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Tao Te Ching - Translated by S. Beck

The Mystical Way
The Way that can be described is not the absolute Way;
the name that can be given is not the absolute name.
Nameless it is the source of heaven and earth;
named it is the mother of all things.

Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life.
Whoever desires, sees its manifestations.
These two are the same,
but what is produced has names.
They both may be called the cosmic mystery:
from the cosmic to the mystical
is the door to the essence of all life.

Relativity and Not Interfering
When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
there arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
there arises the recognition of bad.

Therefore being and non-being produce each other;
difficult and easy complete each other;
long and short contrast each other;
high and low distinguish each other;
sound and voice harmonize with each other;
beginning and end follow each other.

Therefore the wise manage affairs without interfering
and teach beyond the words.

All things rise, and they do not turn away from them.
They give them life, but do not take possession of them.
They act, but do not rely on their own ability.
They accomplish, but claim no credit.
Because they claim no credit,
their accomplishment remains with them.

Do not exalt the worthy,
so that people will not compete.
Do not value rare treasure,
so that people will not steal.
Do not display objects of desire,
so that people's hearts will not be disturbed.

Therefore the wise lead by keeping
their hearts pure, their bellies full,
their ambitions weak, and their bones strong,
so that the people may be purified
of their thoughts and desires;
and the cunning ones will not interfere.
By acting without interfering, all may live in peace.

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

Emptiness and the Center
Nature is not humane.
It treats all things like sacrificial objects.
The wise are not humane.
They regard people like sacrificial objects.

How the universe is like a bellows!
While empty, it is never exhausted.
The more it is worked, the more it produces.
Much talk brings exhaustion.
It is better to keep to the center.

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

Heaven is eternal, and the earth is very old.
They can be eternal and long lasting,
because they do not exist for themselves,
and for this reason can long endure.

Therefore the wise put themselves last,
but find themselves foremost.
They are indifferent to themselves,
and yet they always remain.
Is it not because they do not live for themselves
that they find themselves fulfilled?

The Best Are Like Water
The best are like water.
Water benefits all things and does not compete with them.
It flows to the lowest level.
In this it comes near to the Way.

In their dwellings, they love the earth.
In their hearts, they love what is profound.
In their friendship, they love humanity.
In their words, they love sincerity.
In government, they love peace.
In business, they love ability.
In their actions, they love timeliness.
It is because they do not compete
that there is no resentment.

Stretch a bow to the very full,
and you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest,
and the edge will not last long.

When gold and jade fill your hall,
you will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with honor and wealth
is to cause one's own downfall.
Withdraw as soon as your work is done.
Such is heaven's way.

Mystical Power
Can you embrace the One with your soul,
and never depart from the Way?
Can you concentrate your vital force
to achieve the gentleness of a new-born baby?
Can you cleanse and purify your mystic vision
until it is clear?
Can you love the people and govern the state
without interfering?
Can you play the role of the female
in opening and closing the doors of heaven?
Can you understand all and penetrate all
without using the mind?

To give birth and to nourish,
to give birth without taking possession,
to act without obligation,
to lead without dominating---
this is mystical power.

Use What Does Not Exist
Thirty spokes are united around the hub of a wheel,
but the usefulness of the wheel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Clay is molded into a vessel,
but the usefulness of the vessel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house,
and the usefulness of the house
depends on the space where nothing exists.

Therefore take advantage of what exists,
and use what does not exist.

Satisfy the Inner Self
The five colors blind the eyes;
the five musical tones deafen the ears;
the five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious goods keep their owners on guard.

Therefore the wise satisfy the inner self
rather than external senses.
They accept the one and reject the other.

Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension.
Regard great trouble as you regard your self.

What is meant by
"Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension?"
Those with good fortune are apprehensive of their gain.
Those with misfortune are apprehensive of their loss.

What is meant by
"Regard great trouble as you regard your self?"
Great trouble comes from being selfish.
Being selfless, what trouble is there?

Therefore those who value the world as themselves
may be entrusted to govern the world.
Those who love the world as themselves
may be entrusted to care for the world.

The Formless Way
We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.

The Wise
The wise have ancient mystic wisdom
and profound understanding, too deep to comprehend.
Because they can not be comprehended,
they can only be described by analogy:
cautious, like crossing a stream in winter;
alert, like one aware of danger on all sides;
courteous, like a visiting guest;
self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt;
genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood;
open and receptive, like a valley;
freely mixing, like muddy water.

Who can make sense of a muddy world?
Let it be still, and it becomes clear.
Who can remain calm,
and through activity come back to life?
Those who embrace this Way do not over-extend themselves.
Because they do not over-extend themselves,
they do not wear out and are not replaced.

Know the Eternal
Empty yourself of everything.
Maintain a steady serenity.
All things take shape and become active,
but I see them return to their source,
like vegetation that grows and flourishes,
but returns to the root from which it springs.

Returning to the source is serenity;
it is to realize one's destiny.
To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
Not to know the eternal
is to act blindly and court disaster.

Whoever knows the eternal is open to everything.
Whoever is open to everything is impartial.
To be impartial is to be universal.
To be universal is to be in accord with heaven.
To be in accord with heaven is to be in accord with the Way.
To be in accord with the Way is to be eternal
and to live free from harm even though the body dies.

The best leaders the people barely know.
The next best they love and praise.
The next they fear.
And the next they hate.

Those who lack trust will not be trusted.
Then they resort to promises.
But when they accomplish their task and complete their work,
the people say, "We did it ourselves."

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

What People Need
Abandon religion and discard cleverness,
and people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abandon humanity and discard morality,
and people will rediscover love and duty.
Abandon skill and discard profit,
and there will be no thieves or robbers.
These three things relate to externals and are inadequate.

People need what they can depend on:
reveal simplicity; embrace the natural;
control selfishness; reduce desires.

Drawing Sustenance
Abandon memorizing, and vexations end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
Is what people fear really to be feared?
How very remote the actual occurrence!

The people of the world make merry
as though at a holiday feast or a spring carnival.
I alone am inactive and desireless,
like a new-born baby who cannot yet smile,
unattached, as though homeless.

The people of the world possess more than enough.
I alone seem to have lost all.
I must be a fool, so indiscriminate and nebulous.

Most people seem knowledgeable and bright.
I alone am simple and dull.

Most people see differences and are sharp.
I alone make no distinctions,
seeming aimless, drifting as the sea,
like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.

People of the world all have a purpose.
I alone seem impractical and out of place.
I am different from others,
and value drawing sustenance from the Mother.

Within the Elusive Way
All-embracing power proceeds only through the Way.
What is called the Way is elusive and intangible.
Intangible and elusive, yet within it are thought-images.
Elusive and intangible, yet within it are objects.
Deep and obscure, yet within it is the life-force.
The life-force is very real, and within it is certainty.

From the ancient times till now
its manifestations have never ceased,
by which we may see the beginning of all things.
How do I know that the beginnings of all things are so?
Through this certainty.

Yielding for Unity
To yield is to preserve unity.
To bend is to become straight.
To empty oneself is to become full.
To wear oneself out is to be renewed.
To have little is to be content.
To have abundance is to be troubled.

Therefore the wise embrace the One
and become examples for the world.
They do not display themselves and are therefore illumined.
They do not justify themselves and are distinguished.
They do not make claims and are therefore given credit.
They do not seek glory and therefore are leaders.

Because they do not compete,
the world cannot compete with them.
Is not the ancient saying true,
"To yield is to preserve unity?"
for true wholeness comes from turning within.

Nature says few words.
A whirlwind does not last all morning,
nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What causes them? Nature.

If even Nature's utterances do not last long,
how much less should human beings'?

Those who follow the Way are one with the Way.
Those who follow power are one with power.
Those who abandon it are one with abandonment.

Those one with the Way are welcomed by the Way.
Those one with power are welcomed by power.
Those one with abandonment are welcomed by abandonment.
Those who lack trust will not be trusted.

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

The Supreme
There is something mysterious and whole
which existed before heaven and earth,
silent, formless, complete, and never changing.
Living eternally everywhere in perfection,
it is the mother of all things.

I do not know its name; I call it the Way.
If forced to define it, I shall call it supreme.
Supreme means absolute.
Absolute means extending everywhere.
Extending everywhere means returning to itself.

Thus the Way is supreme.
Heaven is supreme.
Earth is supreme.
And the person is supreme.

There are four supremes in the universe,
and the person is one of them.
The person reflects the earth.
The earth reflects heaven.
Heaven reflects the Way.
And the Way reflects its own nature.

Gravity is the foundation of levity.
Serenity masters hastiness.
Therefore the wise travel all day
without leaving their baggage.
In the midst of honor and glory
they remain leisurely and calm,

How can a leader of a great country
behave lightheartedly and frivolously?
In frivolity, the foundation is lost.
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.

Using the Light
A good traveler leaves no trace.
A good speaker makes no slips.
A good accountant uses no devices.
A good door needs no bolts to remain shut.
A good fastener needs no rope to hold its bond.

Therefore the wise are good at helping people,
and consequently no one is rejected.
They are good at saving things,
and consequently nothing is wasted.
This is called using the Light.

Therefore the good teach the bad,
and the bad are lessons for the good.
Those who neither value the teacher nor care for the lesson
are greatly deluded, though they may be learned.
Such is the essential mystery.

The Valley of the World
Know the male and keep to the female.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the innocence of a baby.

Know the bright and keep to the obscure.
Become an example for the world.
Being an example for the world is eternal power
and returning to the infinite.

Know glory and keep to humility.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the natural.
Breaking up the natural makes instruments.
The wise use them and become leaders.
Therefore a leader does not break.

Do Not Tamper with the World
Those who take over the world and act upon it,
I notice, do not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel, not to be tampered with.
Those who tamper with it, spoil it.
Those who seize it, lose it.

Some lead, and some follow.
Some blow hot, and some blow cold.
Some are strong, and some are weak.
Some are up, and some are down.
Therefore the wise avoid excess, extravagance, and pride.

Force of Arms
Whoever advises a leader according to the Way
opposes conquest by force of arms.
The use of force tends to rebound.
Where armies march, thorns and brambles grow.
Whenever a great army is formed, scarcity and famine follow.

The skillful achieve their purposes and stop.
They dare not rely on force.
They achieve their purposes, but do not glory in them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not celebrate them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not take pride in them.
They achieve their purposes, but without violence.

Things reach their prime and then decline.
Violence is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.

War and Peace
Weapons are tools of destruction hated by people.
Therefore followers of the Way never use them.
In peace leaders favor the creative left.
In war they favor the destructive right.

Weapons are tools of destruction,
not used by good leaders.
When their use cannot be avoided,
the best policy is calm restraint.

Even in victory there is no glory.
Those who celebrate victory delight in slaughter.
Those who delight in slaughter
will not be successful leaders.
The killing of many should be mourned with sorrow.
A victory should be celebrated with funeral ceremonies.

The Natural Way
The Way is absolute and undefined.
Like natural uncarved wood in simplicity,
yet none in the world can overcome it.
If leaders would hold to it,
the whole world would serve them spontaneously.

Heaven and earth join, and gentle rain falls,
beyond the command of anyone, evenly upon all.
When civilization arose, names began.
With names, one should know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop, frees one from danger.
The Way in the world is like
rivers and streams flowing into the sea.

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

The Great Way
The great Way flows everywhere, both left and right.
All things derive their life from it,
and it does not turn away from them.
It accomplishes its work, but does not take possession.
It provides for and nourishes everything,
but does not control them.

Always without desires, it may be considered small.
The destination of all things, yet claiming nothing,
it may be considered great.
Because it never claims greatness,
its greatness is achieved.

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

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

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

The Superior
Superior power does not emphasize its power,
and thus is powerful.
Inferior power never forgets its power,
and thus is powerless.
Superior power never interferes nor has an ulterior motive.
Inferior power interferes and has an ulterior motive.
Superior humanity takes action but has no ulterior motive.
Superior morality takes action and has an ulterior motive.
Superior custom takes action, and finding no response,
stretches out arms to force it on them.

Therefore when the Way is lost, power arises.
When power is lost, humanity arises.
When humanity is lost, morality arises.
When morality is lost, custom arises.
Now custom is a superficial expression
of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder.

Foreknowledge is the flowering of the Way
and the beginning of folly.
Therefore the mature dwell in the depth, not in the thin,
in the fruit and not in the flowering.
They reject one and accept the other.

The ancients attained oneness.
Heaven attained oneness and became clear.
Earth attained oneness and became stable.
Spirits attained oneness and became divine.
The valleys attained oneness and became fertile.
Creatures attained oneness and lived and grew.
Kings and nobles attained oneness and became leaders.
What made them so is oneness.

Without clarity, heaven would crack.
Without stability, the earth would quake.
Without divinity, spirits would dissipate.
Without fertility, the valleys would be barren.
Without life and growth, creatures would die off.
Without leadership, kings and nobles would fall.

Therefore humility is the basis for nobility,
and the low is the basis for the high.
Thus kings and nobles call themselves
orphans, lonely, and unworthy.
Do they not depend upon the common people for support?
Dismantle the parts of a chariot, and there is no chariot.
Rather than tinkle like jade, rumble like rocks.

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

What the Way is Like
When the wise hear the Way, they practice it diligently.
When the mediocre hear of the Way, they doubt it.
When the foolish hear of the Way, they laugh out loud.
If it were not laughed at, it would not be the Way.

Therefore it is said,
"The enlightenment of the Way seems like dullness;
progression in the Way seem like regression;
the even path of the Way seems to go up and down."

Great power appears like a valley.
Great purity appears tarnished.
Great character appears insufficient.
Solid character appears weak.
True integrity appears changeable.
Great space has no corners.
Great ability takes time to mature.
Great music has the subtlest sound.
Great form has no shape.

The Way is hidden and indescribable.
Yet the Way alone is adept
at providing for all and bringing fulfillment.

All Things
The Way produced the One;
the One produced two;
two produced three;
and three produced all things.

All things have the receptivity of the female
and the activity of the male.
Through union with the life force they blend in harmony.

People hate being orphaned, lonely, and unworthy.
Yet kings and nobles call themselves such.
Often gain can be a loss, and loss can be a gain.
What others teach, I teach also:
"The violent die a violent death."
I shall make this primary in my teaching.

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

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

Skill Seems Awkward
The greatest perfection seems incomplete,
but its utility is never impaired.
The greatest fullness seems empty,
but its use cannot be exhausted.
What is most direct seems devious.
The greatest skill seems awkward.
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.

Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
The serene and calm are guides for all.

When the world lives in accord with the Way,
horses work on farms.
When the world does not live in accord with the Way,
the cavalry practices in the parks.

The greatest temptation to crime is desire.
The greatest curse is discontent.
The greatest calamity is greed.
Whoever is content with contentment is always content.

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

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

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

Those Who Preserve Life
Coming into life and going out at death,
the organs of life are thirteen;
the organs of death are thirteen;
and these thirteen make life vulnerable to death.

Why is this so?
Because they feed life too grossly.

It is said that those who preserve life
walk the earth without fearing tigers and wild buffalo,
and in battle they are not touched by weapons of war.
The wild buffalo's horns find nothing to gore;
the tiger's claws find nothing to tear;
and weapons' points find nothing to pierce.

Why is this so?
Because they have nothing for death to enter.

Mystical Power
The Way produces all things.
Power nourishes them.
Matter gives them physical form.
Environment shapes their abilities.
Therefore all things respect the Way and honor power.
The Way is respected, and power is honored
without anyone's order and always naturally.

Therefore the Way produces all things,
and power nourishes them,
caring for them and developing them,
sheltering them and comforting them,
nurturing them and protecting them,
producing them but not possessing them,
helping them but not obligating them,
guiding them but not controlling them.
This is mystical power.

Practicing the Eternal
The beginning of the universe is the mother of all things.
Those who discover the mother understand the children.
Understanding the children and returning to the mother,
they live always free from harm.

Close the mouth, shut the doors,
and all of life is without strain.
Open the mouth, meddle with affairs,
and all of life is beyond help.

Seeing the small is insight;
to stay with the gentle is strength.
Use the Light, return to insight,
and thereby be preserved from harm.
This is practicing the eternal.

Leaders in Robbery
Those with even a scrap of sense
walk on the main way and fear only straying from the path.
The main way is smooth and easy,
but people like to be side-tracked.

While the courts are arrayed in splendor,
the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are empty.
Yet some wear embroidered clothes, carry sharp swords,
over-indulge themselves with food and drink,
and have more possessions than they can use.
They are leaders in robbery.
This is not the Way.

What is well established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly held cannot slip away.
The power of sacrifice continues on
from generation to generation.

Cultivated in the person, power becomes real.
Cultivated in the family, power becomes abundant.
Cultivated in the community, power endures.
Cultivated in the nation, power flourishes.
Cultivated in the world, power becomes universal.

Therefore see the person as a person,
the family as a family, the community as a community,
the nation as a nation, and the world as universal.
How do I know that the world is like this?
By this.

Know Harmony
Those filled with power are like new-born children.
Poisonous insects will not sting them;
ferocious beasts will not pounce upon them;
predatory birds will not swoop down on them.
Their bones are pliable, their muscles tender,
but their grip is firm.
They have never known the union of man and woman,
but the organ is fully formed,
meaning that the vital essence is strong.
They may cry all day without getting hoarse,
meaning that the harmony is perfect.
To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.

To try to force life is ominous.
To force the vital essence with the mind is violence.
The prime is past, and decay follows,
meaning that it is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.

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

Love Peace
States are governed by justice.
Wars are waged by violations.
The world is mastered by nonintervention.
How do I know this? By this:
The more restrictions there are, the poorer the people.
The more sharp weapons, the more trouble in the state.
The more clever cunning, the more contrivances.
The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the wise say,
"Do not interfere, and people transform themselves.
Love peace, and people do what is right.
Do not intervene, and people prosper.
Have no desires, and people live simply."

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

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

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

Large and Small Countries
A large country is like low land where rivers flow,
a place where everything comes together, the female of all.
The female overcomes the male with tranquillity.
Tranquillity is underneath.
A large country wins over a small country
by placing itself below the small country.
A small country wins over a large country
by placing itself below the large country.

Thus some win by placing themselves below,
and others win by being below.
A large country wants to protect people,
and a small country wants to join and serve.
Thus both get what they want.
It is best for the large country to place itself below.

The Way is Valued
The Way is sacred to all things.
It is treasure for the good and sanctuary for the bad.
Fine words can buy honor.
Good deeds can gain respect.
Though there be bad people, why reject them?

Therefore at the crowning of the emperor
or at the installation of the three ministers,
instead of sending gifts of jade and a team of four horses,
remain still and send the Way.

Why did the ancients prize this Way?
Did they not say, "Seek, and you will find;
let go, and you will be forgiven."
Therefore the Way is valued by the world.

The Wise Never Strive
Act without interfering.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Large or small, many or few, repay injury with goodness.

Handle the difficult while it is still easy.
Handle the big while it is still small.
Difficult tasks begin with what is easy.
Great accomplishments begin with what is small.

Therefore the wise never strive for the great
and thus achieve greatness.
Rash promises inspire little trust.
Taking things too lightly results in much difficulty.
Thus the wise always confront difficulties
and therefore have no difficulty.

Do Not Grab
What stays still is easy to hold.
Without omens it is easy to plan.
The brittle is easy to shatter.
The minute is easy to scatter.
Handle things before they appear.
Organize things before there is confusion.
A tree as big as a person's embrace grows from a tiny shoot.
A tower nine stories high begins with a mound of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet.

To act is to fail.
To grab is to lose.
Therefore the wise do not act and do not fail.
They do not grab and do not lose.
In handling things people usually fail
when they are about to succeed.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning,
and there will be no failure.

Therefore the wise desire to have no desires.
They do not value rare treasures.
They learn what is unknown,
returning to what many have missed
so that all things may be natural without interference.

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

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

Three Treasures
Everyone says the Way is great and beyond comparison.
Because it is great, it cannot be compared.
If it were compared, it already would have seemed small.

I have three treasures to be maintained and cherished:
the first is love;
the second is frugality;
the third is not pushing oneself ahead of others.

From love comes courage;
from frugality comes generosity;
from not pushing oneself ahead of others comes leadership.

Now courage without love, generosity without frugality,
and leadership by pushing oneself ahead of others are fatal.
For love wins all battles and is the strongest defense.
Heaven gives love to save and protect.

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

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

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

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

Do Not Suppress
When people lack a sense of awe,
then something awful will happen.
Do not constrict people's living space.
Do not suppress their livelihoods.
If you do not harass them, they will not harass you.

Therefore the wise know themselves
but do not display themselves.
They love themselves but do not exalt themselves.
They let go of one and accept the other.

The Way of Heaven
Those brave in killing will be killed.
Those brave in not killing will live.
Of these two, one is good, and one is harmful.
Some are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the wise consider it a difficult question.

The Way of heaven does not strive; yet it wins easily.
It does not speak; yet it gets a good response.
It does not demand; yet all needs are met.
It is not anxious; yet it plans well.
The net of heaven is vast;
its meshes are wide, but nothing slips through.

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

Valuing Life
People are hungry,
because rulers eat too much tax-grain.
That is why people are starving.

People are hard to govern,
because rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are hard to govern.

People do not care about death,
because rulers demand too much of life.
That is why they do not care about death.
Only those who do not interfere with living
are best at valuing life.

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

Taking and Giving
The Way of heaven is like bending a bow.
The high is lowered; the low is raised.
The excessive is reduced; the deficient is increased.
The Way of heaven takes from those who have too much
and gives to those who do not have enough.

The human way is different.
It takes from those who do not have enough
and gives to those who have too much.

Who has more than enough to give to the world?
Only the person of the Way.
Therefore the wise act but do not rely on their own ability.
They accomplish the task but claim no credit.
They have no desire to seem superior.

The Soft and Weak
Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet nothing is better at attacking the hard and strong.
There is no substitute for it.
The weak overcomes the strong; the soft overcomes the hard.
Everyone knows this, but no one puts it into practice.

Therefore the wise say,
"Those who bear the humiliation of the people
are able to minister to them.
Those who take upon themselves the sins of the society
are able to lead the world."
Words of truth seem paradoxical.

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

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

True Words
True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
The good do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not scholarly.
The scholarly do not know.

The wise do not hoard.
The more they give to others, the more they have.
The Way of heaven sharpens but does no harm.
The Way of the wise accomplishes without striving.