap its own fruit, there is no need to take things by brute force.
After success do not become proud,
After success do not boast about it,
After success do not become arrogant,
Treat success as if you had no other choice,
And after success do not flaunt your strength.
All things will start to age and decline after flaunting their strength, and this does not come from the Dao.
Things that do not come from the Dao are destined to die from the very beginning.
Weapons of war are inauspicious instruments,
The virtuous man does not like to use them.
Even when he does use them when there is no other choice,
He should employ them with a calmness of heart.
He should stop at an appropriate time,
And even if the battle is won he should not take pleasure from it.
Those who take pleasure from victorious battles are people who find joy in killing others.
Those who find joy in killing people will not have things their way in all under heaven.
Warfare is an inauspicious conduct,
All of the myriad things hate it,
Those who have the Dao do not utilise it.
In ordinary circumstances the virtuous man values the left-hand side,
But during times of war he values the right-hand side.
This is because the left-hand side represents good omen,
While the right-hand side represents the inauspicious.
The vice-general is located on the left-hand side,
The great general stands on the right-hand side,
This is also a sign of treating warfare as inauspicious.
After killing many people in war,
The virtuous man will shed tears and mourn for the dead,
And even a victorious battle is treated like a funeral.
The Dao often remains Nameless.
The essence of the Dao, the Source and Origin of existence, is subtle and minute.
Even though It is subtle and minute, nothing in all under heaven can manipulate and control it.
If the kings and feudal lords could hold onto It, the myriad things would automatically submit themselves.
Then Heaven and Earth will be at peace, sweet dew will fall from the sky,
And all under heaven will achieve equality automatically, without having to receive orders.
The Universe had an intrinsic order from the beginning, and from this it had names and positions.
Since there are names and positions, people should acknowledge their own limitations, and not go beyond them.
Knowing the limitations of men and thus stop at the right time, one could be at peace and without trouble.
The Dao leads all peoples under heaven to submit and return to Itself,
Like how the rivers make the various waters flow towards the great sea.
Those who know others are clever,
Those who know themselves are enlightened.
Those who can triumph over others have strength,
Those who can triumph over themselves have true power.
Those who know how much is enough are rich.
Those who can conquer themselves, and follow the Dao have determination.
Those who can hold onto their true essences and never lose them can be long lasting.
Those who do not perish even after their physical bodies die are truly immortal.
The Great Dao spreads over vast distances, It is omnipresent, circulating to the left and right.
All of the myriad things are created as a result of It, yet It does not boast about this.
All of the great works are done by It, yet It does not make this apparent.
It loves to nurture the myriad things, but does not rule them like a dictator,
Rather It seems to be small and inconsequential.
When all of the myriad things submit and return to It, It still does not dominate and dictate.
This way, Its Name becomes truly great.
Because It never sees Itself as great, from the very beginning to the very end,
It finally becomes truly great.
The Person who holds the essence of the Great Dao,
All under heaven will go and follow Him.
All under heaven will go and follow Him,
And they will not harm one another,
Instead, they will all enjoy peace, calmness and great tranquillity.
But the beautiful music and exquisite food of the world will trap those who pass them by,
Making the people stop and linger on.
The teachings of the Great Dao are bland and tasteless,
Looking at the teachings, one would find them very unimpressive,
Listening to the teachings, one would find them very unattractive.
Yet if one truly utilises these teachings, the benefits would be endless.
To contract something, one should first expand it.
To weaken something, one should first strengthen it.
To destroy something, one should first make it strong.
To take over something, one should first yield to it.
Such is the Light of subtlety.
The gentle and soft will gain victory over the hard and strong.
Fish should not leave the deep waters,
Likewise the power of a nation should not be made apparent to other people.
The Dao often seems to be doing nothing, yet nothing is left undone.
If the kings and feudal lords can hold onto It, the myriad things will spontaneously transform.
As the things transform, selfish desires will arise,
I shall then use the Nameless Source of all things to suppress them.
Within this Nameless Source of all things, all selfish desires will break away.
After selfish desires break away, and the hearts of men become peaceful and calm,
All under heaven will naturally gain peace and tranquillity.
Virtuous people do not bind themselves with moral rules,
For morality exists within their inner hearts.
People without virtue require moral rules to control themselves,
Because within their hearts there are no morals.
Virtuous people act with ¡°Non-action¡±,
That is, when they act virtuously, they behave spontaneously and not deliberately,
And are not aiming for any selfish objectives.
But when people without virtue pursue high moral standards,
They are only doing so in order to serve certain objectives for themselves.
People who possess great benevolence and love deliberately pursue love but do not aim for some objective.
People who possess great justice and honour deliberately pursue justice, and their aim is precisely the pursuit of justice.
People who follow a multitude of rituals deliberately follow these rituals for their own sake,
Yet no one listens to them.
So they end up trying to control people with brute force.
Therefore it is only after the Great Dao is lost that people begin to emphasise virtue,
It is only after virtue is lost that people begin to emphasise benevolence and love,
It is only after benevolence and love are lost that people begin to emphasise justice and honour,
And it is only after justice and honour are lost that people begin to rely on rituals.
But the so-called rituals are only the shallow trappings of loyalty and faithfulness,
And the beginning of trouble and disorder.
The so-called great perception of men is only the superficial trappings of the Great Dao,
And the beginning of stupidity and ignorance.
Therefore, people should dwell within the fullness of the Great Dao,
Instead of shallow rituals and rules.
People should dwell within the plainness and simplicity of the Great Dao,
Instead of the flowery trappings of the so-called human intelligence.
Therefore hold onto the former and abandon the latter.
What the ancients had was no other than the One.
When the heavens have the One, they become clear,
When the lands have the One, they become stable,
When the spirits have the One, they become effective,
When the crops have the One, they become ripe,
When the myriad things have the One, they become alive,
When the kings and feudal lords have the One, they can pacify all under heaven.
Following on from this logic:
If the heavens are not clear, they will break open,
If the lands are not stable, they will crumble,
If the spirits are not effective, they will disappear,
If the crops are not ripe, they will wither away,
If the myriad things are not alive, they will be destroyed,
If the kings and feudal lords cannot pacify all under heaven, they will be overthrown.
Humbleness is the foundation of nobility,
Low things are the basis of high ones.
This is why the kings and feudal lords of ancient times called themselves ¡°this little man¡±.
Isn¡¯t their nobility based on their humility?
Therefore the highest state of honour is honourless.
Therefore do not desire to become sparkling like a beautiful piece of jade, or hard like an insensate piece of rock.
Going against normal expectations is the dynamics of the Dao.
Remaining soft and gentle is the strength of the Dao.
All of the myriad things under heaven are created from concreteness,
And concreteness is created from Formlessness.
After hearing the Dao, first-rate people will follow it diligently.
After hearing the Dao, second-rate people will only understand and follow it partially.
After hearing the Dao, third-rate people will mock and laugh at It.
Yet if the Dao is not mocked by such people, how can It be the True Dao?
Therefore the Book of Jianyan says:
The Dao is the Light, yet worldly people believe It is the darkness.
Within the Dao there is progress, yet worldly people believe the Dao will only make them regress.
Within the Dao there are peace and tranquillity, yet worldly people believe there are only hard work and toil.
Perfect virtue seems to be lowly like a shadowy ravine,
Supreme honour seems like the worst kind of disgrace.
The vastness of virtue is perceived to be inadequate,
The strength of virtue is perceived to be improper,
The concreteness of truth is perceived to be empty.
The greatest of spaces has no corners,
The greatest of instruments is constructed at a late time.
When the sound becomes too loud, people cannot hear anything from it,
When the image becomes too large, people cannot see anything in it.
The Dao is subtle and hidden, yet only the Dao is truly good at providing help to people.
The Dao created the One,
The One created the Two,
The Two created the Three,
The Three created the myriad things.
The myriad things bear the Yin and embrace the Yang,
The Qi of conflict between them seeks to restore the balance.
Isn¡¯t what people hate the lonely, the poor and the unrighteous?
Yet kings and feudal lords of ancient times called themselves by these terms.
Therefore, while seeking benefits, one would sometimes suffer harm instead.
While seeking harm, one would sometimes receive benefit instead.
What the ancients taught me, I will also use to teach you:
Those who take pride in their own strength and stubbornly follow their own selfish paths will not have a good end.
Let this advice be the beginning of all teachings.
The gentlest and softest in all under heaven can manipulate and control the hardest and strongest.
Those without concrete forms can enter that which does not have any gaps.
From this I can know the benefit of ¡°Non-action¡±.
This type of teaching without words,
Benefit without actions,
Very few in all under heaven can receive.
Fame and life, which one is closer?
Life and wealth, which one is more important?
To possess the whole world yet lose one¡¯s own life, is this not a sign of extreme sickness?
Extremely avaricious people will surely receive great damage,
Those who greedily hoard wealth will surely receive great losses.
Therefore those who know how much is enough will not be troubled or shamed,
Those who know when to stop can escape from danger, and enjoy a long lasting life.
That which is perfectly complete can seem to be lacking, yet it will never be corrupted.
That which is perfectly full can seem to be empty, yet it will never be used up.
The most straight can seem to be bent,
The most intelligent can seem to be stupid,
The best debater can seem to be stammering.
Calmness is better than restlessness, just like coldness can triumph over heat.
Only calmness and peace is the true way for all under heaven.
When all under heaven has the Dao, even the best of war stallions will be used to cultivate the land in peace.
When all under heaven lacks the Dao, ponies will be born on the battlefield as even pregnant mares will be used in war.
The greatest disaster is to not know how much is enough, and the greatest sin is avarice.
Therefore those who are happy with what they have,
Their happiness will be long lasting.
One can know all under heaven without stepping outside the door,
One can perceive the Dao of Heaven without glancing outside the window.
The more one travels around, the less one truly knows.
Thus the Sage can understand without experiences,
Can perceive without seeing,
Can succeed without doing much work.
Pursuing worldly knowledge, one will become increasingly prideful and arrogant.
Pursuing the True Dao, one will become increasingly humble and modest.
As one continues to become more humble and modest,
One can gradually reach the state of ¡°Non-action¡±.
In the state of ¡°Non-action¡±, nothing will be left undone.
All under heaven is often gained with ¡°Non-action¡±,
But if one acts in an extreme way, then all under heaven will never be gained.
The Sage has no selfish heart,
His heart is totally devoted to the people.
He treats good people with goodness,
Yet He also treats bad people with goodness,
Thus fruits of goodness result.
He treats faithful people with faithfulness,
Yet He also treats faithless people with faithfulness,
Thus fruits of faithfulness result.
When the Sage is present in all under heaven,
His Spirit makes the people simple and honest.
When the Sage teaches,
The people watch and listen to him with complete concentration.
The Sage treats the people as little children.
People enter death at the very moment they are born.
Three in ten people live,
Three in ten people die.
And three in ten people move from life to death.
Why do people die?
Because they are too obsessed with the pleasures of this life.
It is said that those who are good at getting and holding onto true life will never meet tigers while they walk,
And will never be harmed while they fight in battles.
Facing them, a fierce ox will not know how to use its piercing horn,
A vigorous tiger will not know how to apply its sharp claw,
An enemy soldier will not know how to swing his mighty sword.
Why would it be like this?
Because they have already escaped from the realm of death.
All of the myriad things are born from the Dao,
And nurtured by Its virtue and kindness.
They develop into material form,
And given power, they grow and prosper.
Thus none of the myriad things don¡¯t revere the Great Dao and treasure Its virtue and kindness.
The Dao is worthy of respect and Its virtue worthy of being treasured,
Because they do not come from the spur of the moment,
But instead are eternally constant.
Therefore, the Dao gives birth to the myriad things,
Nurtures them with virtue and kindness,
Makes them develop and grow,
Grants them peace and stability,
And gives them love and protection.
Yet It creates and nurtures but does not possess by force,
It leaves nothing undone for all things but does not take pride in Its own power,
It is the Lord of all things but does not rule like a dictator.
Such is truly a grace of unimaginable depth!
All under heaven has a beginning, this beginning is the Mother of all under heaven.
Since we know there is a Mother, we would also know that we are Her children.
Since we know that we are Her children, we should return to our Mother.
This way even if our physical bodies perish we would still be safe and well.
Block those excessive senses, Close the gates of acquiring excessive knowledge,
Then you shall not experience toil and distress in your entire life.
Yet if you open wide all of your excessive senses, and make the utmost effort to acquire excessive knowledge,
Then you shall never be saved in your entire life.
To be able to perceive the subtlest is called brightness,
To be able to hold onto the soft and gentle is called strength.
Via the Light that has been shed by the Great Dao, return to a state of enlightenment within It.
This way no calamity will be left behind.
Such is the way to inherit the eternal and acquire immortality.
The Great Dao makes me doubtless about It,
Acting within the Dao,
I am ever cautious lest I make a mistake and deviate from It.
The Great Dao is extremely peaceful,
Yet worldly people prefer to walk on dangerous paths.
The royal court has already become extremely corrupt,
The fields and orchards have already become extremely barren,
The granaries have already become completely empty,
Yet the nobles still dress themselves in extravagant costumes,
And carry around with them sharp swords.
They eat so much good food that even the tastiest of delicacies have become boring and loathsome,
While they carry on hoarding wealth and goods.
How are these nobles different from the leaders of robbers?
This anti-Dao world of ours!
What the perfect builder constructs cannot be pulled away,
What the perfect keeper holds cannot be lost.
People should worship and revere this Perfect One,
And continue to do so for endless generations.
If a person can really do this, then all of his virtues will be true without any falsities.
If a family can really do this, then all of its virtues will be full and in excess.
If a village can really do this, then all of its virtues will be deep and long lasting.
If a nation can really do this, then all of its virtues will be plentiful and prosperous.
If this is used to teach all under heaven, then virtue will be widespread in all under heaven.
Therefore, apply this principle to a single person, then one knows this person,
Apply this principle to a single family, then one knows this family,
Apply this principle to a single village, then one knows this village,
Apply this principle to a single nation, then one knows this nation,
Apply this principle to all under heaven, then one knows all under heaven.
How do I know about the things that happen in all under heaven?
It is precisely from this.
A person with vast and deep virtue is similar to a naked baby.
Poisonous insects do not sting him,
Fierce beasts do not bite him,
Fearsome birds do not harm him.
His muscles and bones are gentle and soft,
Yet his grip is firm and tight.
He does not know anything about human reproduction,
Yet his sexual organ is erect and stiff.
This happens because his Qi is pure and complete.
He cries all day,
Yet his throat does not become hoarse,
This is because he possesses Heavenly Balance.
To know the Heavenly Balance is to know the eternal,
To know the eternal is to know the Light.
To make one¡¯s life richer and more fulfilling is to be blessed,
To control one¡¯s spirit with one¡¯s heart and soul is to be strong.
After material things become great and powerful they will start to age and decline,
Such things do not fit with the eternal Dao.
Those that do not fit with the eternal Dao,
Their destruction is destined from the very beginning.
Those who really know the Dao find It difficult to speak about,
Those who find It easy to speak about do not really know the Dao.
Block the excessive senses,
Close the gates through which confusion enters in,
Abandon the aggressive and piercing Qi of a self-righteous person,
Escape from the illusion of the myriad things¡¯ diverse and confusing forms,
Become one with the Light of your own life,
Acknowledge your dust-like intrinsic nature,
And then you could become unified with the deepest Mystery of the Universe.
Unable to reach this state of unity,
Relations of near and far appear,
Benefit and harm become differentiated,
And differences between the noble and the lowly occur.
Therefore in all under heaven, only this state of unity is truly precious.
To govern a country, employ constant and common laws and policies,
To fight in a war, utilise unorthodox and surprising methods and strategies,
To gain all under heaven, use the way of ¡°Non-action¡±.
How do I know this principle?
From these observations:
The more strict laws all under heaven possesses,
The poorer the people would become.
The more effective weapons people have,
The more chaotic the country would become.
The more advanced the technology is,
The greater the number of weird and absurd things.
The more detailed the law becomes,
The greater the number of criminals.
Therefore the Sage said:
If I act through ¡°Non-action¡±,
Then the hearts of people will spontaneously return and submit to Me.
If I value calmness over strife,
Then the hearts of people will spontaneously become righteous.
If I don¡¯t have personal issues,
Then the people will naturally become richer.
If I don¡¯t have selfish desires,
Then the people will naturally become simple and honest.
If the politics of a country are simple and straightforward,
Then its people would become sincere and honest.
If the politics of a country are miscellaneous and complicated,
Then its people would become caustic and harsh.
Calamities might also bring good fortune.
Good fortune might also lead to disasters.
Who can perceive and understand the mysteries within this?
What people thought to be normal becomes absurd,
What people thought to be righteous becomes evil.
Such phenomenon have troubled and confused the people deeply for a very long time.
Therefore the Sage acts in a righteous way,
Yet He does not use it to judge other people,
His intelligence and understanding are sharp and effective,
Yet He does not use these to harm other people,
His character is frank but not unbridled,
His Light is bright but not blinding.
In managing human affairs and serving Heaven, the most important thing is to cherish love.
Only by cherishing love can one be cautious and prepared.
To be cautious and prepared is to accumulate kindness and virtue.
Accumulating kindness and virtue, one can become invincible.
Becoming invincible, one would have infinite power,
Having infinite power, one could then properly manage the country.
If the country has the Mother, it would become long lasting.
The Mother is that deep-rooted and eternally longed for Dao.
Governing a large country is like cooking a small and vivid thing.
When all under heaven is controlled with the Dao, the ghosts will no longer harm the people.
Not only would the ghosts no longer harm the people, the spirits will also not harm the people.
Not only would the spirits no longer harm the people, the Sage will also not harm the people.
This way, both sides are at peace and do not harm one another,
Thus virtue will merge into the Dao,
And return to its Source.
If a great nation is willing to remain humble and modest, and becomes gentle and compassionate like a mother,
Then it could become the place where all under heaven converge and return to.
The feminine often triumphs over the masculine, precisely because she is willing to be calm and submissive.
Thus if a great nation is humble towards smaller nations, it could gain the trust of the smaller nations.
If smaller nations are humble towards a great nation, it could gain the trust of the great nation.
Therefore one is either humble and therefore able to possess, or humble and able to be possessed.
A great nation desires to assimilate smaller nations,
Smaller nations desire to gain the support of a great nation,
If both sides are to acquire what they desire,
The most important thing is for the great nation to be humble.
The Dao is the Lord of the myriad things,
It is a treasure for righteous people,
And a guarantor for sinful people.
Beautiful words can of course win praise from other people,
Righteous conduct can of course win respect from other people,
Yet how could peoples¡¯ unrighteous natures be completely removed?
Therefore even if one is to become the king of China,
Or given the titles of the three elder lords,
And thus acquire countless wealth and treasures,
And gain great honour and glory,
It would still not be as good as return into the Great Dao.
Why did the ancients place such an emphasis on the Dao?
Is it not because that within the Dao,
All wishes can be granted,
And all sins can be forgiven?
Therefore the Dao is the most precious and honoured thing in all under heaven.
Perceive calmness and following ¡°Non-action¡± as action,
Perceive peace and not being troubled as doing things,
Perceive blandness as good taste.
See the smaller as the larger,
See the lesser as the more,
Repay resentment with virtue.
Strategise about difficult things when they are still easy,
Succeed in great tasks by considering the subtle.
The difficult tasks in all under heaven must be done when they are still easy to do,
The great tasks in all under heaven can be completed by working at their subtler features.
A promise that is easily made cannot be trusted,
Something that seems to be simple will in the end become complicated.
Therefore the Sage has the mind and heart to overcome the hard and difficult,
But ultimately no task is difficult for Him.
It is easier to hold on when things are still calm and stable,
It is easier to plan and strategise in a leisurely manner when no signs are yet evident.
The brittle is easily broken,
The subtle and unobvious is easily scattered.
One must work hard when things have not yet occurred,
One must try to govern well during the end when the way of the world is in chaos and confusion.
A thick tree trunk that takes several people to embrace fully grows from something as thin as a needle,
A platform nine storeys high originates from a single basketful of earth,
A journey of a thousand miles starts from the spot under one¡¯s feet.
What people strive for with excessive deliberation is bound to fail,
What people hold onto with excessive consciousness is bound to get lost.
Thus, the Sage never fails because He does not rely on His own actions,
The Sage never loses anything because He does not rely on His own efforts to keep them.
The way in which worldly people do things is to often fail on the verge of success.
So if one can be as cautious at the very end as he was at the very beginning, then he will not fail.
Therefore, the Sage desires what worldly people abandon and discard away,
But He does not value the things that worldly people value,
The Sage studies what worldly people consider to be stupid and useless,
And hence leads all peoples away from their sins.
The Sage acts in this way in order to follow the original and intrinsic nature of the myriad things,
Rather than as a result of selfish desires and wishes.
Those who were good at engaging in the Dao during the ancient times,
Do not make the people increasingly crafty and intelligent.
Rather they make the people increasingly simple and honest.
Worldly people are difficult to govern because of their excessive intelligence and crafty schemes.
Thus if one is to govern the country with worldly intelligence,
Disasters and calamities will be brought onto the country and the people,
If one does not govern the country with worldly intelligence,
Then the country will have good fortune.
One should know that the previous two statements are unchanging principles,
If one can eternally remember these principles,
Then one will have reached the highest state of virtue.
The highest state of virtue! How mysterious it is! How vast and deep it is!
It does not conform to worldly ways, in some ways it is actually the direct opposite of everyday wisdom.
Yet only this is the true path towards great success.
The great ocean can converge and contain the myriad rivers and streams,
Because it is located in a lowly position.
Thus because it is in a lowly position,
It becomes the king of the myriad rivers.
If one wants to become higher than the myriad peoples,
Then he must first be humble and willing to be lowly,
If one wants to lead the myriad peoples,
He must first be modest and willing to follow them.
The Sage is precisely like this.
When the Sage rules the people,
The people do not have great burdens.
When the Sage leads the people,
The people do not become harmed.
Therefore all under heaven desires to support Him tirelessly.
He does not conflict with anyone,
He is humble and modest,
Therefore no one in all under heaven can conflict with Him.
Worldly people all say that the Dao I describe is too great,
So it is impossible to imagine it as anything.
It is precisely because the Dao is too great,
That it is not similar to any particular object.
If It were similar to a particular object,
It would have become small long ago.
I have three treasures, which I hold onto unswervingly.
The first one is love and compassion, the second one is frugality,
The third one is peace and humility, to avoid conflict in this world, and dare not become the world¡¯s leader.
It is only through love that one can gain courage,
It is only through frugality that one can become rich,
It is only through avoiding conflict with others that one can become a teacher and leader for the people.
Yet the people of the present age have lost all three treasures.
They no longer know love and only pursue courage,
They no longer want frugality and only desire wealth,
They no longer understand the need to avoid conflict, and only care about trying to best other people.
Such people are not far away from death and destruction.
If love is used in war one can gain victory,
If love is used in defence one can become sturdy and strong,
What Heaven wishes to save,
It will guard and protect with love and compassion.
True warriors are not murderous and brutal,
Those who are good at conducting warfare do not become angry and arrogant.
Those who are good at triumphing over the enemy seek to avoid direct conflict,
Those who are good at utilising peoples¡¯ talents are willing to be humble and submit to the people.
Such is the virtue of no conflict,
Such is the power of governing and using people,
To be able to achieve this is to become an associate of Heaven,
Such is what the ancients considered to be the highest state of being.
An ancient military manual states:
¡°I do not dare to directly invade others,
I only fight in order to defend myself.
I do not dare to directly offend others,
I would rather retreat and give up some territory.¡±
This way one would not need to create legions of soldiers,
One would not need to bare one¡¯s arms in order to fight,
One would not need to construct weapons,
Because in all under heaven, there are no more enemies.
Yet the greatest calamity is to underestimate one¡¯s enemy.
Underestimating the enemy almost made me lose my treasures.
Thus when two armies of equal strength face each other on the battlefield,
The side that is grieved and mournful will gain victory.
My words are easy to understand and easy to follow,
Yet the peoples of all under heaven cannot understand and follow them.
My words have a Source,
My actions follow the wills of a Master.
You all think you possess great knowledge,
And therefore cannot perceive and recognise me.
The fewer the people who truly understand me,
The more precious what I hold is shown to be.
Therefore the Sage wears rough sackcloth on the outside,
Yet inside He holds a piece of precious jade.
It is best to recognise that one is ignorant.
Actually ignorant, yet believes he knows a lot, one is seriously sick.
One can only be healed from sickness if one takes his sickness seriously and sees it for what it is.
The Sage has no sicknesses at all,
This is precisely because He recognises all of the sicknesses as sicknesses, therefore He is never sick.
When the people no longer fear the power of any person,
True Power will arrive in the world.
Do not disturb peoples¡¯ livelihoods,
Do not interfere in peoples¡¯ lives.
If a power or authority does not make the people resent it,
The people will not hate the power or authority.
Therefore, the Sage knows Himself deeply,
Yet He never flaunts His power,
He loves and cares for Himself,
Yet He never sees Himself as high and noble.
Those who are courageous yet takes pride in their own courage, and act rashly, will surely perish.
Those who are courageous yet also possess the courage to realise that they do not have courage,
And therefore act with caution and do not dare to do things excessively, will survive.
These two kinds of courage, one of them is harmful, one of them is beneficial.
Who knows why Heaven seems to hate certain things?
The Dao of Heaven always gains victory without conflicts,
Answers all questions without any words,
Arrives without any expectations,
And succeeds in great tasks in complete leisure.
The Dao of Heaven is like a vast but illusory net, it is sparse to the point of invisibility,
Yet nothing can break away and escape from Its grasp.
If the people do not fear death, what use would there be to frighten them with threats of death?
If one makes the people first fear death, and then executes those who dare to break the law,
Who would still dare to break the law?
Within the illusory eternity, there is a Judge that decides who would live and who would die.
If one desires to replace this Judge, and decide for himself who would live and who would die,
It would be like trying to replace the carpenter at doing woodwork.
Those who replace the carpenter and do his woodwork themselves,
Very few of them would avoid hurting their own hands.
When the people are hungry, it is because the rulers place too much tax on food and crops.
When the people are difficult to govern, it is because the rulers deliberately cause troubles.
When the people are desperate to the extent that they no longer care about death,
It is because they are too obsessed with the pleasures of this life,
To the extent that they no longer care about death.
Therefore those who are not obsessed with the pleasures of this life,
Are more enlightened than those who care excessively about things in this present life.
When people are alive, their bodies are soft, when they die, the bodies become stiff.
When grass and trees are alive, their stems and leaves are soft, when they die, the stems and leaves become hard.
Therefore hardness belongs to death, gentleness and softness belongs to life.
When grass and trees are alive, they are soft, when they die, they become hard.
When an army becomes too powerful, it will be destroyed,
When a tree becomes too tall and prosperous, it will be cut down.
The strong and powerful are on the path of decline,
The gentle and soft are on the rising path.
Isn¡¯t the Dao of Heaven like stretching a bow in order to shoot arrows?
When the bow is too high, it is lowered.
When the bow is too low, it is raised.
When the bow is too tight, it is loosened.
When the bow is too loose, it is tightened.
The Dao of Heaven is to reduce those who have excesses,
In order to provide for those who don¡¯t have enough.
The way of worldly people is not like this.
The worldly way reduces those who don¡¯t have enough,
In order to give to those who already have excesses.
Who can have excesses and yet use them to serve all under heaven?
Only those who have the Dao.
Therefore, when the Sage does things, He does not rely on His own ability,
After He succeeds in a task, He does not credit Himself for it,
And He does not allow other people to praise Him about His ability.
Nothing in all under heaven is softer and gentler than water.
Yet against those that are hard, nothing is more effective than water.
This is because water is gentle and soft to the extent that nothing can change it.
This principle of the soft and gentle overcoming the hard and strong,
Everyone in all under heaven knows it,
Yet no one can truly apply it.
Therefore the Sage said:
The Person who bears disgrace for the nation,
Is the Lord of the nation,
The Person who suffers hardships for the nation,
Is the King of all under heaven.
These positive sayings sound like negative ones,
This makes them difficult to understand.
Using the common method of reconciliation to remove hatred,
Hatred can never be completely removed.
How can such a form of reconciliation be considered truly good and righteous?
Therefore, the Sage holds the counterfoils of the peoples¡¯ debts,
Yet He does not ask the people to repay for them.
Those with virtue simply acknowledges other peoples¡¯ debts against them,
But do not demand repayment.
Those without virtue are unforgiving and harsh,
And like to force other people to repay them whenever possible, even when it is only a very little thing.
The Dao of Heaven does not have favourites,
It is just and unselfish,
And It is always on the side of the good and righteous.
The country is small and its population few.
Even those instruments that require dozens of people to use are never utilised.
The people of this country fear death and thus do not dare to travel far and wide.
Even though they have good vehicles and boats, there are no occasions in which to use them,
Even though they have effective armies, there are no places to station them.
The people here tie knots on ropes to record things,
Are happy with the bland food they eat and the unassuming costumes they wear.
They are calm and at peace in the places they live,
And find great joy in their own simple and common customs and traditions.
The people in this country can see those of other states,
The sound of cock cries and dog barks from each other¡¯s places can be heard,
Yet the people never directly interact with the others in their entire lives.
That which is faithful and trustworthy is not extravagant,
That which is extravagant is not faithful and trustworthy.
That which is good and righteous is not good at quibbling,
That which is good at quibbling is not good and righteous.
That which truly understands does not have excessive knowledge,
That which has excessive knowledge does not truly understand.
The Sage does not accumulate anything for Himself,
Since everything He does is for the people of the world,
Then He would naturally become richer anyway.
Since everything He has He gives to the people of the world,
Then He would naturally become more plentiful anyway.
The Dao of Heaven profits but does not harm,
The Dao of the Sage serves but does not conflict.