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Daode Jing

Translated by Charles Muller

July 27, 2011


Table of Contents

1. The Way that can be followed is not the eternal Way
2. All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful
3. If you do not adulate the worthy...
4. The Way is so vast...
5. Heaven and Earth are not humane...
6. The valley spirit never dies...
7. Heaven and Earth last forever...
8. The highest goodness is like water...
9. To hold until full is not as good as stopping...
10. Pacifying the agitated material soul...
11. Thirty spokes join together in the hub...
12. The five colors blind our eyes...
13. Accept humiliation as a surprise...
14. Look for it, it cannot be seen...
15. The ancient masters of the Way...
16. Effect emptiness to the extreme...
17. From great antiquity forth they have known and possessed it...
18. When the great Way perishes...
19. Get rid of “holiness”...
20. Get rid of “learning”...
21. The form of great virtue...
22. The imperfect is completed...
23. To speak little is natural...
24. Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady...
25. There is something that is perfect in its disorder...
26. Heaviness is the root of lightness...
27. A good traveler leaves no tracks...
28. Know the Masculine, cleave to the Feminine...
29. If you want to grab the world and run it...
30. If you used the Way as a principle for ruling...
31. Sharp weapons are inauspicious instruments...
32. The Way is always nameless...
33. If you understand others you are smart...
34. The Way is like a great flooding river...
35. Holding to the Great Form...
36. That which will be shrunk...
37. The Way is always “not-doing”...
38. Superior virtue is not virtuous...
39. These in the past have attained wholeness...
40. Return is the motion of the Way...
41. When superior students hear of the Way...
42. The Way produces one, one produces two...
43. The softest thing in the world...
44. Which is dearer, fame or your life?
45. Great perfection seems flawed...
46. When the Way prevails in the land...
47. Without going out the door, knowing everything...
48. In studying, each day something is gained...
49. The sage has no fixed mind...
50. Coming into life and entering death...
51. Way gives birth to it...
52. All things have a beginning, which we can regard as their Mother...
53. If I had just a little bit of wisdom...
54. The well-established cannot be uprooted...
55. One who remains rich in virtuous power...
56. One who knows does not speak...
57. Use fairness in governing the state...
58. When the government is laid back...
59. In governing the country and serving Heaven...
60. Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish...
61. The great state should be like a river basin...
62. The Way is hidden deeply in all things...
63. Do without “doing”...
64. That which is at rest is easy to grasp...
65. The ancients who were skillful at the Way...
66. The reason the river and sea can be regarded as...
67. The reason everybody calls my Way great...
68. The best warrior is never aggressive...
69. Strategists have a saying...
70. My words are easy to understand...
71. There is nothing better than to know that you don't know...
72. When the people do not fear your might...
73. If you are courageous in daring you will die...
74. If the people don't fear death...
75. The reason people starve...
76. When people are born they are gentle and soft...
77. The Way of Heaven...
78. Nothing in the world is softer than water...
79. After calming great anger...
80. Let there be a small country with few people...
81. True words are not fancy...

Initial Translation Completed 7/12/91

When citing please use the URL: http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/daodejing.html


1. The Way that can be followed is not the eternal Way

道可道、非常道。名可名、非常名無名天地之始有名萬物之母。故常無欲以觀其妙、常有欲以觀其徵。此兩者同出而異名。同謂之玄。玄之又玄、衆妙之門。

The Way that can be followed is not the eternal Way.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth

While naming is the origin of the myriad things.

Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery

Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.

These two are the same—

When they appear they are named differently.

 

This sameness is the mystery,

Mystery within mystery;

 

The door to all marvels.


2. All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful

天下皆知美之爲美。斯惡已。皆知善之爲善。斯不善已。故有無相生、難易相成、長短相較、高下相傾、音聲相和、前後相隨。是以聖人處無爲之事、行不言之教。萬物作焉而不辭、生而不有、爲而不侍、功成而弗居。夫唯弗居、是以不去。

All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful.

Herein lies ugliness.

All recognize the good as good.

Herein lies evil.

 

Therefore

Presence and absence produce each other.

Difficulty and ease bring about each other.

Long and short delimit each other.

High and low rest on each other.

Sound and voice harmonize each other.

Front and back follow each other.

 

Therefore the sage abides in the condition of wu-wei (unattached action).

And carries out the wordless teaching.

Here, the myriad things are made, yet not separated.

 

Therefore the sage produces without possessing,

Acts without expectations

And accomplishes without abiding in her accomplishments.

 

It is precisely because she does not abide in them

That they never leave her.

 


3. If you do not adulate the worthy...

不尚賢、使民不爭。不貴難得之貨、使民不爲盜。不見可欲、使民心不亂。是以聖人之治、虛其心、實其腹、弱其志、強其骨。常使民無知無欲、使夫知者不敢爲 也。爲無爲、則無不治。

If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.

If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.

If people do not see desirables, they will not be agitated.

 

Therefore, when the sage governs,

He clears peoples minds,

Fills their bellies,

Weakens their ambition and

Strengthens their bones.

 

If the people are kept without cleverness and desire

It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.

 

Acting without contrivance, there is no lack of manageability.


4. The Way is so vast...

道沖而用之或不盈。淵兮似萬物之宗。挫其銳、解其紛、和其光、同其塵。湛兮似或存。吾不知誰之子。象帝之先。

The Way is so vast that when you use it, something is always left.

How deep it is!

It seems to be the ancestor of the myriad things.

It blunts sharpness

Untangles knots

Softens the glare

Unifies with the mundane.

It is so full!

It seems to have remainder.

 

It is the child of I-don't-know-who.

And prior to the primeval Lord-on-high.


5. Heaven and Earth are not humane...

天地不仁、以萬物爲芻狗。聖人不仁、以百姓爲芻狗。天地之間、其猶豪衞乎。虛而不屈、動而愈出。多言數窮。不如守中。

Heaven and Earth are not humane,

And regard the people as straw dogs.

The sage is not humane,

And regards all things as straw dogs.

The space between Heaven and Earth is just like a bellows:

Empty it, it is not exhausted.

Squeeze it and more comes out.

 

Investigating it with a lot of talk

Is not like holding to the center.


6. The valley spirit never dies...

谷神不死。是謂玄牝。玄牝之門、是謂天地之根。係係若存、用之不勤。

The valley spirit never dies.

It is called “the mysterious female.”

The opening of the mysterious female

Is called “the root of Heaven and Earth.”

Continuous, seeming to remain.

 

Use it without exertion.


7. Heaven and Earth last forever...

天長地久。天地所以能長且久者、以其不自生。故能長生 是以聖人、後其身而身先、外其身而身 電非以其無私邪。故能成其私。

Heaven and Earth last forever.

The reason that Heaven and Earth are able to last forever

Is because they do not give birth to themselves.

Therefore, they are always alive.

Hence, the sage puts herself last and is first.

She is outside herself and therefore her self lasts.

 

Is it not through her selflessness

That she is able to perfect herself?


8. The highest goodness is like water...

上善若水。水善利萬物而不爭、處衆人之所惡。故幾於道。居善地、心善淵、與善仁、言善信、正善治、事善能、動善時。夫唯不爭、故無尤。

The highest goodness is like water.

Water easily benefits all things without struggle.

Yet it abides in places that men hate.

Therefore it is like the Way.

 

For dwelling, the Earth is good.

For the mind, depth is good.

The goodness of giving is in the timing.

The goodness of speech is in honesty.

In government, self-mastery is good.

In handling affairs, ability is good.

 

If you do not wrangle, you will not be blamed.


9. To hold until full is not as good as stopping...

持而盈之、不如其已。瑞而梲之、不可長保。 金玉滿堂、莫之能守。 富貴而驕、自遺其咎。 功遂身退、天之道。

To hold until full is not as good as stopping.

An oversharpened sword cannot last long.

A room filled with gold and jewels cannot be protected.

Boasting of wealth and virtue brings your demise.

After finishing the work, withdraw.

 

This is the Way of Heaven.


10. Pacifying the agitated material soul...

載營塊抱一、能無離乎。專氣致柔、能嬰兒乎。濃除玄覽、能無疲乎。愛民治國、能無爲乎。天門開鬪、能爲雌乎。明白四達、能無知乎。生之、畜之。生而不有、 爲而不侍、長而不宰。是謂玄德

Pacifying the agitated material soul and holding to oneness:

Are you able to avoid separation?

Focusing your energy on the release of tension:

Can you be like an infant?

In purifying your insight:

Can you un-obstruct it?

Loving the people and ruling the state:

Can you avoid over-manipulation?

In opening and closing the gate of Heaven:

Can you be the female?

In illuminating the whole universe:

Can you be free of rationality?

 

Give birth to it and nourish it.

Produce it but don't possess it.

Act without expectation.

Excel, but don't take charge.

 

This is called Mysterious Virtue.


11. Thirty spokes join together in the hub...

三十覇共一穀。當其無、有車之用。挺埴以爲器。當其無、有器之用。盤戶漏以爲室。當其無、有室之用。故有之以爲利、無之以爲用。

Thirty spokes join together in the hub.

It is because of what is not there that the cart is useful.

Clay is formed into a vessel.

It is because of its emptiness that the vessel is useful.

Cut doors and windows to make a room.

It is because of its emptiness that the room is useful.

Therefore, what is present is used for profit.

 

But it is in absence that there is usefulness.


12. The five colors blind our eyes...

五色令人目盲。五音令人耳聲。五味令人口爽。馳騁畋獵、令人心發狂。難得之貨、令人行妨。是以聖人、爲腹不爲目。故去彼取此。

The five colors blind our eyes.

The five tones deafen our ears.

The five flavors confuse our taste.

Racing and hunting madden our minds.

Possessing rare treasures brings about harmful behavior.

Therefore the sage regards his center, and not his eyes.

 

He lets go of that and chooses this.


13. Accept humiliation as a surprise...

寵辱若驚。貴大患若身。何謂寵辱若驚。寵爲上、辱爲下。得之若驚、失之若驚。是謂寵辱若驚。何謂貴大患若身。吾所以有大患者、爲吾有身。及吾無身、吾有何 患。故貴以身爲天下、乃可寄天下。愛以身爲天下、乃可託天下。

Accept humiliation as a surprise.

Value great misfortune as your own self.

 

What do I mean by “Accept humiliation as a surprise”?

When you are humble

Attainment is a surprise

And so is loss.

That's why I say, “Accept humiliation as a surprise.”

 

What do I mean by “Value great misfortune as your own self”?

 

If I have no self, how could I experience misfortune?

 

Therefore, if you dedicate your life for the benefit of the world,

You can rely on the world.

If you love dedicating yourself in this way,

You can be entrusted with the world.


14. Look for it, it cannot be seen...

視之不見、名日夷。聽之不間、名日希。縛之不得、名曰微。此三者不可致詰。故混而爲一。其上不皦、其下不昧。繩繩不可名、復歸於無物。是謂無狀之狀、無物 之象。是謂惚恍。迎之不見其首、隨之不見其後。執古之道、以御今之有。能知古始、是謂道紀。

Look for it, it cannot be seen.

It is called the distant.

Listen for it, it cannot be heard.

It is called the rare.

Reach for it, it cannot be gotten.

It is called the subtle.

These three ultimately cannot be fathomed.

Therefore they join to become one.

 

Its top is not bright;

Its bottom is not dark;

Existing continuously, it cannot be named and it returns to no-thingness.

 

Thus, it is called the formless form,

The image of no-thing.

This is called the most obscure.

 

Go to meet it, you cannot see its face.

Follow it, you cannot see its back.

 

By holding to the ancient Way

You can manage present existence

And know the primordial beginning.

 

This is called the very beginning thread of the Way.


15. The ancient masters of the Way...

古之善爲士者、微妙玄通、深不可識。夫唯不可識、故強爲之容。豫兮若冬渉川。猶兮若畏四鄰。儼兮其若客。渙兮若冰之將釋。敦兮其若樸。曠兮其若谷。混兮其 若濁。孰能濁以靜之徐淸。孰能安以動之徐生。保此道者、不欲盈。夫唯不盈、故能蔽不新成。

The ancient masters of the Way

Had subtle marvelous mystic penetration

A depth that cannot be known.

It is exactly because that they are unknowable

That we are forced to pay attention to their appearance.

Hesitant, like one crossing an ice-covered river.

Ready, like one afraid of his neighbors on all sides.

Dignified, like a guest.

Loose, like ice about to melt.

Straightforward, like an uncarved block of wood.

Open, like a valley.

Obscure, like muddy water.

 

Who can be muddled, and use clarity to gradually become lucid?

Who can be calm, and use constant application for eventual success?

 

The one who holds to this path does not crave fulfillment.

Precisely because he does not crave fulfillment

He can be shattered

And do without quick restitution.


16. Effect emptiness to the extreme...

致虛極、守靜篤。萬物竝作、吾以觀復。夫物藝藝、各復歸其根。歸根曰靜。是謂復命。復命曰常。知常曰明。不知常、妄作凶。知常容。容乃公。公乃王。王乃 天。天乃道。道乃久。没身不殆。

Effect emptiness to the extreme.

Keep stillness whole.

Myriad things act in concert.

I therefore watch their return.

All things flourish and each returns to its root.

 

Returning to the root is called quietude.

Quietude is called returning to life.

Return to life is called constant.

Knowing this constant is called illumination.

Acting arbitrarily without knowing the constant is harmful.

Knowing the constant is receptivity, which is impartial.

 

Impartiality is kingship.

Kingship is Heaven.

Heaven is the Way

the Way is eternal.

 

Though you lose the body, you do not die.


17. From great antiquity forth they have known and possessed it...

太上、下知有之。其次、親而譽之。其次、畏之。其次、侮之。信不足焉、有不信焉。悠兮其貴言。功成事遂、百姓皆謂我自然。

From great antiquity forth they have known and possessed it.

Those of the next level loved and praised it.

The next were in awe of it.

And the next despised it.

 

If you lack sincerity no one will believe you.

 

How careful she is with her precious words!

When her work is complete and her job is finished,

Everybody says: “We did it!”


18. When the great Way perishes...

大道廢、有仁義。慧智出、有大僞。六親不和、有孝慈。國家昏亂、有忠臣。

When the great Way perishes

There is humaneness and rightness.

When intelligence is manifest

There is great deception.

When the six relationships are not in harmony

There is filial piety and compassion.

When the country is in chaos

Loyal ministers appear.


19. Get rid of “holiness”...

絕聖棄智、民利百倍。絕仁棄義、民復孝慈。絕巧棄利、盜賊無有。此三者、以爲文不足。故令有所屬。見素抱樸、少私寡欲。

Get rid of “holiness”and abandon “wisdom”and the people will benefit a hundredfold.

 

Get rid of “humaneness”and abandon “rightness”and the people will return to filial piety and compassion.

 

Get rid of cleverness and abandon profit, and thieves and gangsters will not exist.

 

Since the above three are merely words, they are not sufficient.

Therefore there must be something to include them all.

 

See the origin and keep the non-differentiated state.

Lessen selfishness and decrease desire.


20. Get rid of “learning”...

絕學無憂。唯之與阿、相去幾何。善之與惡、相去若何。人之所畏、不可不畏。荒兮其未矣哉。衆人煕煕、如享太牢、如春登臺。我獨泊兮其未兆、如嬰兒之未孩。 儽儽 兮若無所歸。衆人皆有餘。而我獨若遺。我愚人之 心也哉。沌沌兮。俗人昭昭。我獨昏昏。俗人察察。我獨悶悶。澹兮其若海、 飂 兮若無止。衆人皆有以。而我獨頑似部。我獨異於 人、而貴食母。

Get rid of “learning”and there will be no anxiety.

How much difference is there between “yes”and “no”?

How far removed from each other are “good”and “evil”?

Yet what the people are in awe of cannot be disregarded.

 

I am scattered, never having been in a comfortable center.

All the people enjoy themselves, as if they are at the festival of the great sacrifice,

Or climbing the Spring Platform.

I alone remain, not yet having shown myself.

Like an infant who has not yet laughed.

Weary, like one despairing of no home to return to.

 

All the people enjoy extra

While I have left everything behind.

I am ignorant of the minds of others.

So dull!

While average people are clear and bright, I alone am obscure.

Average people know everything.

To me alone all seems covered.

So flat!

Like the ocean.

Blowing around!

It seems there is no place to rest.

Everybody has a goal in mind.

I alone am as ignorant as a bumpkin.

I alone differ from people.

 

I enjoy being nourished by the mother.


21. The form of great virtue...

孔德之容、惟道是從。道之爲物、惟恍惟惚。惚兮恍兮、其中有象。恍兮惚兮、其中有物。窮兮冥兮、其中有精。其精甚眞、其中有信。自古及今、其名不去、以閱 衆甫。吾何以知衆甫之狀哉。以此。

The form of great virtue is something that only the Way can follow.

The Way as a “thing”is only vague and obscure.

How obscure! How vague! In it there is form.

How vague! How obscure! In it are things.

How deep! How dark! In it there is an essence.

 

The essence is so real—therein is belief.

 

From the present to antiquity, its name has never left it, so we can examine all origins.

How do I know the form of all origins?

 

By this.


22. The imperfect is completed...

曲則全。枉則直。窪則盈。敝則新。少則得。多則惑。是以聖人抱一、爲天下式。不自見、故明。不自是、故彰。不自伐、故有功 不自務、故長。夫唯不爭、故天下莫能與之爭。古之所謂曲則全者、豈虛言哉。誠全而歸之。

The imperfect is completed.

The crooked is straightened.

The empty is filled.

The old is renewed.

With few there is attainment.

With much there is confusion.

Therefore the sage grasps the one and becomes the model for all.

 

She does not show herself, and therefore is apparent.

She does not affirm herself, and therefore is acknowledged.

She does not boast and therefore has merit.

She does not strive and is therefore successful.

It is exactly because she does not contend, that nobody can contend with her.

 

How could the ancient saying, “The imperfect is completed” be regarded as empty talk?

 

Believe in the complete and return to it.


23. To speak little is natural...

希言自然。故瓢風不終朝、驟雨不終日。孰爲此者。天地。天地尚不能久、而況於人乎。故從事於道者。道者同於道、德者同於德、失者同於失。同於道者、道亦樂 得之。同於德者、德亦樂得之。同於失者、失亦樂得之。信不足焉、有不信焉。

To speak little is natural.

Therefore a gale does not blow a whole morning

Nor does a downpour last a whole day.

Who does these things? Heaven and Earth.

If even Heaven and Earth cannot force perfect continuity

How can people expect to?

 

Therefore there is such a thing as aligning one's actions with the Way.

If you accord with the Way you become one with it.

If you accord with virtue you become one with it.

If you accord with loss you become one with it.

 

The Way accepts this accordance gladly.

Virtue accepts this accordance gladly.

Loss also accepts accordance gladly.

 

If you are untrustworthy, people will not trust you.


24. Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady...

企者不立。跨者不行。自見者不明。自是者不彰。自伐者無功。自矜者不長。其在道也、曰餘食贅行。物或惡之。故有道者不處。

Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady.

Straddle-legged, you cannot go.

If you show yourself, you will not be seen.

If you affirm yourself, you will not shine.

If you boast, you will have no merit.

If you promote yourself, you will have no success.

 

Those who abide in the Way call these

 

Leftover food and wasted action

And all things dislike them.

 

Therefore the person of the Way does not act like this.


25. There is something that is perfect in its disorder...

有物混成、先天地生。寂兮寥兮。獨立不改、周行而不殆。可以爲天下母。吾不知其名。字之曰道。強爲之名曰大。大曰逝。逝曰遠。遠曰反。故道大。天大。地 大。人亦大。域中有四大、而人居其一焉。人法地 地法天 天法道 道法自然。

There is something that is perfect in its disorder

Which is born before Heaven and Earth.

 

So silent and desolate! It establishes itself without renewal.

Functions universally without lapse.

We can regard it as the Mother of Everything.

 

I don't know its name.

 

Hence, when forced to name it, I call it “Way.”

When forced to categorize it, I call it “great.”

 

Greatness entails transcendence.

Transcendence entails going-far.

Going-far entails return.

 

Hence, the Way is great, Heaven is great, the Earth is great

And the human is also great.

 

Within our realm there are four greatnesses and the human being is one of them.

 

Human beings follow the Earth.

Earth follows Heaven

Heaven follows the Way

The Way follows the way things are.


26. Heaviness is the root of lightness...

重爲輕根、靜爲躁君。是以聖人、終日行不離輜重。雖有榮觀、燕處超然。奈何萬乘之主、而以身輕天下、輕則失本、躁則失君。

Heaviness is the root of lightness.

Composure is the ruler of instability.

Therefore the sage travels all day

Without putting down his heavy load.

Though there may be spectacles to see

He easily passes them by.

 

This being so

How could the ruler of a large state

Be so concerned with himself as to ignore the people?

 

If you take them lightly you will lose your roots.

If you are unstable, you will lose your rulership.


27. A good traveler leaves no tracks...

善行無轍迹、善言無瑕謫、善數無用籌策。善閉無關 楗 、而不可開。善結無繩約、而不可解。是以聖人、 常善救人。故無棄人。常善救物。故無棄物。是謂襲明。故善人者、不善人之師、不善人者、善人之資、不貴其師、不愛其資。雖智大迷。是謂要妙。

A good traveler leaves no tracks.

Good speech lacks faultfinding.

A good counter needs no calculator.

A well-shut door will stay closed without a latch.

Skillful fastening will stay tied without knots.

 

It is in this manner that the sage is always skillful in elevating people.

Therefore she does not discard anybody.

 

She is always skillful in helping things

Therefore she does not discard anything.

This is called “the actualization of her luminosity.”

 

Hence, the good are the teachers of the not-so-good.

And the not-so-good are the charges of the good.

 

Not valuing your teacher or not loving your students:

Even if you are smart, you are gravely in error.

 

This is called Essential Subtlety.


28. Know the Masculine, cleave to the Feminine...

知其雄、守其雌、爲天下谿。爲天下谿、常德不離、復歸於嬰兒。知其白、守其黑、爲天下式。爲天下式、常德不 忒 、復歸於無極。知其榮、守其辱、爲天下谷。爲天 下谷、常德乃足、復歸於樸。樸散則爲器。聖人用之、則爲官長。故大制不割。

Know the Masculine, cleave to the Feminine

Be the valley for everyone.

Being the valley for everyone

You are always in virtue without lapse

And you return to infancy.

 

Know the White, cleave to the Black

Be a model for everyone.

Being the model for everyone

You are always in virtue and free from error

You return to limitlessness.

Know Glory but cleave to Humiliation

Be the valley for everyone.

When your constancy in virtue is complete

You return to the state of the “uncarved block.”

 

The block is cut into implements.

The sage uses them to fulfill roles.

 

Therefore the great tailor does not cut.


29. If you want to grab the world and run it...

將欲取天下而爲之、吾見其不得已。天下神器。不可爲也。爲者敗之、執者失之。故物或行或隨、或歔或吹、或強或羸、或載或 隳 。是以聖人、去甚、去奢、去泰。

If you want to grab the world and run it

I can see that you will not succeed.

The world is a spiritual vessel, which can't be controlled.

 

Manipulators mess things up.

Grabbers lose it. Therefore:

 

Sometimes you lead

Sometimes you follow

Sometimes you are stifled

Sometimes you breathe easy

Sometimes you are strong

Sometimes you are weak

Sometimes you destroy

And sometimes you are destroyed.

 

Hence, the sage shuns excess

Shuns grandiosity

Shuns arrogance.


30. If you used the Way as a principle for ruling...

以道佐人主者、不以兵強天下。其事好還。師之所處、荊棘生焉。大軍之後、必有凶年。善者果而已。不敢以取強。果而勿矜、果而勿伐、果而勿驕。果而不得已、 果而勿強。物壯則老、是謂不道。不道早已。

If you used the Way as a principle for ruling

You would not dominate the people by military force.

 

What goes around comes around.

 

Where the general has camped

Thorns and brambles grow.

In the wake of a great army

Come years of famine.

If you know what you are doing

You will do what is necessary and stop there, not daring to use force.

 

Accomplish but don't boast

Accomplish without show

Accomplish without arrogance

Accomplish without grabbing

Accomplish without forcing.

 

When things flourish they decline.

 

This is called non-Way

The non-Way is short-lived.


31. Sharp weapons are inauspicious instruments...

夫佳兵者不祥之器、物或惡之。故有道者不處。君子居則貴左、用兵則貴右。兵者不祥之器、非君子之器。不得已而用之、恬淡爲上。勝而不美。而美之者、是樂殺 人。夫樂殺人者、則不可以得志於天下矣。吉事尚左、凶事尚右。偏將軍居左、上將軍居右。言以喪禮處之。殺人之衆、以哀悲泣之、戰勝以喪禮處之。

Sharp weapons are inauspicious instruments.

Everyone hates them.

Therefore the man of the Way is not comfortable with them.

 

In the domestic affairs of the gentleman

The left is the position of honor.

In military affairs the right is the position of honor.

Since weapons are inauspicious instruments, they are not the instruments of the gentleman

So he uses them without enjoyment

And values plainness.

 

Victory is never sweet.

 

Those for whom victory is sweet

Are those who enjoy killing.

If you enjoy killing, you cannot gain the trust of the people.

 

On auspicious occasions the place of honor is on the left.

On inauspicious occasions the place of honor is on the right.

The lieutenant commander stands on the left.

The commander-in-chief stands on the right.

And they speak, using the funerary rites to bury them.

 

The common people, from whom all the dead have come

Weep in lamentation.

The victors bury them with funerary rites.


32. The Way is always nameless...

道常無名 樸雖小、天下莫能臣也。侯王若能守之、萬物將自賓。天地相合、以降甘露。民莫之令而自均。始 制有名。名亦旣有、夫亦將知止。知止所以不殆。譬道之在天下、猶川谷 之於江海。

The Way is always nameless.

And even though a sapling might be small

No one can make it be his subject.

If rulers could embody this principle

The myriad things would follow on their own.

Heaven and Earth would be in perfect accord

And rain sweet dew.

 

People, unable to deal with It on its own terms

Make adjustments;

And so you have the beginning of division into names.

Since there are already plenty of names

You should know where to stop.

Knowing where to stop, you can avoid danger.

 

The Way's existence in the world

 

Is like valley streams running into the rivers and seas.


33. If you understand others you are smart...

知人者智、自知者明。勝人者有力、自勝者強。知足者富。強行者有志。不失其所者久。死而不亡者壽。

If you understand others you are smart.

If you understand yourself you are illuminated.

If you overcome others you are powerful.

If you overcome yourself you have strength.

If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.

If you can act with vigor, you have a will.

If you don't lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.

 

If you die without loss, you are eternal.


34. The Way is like a great flooding river...

大道氾兮、其可左右。萬物恃之而生而不辭。功成不名有。衣養萬物而不爲主。常無欲、可名於小。萬物歸焉而不爲主、可名爲大。以其終不自爲大、故能成其大。

The Way is like a great flooding river. How can it be directed to the left or right?

The myriad things rely on it for their life but do not distinguish it.

It brings to completion but cannot be said to exist.

It clothes and feeds all things without lording over them.

 

It is always desireless, so we call it “the small.”

The myriad things return to it and it doesn't exact lordship

Thus it can be called “great.”

Till the end, it does not regard itself as Great.

 

Therefore it actualizes its greatness.


35. Holding to the Great Form...

執大象、天下往。往而不害、安平太。樂與餌、過客止。道之出口、淡乎其無味。視之不足見。聽之不足聞。用之不可旣。

Holding to the Great Form

All pass away.

They pass away unharmed, resting in Great Peace.

 

It is for food and music that the passing traveler stops.

 

When the Way appears from its opening

It is so subtle, it has no taste.

Look at it, you cannot see it.

Listen, you cannot hear it.

Use it

 

You cannot exhaust it.


36. That which will be shrunk...

將欲歙之、必固張之。將欲弱之、必固強之。將欲廢之、必固興之。將欲奪之、必固與之。是謂微明。柔弱勝剛強。魚不可脫於淵。國之利器、不可以示人。

That which will be shrunk

Must first be stretched.

That which will be weakened

Must first be strengthened.

That which will be torn down

Must first be raised up.

That which will be taken

Must first be given.

 

This is called “subtle illumination.”

 

The gentle and soft overcomes the hard and aggressive.

 

A fish cannot leave the water.

 

The country's potent weapons

Should not be shown to its people.


37. The Way is always “not-doing”...

道常無爲而無不爲。侯王若能守之、萬物將自化。化而欲作、吾將鎭之以無名之樸。無名之樸、夫亦將無欲。不欲以靜、天下將自定。

The Way is always “not-doing”

Yet there is nothing it doesn't do.

If the ruler is able to embody it

Everything will naturally change.

 

Being changed, they desire to act.

 

So I must restrain them, using the nameless “uncarved block (original mind).”

 

Using the nameless uncarved block

They become desireless.

Desireless, they are tranquil and

All-under-Heaven is naturally settled.


38. Superior virtue is not virtuous...

上德不德、是以有德。下德不失德、是以無德。上德無爲而無以爲、下德爲之而有以爲。上仁爲之而無以爲。上義爲之而有以爲。上禮爲之而莫之應、則攘臂而 扔 之。故失道而後、德。失德而後、仁。失仁而後、義。失義而後、禮。夫禮者、忠信之薄、而亂之首。前識者、道之華、而愚之始。是以大丈夫處其厚、不居其薄。處其實、不居其華。 故、去彼、取此。

Superior virtue is not virtuous

Therefore it has virtue.

Inferior virtue never fails to be virtuous

Therefore it has no virtue.

 

Superior virtue does not “act”

And has no intentions.

Inferior virtue “acts”

And always has intentions.

Superior humaneness“acts”

But has no intentions.

Superior rightness “acts”

But but has intentions.

Superior propriety “acts”and if you don't respond

 

They will roll up their sleeves and threaten you.

 

Thus, when the Way is lost there is virtue

When virtue is lost there is humaneness

When humaneness is lost there is rightness

And when rightness is lost there is propriety.

 

Now “propriety”is the external appearance of loyalty and sincerity

And the beginning of disorder.

 

Occult abilities are just flowers of the Way

And the beginning of foolishness.

 

Therefore the Great Person dwells in the substantial

And not in the superficial.

Rests in the fruit and not in the flower.

 

So let go of that and grasp this.


39. These in the past have attained wholeness...

昔之得一者。天得一以淸、地得一以寧、神得一以靈、谷得一以盈、萬物得一以生、侯王得一以爲天下貞。其致之、一也。天無以淸將恐裂。地無以寧將恐發。神無 以靈將恐歇。谷無以盈將恐竭。萬物無以生將恐滅。侯王無以貞將恐蹶。故貴以賤爲本、高以下爲基。是以侯王自謂孤寡不穀。此非以賤爲本邪。非乎。故致數輿無 輿。不欲 琭琭 如玉、珞珞如石。

These in the past have attained wholeness:

 

Heaven attains wholeness with its clarity;

The Earth attains wholeness with its firmness;

The Spirit attains wholeness with its transcendence;

The Valley attain wholeness when filled;

The Myriad Things attain wholeness in life;

The Ruler attains wholeness in the correct governance of the people.

 

In effecting this:

If Heaven lacked clarity it would be divided;

If the Earth lacked firmness it would fly away;

If the spirit lacked transcendence it would be exhausted;

If the valley lacked fullness it would be depleted;

If the myriad things lacked life they would vanish.

If the ruler lacks nobility and loftiness he will be tripped up.

 

Hence

Nobility has lowliness as its root

The High has the Low as its base.

Thus the kings call themselves “the orphan, the lowly, the unworthy.”

 

Is this not taking lowliness as the fundamental? Isn't it?

 

In this way you can bring about great effect without burden.

Not desiring the rarity of gems

Or the manyness of grains of sand.


40. Return is the motion of the Way...

反者道之動。弱者道之用。天下萬物生於有、有生於無。

Return is the motion of the Way.

Softening is its function.

All things in the cosmos arise from being.

Being arises from non-being.


41. When superior students hear of the Way...

上士聞道、勤而行之。中士聞道、若存若亡。下士聞道、大笑之。不笑不足以爲道。故建言有之。明道若昧。進道若退。夷道若 纇 。上德若谷。大白若辱。廣德若不足。建德若偸。 質眞若渝 大方無隅。大器晩成。大音希聲。大象無形。道隱無名 夫唯道、善貸且成。

When superior students hear of the Way

They strive to practice it.

When middling students hear of the Way

They sometimes keep it and sometimes lose it.

When inferior students hear of the Way

They have a big laugh.

 

But “not laughing”in itself is not sufficient to be called the Way, and therefore it is said:

 

The sparkling Way seems dark

Advancing in the Way seems like regression.

Settling into the Way seems rough.

True virtue is like a valley.

The immaculate seems humble.

Extensive virtue seems insufficient.

Established virtue seems deceptive.

The face of reality seems to change.

The great square has no corners.

Great ability takes a long time to perfect.

Great sound is hard to hear.

The great form has no shape.

 

The Way is hidden and nameless.

 

This is exactly why the Way is good at developing and perfecting.


42. The Way produces one, one produces two...

道生一、一生二、二生三、三生萬物。萬物負陰而抱陽、沖氣以爲和。人之所惡、唯孤寡不穀、而王公以爲稱。故物或損之而益、或益之而損。人之所教、我亦教 之。強梁者不得其死。吾將以爲教父。

The Way produces one, one produces two.

The two produce the three and the three produce all things.

All things submit to yin and embrace yang.

They soften their energy to achieve harmony.

 

People hate to think of themselves as “orphan,”“lowly,” and “unworthy”

Yet the kings call themselves by these names.

 

Some lose and yet gain,

Others gain and yet lose.

That which is taught by the people

I also teach:

“The forceful do not choose their place of death.”

I regard this as the father of all teachings.


43. The softest thing in the world...

天下之至柔、馳騁天下之至堅。無有入無間。吾是以知無爲之有益。不言之教、無爲之益、天下希及之。

The softest thing in the world

Will overcome the hardest.

Non-being can enter where there is no space.

Therefore I know the benefit of unattached action.

The wordless teaching and unattached action

 

Are rarely seen.


44. Which is dearer, fame or your life?

名與身孰親 身與貨孰多。得與亡孰病。是故甚愛必大費、多藏必厚亡。知足不辱、知止不殆、可以長久。

Which is dearer, fame or your life?

Which is greater, your life or possessions?

Which is more painful, gain or loss?

Therefore we always pay a great price for excessive love

And suffer deep loss for great accumulation.

Knowing what is enough, you will not be humiliated.

Knowing where to stop, you will not be imperiled

 

And can be long-lasting.


45. Great perfection seems flawed...

大成若缺、其用不弊。大盈若沖、其用不窮。大直若屈、大巧若拙、大辯若訥。躁勝寒、靜勝熱。淸靜爲天下正。

Great perfection seems flawed, yet functions without a hitch.

Great fullness seems empty, yet functions without exhaustion.

Great straightness seems crooked,

Great skill seems clumsy,

Great eloquence seems stammering.

 

Excitement overcomes cold, stillness overcomes heat.

Clarity and stillness set everything right.


46. When the Way prevails in the land...

天下有道、御走馬以糞。天下無道、戎馬生於郊。禍莫大於不知足、咎莫大於欲得。故知足之足常足矣。

When the Way prevails in the land

Fine horses leisurely graze and fertilize the ground.

When the Way is lacking in the land

War horses are bred outside the city.

Natural disasters are not as bad as not knowing what is enough.

Loss is not as bad as wanting more.

 

Therefore the sufficiency that comes from knowing what is enough is an eternal sufficiency.


47. Without going out the door, knowing everything...

不出戶、知天下。不 闚 牑 、見天道。其出 彌遠、其知彌少。是以聖人不行而知、不見而名、不爲而成。

Without going out the door, knowing everything,

Without peeking out the window shades, seeing the Way of Heaven.

 

The further you go, the less you know.

 

Hence the sage

Understands without having to go through the whole process.

Discerns 1 without looking.

Is perfected without striving.


48. In studying, each day something is gained...

爲學日益、爲道日損。損之又損、以至於無爲。無爲而無不爲。取天下常以無事。及其有事、不足以取天下。

In studying, each day something is gained.

In following the Way, each day something is lost.

Lost and again lost.

Until there is nothing left to do.

Not-doing, nothing is left undone.

You can possess the world by never manipulating it.

No matter how much you manipulate

You can never possess the world.


49. The sage has no fixed mind...

聖人無常心。以百姓心爲心。善者吾善之、不善者吾亦善之。德善。信者吾信之、不信者吾亦信之。德信。聖人在天下、歙歙爲天下渾其心。百姓皆注其耳目。聖人 皆孩之。

The sage has no fixed mind,

She takes the mind of the people as her mind.

 

I treat the good as good, I also treat the evil as good.

This is true goodness.

I trust the trustworthy, I also trust the untrustworthy.

This is real trust.

 

When the sage lives with people, she harmonizes with them

And conceals her mind for them.

The sages treat them as their little children.


50. Coming into life and entering death...

出生、入死。生之徒十有三、死之徒十有三。人之生、動之死地亦十有三。夫何故。以其生生之厚。蓋聞、善攝攝生者、陸行不遇 兕 虎、入軍不被甲兵。 兕 無所投其角、虎無所措其爪、兵無所容其刃。夫何 故。以其無死地。

Coming into life and entering death,

The followers of life are three in ten.

The followers of death are three in ten.

Those whose life activity is their death ground are three in ten.

Why is this?

Because they live life grasping for its rich taste.

 

Now I have heard that those who are expert in handling life

Can travel the land without meeting tigers and rhinos,

Can enter battle without being wounded.

The rhino has no place to plant its horn,

The tiger has no place to place its claws,

Weapons find no place to receive their sharp edges.

Why?

 

Because he has no death-ground.


51. Way gives birth to it...

道生之、德畜之、物形之、勢成之。是以萬物、莫不尊道而貴德。道之尊、德之貴、夫莫之命而常自然。故道生之、德畜之、長之、育之、亭之、毒之、蓋之、覆 之。生而不有、爲而不恃、長而不宰。是謂玄德

Way gives birth to it,

Virtue rears it,

Materiality shapes it,

Activity perfects it.

Therefore, there are none of the myriad things who do not venerate the Way or esteem its virtue.

This veneration of the Way and esteeming of its virtue is something they do naturally, without being forced.

Therefore, the Way gives birth.

Its virtue rears, develops, raises, adjusts and disciplines,

Nourishes, covers and protects,

Produces but does not possess,

Acts without expectation,

Leads without forcing.

 

This is called “Mysterious Virtue.”


52. All things have a beginning, which we can regard as their Mother...

天下有始、以爲天下母。旣得其母、以知其子、旣知其子、復守其母、没身不殆。塞其兌、閉其門、終身不勤。開其兌、濟其事、終身不救。見小曰明、守柔日強。 用其光、復歸其明、無遺身殃。是爲習常。

All things have a beginning, which we can regard as their Mother.

Knowing the mother, we can know its children.

Knowing the children, yet still cleaving to the mother

You can die without pain.

 

Stop up the holes

Shut the doors,

You can finish your life without anxiety.

 

Open the doors,

Increase your involvements,

In the end you can't be helped.

 

Seeing the subtle is called illumination.

Keeping flexible is called strength.

Use the illumination, but return to the light.

Don't bring harm to yourself.

 

This is called “practicing the eternal.”


53. If I had just a little bit of wisdom...

使我介然有知、行於大道、唯施是畏。大道甚夷、而民好徑。朝甚除、田甚蕪、倉甚虛。服文綵、帶利劍、厭飫食、財貨有餘。是謂盜夸。非道也哉。

If I had just a little bit of wisdom

I should walk the Great Path and fear only straying from it.

Though the Way is quite broad

People love shortcuts.

 

The court is immaculate,

While the fields are overgrown with weeds,

And the granaries are empty.

They wear silk finery,

Carry sharp swords,

Sate themselves on food and drink

Having wealth in excess.

They are called thieving braggarts.

 

This is definitely not the Way.


54. The well-established cannot be uprooted...

善建者不拔、善抱者不脫。子孫以祭祀不輟。修之於身、其德乃眞。修之於家、其德乃餘。修之於鄕、其德乃長。修之於國、其德乃豐。修之於天下、其德乃普。故 以身觀身、以家觀家、以鄕觀鄕、以國觀國、以天下觀天下。吾何以知天下然哉。以此。

The well-established cannot be uprooted.

The well-grasped does not slip away.

Generation after generation carries out the ancestor worship without break.

 

Cultivate it in yourself and virtue will be real.

Cultivate it in the family and virtue will overflow.

Cultivate it in the town and virtue will be great.

Cultivate it in the country and virtue will abundant.

Cultivate it in the world and virtue will be everywhere.

 

Therefore, take yourself and observe yourself.

Take the family and observe the family.

Take the town and observe the town.

Take the country and observe the country.

Take the world and observe the world.

 

How do I know the world as it is?

 

By this.


55. One who remains rich in virtuous power...

含德之厚、比於赤子。蜂 蠆虺 蛇不螫、猛獸不據、攫鳥不持。骨弱筋柔而握固。 未知牝牡之合而全作。精之至也。終日號而不嗄。和之至也。知和曰常、知常曰明。益生曰祥、心使氣曰強。物壯則老、謂之不道。不道早已。

One who remains rich in virtuous power

Is like a newborn baby.

Bees, scorpions and venomous snakes do not bite it,

The wild beasts do not attack it,

Birds of prey do not sink their claws into it.

Though its bones are weak

And muscles soft,

Its grip is strong.

Without knowing of the blending of male and female

S/he is a perfect production,

The ultimate in vitality.

S/he cries all day without getting hoarse.

S/he is the ultimate in harmony.

 

Understanding harmony is called the Constant.

Knowing the Constant is called illumination.

Nourishing life is called blessing.

Having control of your breath is called strength.

 

After things blossom they decay, and

This is called the non-Way.

 

The non-Way expires quickly.


56. One who knows does not speak...

知者不言、言者不知。塞其兌 閉其門 挫其銳 解其紛 和其光 同其塵。是謂玄同。故不可得而親、不可得而疏。不可得而利、不可得而害。不可得而貴、不可得而賤。故爲天下貴。

One who knows does not speak.

One who speaks does not know.

Close your holes, shut your doors,

Soften your sharpness, loosen your knots.

Soften your glare and merge with the everyday.

 

This is called mysteriously attaining oneness.

 

Though you cannot possess it, you are intimate with it

And at the same time, distant.

Though you cannot possess it, you are benefitted by it,

And harmed by it.

You cannot possess it, but are esteemed through it

And humbled by it.

 

Therefore the world values you.


57. Use fairness in governing the state...

以正治國、以奇用兵、以無事取天下。吾何以知其然哉。以此。天下多忌諱、而民彌貧。民多利器、國家滋昏。人多伎巧、奇物滋起。法令滋彰、盜賊多有。故聖人 云、我無爲而民自化。我好靜而民自正。我無事而民自富。我無欲而民自樸。

Use fairness in governing the state.

Use surprise tactics in war.

Be unconcerned and you will have the world.

How do I know it is like this?

Because:

The more regulations there are,

The poorer people become.

The more people own lethal weapons,

The more darkened are the country and clans.

The more clever the people are,

The more extraordinary actions they take.

The more picky the laws are,

The more thieves and gangsters there are.

 

Therefore the sages say:

I do not force my way and the people transform themselves.

I enjoy my serenity and the people correct themselves.

I do not interfere and the people enrich themselves.

 

I have no desires

 

And the people find their original mind.


58. When the government is laid back...

其政悶悶、其民淳淳。其政察察、其民缺缺。禍兮福之所倚、福兮禍之所伏。孰知其極。其無正。正復爲奇、善復爲妖。人之迷、其日固久。是以聖人方而不割、廉 而不 劌 、直而不肆、光而不耀。

When the government is laid back

The people are relaxed.

When the government is nitpicking

The people have anxiety.

Misfortune depends upon fortune.

Fortune conceals misfortune.

What has a definite delimitation?

Or abnormality?

The normal reverts to strangeness.

Goodness reverts to perversion.

 

People certainly have been confused for a long time.

 

Therefore the sage squares things without cutting.

Edges without separating.

Straightens without lining up.

 

Shines but does not glare.


59. In governing the country and serving Heaven...

治人事天、莫若嗇。夫唯嗇、是謂早服。早服謂之重積德。重積德、則無不克。無不克、則莫知其極。莫知其極、可以有國。有國之母、可以長久。是謂深根、固 柢、長生、久視之道。

In governing the country and serving Heaven

There is nothing like frugality.

Only by being frugal can you recover quickly.

When you recover quickly you accumulate virtue.

Having accumulated virtue,

There is nothing you can't overcome.

When there is nothing you can't overcome

Who knows the limits of your capabilities?

These limits being unfathomable

You can possess the country.

 

The Mother who possesses the country can be long-living.

This is called “planting the roots deeply and firmly.”

 

The way to long life and eternal vision.


60. Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish...

治大國、若烹小鮮。以道莅天下、其鬼不神 非其鬼不神、其神不傷人。非其神不傷人、聖人亦不傷人。夫兩不相傷。故德交歸焉。

Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish.

When you govern people with the Way

Demons will have no power.

Not that they don't have power,

But their power will not harm people.

 

Not only does their power not harm people:

The sage also doesn't harm people,

Since the two do not harm each other.

 

They share in each other's virtue.


61. The great state should be like a river basin...

大國者下流。天下之交。天下之牝。牝常以靜勝牡。以靜爲下。故大國以下小國、則取小國。小國以下大國、則取大國。故或下以取、或下而取。大國不過欲兼畜 人、小國不過欲入事人。夫兩者各得其所欲。大者宜爲下。

The great state should be like a river basin.

The mixing place of the world,

The feminine of the world.

The feminine always overcomes the masculine by softness

Because softness is lesser.

Therefore if a large state serves a small state

It will gain the small state.

If a small state serves a large state

It will gain the large state.

 

Therefore some serve in order to gain

And some gain despite their servitude.

 

The large state wants nothing more

Than to unite and feed its people.

The small state wants nothing more

Than to enter into the service of the right person.

Thus both get what they want.

 

Greatness lies in placing oneself below.


62. The Way is hidden deeply in all things...

道者萬物之奥。善人之寶、不善人之所保。美言可以市、尊行可以加人。人之不善、何棄之有。故立天子、置三公、雖有拱壁以先則駟馬、不如坐進此道。古之所以 貴此道者何。不曰以求得、有罪以免邪。故爲天下貴。

The Way is hidden deeply in all things.

It is the treasure of the good

And the refuge of the not-so-good.

With skillful words you can be successful.

With honorable actions you can be included.

 

People may not be so good, but how can you deny them?

 

Therefore, even though there are great jewels brought in by teams of horses at the coronation of the emperor and the installation of the three princes,

This is not as good as staying where you are

And advancing in this Way.

 

Why did the ancients so value the Way?

 

You can't say that it was for seeking gain

Or to have punishments to deter crime.

 

Therefore it is the most prized in the world.


63. Do without “doing”...

爲無爲、事無事、味無味。大小多少、報怨以德。圖難於其易、爲大於其細。天下難事必作於易、天下大事必作於細。是以聖人終不爲大、故能成其大。夫輕諾必寡 信、多易必多難。是以聖人猶難之。故終無難矣。

Do without “doing.”

Get involved without manipulating.

Taste without tasting.

Make the great small,

The many, few.

Respond to anger with virtue.

Deal with difficulties while they are still easy.

Handle the great while it is still small.

 

The difficult problems in life

Always start off being simple.

Great affairs always start off being small.

Therefore the sage never deals with the great

And is able to actualize his greatness.

 

Now light words generate little belief,

Much ease turns into much difficulty.

Therefore the sage treats things as though they were difficult,

 

And hence, never has difficulty.


64. That which is at rest is easy to grasp...

其安易持、其未兆易謀、其脆易 泮 、其微易散。爲之於未有、治之於未亂。合抱之木、生於毫末。九層之臺、起於累土。千里之行、始於足下。爲者敗之、執者失之。是以聖人、無爲、故無敗。無執、故無失。民之從事、常於幾成而敗之。愼終如 始、則無敗事。是以聖人欲不欲、不貴難得之貨。學不學、復衆人之所過。以輔萬物之自然、而不敢爲。

That which is at rest is easy to grasp.

That which has not yet come about is easy to plan for.

That which is fragile is easily broken.

That which is minute is easily scattered.

Handle things before they arise.

Manage affairs before they are in a mess.

 

A thick tree grows from a tiny seed.

A tall building arises from a mound of earth.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.

Contriving, you are defeated;

Grasping, you lose.

 

The sage doesn't contrive, so she isn't beaten.

Not grasping, she doesn't lose.

When people are carrying out their projects

They usually blow it at the end.

 

If you are as careful at the end

As you were at the beginning,

You won't be disappointed.

 

Therefore the sage desires non-desire,

Does not value rare goods,

Studies the unlearnable

So that she can correct the mistakes of average people

And aid all things in manifesting their true nature

 

Without presuming to take the initiative.


65. The ancients who were skillful at the Way...

古之善爲道者、非以明民、將以愚之。民之難治、以其智多。故以智治國、國之賊。不以智治國、國之福。知此兩者、亦稽式。常知稽式、是謂玄德。玄德深矣、遠 矣、與物反矣。然後乃至大順。

The ancients who were skillful at the Way

Did not illuminate the people

But rather kept them simple.

When the people are difficult to rule

It is because of their cleverness.

Therefore

If you use cleverness to rule the state

You are a robber of the state.

If you don't use cleverness to rule the state

You are a blessing to the state.

 

If you understand these two points, you know the proper norm for governing.

To be continuously understanding the proper norm is called Mysterious Virtue.

How deep and far-reaching Mysterious Virtue is!

It makes all return

 

Until they reach the Great Norm.


66. The reason the river and sea can be regarded as...

江海所以能爲百谷王者、以其善下之。故能爲百谷王。是以欲上民、必以言下之、欲先民、必以身後之。是以聖人、處上而民不重、處前而民不害。是以天下樂推而 不厭。以其不爭故、天下莫能與之爭。

The reason the river and sea can be regarded as

The rulers of all the valley streams

Is because of their being below them.

Therefore they can be their rulers.

So if you want to be over people

You must speak humbly to them.

If you want to lead them

You must place yourself behind them.

 

Thus the sage is positioned above

And the people do not feel oppressed.

He is in front and they feel nothing wrong.

Therefore they like to push him front and never resent him.

 

Since he does not contend

 

No one can contend with him.


67. The reason everybody calls my Way great...

天下皆謂我道大似不肖。夫唯大、故似不肖。若肖、久矣、其細也夫。我有三寶、持而保之。一日慈、二日儉、三日不敢爲天下先。慈、故能勇。儉、故能廣。不敢 爲天下先、故能成器長。今舍慈且勇、舍儉且廣、舍後且先、死矣。夫慈以戰則勝、以守則固 天將救之、以慈衞之。

The reason everybody calls my Way great

Is because there is nothing quite like it.

It is exactly because it isgreat

That there is nothing quite like it.

If there were something that were consistently like it

 

How could it be small?

 

I have three treasures thatI hold and cherish.

The first is compassion,

The second is frugality,

The third is not daring to put myself ahead of everybody.

 

Having compassion, I can be brave.

Having frugality, I can be generous.

Not daring to put myself ahead of everybody

I can take the time to perfect my abilities.

Now if I am brave without compassion

Generous without frugality, or

Go to the fore without putting my own concerns last,

I might as well be dead.

 

If you wage war with compassion you will win.

If you protect yourself with compassion you will be impervious.

Heaven will take care of you,

 

Protecting you with compassion.


68. The best warrior is never aggressive...

善爲士者不武。善戰者不怒。善勝敵者不與。善用人者爲之下。是謂不爭之德、是謂用人之力、是謂配天之極。

The best warrior is never aggressive.

The best fighter is never angry.

The best tactician does not engage the enemy.

The best utilizer of people's talents places himself below them.

 

This is called the virtue of non-contention.

It is called the ability to engage people's talents.

It is called the ultimate in merging with Heaven.


69. Strategists have a saying...

用兵有言、吾不敢爲主而爲客、不敢進寸而退尺。是謂行無行、攘無臂、 扔 無敵、執無兵。禍莫大於輕敵。輕敵幾喪吾寶。故 抗兵相如、哀者勝矣。

Strategists have a saying:

I prefer to be able to move, rather than be in a fixed position

I prefer to retreat a foot rather than advancing an inch.

This is called progress without advancing;

Preparing without showing off;

Smashing where there is no defense;

Taking him without a fight.

 

There is no greater danger than under-estimating your opponent.

If I under-estimate my opponent

I will lose that which is most dear.

Therefore

When opponents clash

 

The one who is sorry about it will be the winner.


70. My words are easy to understand...

吾言甚易知、甚易行。天下莫能知、莫能行。言有宗、事有君。夫唯無知、是以不我知。知我者希、則我者貴。是以聖人、被褐懷玉。

My words are easy to understand

And easy to practice.

Yet nobody understands them or practices them.

My words have an origin;

My actions have a principle.

It is only because of your not understanding this

That you do not understand me.

Since there are few who understand me

I am valued.

Therefore the sage wears coarse clothes.

Yet hides a jewel in his bosom.


71. There is nothing better than to know that you don't know...

知不知上、不知知病。夫唯病病、是以不病。聖人不病、以其病病。是以不病

There is nothing better than to know that you don't know.

Not knowing, yet thinking you know—

This is sickness.

Only when you are sick of being sick

Can you be cured.

The sage's not being sick

 

Is because she is sick of sickness.

 

Therefore she is not sick.


72. When the people do not fear your might...

民不畏威、則大威至。無狎其所居、無厭其所生。夫唯不厭、是以不厭。是以聖人、自知不自見、自愛不自貴。故去彼取此。

When the people do not fear your might

Then your might has truly become great.

Don't interfere with their household affairs.

Don't oppress their livelihood.

 

If you don't oppress them they won't feel oppressed.

 

Thus the sage understands herself

But does not show herself.

Loves herself

But does not prize herself.

Therefore she lets go of that

 

And takes this.


73. If you are courageous in daring you will die...

勇於敢則殺、勇於不敢則活。此兩者或利、或害。天之所惡、孰知其故。是以聖人猶難之。天之道不爭而善勝、不言而善應、不召而自來、 繟 然而善謀。天網恢恢、疏而不失。

If you are courageous in daring you will die.

If you are courageous in not-daring you will live.

Among these two, one is beneficial and the other is harmful.

 

Who understands the reason why Heaven dislikes what it dislikes?

Even the sage has difficulty in knowing this.

 

The Way of Heaven is to win easily without struggle.

To respond well without words,

To naturally come without special invitation,

To plan well without anxiety.

 

Heaven's net is vast.

It is loose.

 

Yet nothing slips through.


74. If the people don't fear death...

民不畏死、奈何以死懼之。若使民常畏死、而爲奇者、吾得執而殺之、執敢。常有司殺者殺。夫代司殺者殺、是謂代大匠 斵 。夫代大匠斷者、希有不傷其手矣。

If the people don't fear death

How will you scare them with death?

If you make the people continuously fear death

By seizing anybody who does something out of the ordinary

And killing them,

Who will dare to move?

 

There is always an official executioner to handle this.

If you play the role of the official executioner

It is like cutting wood in the capacity of Master Carpenter.

 

There are few who will not cut their hands.

 


75. The reason people starve...

民之饑、以其上食税之多。是以饑。民之難治、以其上之有爲。是以難治。民之輕死、以其上求生之厚。是以輕死。夫唯無以生爲者、是賢於貴生。

The reason people starve

Is because their rulers tax them excessively.

They are difficult to govern

Because their rulers have their own ends in mind.

 

The reason people take death lightly

Is because they want life to be rich.

Therefore they take death lightly.

It is only by not living for your own ends

That you can go beyond valuing life.


76. When people are born they are gentle and soft...

人之生也柔弱、其死也堅強。草木之生也柔脆、其死也枯稿。故堅強者死之徒、柔弱者生之徒。是以兵強則滅、木強則折。強大處下、柔弱處上。

When people are born they are gentle and soft.

At death they are hard and stiff.

When plants are alive they are soft and delicate.

When they die, they wither and dry up.

Therefore the hard and stiff are followers of death.

The gentle and soft are the followers of life.

 

Thus, if you are aggressive and stiff, you won't win.

When a tree is hard enough, it is cut. Therefore

The hard and big are lesser,

The gentle and soft are greater.


77. The Way of Heaven...

天之道其猶張弓與。高者抑之、下者擧之。有餘者損之 不足者補之。天之道損有餘而補不足。人之道則不然、損不足以奉有餘。孰能有餘以奉天下。唯有道者。是以聖人、爲而不侍、功成而不處、其不欲見賢。

The Way of Heaven

Is like stretching a bow.

The top is pulled down,

The bottom is pulled up.

Excess string is removed

Where more is needed, it is added.

 

It is the Way of Heaven

To remove where there is excess

And add where there is lack.

The way of people is different:

They take away where there is need

And add where there is surplus.

 

Who can take his surplus and give it to the people?

Only one who possesses the Way.

 

Therefore the sage acts without expectation.

Does not abide in his accomplishments.

Does not want to show his virtue.

 


78. Nothing in the world is softer than water...

天下莫柔弱於水。而攻堅強者莫之能勝 以其無以易之。弱之勝強、柔之勝剛、天下莫不知、莫能行。是以聖人云、受國之垢、是謂社稜主、受國不祥、是爲天下王。正言若反。

Nothing in the world is softer than water,

Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.

This is because nothing can alter it.

 

That the soft overcomes the hard

And the gentle overcomes the aggressive

Is something that everybody knows

But none can do themselves.

Therefore the sages say:

The one who accepts the dirt of the state

Becomes its master.

The one who accepts its calamity

Becomes king of the world.

 

Truth seems contradictory.


79. After calming great anger...

和大怨必有餘怨。安可以爲善。是以聖人執左契而不責於人。有德司契、無德司徹。天道無親、常與善人。

After calming great anger

There are always resentments left over.

How can this be considered as goodness?

Therefore the sage keeps her part of the deal,

And doesn't check up on the other person.

 

The virtuous ascertain the content of the contract itself;

Those without virtue are concerned about it's being exacted. 2

 

The Heavenly Way has no favorites:

It raises up the Good.


80. Let there be a small country with few people...

小國寡民、使有什伯之器而不用。使民重死而不遠徒。雖有舟輿、無所乘之、雖有甲兵、無所陳之。使人復結繩而用之、甘其食、美其服、安其居、樂其俗、鄰國相 望、鷄犬之聲相聞、民至老死不相往來。

Let there be a small country with few people,

Who, even having much machinery, don't use it.

Who take death seriously and don't wander far away.

Even though they have boats and carriages, they never ride in them.

Having armor and weapons, they never go to war.

Let them return to measurement by tying knots in rope.

 

Sweeten their food, give them nice clothes, a peaceful abode and a relaxed life.

Even though the next country can be seen and its doges and chickens can be heard,

 

The people will grow old and die without visiting each others land.


81. True words are not fancy...

信言不美、美言不信。善者不辯、辯者不善。知者不博、博者不知。聖人不積、旣以爲人己愈有、旣以與人己愈多。天之道、利而不害。聖人之道、爲而不爭。

True words are not fancy.

Fancy words are not true.

The good do not debate.

Debaters are not good.

The one who really knows is not broadly learned,

The extensively learned do not really know.

The sage does not hoard,

She gives people her surplus.

Giving her surplus to others she is enriched.

 

The way of Heaven is to help and not harm.

The way of the Sage is to act without wrangling.


Notes

1. The commentarial tradition reads 名 as meaning 明.

2. The interpretation of 司契 and 司徹 here varies considerably among translators. Cf. the translations by D.C. Lau, Richard Llynn, Ellen Chen, John Wu, and others.

Copyright © Charles Muller— 2010