The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its manifestations.
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery –
The gateway of the manifold secrets.
The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful,
yet this is only the ugly; the whole world recognizes the
good as the good, yet this is only the bad.
Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
The difficult and the easy complement each other;
The long and the short offset each other;
The high and the low incline towards each other;
Note and sound harmonize with each other;
Before and after follow each other.
Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking
no action and practices the teaching that uses no words.
The myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority;
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit.
It is because it lays claim to no merit
That its merit never deserts it.
Therefore in governing the people, the sage empties their minds but fills their bellies, weakens their wills, but strengthens their bones. He always keep them innocent of knowledge and free from desire, and ensures that the clever never dare to act.
Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.
Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs;
the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.
Is not the space between heaven and earth like a bellows?
It is empty without being exhausted:
The more it works the more comes out.
Much speech leads inevitably to silence.
Better to hold fast to the void.
The five colours make man’s eyes blind;
The five notes make his ears deaf;
The five tastes injure his palate;
Riding and hunting
Make his mind go wild with excitement;
The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body. When I no longer have a body, what trouble have I?
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the Way.
Of old he who was well versed in the Way
Was minutely subtle, mysteriously comprehending,
And too profound to be known.
I do my utmost to attain emptiness;
I hold firmly to stillness.
Returning to one’s roots is known as stillness.
This is what is meant by returning to one’s destiny.
Returning to one’s destiny is known as the constant.
Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.
Woe to him who willfully innovates
While ignorant of the constant.
The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.
Next comes the ruler they love and praise;
Next comes one they fear;
Next comes one with whom they take liberties.
Where there is not enough faith, there is lack of good faith.
Hesitant, he does not utter words lightly.
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The people all say, “It happened to us naturally.”
When the great way falls into disuse
There are benevolence and rectitude;
When cleverness emerges
There is great hypocrisy.
Exterminate the sage, discard the wise,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold;
Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude,
And the people will again be filial.
Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible.
Exterminate learning and there will no longer be worries.
Between yea and nay
How much difference is there?
Between good and evil
How great is the distance?
The multitude are joyous
I alone am inactive and reveal no signs,
My mind is that of a food – how blank!
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy.
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.
Calm like the sea;
Like a high wind that never ceases.
The multitude all have a purpose.
I alone am foolish and uncouth.
I alone am different from others
And value being fed by the mother.
To use words but rarely
Is to be natural.
A man of the way conforms to the way;
A man of virtue conforms to virtue;
A man of loss conforms to loss.
He who conforms to the way is gladly accepted by the way;
He who conforms to virtue is gladly accepted by virtue;
He who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss.
He who shows himself is not conspicuous;
He who considers himself right is not illustrious;
He who brags will have no merit;
He who boasts will not endure.
One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.
Block the openings;
Shut the doors.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knots;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move only along old ruts.
This is known as mysterious sameness.
The whole world says that my way is vast and resembles nothing. It is because it is vast that it resembles nothing. If it resembled anything, it would, long before now, have become small.
My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice, yet no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice.
Words have an ancestor and affairs have a sovereign.
It is because people are ignorant that they fail to understand me.
Those who understand me are few;
Those who imitate me are honoured.
Therefore the sage, while clad in homespun, conceals on his person a priceless piece of jade.
To know yet to think that one does not know is best;
Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
It is by being alive to difficulty that one can avoid it.
The sage meets with no difficulty.
It is because he is alive to it that he meets with no difficulty.
Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good. He who knows has no wide learning; he who has wide learning does not know.
There is a thing confusedly formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change,
Goes round and does not weary.
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I know not its name
So I style it “the way.”
– Tao Te Ching
@ Lao Tzu: I understand your Tao, your “Way.” I appreciate the existential nature of the Tao (from 500 years BC mind you!) and your advice on governing the people and wartime strategy. But going with the flow and following the way of Heaven just to avoid difficulty is too good. Embrace the hunt. Embrace the dark side as well as the way of Heaven. For they are one.