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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching written by Lao-tzu
Translation by Stephen. Mitchell
Last updated 20 July 1995

1 The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding. 2 When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow each other. Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.

Stephen Mitchell Translation

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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu

3 If you overesteem great men, people become powerless. If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal. The Master leads by emptying people's minds and filling their cores, by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve. He helps people lose everything they know, everything they desire, and creates confusion in those who think that they know. Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place. 4 The Tao is like a well: used but never used up. It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities. It is hidden but always present. I don't know who gave birth to it. It is older than God. 5 The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil. The Master doesn't take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners. The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you understand. Hold on to the center. 6 The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.

Stephen Mitchell Translation

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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu

7 The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal? It was never born; thus it can never die. Why is it infinite? It has no desires for itself; thus it is present for all beings. The Master stays behind; that is why she is ahead. She is detached from all things; that is why she is one with them. Because she has let go of herself, she is perfectly fulfilled. 8 The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain. Thus it is like the Tao. In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you. 9 Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.

Stephen Mitchell Translation

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We work with being. acting with no expectations. His heart is open as the sky. Thoughts weaken the mind. but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 10 Can you coax your mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness? Can you let your body become supple as a newborn child's? Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light? Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from you own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing. 12 Colors blind the eye. leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue. but it is the inner space that makes it livable. Desires wither the heart. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 4 . He allows things to come and go. The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. We hammer wood for a house. but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. having without possessing. 11 We join spokes together in a wheel. but non-being is what we use. Flavors numb the taste. We shape clay into a pot. Sounds deafen the ear.

then you can care for all things. at ease in your own life. beyond all conception. What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or down it. and it can't be heard. it isn't bright. Below. it isn't dark.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 13 Success is as dangerous as failure. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom. what do we have to fear? See the world as your self. You can't know it. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 5 . Love the world as your self. you position is shaky. you will always keep your balance. Have faith in the way things are. and it can't be grasped. unnamable. Hope is as hollow as fear. Seamless. What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear? Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. Above. 14 Look. When you stand with your two feet on the ground. Listen. When we don't see the self as self. subtle. image without an image. it returns to the realm of nothing. Approach it and there is no beginning. follow it and there is no end. Reach. but you can be it. Form that includes all forms. and it can't be seen.

16 Empty your mind of all thoughts. dignified as a king. but contemplate their return. all we can describe is their appearance. amused. Watch the turmoil of beings. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself? The Master doesn't seek fulfillment. not expecting. you can deal with whatever life brings you. There is no way to describe it. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. Let your heart be at peace. she is present. Clear as a glass of water. When you realize where you come from. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 6 . Shapable as a block of wood. If you don't realize the source. Their wisdom was unfathomable.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 15 The ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Fluid as melting ice. Courteous as a guest. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao. disinterested. Not seeking. kindhearted as a grandmother. They were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream. Returning to the source is serenity. and can welcome all things. you stumble in confusion and sorrow. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. you are ready. and when death comes. Receptive as a valley. you naturally become tolerant.

and people will do the right thing. Throw away morality and justice. he acts. and there won't be any thieves. When the body's intelligence declines. filial piety begins. The Master doesn't talk. 19 Throw away holiness and wisdom. cleverness and knowledge step forth. When the country falls into chaos. If these three aren't enough. If you don't trust the people. goodness and piety appear. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 7 . Next best is a leader who is loved. patriotism is born. When his work is done. you make them untrustworthy. one who is feared. When there is no peace in the family. just stay at the center of the circle and let all things take their course. the people say.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 17 When the Master governs. and people will be a hundred times happier. all by ourselves!" 18 When the great Tao is forgotten. Next. Throw away industry and profit. "Amazing: we did it. The worst is one who is despised. the people are hardly aware that he exists.

that is what gives her her radiance. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it. 21 The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao. I alone am dark. The Tao is ungraspable. I alone possess nothing. I alone don't care. like someone without a home. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 8 . What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value. I alone am dull. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see. Other people are bright. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn't cling to ideas. Other people have a purpose. Other people are sharper. I am different from ordinary people. I alone drift about. my mind is so empty. avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous! Other people are excited. I alone am expressionless. the Tao is. I alone don't know. and end your problems. Since before time and space were. as though they were at a parade. Other people have what they need.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 20 Stop thinking. I drift like a wave on the ocean. I am like an idiot. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. like an infant before it can smile. I blow as aimless as the wind. I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.

Open yourself to the Tao. then trust your natural responses. by residing in the Tao. people can see his light. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 9 . Be like the forces of nature: when it blows. people recognize themselves in him. when the clouds pass. everything he does succeeds. let yourself be empty. sets an example for all beings. you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely. people can trust his words. let yourself be partial. "If you want to be given everything. and everything will fall into place. when it rains. Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself. you are at one with insight and you can use it completely. Because he has no goad in mind. If you open yourself to the Tao. give everything up. The Master. If you want to become full.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 22 If you want to become whole. then keep quiet. there is only rain. Because he has nothing to prove. Because he doesn't know who he is. If you open yourself to loss. If you want to be given everything. you are at one with loss and you can accept it completely." they weren't using empty phrases. the sun shines through. there is only wind. 23 Express yourself completely. let yourself die. If you open yourself to insight. let yourself be crooked. Because he doesn't display himself. give everything up. When the ancient Masters said. If you want to be reborn. If you want to become straight.

Man is great. If you want to accord with the Tao. then let go. Earth is great. Infinite. 25 There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It flows through all things. Empty. Man follows the earth. Unchanging. I call it the Tao. It is serene. Eternally present. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 10 . He who rushes ahead doesn't go far. The Tao follows only itself. and returns to the origin of all things. The universe follows the Tao. inside and outside. For lack of a better name. It is the mother of the universe. Earth follows the universe. He who defines himself can't know who he really is. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. The universe is great. just do your job. He who has power over others can't empower himself. The Tao is great.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 24 He who stands on tiptoe doesn't stand form. These are the four great powers. He who tries to shine dims his own light. Solitary.

Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone. What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? If you don't understand this. you lose touch with who you are. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. you lose touch with your root. If you let restlessness move you. however intelligent you are. Why should the lord of the country flit about like a fool? If you let yourself be blown to and fro. He is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything. you will get lost.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 26 The heavy is the root of the light. 27 A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. This is called embodying the light. It is the great secret. However splendid the views. Thus the Master travels all day without leaving home. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. The unmoved is the source of all movement. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 11 . she stays serenely in herself.

Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 12 . a time for being exhausted. If you treat it like an object. a time for being safe. The world is formed from the void. yet keep to the female: receive the world in your arms. yet keep to the black: be a pattern for the world.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 28 Know the male. a time for being vigorous. a time for being behind. yet keep to the impersonal: accept the world as it is. yet keeps to the the block: thus she can use all things. If you accept the world. Know the personal. If you tamper with it. without trying to control them. The Master knows the utensils. If you are a pattern for the world. a time for being in motion. The world is sacred. the Tao will be luminous inside you and you will return to your primal self. the Tao will never leave you and you will be like a little child. 29 Do you want to improve the world? I don't think it can be done. a time for being in danger. Know the white. like utensils from a block of wood. It can't be improved. There is a time for being ahead. you'll ruin it. If you receive the world. a time for being at rest. the Tao will be strong inside you and there will be nothing you can't do. The Master sees things as they are. and resides at the center of the circle. She lets them go their own way. you'll lose it.

Nor does he rejoice in victory. Peace is his highest value. he doesn't try to convince others. He doesn't wish them personal harm. The Master does his job and then stops. If the peace has been shattered. always rebounds upon oneself. Because he is content with himself. 31 Weapons are the tools of violence. He understands that the universe is forever out of control. he doesn't need others' approval. how can he be content? His enemies are not demons. as if he were attending a funeral. and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. even well intentioned. but human beings like himself. Because he believes in himself. Because he accepts himself. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 13 . a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and. if compelled. all decent men detest them. with sorrow and with great compassion. For every force there is a counterforce. Weapons are the tools of fear. Violence. the whole world accepts him.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 30 Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men doesn't try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. will use them only with the utmost restraint. How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely.

It isn't aware of its greatness. All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 32 The Tao can't be perceived. Smaller than an electron. Since all things vanish into it and it alone endures. If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao. The world would become a paradise. you can avoid any danger. all things would be in harmony. knowing yourself is true wisdom. you are truly rich. thus it is truly great. 34 The great Tao flows everywhere. When you have institutions. yet it doesn't hold on to them. It nourishes infinite worlds. Mastering others is strength. it can be called humble. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 14 . It pours itself into its work. mastering yourself is true power. it can be called great. When you have names and forms. you will endure forever. know that they are provisional. 33 Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing when to stop. yet it doesn't create them. All people would be at peace. If you realize that you have enough. Since it is merged with all things and hidden in their hearts. If you stay in the center and embrace death with your whole heart. All things are born from it. know where their functions should end. it contains uncountable galaxies. and the law would be written in their hearts. yet it makes no claim.

Let your workings remain a mystery. If powerful men and women could venter themselves in it. even amid great pain. in its natural rhythms. If you want to take something. The slow overcomes the fast. without danger. The soft overcomes the hard. and free of desire. in harmony. If you want to get rid of something. everyday lives. When there is no desire. 36 If you want to shrink something. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 15 . People would be content with their simple. When you use it. you must first allow it to flourish. When you listen for it. She perceives the universal harmony. But words that point to the Tao seem monotonous and without flavor. Just show people the results. When you look for it. the whole world would be transformed by itself. yet through it all things are done. you must first allow it to be given. there is nothing to hear.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 35 She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes. Music or the smell of good cooking may make people stop and enjoy. you must first allow it to expand. 37 The Tao never does anything. This is called the subtle perception of the way things are. there is nothing to see. because she has found peace in her heart. it is inexhaustible. all things are at peace.

The just man does something. The kind man does something. The ordinary man is always doing things. The Master does nothing. yet many more are left to be done. He has no will of his own. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 16 . there is ritual. with the fruit and not the flower. and leaves many things to be done. When morality is lost.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 38 The Master doesn't try to be powerful. thus he never has enough. He dwells in reality. When the Tao is lost. yet he leaves nothing undone. When goodness is lost. there is goodness. Ritual is the husk of true faith. and when no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and uses force. The moral man does something. and lets all illusions go. Therefore the Master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface. thus he is truly powerful. The ordinary man keeps reaching for power. yet something remains undone. the beginning of chaos. there is morality.

as rugged and common as stone. because he understands the whole. endlessly renewed. Being is born of non-being. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 17 .Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 39 In harmony with the Tao. the earth is solid and full. creatures become extinct. the sky is clear and spacious. the equilibrium crumbles. the earth becomes depleted. the sky becomes filthy. The Master views the parts with compassion. 40 Return is the movement of the Tao. His constant practice is humility. content with the way they are. He doesn't glitter like a jewel but lets himself be shaped by the Tao. endlessly repeating themselves. When man interferes with the Tao. All things are born of being. Yielding is the way of the Tao. all creature flourish together.

the greatest are seems unsophisticated. One gives birth to Two. When a foolish man hears of the Tao. Three gives birth to all things. embracing his aloneness. he laughs out loud. If he didn't laugh. When an average man hears of the Tao. When male and female combine. the path forward seems to go back. realizing he is one with the whole universe. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 18 . the greatest wisdom seems childish. 42 The Tao gives birth to One. But the Master makes use of it. Yet it nourishes and completes all things. it wouldn't be the Tao. true power seems weak. he half believes it. The Tao is nowhere to be found. the greatest love seems indifferent. true purity seems tarnished. true clarity seems obscure. the direct path seems long. he immediately begins to embody it. All things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. true steadfastness seems changeable. Thus it is said: The path into the light seems dark. all things achieve harmony. Ordinary men hate solitude. Two gives birth to Three. half doubts it.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 41 When a superior man hears of the Tao.

The Master allows things to happen. you will never truly be fulfilled. She steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 19 . Be content with what you have. When you realize there is nothing lacking. True straightness seems crooked. She shapes events as they come. rejoice in the way things are. True wisdom seems foolish. True fullness seems empty. you will never be happy with yourself. True art seems artless. Teaching without words. That which has no substance enters where there is no space. This shows the value of non-action. 44 Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success of failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment. If your happiness depends on money. yet it is perfectly itself. the whole world belongs to you. yet it is fully present. 45 True perfection seems imperfect.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 43 The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world. performing without actions: that is the Master's way.

48 In pursuit of knowledge. every day something is dropped.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 46 When a country is in harmony with the Tao. until finally you arrive at non-action. sees the light without looking. There is no greater illusion than fear. When nothing is done. no greater misfortune than having an enemy. The more you know. warheads are stockpiled outside the cities. every day something is added. Without looking out your window. When a country goes counter to the Tao. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. The Master arrives without leaving. It can't be gained by interfering. you can see the essence of the Tao. nothing is left undone. you can open your heart to the world. 47 Without opening your door. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. the factories make trucks and tractors. the less you understand. Less and less do you need to force things. achieves without doing a thing. In the practice of the Tao. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 20 . no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself.

They look to her and wait. It springs into existence. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy. guiding without interfering. 51 Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. This is true goodness. acting without expecting. 50 The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. She trusts people who are trustworthy. She treats them like her own children. He doesn't think about his actions. This is true trust. The Tao gives birth to all beings. as a man is ready for sleep after a good day's work. perfect. cares for them. therefore he is ready for death. People don't understand her. She is also good to people who aren't good. The Master's mind is like space. He holds nothing back from life. takes them back to itself. no resistances in his body. they flow from the core of his being. and her has nothing left to hold on to: no illusions in his mind. He knows that he is going to die.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 49 The Master has no mind of her own. comforts them. unconscious. maintains them. That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things. lets circumstances complete it. nourishes them. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 21 . She works with the mind of the people. creating without possessing. free. protects them. That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao. She is good to people who are good. takes on a physical body.

If you keep your mind from judging and aren't led by the senses. all things return to it. When you recognize the children and find the mother. Use your own light and return to the source of light. your heart will find peace. you will be free of sorrow. It is not in keeping with the Tao. If you close your mind in judgements and traffic with desires. trace back the manifestations. Seeing into darkness is clarity. 53 The great Way is easy.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 52 In the beginning was the Tao. when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures. To find the origin. your heart will be troubled. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 22 . Be aware when things are out of balance. yet people prefer the side paths. When rich speculators prosper While farmers lose their land. Knowing how to yield is strength. This is called practicing eternity. All things issue from it. Stay centered within the Tao. when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible while the poor have nowhere to turnall this is robbery and chaos.

55 He who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn child. without desire. It doesn't know about the union of male and female. How do I know this is true? By looking inside myself. He never expects results. yet it never becomes hoarse. yet its penis can stand erect. so complete is its harmony. Whoever embraces the Tao will not slip away. so intense is its vital power. The Master's power is like this. Let it be present in your family and your family will flourish. He is never disappointed. Let it be present in your country and your country will be an example to all countries in the world. Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine. He lets all things come and go effortlessly. It can scream its head off all day. its muscles are weak. thus his spirit never grows old.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 54 Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up. Let it be present in the universe and the universe will sing. Her name will be held in honor from generation to generation. thus he is never disappointed. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 23 . Its bones are soft. but its grip is powerful.

settle your dust. The more prohibitions you have. It gives itself up continually. soften your glare. the less secure people will be. you must learn to follow the Tao. and the world will govern itself. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 24 . and the good becomes common as grass. block off your senses. and people become honest. I let go of all desire for the common good. That is why it endures. the less virtuous people will be. I let go of religion. 57 If you want to be a great leader. This is the primal identity. Let go of fixed plans and concepts. It can't be approached or withdrawn from. the less self-reliant people will be. Stop trying to control. The more subsidies you have. Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law. benefited or harmed. Be like the Tao. honored or brought into disgrace. The more weapons you have. Close your mouth. and people become prosperous. I let go of economics.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 56 Those who know don't talk. untie your knots. Those who talk don't know. and people become serene. blunt your sharpness.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself. She is pointed. the people are depressed and crafty. Radiant. If a country is governed with repression. but easy on the eyes. Not that it isn't there. and you lay the groundwork for vice. You spoil it with too much poking. Thus the Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will. and you lay the groundwork for misery. Because he has let go. The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas. but doesn't pierce. 60 Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. Straightforward. firm like a mountain. the people are comfortable and honest. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 25 .Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 58 If a country is governed with tolerance. Try to make people moral. but supple. he can care for the people's welfare as a mother cares for her child. he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way. Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power. When the will to power is in charge. Tolerant like the sky. 59 For governing a country well there is nothing better than moderation. the lower the results. Nothing is impossible for him. Try to make people happy. but you'll be able to step out of its way. the higher the ideals. supple like a tree in the wind. all-pervading like sunlight.

Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 61 When a country obtains great power. A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake. and when you make a mistake. The more powerful it grows. Offer instead to teach him about the Tao. Having admitted it. if it nourishes its own people and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. when you seek. being one with the Tao. when a new leader is chosen. If a nation is centered in the Tao. Thus. Honors can be bought with fine words. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts. he corrects it. you find. 62 The Tao is the center of the universe. don't offer to help him with your wealth or your expertise. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 26 . and no one can achieve it. the greater the need for humility. That is why everybody loves it. the good man's treasure. Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao? Because. respect can be won with good deeds. Humility means trusting the Tao. you are forgiven. he admits it. he realizes it. Having realized it. thus never needing to be defensive. it will be a light to all nations in the world. the bad man's refuge. but the Tao is beyond all value. it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it.

64 What is rooted is easy to nourish. She doesn't cling to her own comfort. He simply reminds people of who they have always been. you ruin what was almost ripe. The Master never reaches for the great. what he learns is to unlearn. Forcing a project to completion. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 27 . you lose them. What is small is easy to scatter. He has nothing. you fail. Think of the small as large and the few as many. When she runs into a difficulty. Prevent trouble before it arises. thus she achieves greatness. accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. What is recent is easy to correct. What he desires is non-desire. work without effort. Put things in order before they exist. He cares about nothing but the Tao. thus problems are no problem for her. she stops and gives herself to it. Rushing into action. Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. Confront the difficult while it is still easy. Thus he can care for all things. Trying to grasp things. What is brittle is easy to break.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 63 Act without doing. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning. The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet. thus has nothing to lose. The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout.

The Master is above the people. These three are your greatest treasures. 66 All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. But to those who have looked inside themselves. you return to the source of being. people are difficult to guide. I have just three things to teach: simplicity.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 65 The ancient Masters didn't try to educate the people. Humility gives it its power. patience. compassion. If you want to learn how to govern. When they know that they don't know. and no one feels oppressed. avoid being clever or rich. people can find their own way. The whole world is grateful to her. you reconcile all beings in the world. this loftiness has roots that go deep. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 28 . Because she competes with no one. When they think that they know the answers. She goes ahead of the people. this nonsense makes perfect sense. you accord with the way things are. but kindly taught them to not-know. If you want to lead the people. and no one feels manipulated. The simplest pattern is the clearest. no one can compete with her. 67 Some say that my teaching is nonsense. you must place yourself below them. And to those who put it into practice. you can show all people the way back to their own true nature. Simple in actions and in thoughts. Compassionate toward yourself. Others call it lofty but impractical. Patient with both friends and enemies. Content with an ordinary life. If you want to govern the people. you must learn how to follow them.

but they do it in the spirit of play. The best general enters the mind of his enemy. Not that they don't love to compete. Thus you destroy your three treasures and become an enemy yourself. The best businessman serves the communal good. you'll fail.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 68 The best athlete wants his opponent at his best. 69 The generals have a saying: "Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see. My teachings are older than the world. In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao. Underestimating your enemy means thinking that he is evil. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 29 . the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield." This is called going forward without advancing. Yet your intellect will never grasp them. and if you try to practice them. All of the embody the virtue of non-competition. look inside your heart. The best leader follows the will of the people. How can you grasp their meaning? If you want to know me. Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard. 70 My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. There is no greater misfortune than underestimating your enemy. When two great forces oppose each other. pushing back without using weapons.

She has healed herself of all knowing. so that people will have nothing to learn. Presuming to know is a disease. 73 The Tao is always at ease. He teaches without a teaching. they begin to depend upon authority. Trust them. Thus she is truly whole. It overcomes without competing. there is nothing you will try to hold on to. people turn to religion. 75 When taxes are too high. When they no longer trust themselves. chances are that you'll cut your hand. then you can move toward health. 74 If you realize that all things change. Its net covers the whole universe. First realize that you are sick. Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter's place. Act for the people's benefit. 72 When they lose their sense of awe. When the government is too intrusive. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 30 . If you aren't afraid of dying. And though its meshes are wide. people lose their spirit. When you handle the master carpenter's tools. accomplishes without a plan. leave them alone. people go hungry. Therefore the Master steps back so that people won't be confused. answers without speaking a word. arrives without being summoned.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 71 Not-knowing is true knowledge. The Master is her own physician. there is nothing you can't achieve. it doesn't let a thing slip through.

Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 76 Men are born soft and supple. they are stiff and hard. The top is bent downward. The Master can keep giving because there is no end to her wealth. dead. they are brittle and dry. succeeds without taking credit. Plats are born tender and pliant. She acts without expectation. 77 As it acts in the world. They take from those who don't have enough and give to those who have far too much. It takes from what is too much and give to what isn't enough. the bottom is bent up. the Tao is like the bending of a bow. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. dead. go against the direction of the Tao. It adjusts excess and deficiency so that there is perfect balance. and doesn't think that she is better than anyone else. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail. Those who try to control. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 31 . who use force to protect their power.

Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes. The soft overcomes the hard. People enjoy their food. take pleasure in being with their families. They enjoy the labor of their hands and don't waste time inventing labor-saving machines. they aren't interested in travel. spend weekends working in their gardens. he is people's greatest help. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible. If you blame someone else.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 78 Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. delight in the doings of the neighborhood. they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it. 79 Failure is an opportunity. Everyone knows this is true. 80 If a country is governed wisely. Since they dearly love their homes. its inhabitants will be content. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 32 . the gentle overcomes the rigid. Because he has given up helping. but these don't go anywhere. There may be a few wagons and boats. Therefore the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. nothing can surpass it. but few can put it into practice. And even though the next country is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking. there is no end to the blame. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others. There may be an arsenal of weapons. but nobody ever uses them. Evil cannot enter his heart. True words seem paradoxical.

the happier he is. Stephen Mitchell Translation Page 33 . the Master leads. The more he gives to others. By not dominating. eloquent words aren't true. The more he does for others. The Master has no possessions. the wealthier he is. Wise men don't need to prove their point.Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu 81 True words aren't eloquent. men who need to prove their point aren't wise. The Tao nourishes by not forcing.