Verse 1

A way that can be walked 
    is not The Way 
A name that can be named 
    is not The Name 
Tao is both Named and Nameless 
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things 
As Named, it is the mother of all things 
A mind free of thought, 
    merged within itself, 
    beholds the essence of Tao 
A mind filled with thought, 
    identified with its own perceptions 
    beholds the mere forms of this world 
Tao and this world seem different 
    but in truth they are one and the same 
The only difference is in what we call them 
How deep and mysterious is this unity 
    How profound, how great! 
It is the truth beyond the truth, 
    the hidden within the hidden 
It is the path to all wonder, 
    the gate to the essence of everything! 

Verse 2

Everyone recognises beauty 
    only because of ugliness 
Everyone recognises virtue 
    only because of sin 
Life and death are born together 
Difficult and easy 
Long and short 
High and low— 
    all these exist together 
Sound and silence blend as one 
Before and after arrive as one 
The Sage acts without action 
    and teaches without talking 
All things flourish around him 
    and he does not refuse any one of them 
He gives but not to receive 
He works but not for reward 
He completes but not for results 
He does nothing for himself in this passing world 
    so nothing he does ever passes 

Verse 3

Putting a value of status 
    will cause people to compete 
Hoarding treasure 
    will turn them into thieves 
Showing off possessions 
    will disturb their daily lives 
Thus the Sage rules 
    by stilling minds and opening hearts 
    by filling bellies and strengthening bones 
He shows people how to be simple 
    and live without desires 
To be content 
    and not look for other ways 
With the people so pure 
Who could trick them? 
What clever ideas could lead them astray? 
When action is pure and selfless 
    everything settles into its own perfect place 

Verse 4

Tao is empty 
    yet it fills every vessel with endless supply 
Tao is hidden 
    yet it shines in every corner of the universe 
With it, the sharp edges become smooth 
    the twisted knots loosen 
    the sun is softened by a cloud 
    the dust settles into place 
So deep, so pure, so still 
    It has been this way forever 
You may ask, "Whose child is it?"— 
    but I cannot say 
This child was here before the Great Ancestor 

Verse 5

Heaven and Earth have no preference 
A man may choose one over another 
    but to Heaven and Earth all are the same 
The high, the low, the great, the small— 
    all are given light 
    all get a place to rest 
The Sage is like Heaven and Earth 
To him none are especially dear 
    nor is there anyone he disfavours 
He gives and gives without condition 
    offering his treasures to everyone 
The universe is like a bellows 
    It stays empty yet is never exhausted 
    It gives out yet always brings forth more 
Man is not like this 
When he blows out air like a bellows 
    he becomes exhausted 
Man was not made to blow out air 
He was made to sit quietly and find the truth within 

Verse 6

Endlessly creating 
Endlessly pulsating 
The Spirit of the Valley never dies 
She is called the Hidden Creator 
Although She becomes the whole universe 
    Her immaculate purity is never lost 
Although She assumes countless forms 
    Her true identity remains intact 
Whatever we see or don't see 
Whatever exists or doesn't exist 
Is nothing but the creation of this Supreme Power 
Tao is limitless, unborn, eternal— 
    It can only be reached through the Hidden Creator 
She is the very face of the Absolute 
The gate to the source of all things eternal 
Listen to Her voice 
    Hear it echo through creation 
Without fail, She reveals her presence 
Without fail, She brings us to her own perfection 

Verse 7

Heaven is ancient 
Earth is long-lasting 
Why is this so?— 
    Because they have no claims to life 
By having no claims to life 
    they cannot be claimed by death 
The Sage puts his own views behind 
    so ends up ahead 
He stays a witness to life 
    so he endures 
What could he grab for 
    that he does not already have? 
What could he do for himself 
    that the universe itself has not already done? 

Verse 8

The best way to live 
    is to be like water 
For water benefits all things 
    and goes against none of them 
It provides for all people 
    and even cleanses those places 
    a man is loath to go 
In this way it is just like Tao 
Live in accordance with the nature of things: 
Build your house on solid ground 
Keep your mind still 
When giving, be kind 
When speaking, be truthful 
When ruling, be just 
When working, be one-pointed 
When acting, remember—timing is everything 
One who lives in accordance with nature 
    does not go against the way of things 
He moves in harmony with the present moment 
    always knowing the truth of just what to do 

Verse 9

Grabbing and stuffing— 
    there is no end to it 
Sharpen a blade too much 
    and its edge will soon be lost 
Fill a house with gold and jade 
    and no one can protect it 
Puff yourself with honor and pride 
    and no one can save you from a fall 
Complete the task at hand 
Be selfless in your actions 
    This is the way of Heaven 
    This is the way to Heaven 

Verse 10

Hold fast to the Power of the One 
It will unify the body 
    and merge it with the spirit 
It will cleanse the vision 
    and reveal the world as flawless 
It will focus the life-force 
    and make one supple as a newborn 
As you love the people and rule the state 
    can you be free of self-interest? 
As the gates of Heaven open and close 
    can you remain steadfast as a mother bird 
    who sits with her nest? 
As your wisdom reaches the four corners of the world 
    can you keep the innocence of a beginner? 
Know this Primal Power 
    that guides without forcing 
    that serves without seeking 
    that brings forth and sustains life 
        yet does not own or possess it 
One who holds this Power 
    brings Tao to this very Earth 
He can triumph over a raging fire 
    or the freeze of winter weather 
Yet when he comes to rule the world 
    it's with the gentleness of a feather 

Verse 11

Wu is nothingness, emptiness, non-existence 
Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub 
    yet only the hole at the centre 
    allows the wheel to spin 
Clay is moulded to form a cup  
    yet only the space within 
    allows the cup to hold to hold water 
Walls are joined to make a room 
    yet only by cutting out a door and a window 
    can one enter the room and live there 
Thus, when a thing has existence alone 
    it is mere dead-weight 
Only when it has wu, does it have life 

Verse 12

The five colours blind the eye 
The five tones deafen the ear 
The five flavours dull the palate 
Racing, hunting, and galloping about 
    only disturb the mind 
Wasting energy to obtain rare objects 
    only impedes one's growth 
So the Sage is led by his inner truth 
    and not his outer eye 
He holds to what is deep 
    and not what lies on the surface 

Verse 13

"Be wary of both honour and disgrace" 
"Endless affliction is bound to the body" 
What does it mean, 
    "Be wary of both honour and disgrace"? 
Honour is founded on disgrace 
    and disgrace is rooted in honour 
Both should be avoided 
Both bind a mind to this world 
That's why it says, 
    "Be wary of both honour and disgrace" 
What does it mean, 
    "Endless affliction is bound to the body"? 
Man's true self is eternal 
    yet he thinks, "I am this body, I will soon die" 
This false sense of self 
    is the cause of all his sorrow 
When a person does not identity himself with the body 
    tell me, what troubles could touch him? 
One who sees himself as everything 
    is fit to be guardian of the world 
One who loves himself as everyone 
    is fit to be teacher of the world 

Verse 14

Eyes look but cannot see it 
Ears listen but cannot hear it 
Hands grasp but cannot hear it 
Beyond the senses lies this great Unity— 
    invisible, inaudible, intangible 
What rises up appears bright 
What settles down appears dark 
Yet there is neither darkness nor light 
    just an unbroken dance of shadows 
From nothingness to fullness 
    and back again to nothingness 
This formless form 
This imageless image 
    cannot be grasped by mind or might 
Try to face it 
    In what place will you stand? 
Try to follow it 
    To what place will you go? 
Know That which is beyond all beginnings 
    and you will know everything here and now 
Know everything in this moment 
    and you will now the Eternal Tao 

Verse 15

The masters of this ancient path 
    are mysterious and profound 
Their inner state baffles all inquiry 
Their depths go beyond all knowing 
Thus, despite every effort, 
    we can only tell of their outer signs— 
Deliberate, as if treading over the stones of a winter brook 
Watchful, as if meeting danger on all sides 
Reverent, as if receiving an honoured guest 
Selfless, like a melting block of ice 
Pure, like an uncarved block of wood 
Accepting, like an open valley 
Through the course of Nature 
    muddy water becomes clear 
Through the unfolding of life 
    man reaches perfection 
Through sustained activity 
    that supreme rest is naturally found 
Those who have Tao want nothing else 
Though seemingly empty 
    they are ever full 
Though seemingly old 
    they are beyond the reach of birth and death 

Verse 16

Become totally empty 
Quiet the restlessness of the mind 
Only then will you witness everything 
    unfolding from emptiness 
See all things flourish and dance 
    in endless variation 
And once again merge back into perfect emptiness— 
    Their true repose 
    Their true nature 
Emerging, flourishing, dissolving back again 
    This is the eternal process of return 
To know this process brings enlightenment 
To miss this process brings disaster 
Be still 
Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity 
Eternity embraces the all-possible 
The all-possible leads to a vision of oneness 
A vision of oneness brings about universal love 
Universal love supports the great truth of Nature 
The great truth of Nature is Tao 
Whoever knows this truth lives forever 
The body may perish, deeds may be forgotten 
But he who has Tao has all eternity 

Verse 17

To know Tao alone, 
    without trace of your own existence, 
    is the highest 
Next come loving and praising it 
Then fearing it 
Then despising it 
If one doesn't trust himself 
    how can he trust anyone else? 
The great ruler speaks little 
    and his words and priceless 
He works without self-interest 
    and leaves no trace 
When all is finished, the people say, 
    "It happened by itself" 

Verse 18

When the greatness of Tao is present 
    action arises from one's own heart 
When the greatness of Tao is absent 
    action comes from the rules 
    of "kindness" and "justice" 
If you need rules to be kind and just, 
    if you act virtuous, 
    this is a sure sign that virtue is absent 
Thus we see the great hypocrisy 
Only when the family loses its harmony 
    do we hear of "dutiful sons" 
Only when the state is in chaos 
    do we hear of "loyal ministers" 

Verse 19

Abandon holiness 
Discard cleverness 
    and the people will benefit a hundredfold 
Abandon the rules of "kindness" 
Discard "righteous" actions 
    and the people will return 
    to their own natural affections 
Abandon book learning 
Discard the rules of behaviour 
    and the people will have no worries 
Abandon plots and schemes 
Discard profit-seeking 
    and the people will not become thieves 
These lessons are mere elaborations 
The essence of my teachings is this: 
    See with original purity 
    Embrace with original simplicity 
    Reduce what you have 
    Decrease what you want 

Verse 20

The difference between a formal "yes" 
    and a casual "yeah"—how slight! 
The difference between knowing the Truth 
    and not knowing it—how great! 
Must I fear what others fear? 
Should I fear desolation 
    when there is abundance? 
Should I fear darkness 
    when that light is shining everywhere? 
The people of this world are steeped in their merrymaking 
    as if gorging at a great feast 
    or watching the sights of springtime 
Yet here I sit, without a sign, 
    staring blank-eyed like a child 
I am but a guest in this world 
While others rush about to get things done 
    I accept what is offered 
Oh, my mind is like that of a fool 
    aloof to the clamour of life around me 
Everyone seems to bright and live 
    with the sharp distinctions of day 
I appear dark and dull 
    with the blending of differences by night 
I am drifting like an ocean, floating like the high winds 
Everyone is so rooted in this world 
    yet I have no place to rest my head 
Indeed I am different... 
    I have no treasure but the Eternal Mother 
    I have no food but what comes from her breast 

Verse 21

Perfect action, 
True virtue, 
Supreme power, 
This is how Tao is revealed 
    through those who follow it completely 
Though formless and intangible 
    It gives rise to form 
Though vague and elusive 
    It gives rise to shapes 
Though dark and obscure 
    It is the spirit, the essence, 
    the life-breath of all things 
"But is it real?" you ask— 
    I say its evidence is all of creation! 
From the first moment to the present 
    The Name has been sounding 
It is the gate 
    through which the universe enters 
The witness 
    by which the universe sees 
How have I come to know all this? 
That very Name has told me, 
That Name which is sounding right here, 
    right now 

Verse 22

"Surrender brings perfection" 
The crooked become straight 
The empty become full 
The worn become new 
    Have little and gain much 
    Have much and be confused 
So the Sage embraces the One 
    and becomes a model for the world 
Without showing himself, he shines forth 
Without promoting himself, he is distinguished 
Without claiming reward, he gains endless merit 
Without seeking glory, his glory endures 
The Sage knows how to follow 
    so he comes to command 
He does not compete 
    so no one under Heaven can compete with him 
The ancient saying, 
    "Surrender brings perfection," 
    is not just empty words 
Truly, surrender brings perfection 
    and perfection brings the whole universe 

Verse 23

Speak little 
Hold to your own nature 
A strong wind does not blow all morning 
A cloudburst does not last all day 
The wind and rain are from Heaven and Earth 
    and even these do not last for long 
How much less so the efforts of man? 
One who lives in accordance with the Truth 
    becomes the embodiment of Tao 
His actions become those of Nature 
    his ways those of Heaven 
It is through such a one 
    that Heaven rejoices 
    that Earth rejoices 
    that all of life rejoices 

Verse 24

On his tiptoes a man is not steady 
Taking long strides he cannot keep pace 
To the self-serving, nothing shines forth 
To the self-promoting, nothing is distinguished 
To the self-appointing, nothing bears fruit 
To the self-righteous, nothing endures 
From the viewpoint of Tao, this self-indulgence 
    is like rotting food and painful growths on the body— 
Things that all creatures despise 
So why hold onto them? 
When walking the path of Tao 
    this is the very stuff 
    that must be uprooted, thrown out, and left behind 

Verse 25

Something formless, complete in itself 
There before Heaven and Earth 
Tranquil, vast, standing alone, unchanging 
It provides for all things yet cannot be exhausted 
It is the mother of the universe 
I do not know its name 
    so I call it "Tao" 
Forced to name it further 
I call it 
    "The greatness of all things" 
    "The end of all endings" 
I call it 
    "That which is beyond the beyond" 
    "That to which all things return" 
From Tao comes all greatness— 
    It makes Heaven great 
    It makes Earth great 
    It makes man great 
Mankind depends on the laws of Earth 
Earth depends on the laws of Heaven 
Heaven depends on the laws of Tao 
But Tao depends on itself alone 
    Supremely free, self-so, it rests in its own nature 

Verse 26

The inner is the foundation of the outer 
The still is the master of the restless 
The Sage travels all day 
    yet never leaves his inner treasure 
Though the views are captivating and beg attention 
    he remains calm and uninvolved 
Tell me, does the lord of a great empire 
    go out begging for rice? 
One who seeks his treasure in the outer world 
    is cut off from his own roots 
Without roots, he becomes restless 
Being restless, his mind is weak 
And with a mind such as this 
    he loses all command below Heaven 

Verse 27

A knower of the Truth 
    travels without leaving a trace 
    speaks without causing harm 
    gives without keeping an account 
The door he shuts, though having no lock, 
    cannot be opened 
The knot he ties, though using no cord, 
    cannot be undone 
The Sage is always on the side of virtue 
    so everyone around him prospers 
He is always on the side of truth 
    so everything around him is fulfilled 
The path of the Sage is called 
    "The Path of Illumination" 
He who gives himself to this path 
    is like a block of wood 
    that gives itself to the chisel– 
Cut by cut it is honed to perfection 
Only a student who gives himself 
    can receive the master's gift 
If you think otherwise, 
    despite your knowledge, you have blundered 
Giving and receiving are one 
This is called 
    "The great wonder" 
    "The essential mystery" 
    "The very heart of all that is true" 

Verse 28

Hold your male side with your female side 
Hold your bright side with your dull side 
Hold your high side with your low side 
Then you will be able to hold the whole world 
When the opposing forces unite within 
    there comes a power abundant in its giving 
    and unerring in its effect 
Flowing through everything 
    It returns one to the First Breath 
Guiding everything 
    It returns one to No Limits 
Embracing everything 
    It returns one to the Uncarved Block 
When the Block is divided 
    it becomes something useful 
    and leaders rule with a few pieces of it 
But the Sage holds the Block complete 
Holding all things within himself 
    he preserves the Great Unity 
    which cannot be ruled or divided 

Verse 29

Those who look down upon this world 
    will surely take hold and try to change things 
But this is a plan 
    I've always seen fail 
The world is Tao's own vessel 
It is perfection manifest 
It cannot be changed 
It cannot be improved 
For those who go on tampering, it's ruined 
For those who try to grasp, it's gone 
Allow your life to unfold naturally 
Know that it too is a vessel of perfection 
Just as you breathe in and breathe out 
    Sometimes you're ahead and other times behind 
    Sometimes you're strong and other times weak 
    Sometimes you're with people and other times alone 
To the Sage 
    all of life is a movement toward perfection 
So what need has he 
    for the excessive, the extravagant, or the extreme? 

Verse 30

Those who rule in accordance with Tao 
    do not use force against the world 
For that which is forced is likely to return— 
Where armies settle 
    Nature offers nothing but briars and thorns 
After a great battle has been fought 
    the land is cursed, the crops fail, 
    the Earth lies stripped of its motherhood 
A knower of the Truth does what is called for 
    then stops 
He uses his strength but does not force things 
In the same way 
    complete your task 
    seek no reward 
    make no claims 
Without faltering 
    fully choose to do what you must do 
This is to live without forcing 
    to overcome without conquering 
Things that gain a place by force 
    will flourish for a time 
    but then fade away 
They are not in keeping with Tao 
Whatever is not in keeping with Tao 
    will come to an early end 

Verse 31

Even the finest warrior is defeated 
    when he goes against natural law 
By his own hand he is doomed 
    and all creatures are likely to despise him 
One who knows Tao 
    never turns from life's calling 
When at home he honours the side of rest 
When at war he honours the side of action 
Peace and tranquility are what he holds most dear 
    so he does not obtain weapons 
But when their use is unavoidable 
    he employs them with fortitude and zeal 
Do not flaunt your excellence 
Do not rejoice over victory 
With the loss of others 
    weep with sorrow and grief 
After winning a battle 
    do not celebrate, 
    observe the rights of a funeral 
One who is bound to action, proud of victory, 
    and delights in the misfortune of others 
will never gain a thing 
    from this world below Heaven 

Verse 32

Tao is eternal, one without a second 
Simple indeed 
    yet so subtle that no one can master it 
If princes and kings could just hold it 
All things would flock to their kingdom 
Heaven and Earth would rejoice 
    with the dripping of sweet dew 
Everyone would live in harmony, 
    not by official decree, 
    but by their own inner goodness 
This world is nothing but the glory of Tao 
    expressed through different names and forms 
One who sees the things of this world 
    as being real and self-existent 
    has lost sight of the truth 
To him, every word becomes a trap 
    every thing becomes a prison 
One who knows the truth 
    that underlies all things 
    lives in this world without danger 
To him, every word reflects the universe 
    every moment brings enlightenment 
Rivers and streams are born of the ocean 
All creation is born of Tao 
Just as all water flows back to become the ocean 
All creation flows back to become Tao 

Verse 33

One who knows others is intelligent 
One who knows himself is enlightened 
One who conquers others is strong 
One who conquers himself is all-powerful 
One who approaches life with force 
    surely gets something
One who remains content where he is 
    surely gets everything 
One who gives himself to his position 
    surely lives long 
One who gives himself to Tao 
    surely lives forever 

Verse 34

The great Tao flows everywhere 
It fills everything to the left 
    and to the right 
All things owe their existence to it 
    and it cannot deny any one of them 
Tao is eternal 
It does not favour one over the other 
It brings all things to completion 
    without their even knowing it 
Tao nourishes and protects all creatures 
    yet does not claim lordship over them 
So we class it with the most humble 
Tao is the home to which all things return 
    yet it wants nothing in return 
So we call it "The Greatest" 
The Sage is the same way– 
    He does not claim greatness over anything 
    He's not even aware of his own greatness 
Tell me, what could be greater than this? 

Verse 35

Hold fast to the Great Form within 
    and let the world pass as it may 
Then the changes of life will not bring pain 
    but contentment, joy, and well-being 
Music and sweets are passing pleasures 
    yet they cause people to stop 
How bland and insipid are the things of this world 
    when one compares them with Tao! 
One tastes, but the sweetness turns bitter 
One sees, but the colours grow faint 
One hears, but the sound fades into silence 
One may look for fulfilment in this world 
    but his longings will never be exhausted 
The only thing he ever finds 
    is that he himself is exhausted 

Verse 36

Contraction pulls at that 
    which extends too far 
Weakness pulls at that 
    which strengthens too much 
Ruin pulls at that 
    which rises too high 
Loss pulls at life 
    when you fill it with too much stuff 
The lesson here is called 
"The wisdom of obscurity"— 
    The gentle outlast the strong 
    The obscure outlast the obvious 
Hence, a fish that ventures from deep water 
    is soon snagged by a net 
A country that reveals its strength 
    is soon conquered by an enemy 

Verse 37

Tao does not act 
    yet it is the root of all action 
Tao does not move 
    yet it is the source of all creation 
If princes and kings could hold it 
    everyone under them would naturally turn within 
Should a doubt or old desire rise up 
    The Nameless Simplicity would push it down 
The Nameless Simplicity frees the heart of desire 
    and reveals its inner silence 
When there is silence 
    one finds peace 
When there is silence 
    one finds the anchor of the universe within himself 

Verse 38

To give without seeking reward 
To help without thinking it is virtuous— 
    therein lies the great virtue 
To keep account of your action 
To help with the hope of gaining merit— 
    therein lies no virtue 
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self 
The highest kindness is to give without condition 
The highest justice is to see without preference 
When Tao is lost one must learn the rules of virtue 
When virtue is lost, the rules of kindness 
When kindness is lost, the rules of justice 
When justice is lost, the rules of conduct 
And when the high-blown rules of conduct are not followed  
    people are seized by the arm and it is forced on them 
The rules of conduct 
    are just an outer show of devotion and loyalty— 
    quite confusing to the heart 
And when men rely on these rules for guidance— 
    Oh, what ignorance abounds! 
The great master follows his own nature 
    and not the trappings of life 
It is said, 
    "He stays with the fruit and not the fluff" 
    "He stays with the firm and not the flimsy" 
    "He stays with the true and not the false" 

Verse 39

From ancient times till now 
    the One has been the source of all attainments 
By realising One 
    Heaven becomes clear, Earth becomes still 
    spirits gain power and hearts fill up with joy 
By realising the One 
    kings and lords become instruments of peace 
    and creatures live joyfully upon this earth 
Without the One 
    Heaven has no clarity and would crack 
    Earth has no peace and would crumble 
    spirits have no power and would lose their charm 
Without the One 
    hearts would dry up, empires would fall, 
    all things would go lifelessly upon this earth 
Long ago kings and lords called themselves 
    "orphaned," "lonely," and "unworthy" 
What honour can there be without humility? 
    What heights can be reached without being low? 
The pieces of a chariot are useless 
    unless they work in accordance with the whole 
A man's life brings nothing 
    unless he lives in accordance with the whole universe 
Playing one's part 
    in accordance with the universe 
    is true humility 
So whether you're a gem in the royal court 
    or a stone on the common path 
If you accept your part with humility 
    the glory of the universe will be yours 

Verse 40

The movement of Tao is to return 
The way of Tao is to yield 
Heaven, Earth, and all things 
    are born of the existent world 
The existent world is born of the nothingness of Tao 

Verse 41

When the best seeker hears of Tao 
    he strives with great effort to know it 
When an average seeker hears of Tao 
    he thinks of it now and again 
When the poorest seeker hears of Tao 
    he laughs out loud 
Tao is always becoming 
    what we have need for it to become 
If it could not do this 
    it would not be Tao 
There is an old saying, 
    The clear way seems clouded 
    The straight way seems crooked 
    The sure way seems unsteady 
The greatest power seems weak 
The purest white seems tainted 
The abundant seems empty 
The stable seems shaky 
The certain seems false 
The Great Square has no corners 
The Great Vessel is never filled 
A beginner may be clumsy 
    but after practice—what talent! 
A large drum may sit silently 
    but when banged—what noise! 
Tao lies hidden 
    yet it alone is the glorious light of this world 

Verse 42

Tao gives life to the one 
The one gives life to the two 
The two gives life to the three 
The three give life to ten thousand things 
All beings support yin and embrace yang 
    and the interplay of these two forces 
    fills the universe 
Yet only at the still-point, 
    between the breathing in and the breathing out, 
    can one capture these two in perfect harmony 
People suffer at the thought of being 
    without parents, without food, or without worth 
Yet this is the very way that 
    kings and lords once described themselves 
Who knows what fate may bring— 
    one day your loss may be your fortune 
    one day your fortune may be your loss 
The age-old lesson that others teach, I also teach— 
    "As you plant, so you reap" 
    "As you live, so you die" 
Know this to be the foundation of my teachings 

Verse 43

The most yielding thing in the world 
    will overcome the most rigid 
The most empty thing in the world 
    will overcome the most full 
From this comes a lesson— 
    Stillness benefits more than action 
    Silence benefits more than words 
Rare indeed are those who are still 
Rare indeed are those who are silent 
And so I say, 
    Rare indeed are those 
    who obtain the bounty of this world 

Verse 44

One’s own reputation—why the fuss? 
One’s own wealth—why the concern? 
I say, what you gain 
    is more trouble than what you lose 
Love is the fruit of sacrifice 
Wealth is the fruit of generosity 
Be content, 
    rest in your own fullness— 
You will not suffer from loss 
You’ll avoid the snare of this world 
You’ll have long life and endless blessings 

Verse 45

The Great Perfection seems imperfect 
    yet this world it creates is never impaired 
The Great Fullness seems empty 
    yet this world it creates is never lacking 
Great truth seems false 
Great skill seems clumsy 
Great eloquence seems like babble 
Keep moving and you'll miss the cold 
Keep silent and you’ll beat the heat 
Be tranquil like the rain of spring 
Be pure like the sheen of silk 
Then the Great Perfection will be perfect 
    and the Great Fullness will be full 

Verse 46

When Tao is present in the empire 
    men follow their own nature 
    and riding horses work the fields 
When Tao is absent from the empire 
    men go astray 
    and war horses breed on sacred ground 
There is no greater loss than losing Tao 
     No greater curse than desire 
     No greater tragedy than discontentment 
     No greater fault than selfishness 
Contentment alone is enough 
Indeed, the bliss of eternity 
    can be found in your contentment 

Verse 47

Without going outside 
    one can know the whole world 
Without looking out the window 
    one can see the ways of Heaven 
The farther one goes 
    the less one knows 
Thus the Sage does not go, yet he knows 
    He does not look, yet he sees 
    He does not do, yet all is done 

Verse 48

To become learned, gain daily 
To obtain Tao, reduce daily 
Reduce and reduce again 
    until all action is reduced to non-action 
Then no one is left 
Nothing is done 
    yet nothing is left undone 
One who gives freely and without attachment 
    gets a full life in return 
One who gives with the secret hope of getting 
    is merely engaged in business 
Truly, they neither give nor receive 
    any of the treasure from this world below Heaven 

Verse 49

The Sage has no fixed heart of his own 
Those who look at him 
    see their own hearts 
Those who are good he treats with goodness 
Those who are bad he also treats with goodness 
    because the nature of his being is good 
Those who are truthful he treats with truth 
Those who are not truthful he also treats with truth 
    because the nature of his being is truthful 
The Sage lives in harmony with all below Heaven 
He sees everything as his own self 
He loves everyone as his own child 
All people are drawn to him 
    every eye and ear is turned toward him 

Verse 50

Again and again 
Men come in with birth 
    and go out with death 
One in three are followers of life 
One in three are followers of death 
And those just passing from life to death 
    also number one in three 
But they all die in the end 
Why is this so? 
Because they clutch to life 
    and cling to this passing world 
I hear that one who lives by his own truth 
    is not like this 
He walks without making footprints in this world 
Going about, he does not fear the rhinoceros or tiger 
Entering a battlefield, he does not fear sharp weapons 
For in him the rhino can find no place to pitch its horn 
The tiger no place to fix its claw 
The soldier no place to thrust his blade 
Why is this so? 
Because he dwells in that place 
    where death cannot enter 

Verse 51

Tao gives all things life 
    Te gives them fulfilment 
Nature is what shapes them 
Living is what brings them to completion 
Every creature honours Tao and worships Te 
    not by force 
    but through its own living and breathing 
Though Tao gives life to all things 
    Te is what cultivates them 
Te is that magic power that 
    raises and rears them 
    completes and prepares them 
    comforts and protects them 
To create without owning 
To give without expecting 
To fill without claiming 
    This is the profound action of Tao 
    The highest expression of Te 

Verse 52

That which created the universe 
    is the Mother of the world 
By knowing the Mother 
    one knows her children 
By knowing her children 
    one comes to know her 
Such is their unity 
    that one does not exist without the other 
Fully embrace your life 
    and you will share in the glory of creation 
The Mother herself will be your guardian 
And all her creation will be your guide 
Stay with the Mother, shut the mouth, close the gates 
    and you are never in trouble 
Abandon the Mother, open the mouth, be busy with others 
    and you are beyond all hope of rescue 
Seeing your own smallness is called insight 
Honouring your own tenderness is called strength 
The sun in all its glory 
    reveals a passing world 
Only the inner light illumines eternity 
Only that light can guide us back home 
Have faith 
Follow your own shining 
Be aware of your own awareness 
On the darkest nights you will not stumble 
On the brightest days you will not blink 
This is called 
    “The Practice of Eternal Light” 

Verse 53

If I had the least bit of wisdom 
    I could follow the path of Tao quite well 
My only fear would be trying to go my own way 
The Great Path is simple and direct 
    yet people love to take the side-routes 
See how magnificent the courts have become 
The women are dressed in colourful gowns 
The men carry well-crafted swords 
Food and drink overflow 
Wealth and finery abound 
Yet in the shadow of all this splendour 
    the fields grow barren 
    the granaries are all buy empty 
I say this pomp at the expense of others 
    is like boasting of thieves after a looting 
Surely it is contrary to Tao 
Surely it cuts against the grain of the whole empire 

Verse 54

Truth, once established, can never be uprooted 
Goodness, once imbibed, can never be stripped away 
    A sacrifice to a higher cause is never lost 
    An offering to an ancestor never goes to waste 
When a person embodies Tao 
    his heart becomes true 
When a family embodies Tao 
    it thrives 
When a village embodies Tao 
    it is protected 
When a country embodies Tao 
    it prospers 
When the world embodies Tao 
    it reveals its perfection 
Tao is everywhere 
    it has become everything 
To truly see it, see it as it is 
In a person, see is as a person 
In a family, see it as a family 
In a country, see it as a country 
In the world, see it as the world 
How have I come to know all this? 
Tao has shown me— 
    Tao as all this! 

Verse 55

One who embraces Tao 
will become pure and innocent 
    like a newborn babe 
Deadly insects will not sting him 
Wild beasts will not attack him 
Birds of prey will not strike him 
He is oblivious to the union of male and female 
    yet his vitality is full 
    his inner spirit is complete 
He can cry all day without straining 
    so perfect is his harmony 
    so magically does he blend with this world 
Know this harmony—it brings the Eternal 
Know the Eternal—it brings enlightenment 
A full life—this is your blessing 
A gentle heart—this is your strength 
Things in harmony with the Tao remain 
Things that are forced, grow for a while 
    but then wither away 
This is not Tao 
Whatever is not Tao 
    comes to an early end 

Verse 56

One who speaks does not know 
One who knows does not speak 
Shut the mouth 
Close the gates 
Blunt the sharpness 
Loosen the knots 
Temper the glare 
Become one with the dust of the world 
This is called 
    “The Secret Embrace” 
One who knows this secret 
    is not moved by attachment or aversion, 
    swayed by profit or loss, 
    nor touched by honour or disgrace 
He is far beyond the cares of men 
    yet comes to hold the dearest place in their hearts 

Verse 57

To rule the state, have a known plan 
To win a battle, have an unknown plan 
To gain the universe, have no plan at all 
Let the universe itself 
    reveal to you its splendour 
How do I know this should be so? 
    Because of this– 
The more restrictions, the more poverty 
The more weapons, the more fear in the land 
The more cleverness, the more strange events 
The more laws, the more lawbreakers 
Thus the Sages say, 
    Act with a pure heart and the people will be transformed 
    Love your own life and the people will be uplifted 
    Give without conditions and the people will prosper 
    Want nothing and the people will find everything 

Verse 58

When the ruler knows his own heart 
    the people are simple and pure 
When he meddles with their lives 
    they become restless and disturbed 
Bad fortune, yes— 
    it rests upon good fortune 
Good fortune, yes— 
    it hides within bad fortune 
Oh the things that Heaven sends— 
    Who can know their final aim? 
    Who can tell of their endless ways? 
Today the righteous turn to trickery 
Tomorrow the good turn to darkness 
Oh what delusion abounds 
    and every day it grows worse! 
But the Sage is here upon the Earth 
    to gently guide us back 
He cuts but does not harm 
He straightens but does not disrupt 
He illumines but does not dazzle 

Verse 59

Rule the people and serve Heaven 
    yet hold nothing more dear than the Mother’s harvest 
Let every thought and every breath 
    be the fruit of your offering— 
Do it now 
Let her power run thick in your blood 
    There will be no obstacle you cannot overcome 
    No limit you cannot surpass 
    No empire you cannot rule 
Ah, but in all your glory 
    never lose sight of the Mother 
Without her 
    your empire will crumble 
    your power will waste away 
For the Mother brings the harvest 
She alone causes all things to endure 
We call this 
    “Deep roots and a solid trunk” 
    “The way of long life and lasting insight” 

Verse 60

Govern the nation as you would fry a small fish 
When Tao is present in the empire 
    dark spirits lose their power 
It’s not that they have no power 
    it’s that their power can’t harm anyone 
When Tao is present 
    the people enjoy the blessing of Heaven 
They find unity 
They find peace 
What’s this about spirits doing harm? 
The Sage is approaching 
    and they are rushing in to sweep his path! 

Verse 61

A great state is like a river basin 
    that receives everything flowing into it 
It is the place where all things come to rest 
    where all the world is welcomed 
The low is greater than the high 
The still is greater than the restless 
    The low country wins over its neighbour 
    The still female wins over the male 
The Sage wants to uplift the people 
The people want to follow the Sage 
    only by being low does this come to be 
The Sage bows to the people 
The people bow to the Sage 
And when they lift up their heads 
    only greatness remains 

Verse 62

Tao is the treasure-house 
    the true nature 
    the secret source of everything 
It is the great wealth of those who are awake 
    the great protector of those still sleeping 
If a person seems wicked 
    do not cast him away— 
Awaken him with your words 
Elevate him with your deeds 
Requite his injury with your kindness 
Do not cast him away 
    cast away his wickedness 
When the emperor is crowned 
    or the three ministers installed 
    they receive a gift of jade and horses 
But how can this compare 
    to sitting still and gaining the treasure of Tao 
This is why the ancient masters 
    honoured the inward path of Tao 
Did they not say 
    “Seek and you will find”? 
    “Err and you will be forgiven”? 
Within, within 
This is where the world’s treasure has always been 

Verse 63

Act without acting 
Give without giving 
Taste without tasting 
Tao alone becomes all things great and all things small 
It is the One in many 
It is the many in One 
Let Tao become all your actions 
    then your wants will become your treasure 
    your injury will become your blessing 
Take on difficulties while they are still easy 
Do great things while they are still small 
Step by step the world’s burden is lifted 
Piece by piece the world’s treasure is amassed 
So the Sage stays with his daily task 
    and accomplishes the greatest thing 
Beware of those who promise a quick and easy way 
    for much ease brings many difficulties 
Follow your path to the end 
Accept difficulty as an opportunity 
This is the sure way to end up 
    with no difficulties at all 

Verse 64

A still mind can easily hold the truth 
The difficulties yet to come can easily be avoided 
The feeble are easily broken 
The small are easily scattered 
Begin your task before it becomes a burden 
Put your things in order before they get out of hand 
A tree that fills a man’s embrace grows from a seedling 
A tower nine stories high starts with one brick 
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step 
Act and it’s ruined 
Grab and it’s gone 
People on the verge of success often lose patience 
    and fail in their undertakings 
Be steady from the beginning to the end 
    and you won’t bring on failure 
The Sage desires that which has no desires 
    and teaches that which cannot be taught 
He does not value the objects held by a few 
    but only that which is held by everyone 
He guides men back to their own treasure 
    and helps all things come to know 
    the truth they have forgotten 
All this he does without a stir 

Verse 65

The ancient ones were simple-hearted 
    and blended with the common people 
They did not shine forth 
They did not rule with cleverness 
    So the nation was blessed 
Now the rulers are filled with clever ideas 
    and the lives of people are filled with hardship 
So the nation is cursed 
He who knows the play of Tao and Te 
    knows the nature of the universe 
Tao brings forth Te from its own being 
Te expands in all directions 
    filling every corner of the world 
    becoming the splendour of all creation 
Yet at every moment Te seeks Tao 
This is the movement that guides the universe 
This is the impulse 
    that leads all things back home 

Verse 66

Why do the hundred rivers 
    turn and rush toward the sea? 
Because it naturally stays below them 
He who wishes to rule over people 
    must speak as if below them 
He who wishes to lead the people 
    must walk as if behind them 
So the Sage rules over the people 
    but he does not weigh them down 
He leads the people 
    but he does not block their way 
The Sage stays low 
    so the world never tires of exalting him 
He remains a servant 
    so the world never tires of making him its king 

Verse 67

All the world talks about my Tao 
    with such familiarity— 
What folly! 
Tao is not something found at the marketplace 
    or passed on from father to son 
It is not something to be gained by knowing 
    or lost by forgetting 
If Tao were like this 
It would have been lost and forgotten long ago 
I have three treasures that I hold dear 
    the first is love 
    the second is moderation 
    the third is humility 
With love one is fearless 
With moderation one is abundant 
With humility one can fill the highest position 
Now if one is fearless but has no love 
    abundant but has no moderation 
    rises up but has no humility 
Surely he is doomed 
Love vanquishes all attackers 
It is impregnable in defence 
When Heaven wants to protect someone 
    does it send an army? 
No, it protects him with love 

Verse 68

The best warrior 
    leads without haste 
    fights without anger 
    overcomes without confrontation 
He puts himself below 
    and brings out the highest in his men 
This is the virtue of not confronting 
    of working with the abilities you have 
    of complying with the laws of Heaven 
This is the ancient path that leads to perfection 

Verse 69

The great warriors have a saying, 
“I dare not act as host 
    but would rather be a guest 
I dare not advance an inch 
    but would rather retreat a foot” 
So advance but do not use your feet 
Seize but do not use your arms 
Cut but do not use your sword 
Fight but do not use your own power 
There is no greater misfortune than feeling 
    “I have an enemy” 
For when “I” and “enemy” exist together 
    there is no room left for my treasure 
Thus, when two opponents meet 
    the one without an enemy 
    will surely triumph 

Verse 70

My teachings are very easy to understand 
    and very easy to practice 
Yet so few in this world understand 
    and so few are able to practice 
My words arise from that ancient source 
My actions are those of the universe itself 
If people do not know these 
    how can they know me? 
Those who follow my ways are rare 
    and so I treasure them 
Even if they wear the clothes of a beggar 
    they carry a priceless gem within 

Verse 71

Knowing what cannot be known— 
    what a lofty aim! 
Not knowing what needs to be known— 
    what a terrible result! 
Only when your sickness becomes sick 
    will your sickness disappear 
The Sage’s illness has become ill 
    his renunciation has been renounced 
Now he is free 
And every place in the world 
    is the perfect place to be 

Verse 72

When the people do not fear worldly power 
    a greater power will arrive 
Don’t limit the view of yourself 
Don’t despise the conditions of your birth 
Don’t resist the natural course of your life 
    In this way you will never weary of this world 
The Sage knows himself, but not as himself 
    he loves himself, but not as himself 
    he honours himself, but not as himself 
Thus, he discards the view of his own self 
    and chooses the view of the universe 

Verse 73

Bold action against others leads to death 
Bold action in harmony with Tao leads to life 
Good fortune, bad fortune 
One seems to bring benefit 
    the other to cause harm 
But Heaven rejects them both 
Both, in the end, tether men to this world 
Who can know the reasons of Heaven? 
    Who can know its endless ways? 
Not even the Sage has an answer to this one 
Heaven’s way does not strive 
    yet it always overcomes 
It does not speak, yet it responds 
It is not summoned, yet it appears 
It does not hurry, yet it completes everything on time 
The net of Heaven spans the universe 
    yet not the slightest thing ever slips by 

Verse 74

If people do not fear death 
    why threaten them with it? 
But suppose they did fear death 
    and this was the fate handed to lawbreakers 
Who would dare to do the killing? 
There is always a Lord of Death 
He who takes the place of the Lord of Death 
    is like one who cuts with the blade 
    of a master carpenter 
Whoever cuts with the blade of a master carpenter 
    is sure to cut his own hands 

Verse 75

Why are the people starving?— 
    Because their grain is being eaten up by taxes 
    That’s why they’re starving 
Why are the people rebellious?— 
    Because those above them meddle in their lives 
    That’s why they’re rebellious 
Why do people regard death so lightly?— 
    Because they are so involved with their own living 
    That’s why they regard death so lightly 
In the end, 
The treasure of life is missed by those who hold on 
    and gained by those who let go 

Verse 76

When life begins 
    we are tender and weak 
When life ends 
    we are stiff and rigid 
All things, including the grass and trees, 
    are soft and pliable in life 
    dry and brittle in death 
So the soft and supple 
    are the companions of life 
While the stiff and unyielding 
    are the companions of death 
An army that cannot yield 
    will be defeated 
A tree that cannot bend 
    will crack in the wind 
Thus by Nature’s own decree 
    the hard and strong are defeated 
    while the soft and gentle are triumphant 

Verse 77

Heaven operates like the bending of a bow— 
    the high it pulls down 
    the low it brings up 
It takes from that which has too much 
And gives to that which has too little 
The way of man is otherwise— 
    he takes from that which is depleted 
    and gives to that which has too much 
Who can offer an abundance to the world?— 
One who has Tao 
Such a one can give like the heavens 
The Sage gives 
    without relying on his own effort 
He completes 
    without waiting for reward 
He illumines 
    without stepping from the shadow 

Verse 78

Nothing in the world 
    is as soft and yielding as water 
Yet for attacking the hard and strong 
    none can triumph so easily 
It is weak, yet none can equal it 
It is soft, yet none can damage it 
It is yielding, yet none can wear it away 
Everyone knows that the soft overcomes the hard 
    and the yielding triumphs over the rigid 
Why then so little faith? 
Why can no one practice it? 
So the Sages say, 
    fulfil even the lowest position 
    love even the weakest creature 
Then you will be called 
    “Lord of every offering” 
    “King of all below Heaven” 

Verse 79

After settling a great dispute 
    some resentment is sure to remain 
Being content with what you have 
    is always best in the end 
The Sage always assumes the debt 
    as if holding the left side of a contract 
He gives and gives, and wants nothing in return 
One with true virtue 
    always seeks a way to give 
One who lacks true virtue 
    always seeks a way to get 
To the giver comes the fullness of life 
    to the taker just an empty hand 
Though the Tao of Heaven has no favourites 
    it always sides with the one who has a pure heart 

Verse 80

Let every state be simple 
    like a small village with few people 
There may be tools to speed things up 
    ten or a hundred times 
    yet no one will care to use them 
There may be boats and carriages 
    yet they will remain without riders 
There may be armour and weaponry 
    yet they will sit collecting dust 
The people must take death seriously 
    and not waste their lives in distant lands 
Let them return 
    to the knotting of cord 
Let them enjoy their food 
    and care for their clothing 
Let them be content in their homes 
    and joyful in the way they live 
Neighbouring villages are within sight of each other 
Roosters and dogs can be heard in the distance 
Should a man grow old and die 
    without ever leaving his village 
    let him feel as though there was nothing he missed 

Verse 81

Words born of the mind are not true 
True words are not born of the mind 
Those who have virtue do not look for faults 
Those who look for faults have no virtue 
Those who come to know It 
    do not rely on learning 
Those who rely on learning 
    do not come to know It 
The Sage sees the world 
    as an expansion of his own self 
So what need has he to accumulate things? 
By giving to others 
    he gains more and more 
By serving others 
    he receives everything 
Heaven gives, 
    and all things turn out for the best 
The Sage lives, 
    and all things go as the Tao goes 
    all things move as the wind blows 
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