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A New English Version, with Foreword and Notes, by Stephen Mitchell
A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
Who can find a good woman? She is precious beyond all things. Her husband's heart trusts her completely. She is his best reward. PROV. 31:10-11
Tao Te Ching (pronounced, more or less, Dow Deh Jing) can be translated as The Book of the Immanence of the Way or The Book of the Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World or, simply, The Book of the Way. Since it is already well known by its Chinese tide, I have let that stand. About Lao-tzu, its author, there is practically nothing to be said. He may have been an older contemporary of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and may have held the position of archivekeeper in one of the petty kingdoms of the time. But all the information that has come down to us is highly suspect. Even the meaning of his name is uncertain (the most likely interpretations: "the Old Master" or, more picturesquely, "the Old Boy"). Like an Iroquois woodsman, he left no traces. All he left us is his book: the classic manual on the art of living, written in a style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and large-heartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world. People usually think of Lao-tzu as a hermit, a dropout from society, dwelling serenely in some mountain hut, unvisited except perhaps by the occasional traveler arriving from a '60S joke to ask, "What is the meaning of life?" But it's clear from his teachings that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one's fellow human beings; his book is, among other things, a treatise on the art of government,
Hence Lao-Tzu's emphasis on softness. The misperception may arise from his insistence on wei wu wei. When nothing is done.whether of a country or of a child. Less and less do you need to force things. A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself. The game plays the game. the fuel has been completely transformed into flame. Nothing is done because the doer has wholeheartedly vanished into the deed. we can't tell the dancer from the dance. . effortlessly. nothing is left undone. endurance." which has been seen as passivity. Softness means the opposite of rigidity. adaptability. Anyone who has seen a T'ai Chi or Aikido master doing not-doing will know how powerful this softness is. It happens when we trust the intelligence of the universe in the same way that an athlete or a dancer trusts the superior intelligence of the body. Nothing could be further from the truth. This "nothing" is. the poem writes the poem. This is a paradigm for non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. without any interference of the conscious will. everything. in fact. literally "doing notdoing. and is synonymous with suppleness. Until finally you arrive at non-action.
but of becoming it. in all humility. He is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything. Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone. not in the sense of conquering it. Unencumbered by any concept of sin. This is called embodying the light. as with a dirty window. Until finally she is able to say. This freedom from moral categories allows him his great compassion for the wicked and the selfish." The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. In surrendering to the Tao. but simply as an opaqueness. judgments. so that. "I am the Tao. the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil. The Master has mastered Nature. the light can't shine through. her mind has grown naturally compassionate. in giving up all concepts. the more we let go of what we love. the more compassionate we can be. the more present our love becomes. the Life. and desires. the Master doesn't see evil as a force to resist. I have seen it. the Truth. which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are. What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? . it is a reality. the more we can embody the good. This is not an idea.Lao-Tzu's central figure is a man or woman whose life is in perfect harmony with the way things are. a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living.
It is the great secret. German. done. you will get lost. to substitute "he" for "she" or vice versa. But the most essential preparation for my work was a fourteenyears-long course of Zen training. and French. essentially. because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao-tzu is by far the most female. The reader will notice that in the many passages where Lao-tzu describes the Master. the freest translation is sometimes the most faithful. the Master (since the Master is. throughout the book." I have often been fairly literal-or as literal as one can be with such a subtle." Dr. in English we have to choose. us). I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype. Johnson said. kaleidoscopic book as the Tao Te ." The Chinese language doesn't make this kind of distinction. Ironically. which provides English equivalents (often very quaint ones) alongside each of the Chinese ideograms. however intelligent you are. as other versions have. I also consulted dozens of translations into English. "that is the way to judge of the merit of a translation. "We must try its effect as an English poem. ironically. potentially. I have used the pronoun "she" at least as often as "he.If you don't understand this. With great poetry. which brought me face to face with Lao-tzu and his true disciples and heirs. But since we are all. you should feel free. the early Chinese Zen Masters. Of course. As to method: I worked from Paul Carus's literal version.
But I have also paraphrased. expanded. interpreted. worked with the text. contracted. my intention has always been to translate his mind. until it became embodied in a language that felt genuine to me. If I haven't always translated Lao-tzu's words. played with it.Ching. .
Tao Te Ching .
you realize the mystery. . Naming is the origin of all particular things. This source is called darkness. The gateway to all understanding. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. Darkness within darkness.1 The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. you see only the manifestations. Caught in desire. Free from desire. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real.
things disappear and she lets them go. Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. she forgets it. . Difficult and easy support each other. acts but doesn't expect. She has but doesn't possess.2 When people see some things as beautiful. other things become bad. Before and after follow each other. That is why it lasts forever. When people see some things as good. Being and non-being create each other. other things become ugly. High and low depend on each other. Things arise and she lets them come. Long and short define each other. When her work is done.
by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve.3 If you overesteem great men. The Master leads by emptying people's minds and filling their cores. He helps people lose everything they know. people become powerless. people begin to steal. If you overvalue possessions. Practice not-doing. . and creates confusion in those who think that they know. everything they desire. and everything will fall into place.
I don't know who gave birth to it. . It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities.4 The Tao is like a well: used but never used up. It is older than God. It is hidden but always present.
The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. the more it produces. . the less you understand. the more you talk of it. The Master doesn't take sides. The more you use it. she welcomes both saints and sinners.5 The Tao doesn't take sides. it gives birth to both good and evil. Hold on to the center.
6 The Tao is called the Gteat Mother: empty yet inexhaustible. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want. it gives birth to infinite worlds. .
She is detached from all things. Because she has let go of herself. Why is it infinite? It has no desires for itself.7 The Tao is infinite. that is why she is ahead. eternal. . she is perfectly fulfilled. thus it can never die. Why is it eternal? It was never born. that is why she is one with them. The Master stays behind. thus it is present for all beings.
. In family life. live close to the ground. lt is content with the low places that people disdain. keep to the simple. Thus it is like the Tao. In governing. everybody will respect you.8 The supreme good is like water. do what you enjoy. be fair and generous. In thinking. don't try to control. be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete. which nourishes all things without trying to. In conflict. In work. In dwelling.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.9 Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. . Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Do your work. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. then step back The only path to serenity.
acting with no expectations. having without possessing.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 your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing. . leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.
We shape clay into a pot.11 We join spokes together in a wheel. We work with being. . but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We hammer wood for a house. but non-being is what we use. but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. but it is the inner space that makes it livable.
Flavors numb the taste. His heart is open as the sky. The Master observes the world But trusts his inner vision.12 Colors blind the eye. . He allows things to come and go. Desires wither the heart. Sounds deafen the ear. Thoughts weaken the mind.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear? Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self. your position is shaky. Have faith in the way things are. . Love the world as your self. what do we have to fear? See the world as your self. When you stand with your two feet on the ground. Hope is as hollow as fear. you will always keep your balance. then you can care for all things. What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or down it.13 Success is as dangerous as failure.
it isn’t bright. Reach. Listen. it isn’t dark. Above. it returns to the realm of nothing.14 Look. Below. You can’t know it. subtle. unnamable. . but you can be it. follow it and there is no end. and it can’t be grasped. Approach it and there is no beginning. Form that includes all forms. beyond all conception. at ease in your own life. and it can’t be seen. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom. image without an image. and it can’t be heard. Seamless.
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. Clear as a glass of water. Not seeking. They were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. Receptive as a valley. Courteous as a guest. Their wisdom was unfathomable.15 The ancient Masters were profound and subtle. not expecting. she is present. and can welcome all things. all we can describe is their appearance. . Fluid as melting ice. There is no way to describe it. Shapeable as a block of wood.
16 Empty your mind of all thoughts. If you don’t realize the source. disinterested. Watch the turmoil of beings. kindhearted as a grandmother. You can deal with whatever life brings you. Returning to the source is serenity. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. dignified as a king. you are ready. amused. you naturally become tolerant. When you realize where you come from. you stumble in confusion and sorrow. Let your heart be at peace. but contemplate their return. . And when death comes. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao.
the people are hardly aware that he exists.17 When the Master governs. You make them untrustworthy. The people say. The worst is one who is despised. one who is feared. Next best is a leader who is loved. Next. If you don’t trust the people. all by ourselves!” . The Master doesn’t talk. he acts. “Amazing: We did it. When his work is done.
When there is no peace in the family. Filial piety begins.18 When the great Tao is forgotten. When the country falls into chaos. . goodness and piety appear. patriotism is born. cleverness and knowledge step forth. When the body’s intelligence declines.
If these three aren’t enough. Throw away industry and profit. Just at the center of the circle And let all things take their course. and there won’t be any thieves. and people will be a hundred times happier. . and people will do the right thing.19 Throw away holiness and wisdom. Throw away morality and justice.
like an infant before it can smile. avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous? Other people are excited. like someone without a home. Other people are sharp. I alone possess nothing. I alone don’t care. Other people have what they need. I alone am expressionless. I alone am dark. I alone drift about. I alone am dull. as though they were at a parade. Other people are bright. my mind is so empty. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value.20 Stop thinking and end your problems. I am like and idiot. .
I alone don’t know. . I am different from ordinary people.Other people have purpose. I drink form the Great Mother’s breasts. I drift like a wave on the ocean. I blow as aimless as the wind.
. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it. The Tao is ungraspable. Since before time and space were. It is beyond is and is not. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. the Tao is. that is what gives her the radiance. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.21 The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao.
let yourself die. If you want to be reborn. people can see his light. give everything up.” they weren’t using empty phrases. When the ancient Masters said. Because he has no goal in mind. let yourself be empty. let yourself be partial. let yourself be crooked. If you want to become straight. Because he doesn’t know who he is. If you want to be given everything. Only in being lived by the Tao Can you be truly yourself. by residing in the Tao. Because he doesn’t display himself. Because he has nothing to prove.22 If you want to become whole. give everything up. The Master. . people can trust his words. everything he does succeeds. people recognize themselves in him. “If you want to be given everything. sets an example for all beings. If you want to become full.
you are at one with loss and you can accept it completely. the sun shines through. If you open yourself to the Tao. . then keep quiet. If you open yourself to insight. you are at one with insight and you can use it completely. Be like the forces of nature: when it blows. when it rains.23 Express yourself completely. when the clouds pass. Open yourself to the Tao. then trust your natural responses: and everything will fall into place. there is only rain. there is only wind. you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely. If you open yourself to loss.
.24 He who stands on tiptoe doesn’t stand firm. If you want to accord with the Tao. just do your job. then let go. He who rushes ahead doesn’t go far. He who defines himself can't know who he really is. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. He who tries to shine dims his own light. He who has power over others can't empower himself.
The universe follows the Tao. The Tao follows only itself. . Unchanging. Solitary. These are the four great powers. For lack of a better name. It is the mother of the universe. The universe is great. Man follows the earth. inside and outside. and returns to the origin of all things. Empty. The Tao is great. Earth follows the universe. Infinite.25 There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. Eternally present. I call it the Tao. It is serene. Man is great. Earth is great. It flows through all things.
she stays serenely in herself. Thus the master travels all day without leaving home. Why should the lord of the country flit about like a fool? If you let yourself be blown to and fro.26 The heavy is the root of the light. . You lose touch with who you are. you lose touch with your root. If you let restlessness move you. However splendid the views. The unmoved is the source of all movement.
27 A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. you will get lost. This is called embodying the light. He is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. 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. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. However intelligent you are. It is the great secret. . Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn’t reject anyone.
yet keep to the impersonal: accept the world as it is. Know the personal. the Tao will be luminous inside you and you will return to your primal self.28 Know the male. If you are a pattern for the world. Know the white. yet keeps to the block: thus she can use all things. yet keep to the black: be a pattern for the world. If you receive the world. the Tao will be strong inside you and there will be nothing you can’t do. The world is formed from the void. yet keep to the female: receive the world in your arms. If you accept the world. . Like utensils from a block of wood. The Master knows the utensils. the Tao will never leave you and you will be like a little child.
The Master sees things as they are. It can’t be improved. If you treat it like an object. without trying to control them. you’ll lose it. a time for being at rest. There is a time for being ahead. And resides at the center of the circle.29 Do you want to improve the world? I don’t think it can be done. you’ll ruin it. . She let’s them go their own way. a time for being safe. The world is sacred. a time for being in motion. a time for being exhausted. a time for being vigorous. a time for being in danger. If you tamper with it. a time for being behind.
and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Because he is content with himself. even well intentioned.30 Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. Violence. he doesn’t try to convince others. the whole world accepts him. For every force there is a counterforce. The Master does his job and then stops. always rebounds upon oneself. Because he accepts himself. he doesn’t need others’ approval. He understands that the universe is forever out of control. Because he believes in himself. .
. If the peace has been shattered. as if he were attending a funeral. a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and. with sorrow and with great compassion. Peace is his highest value. all decent men detest them. Nor does he rejoice in victory. how can he be content? His enemies are not demons. Weapons are the tools of fear. but human beings like himself.31 Weapons are the tools of violence. How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely. will use them only with the utmost restraint. He doesn't wish them personal harm. if compelled.
When you have institutions. All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea. If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao. Smaller than an electron. all things would be in harmony. know where their functions should end. it contains uncountable galaxies.32 The Tao can't be perceived. . Knowing when to stop. Know that they are provisional. and the law would be written in their hearts. you can avoid any danger. All people would be at peace. When you have names and forms. The world would become a paradise.
you will endure forever. you are truly rich. knowing yourself is true wisdom. If you realize that you have enough.33 Knowing others is intelligence. . mastering yourself is true power. Mastering others is strength. If you stay in the center and embrace death with your whole heart.
Since all things vanish into it and it alone endures. All things are born from it. It pours itself into its work. yet it doesn't create them. it can be called great. Since it is merged with all things and hidden in their hearts.34 The great Tao flows everywhere. thus it is truly great. It isn't aware of its greatness. . yet it makes no claim. it can be called humble. yet it doesn't hold on to them. It nourishes infinite worlds.
She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. Music or the smell of good cooking may make people stop and enjoy. But words that point to the Tao seem monotonous and without flavor. When you look for it, there is nothing to see. When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear. When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand. If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish. If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given. This is called the subtle perception of the way things are. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results.
The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done. If powerful men and women could center themselves in it, the whole world would be transformed by itself, in its natural rhythms. People would be content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire. When there is no desire, all things are at peace.
When morality is lost. the beginning of chaos. He dwells in reality. . and when no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and uses force. and lets all illusions go. thus he is truly powerful. there is goodness. When goodness is lost. The just man does something. The Master does nothing.38 The Master doesn't try to be powerful. He has no will of his own. yet he leaves nothing undone. Therefore the Master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface. Ritual is the husk of true faith. The moral man does something. The ordinary man keeps reaching for power. The kind man does something. there is ritual. When the Tao is lost. The ordinary man is always doing things. with the fruit and not the flower. there is morality. and leaves many things to be done. thus he never has enough. yet many more are left to be done. yet something remains undone.
the sky is clear and spacious. as rugged and common as a stone. His constant practice is humility. He doesn’t glitter like a jewel but lets himself be shaped by the Tao. . The Master views the parts with compassion. content with the way they are. all creatures flourish together. the earth is solid and full. When man interferes with the Tao. endlessly repeating themselves. endlessly renewed. creatures become extinct. because he understands the whole. the earth becomes depleted. the equilibrium crumbles.39 In harmony with the Tao. the sky becomes filthy.
Being is born of non-being. All things are born of being. . Yielding is the way of the Tao.40 Return is the movement of the Tao.
it wouldn't be the Tao. Yet it nourishes and completes all things. the path forward seems to go back. true purity seems tarnished. true steadfastness seems changeable. true power seems weak.41 When a superior man hears of the Tao. half doubts it. Thus it is said: The path into the light seems dark. he immediately begins to embody it. If he didn't laugh. . true clarity seems obscure. When an average man hears of the Tao. When a foolish man hears of the Tao. he laughs out loud. the greatest wisdom seems childish. The Too is nowhere to be found. the greatest love seems indifferent. the greatest art seems unsophisticated. the direct path seems long. he half believes it.
But the Master makes use of it. When male and female combine. embracing his aloneness.42 The Too gives birth to One. Ordinary men hate solitude. One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three. all things achieve harmony. realizing he is one with the whole universe. Three gives birth to all things. AIl things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. .
43 The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world. . This shows the value of non-action. performing without actions: that is the Master's way. Teaching without words. That which has no substance enters where there is no space.
you will never be happy with yourself. you will never truly be fulfilled. the whole world belongs to you. When you realize there is nothing lacking. Be content with what you have.44 Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment. rejoice in the way things are. If your happiness depends on money. .
True wisdom seems foolish. The Master allows things to happen. yet it is perfectly itself. . She steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself.45 True perfection seems imperfect. yet it is fully present. True art seems artless. True fullness seems empty. True straightness seems crooked. She shapes events as they come.
no greater misfortune than having an enemy. warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.46 When a country is in harmony with the Tao. When a country goes counter to the Tao. There is no greater illusion than fear. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. the factories make trucks and tractors. . no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself.
. The more you know. you can open your heart to the world. the less you understand. The Master arrives without leaving. sees the light without looking. achieves without doing a thing.47 Without opening your door. you can see the essence of the Tao. Without iooking out your window.
every day something is added. nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way.48 In the pursuit of knowledge. until finally you arrive at non-action. It can't be gained by interfering. Less and less do you need to force things. When nothing is done. every day something is dropped. . In the practice of the Tao.
49 The Master has no mind of her own. This is true trust. She treats them like her own children. She trusts people who are trustworthy. People don't understand her. She works with the mind of the people. The Master's mind is like space. They look to her and wait. . She is good to people who are good. This is true goodness. She is also good to people who aren't good. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy.
as a man is ready for sleep after a good day's work. they flow from the core of his being.50 The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. He holds nothing back from life. and he has nothing left to hold on to: no illusions in his mind. He doesn't think about his actions. He knows that he is going to die. . therefore he is ready for death. no resistances in his body.
maintains them. nourishes them.51 Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. protects them. cares for them. unconscious. takes them back to itself. acting without expecting. That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao. That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things. free. perfect. creating without possessing. lets circumstances complete it. comforts them. takes on a physical body. It springs into existence. . The Tao gives birth to all beings. guiding without interfering.
To find the origin. This is called practicing eternity. All things issue from it. all things return to it. Seeing into darkness is clarity. When you recognize the children and find the mother. Knowing how to yield is strength. your heart will find peace. If you close your mind in judgments and traffic with desires. If you keep your mind from judging and aren't led by the senses. you will be free of sorrow. trace back the manifestations. your heart will be troubled. .52 In the beginning was the Tao. Use your own light and recurn to the source of light.
Stay centered within the Tao. when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible while the poor have nowhere to turn – this is robbery and chaos. . yet people prefer the side paths.53 The great Way is easy. when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures. It is not in keeping with the Tao. Be aware when things are out of balance. When rich speculators prosper while farmers lose their land.
Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine. Let it be present in your country and your country will be an example to all countries in the world. . Her name will be held in honor from generation to generation. Let it be present in the universe and the universe will sing. How do I know this is true? By looking inside myself.54 Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up. Whoever embraces the Tao will not slip away. Let it be present in your family and your family will flourish.
its muscles are weak. He never expects results. . but its grip is powerful. The Master's power is like this. so complete is its harmony. He lets all things come and go effortlessly. so intense is its vital power. Its bones are soft. thus he is never disappointed. yet it never becomes hoarse. without desire. yet its penis can stand erect. It doesn't know about the union of male and female.55 He who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn child. He is never disappointed. thus his spirit never grows old. It can scream its head off all day.
benefited or harmed. blunt your sharpness. That is why it endures. Those who talk don't know. Be like the Tao. untie your knots. This is the primal identity. Close your mouth. It gives itself up continually. settle your dust. honored or brought into disgrace. soften your glare. block off your senses. .56 Those who know don't talk. It can't be approached or withdrawn from.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts. Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law. Stop trying to control. and people become serene. and people become honest. the less self-reliant people will be. The more weapons you have. the less virtuous people will be. . and the good becomes common as grass.57 If you want to be a great leader. The more prohibitions you have. I let go of religion. and people become prosperous. the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have. I let go of economics. you must learn to follow the Tao. and the world will govern itself. I let go of all desire for the common good.
. but doesn't pierce. If a country is governed with repression. She is pointed. Straightforward. the people are comfortable and honest. but easy on the eyes. Radiant. and you lay the groundwork for vice.58 If a country is governed with tolerance. the people are depressed and crafty. and you lay the groundwork for misery. Try to make people happy. but supple. When the will to power is in charge. Try to make people moral. the lower the results. the higher the ideals. Thus the Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will.
Because he has let go. . all-pervading like sunlight. The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas. supple like a tree in the wind. Tolerant like the sky. firm like a mountain. Nothing is impossible for him. he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way. he can care for the people's welfare as a mother cares for her child.59 For governing a country well there is nothing better than moderation.
You spoil it with too much poking. but you'll be able to step out of its way. .60 Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. Not that it isn't there. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself. Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power.
he admits it. If a nation is centered in the Tao. he corrects it. The more powerful it grows. 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. Humility means trusting the Tao. the greater the need for humility. he realizes it.61 When a country obtains great power. it will be a light to all nations in the world. Having admitted it. . He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts. A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake. thus never needing to be defensive. Having realized it. it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao? Because.62 The Tao is the center of the universe. when a new leader is chosen. the bad man's refuge. That is why everybody loves it. when you seek. but the Tao is beyond all value. and no one can achieve it. you find. the good man's treasure. and when you make a mistake. don't offer to help him with your wealth or your expertise. Honors can be bought with fine words. being one with the Tao. you are forgiven. Thus. Offer instead to teach him about the Tao. . respect can be won with good deeds.
work without effort. Confront the difficult while it is still easy. She doesn't cling to her own comfort. thus problems are no problem for her.63 Act without doing. Think of the small as large and the few as many. she stops and gives herself to it. thus she achieves greatness. . The Master never reaches for the great. accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. When she runs into a difficulty.
Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. What is recent is easy to correct. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning. Trying to grasp things. you ruin what was almost ripe. What is small is easy to scatter. The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout. The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet. Rushing into action. Put things in order before they exist. . What is brittle is easy to break.64 What is rooted is easy to nourish. He has nothing. thus has nothing to lose. Prevent trouble before it arises. Forcing a project to completion. you lose them. you fail.
He simply reminds people of who they have always been.What he desires is non-desire. Thus he can care for all things. . what he learns is to unlearn. He cares about nothing but the Tao.
65 The ancient Masters didn't try to educate the people. The simplest pattern is the clearest. When they think that they know the answers. If you want to learn how to govern. When they know that they don't know. avoid being clever or rich. but kindly taught them to not-know. . people can find their own way. you can show all people the way back to their own true nature. Content with an ordinary life. people are difficult to guide.
Because she competes with no one. . you must learn how to follow them. you must place yourself below them.66 All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. The whole world is grateful to her. The Master is above the people. If you want to govern the people. and no one feels oppressed. no one can compete with her. If you want to lead the people. She goes ahead of the people. and no one feels manipulated.
this loftiness has roots that go deep. But to those who have looked inside themselves. Others call it lofty but impractical. Patient with both friends and enemies.67 Some say that my teaching is nonsense. I have just three things to teach: simplicity. And to those who put it into practice. you reconcile all beings in the world. Compassionate toward yourself. you accord with the way things are. compassion. . you return to the source of being. patience. this nonsense makes perfect sense. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and in thoughts.
All of them embody the virtue of non-competition. The best businessman serves the communal good. In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao. The best general enters the mind of his enemy. . Not that they don't love to compete. but they do it in the spirit of play.68 The best athlete wants his opponent at his best. The best leader follows the will of the people.
" This is called going forward without advancing. the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield. pushing back without using weapons. There is no greater misfortune than underestimating your enemy. Thus you destroy your three treasures and become an enemy yourself.69 The generals have a saying: "Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see. Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard. When two great forces oppose each other. Underestimating your enemy means thinking that he is evil. .
70 My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. you'll fail. and if you try to practice them. look inside your heart. . My teachings are older than the world. Yet your intellect will never grasp them. How can you grasp their meaning? If you want to know me.
She has healed herself of all knowing. The Master is her own physician.71 Not-knowing is true knowledge. First realize that you are sick. . Presuming to know is a disease. then you can move toward health. Thus she is truly whole.
He teaches without a teaching. they begin to depend upon authority. When they no longer trust themselves. so that people will have nothing to learn. .72 When they lose their sense of awe. Therefore the Master steps back so that people won't be confused. people turn to religion.
it doesn't let a thing slip through. Its net covers the whole universe. . And though its meshes are wide.73 The Tao is always at ease. answers without speaking a word. accomplishes without a plan. It overcomes without competing. arrives without being summoned.
Chances are that you'll cut your hand. Trying to control the future Is like trying to take the master carpenter's place. If you aren't afraid of dying. When you handle the master carpenter's tools.74 If you realize that all things change. . there is nothing you can't achieve. there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
leave them alone. people go hungry. people lose their spirit. When the government is too intrusive. Trust them.75 When taxes are too high. . Act for the people's benefit.
Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The soft and supple will prevail. dead. Plants are born tender and pliant. dead.76 Men are born soft and supple. they are stiff and hard. The hard and stiff will be broken. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. . they are brittle and dry.
Those who try to control. who use force to protect their power. They take from those who don't have enough and give to those who have far too much. It adjusts excess and deficiency so that there is perfect balance. the Tao is like the bending of a bow. and doesn't think that she is better than anyone else. . The top is bent downward. succeeds without taking credit. She acts without expectation. It takes from what is too much and gives to what isn't enough.77 As it acts in the world. the bottom is bent up. go against the direction of the Tao. The Master can keep giving because there is no end to her wealth.
nothing can surpass it. but few can put it into practice. Because he has given up helping. .78 Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Therefore the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. True words seem paradoxical. The soft overcomes the hard. Everyone knows this is true. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible. the gentle overcomes the rigid. he is people's greatest help. Evil cannot enter his heart.
79 Failure is an opportunity. . Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes. there is no end to the blame. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others. If you blame someone else.
. And even though the next country is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking. They aren't interested in travel. delight in the doings of the neighborhood. People enjoy their food. Its inhabitants will be content. But these don't go anywhere. but nobody ever uses them. There may be an arsenal of weapons. take pleasure in being with their families. they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it.80 If a country is governed wisely. spend weekends working in their gardens. Since they dearly love their homes. They enjoy the labor of their hands and don't waste time inventing labor-saving machines. There may be a few wagons and boats.
Wise men don't need to prove their point. men who need to prove their point aren't wise. eloquent words aren't true. The Master has no possessions. the Master leads. The more he does for others.81 True words aren't eloquent. By not dominating. The more he gives to others. the wealthier he is. the happier he is. . The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
in a book of five thousand words. No way. teaching the un-teachable. If he was the one who knew. But their words are (in the traditional Buddhist metaphor) fingers pointing at the moon. poet and stand-up comedian. 'Mind is Buddha'?" Ma-tsu said. what then?" . pointing the way to the way – what does Lao-tzu think he is doing here? It can’t be done. How meticulous the great Masters had to be! A monk asked Ma-tsu.Notes CHAPTER 1 Describing the indescribable." The monk said. "When the crying has stopped. wrote. "Why do you teach. They have to be blabbermouths. how could he have been such a blabbermouth? That’s the problem with spiritual teachers. "To stop a baby from crying. you can't see the moon. “He who talks doesn’t know he knows doesn’t talk”: that is what Lao-tzu told us. Hence Po Chu-i. if you watch the finger.
When he reached the frontier. so simple that every child understands it. According to the oldest biography. but seeing its decline he departed." In fact. as Bankei said. 'Not mind. the deeper it is. the guard said. for complicated minds. out of grandmotherly kindness. "Since you are going away. Where is the way to the Way? What a question! Still. He uses them as he would use gardening tools. Sir. "Then I teach.'” The monk said. the farther you enter into it. "I would just let him experience the great Tao. . right under our noses. He who knows doesn't talk. "I would tell him.Ma-tsu said. could you write a book to teach me the art of living?" Thereupon Lao-tzu wrote his book about the Tao. When someone asks. not Buddha. drastic measures are needed. the truth is right before our eyes. but words are no hindrance for him. 'Not beings. but it is an accurate description of the way in which true teaching happens. and yet.' " The monk said. "How about someone who isn't attached to either?" Ma-tsusaid. Lao-tzu's book was written as a response. he answers. This is legend. and departed. “and what if you me t a man unattached to all things: what would you tell him?" Ma-tsu said. Lao-tzu lived for a long time in the country of Chou.
the more radiant we are. The gateway to all understanding: In order to understand. She doesn't struggle to make money. It is also called "light. yet she doesn't try to be compassionate. "The tao that can be tao-ed [one meaning of Tao. She embodies compassion. Impossible to know. This source is called darkness: Because none of our senses can perceive it." Other possible renderings: "The way that can be weighed / is not the eternal Way. yet she accepts help gratefully and has no pride in walking alone." because the less we obstruct it. She doesn't give even moment's thought to right or wrong. yet as ordinary as sunlight. She never has to make a decision. yet as easy as touching your nose when you wash your face. . being 'co express'] / is not the eternal Tao.The tao that can be told / is not the eternal Tao: The text reads. Thus they are effortless. we have to remain in the darkness of not-knowing. The Tao is writing the script. not discouraged by neglect. She is not elated by praise." You realize the mystery: Infinitely marvelous. yet she enjoys spending it when it comes to her. CHAPTER 2 acts without doing anything: Her actions are appropriate responses." "The force that can be forced / is not the eternal Force. She goes her own way. decisions arise by themselves. She is like an actress who loves her role.
teaches without saying anything: The way she buys oranges or ties her shoelaces is a teaching. toughening their resolve: Their innermost intention. filling their cores: He fills them with a sense of their original identity. CHAPTER 4 Following Ch'en Ku-ying. I have deleted the second stanza of the Chinese text. and desires. weakening their ambition: When they have no false self to nourish or defend. . That is why it lasts forever: Not in rime and space but in quality. and arrogance vanish by themselves. judgments. Her face is more eloquent than any scripture could be. Thus they can return to a state of childlike simplicity. hatred. they find that greed. CHAPTER 3 emptying people's minds: He empties them of concepts. Thus they can return to a state of joy. They develop enough self-reliance to give up the idea of self. which seems to be an interpolation from chapter 56.
Why should she pin them motionless with a judgment of "good" or "bad"? CHAPTER 6 First stanza: Literally. The gate of the mysterious female is the root of heaven and earth. and returning to the source. The Master sees all beings arising from the same source. venerated before the ceremony but afterward abandoned and trampled underfoot. but that they are impartial. | it gives birth to both good and evil: Literally. And since people are in constant flux. working out their karma (usually with great suffering). "The spirit of the valley never dies.” Straw dogs were ritual objects.It is older than God: There is no God when there is nothing but God. they treat all things like straw dogs.” as the master “treats all people like straw dogs. she understands that at any moment they are capable of the most astonishing spiritual transformations. "Heaven and earth are impartial. "The ." Chu Hsi said. The point here is not that the Tao is cruel to things. nor that the Master is ruthless with people. It is called the mysterious female. CHAPTER 5 The Tao doesn't take sides.
is home. it is hard to be naturally beyond them. "It is easy to keep things at a distance.female is one who receives something and. This creative principle is the most marvelous thing in the universe. but exactly even with all things." CHAPTER 7 The Tao is infinite. Any time is now. Her heart is like a mirror.” Detachment results in clarity. that is why she is ahead: She is like a turtle: wherever she is. without judgment. exactly as they are. which reflects all faces. She is neither behind nor ahead. clarity expresses itself in love. The Master stays behind. with it. creates. eternal: Here is everywhere. She is detached: Bunan said. . Actually.
you are glad to let it go. . just as a parent lets a child go. then step back: When you do your work wholeheartedly. Water is the source of all life." supple as a newborn child's: Emilie Conrad Da'oud's comment: . . We are fundamentally water: muscled water. The amniotic fluid is the state of total nourishment and unconditional love. into its own life. it moves everywhere.CHAPTER 8 The supreme good is like water: I asked my friend and teacher Emilie Conrad-Da'oud. CHAPTER 9 Do your work. "Can you concentrate your chi [vital energy] until it becomes. It is always present for us and contains everything we could possibly want. And the idea that we ever leave the amniotic fluid is a misconception. CHAPTER 10 Can you let your body become: Literally. founder of Continuum to comment on this verse. we are that fluid of love. life's matrix and fecundity. She said. In fact. it overflows into everything.
There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is this moment right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. It isn't aware of any separation, so all its movements are spontaneous and alive and whole and perfect. If an adult body becomes truly supple, though, there is a quality to its movement that the child's doesn't have, a texture of experience, a fourth dimension of time. When we watch a seventy-year old hand move, we feel, "Yes, that hand has lived." All the bodies it has touched, all the weights it has lifted, all the heads it has cradled are present in its movement. It is resonant with experience; the fingers curve with a sense of having been there. Whereas in a child's hand there's a sense of just arriving. The child's movement is pristine and innocent and delightful, but a truly supple adult movement is awesome, because all life is included in it.
Until you see nothing but the light: That is, until your heart is at peace. The great modern Indian sage Ramanna Maharshi said,
There is no greater mystery than this, that we keep seeking reality though in fact we are reality. We think that there is something hiding our reality and that this must be destroyed before reality is gained. How ridiculous! A day will dawn when you will laugh at all
your past efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here and now.
Can you love people and lead them / without imposing your will: Emilie Conrad-Da'oud's comment:
The more supple your body is, the less dictatorial you'll be. The military stance is the most invasive stance that you can possibly take. Its opposite – the boneless, wishy-washy posture of someone who doesn't stand for anything – is just as unhealthy. Suppleness is really fluidity. It transcends strength and weakness. When your body is supple, it feels like there's no barrier in you, you can flow in any direction, your movement is a complete expression of yourself.
by letting events take their course: Literally, "by becoming the female." The Ho-shang Kung commentary says, "In arranging one's life properly, one should be as calm and flexible as a woman."
CHAPTER 11 non-being is what we use: The true teacher realizes that there is nothing to teach; that's why he can teach anyone who wants to learn. The true lover realizes there is no one to love; that's why he is available to anyone who needs him. The Master realizes that there is nowhere to stand; that's why he can stand anywhere.
CHAPTER 12 Colors blind the eye, etc.: We need space in order to see, silence in order to hear, sleep in order to carry on with our wakefulness. If the senses are too cluttered with objects, they lose their acuteness and will eventually decay. Desires wither the heart: Once it has let go of desires the heart naturally overflows with love, like David’s cup in Psalm 23. His inner vision: There is no inside or outside for him. He reflects whatever appears, without judgment, whether it is a flower or a heap of garbage, a criminal or a saint. Whatever happens is all right. He treats his own anger or grief just as he would treat an angry or grieving child: with compassion. Open as the sky: The sky holds sun, moon, stars, clouds, rain, snow, or pure azure. Because it doesn't care which of these appear, it has room for them all.
CHAPTER 13 Keep your balance: The trick is to go up or down the ladder with your feet on the ground. Bravo! Bravisimo !! See the world as your self: The outer mirrors the inner.
it becomes shit water. judgments. Our mind is like a glass of clear water. and only when it remains empty. and it can't be seen: Another way of saying this "Look. sugar. CHAPTER 16 Empty our mind: This doesn't mean "suppress your thought.CHAPTER 14 Look. But originally the water is clear. no mind. Zen Master Seung Sahn. The Master's life pure and placid: predictable like the seasons. the water is clear: I asked my old teacher. desires. When our mind/heart beco~ transparent." CHAPTER 15 till your mud settles: "Mud" stands for concepts. obvious like the moon. Lin Ching-hsi said. no problem. it becomes sugar water. If we put salt into the water. expectations – everything that obscures and narrows reality." Insight into the Tao has nothing to do with the intellect or its abstractions. it becomes salt water. When we step out of consciousness. without grasping or rejecting. and it's right before your eyes. shit." but "step back from them. we step into the Tao. No mind. He said. The mind is originally empty. the light of the Tao shines through. No thinking. to comment on this verse. can it .
which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that. whether they are beautiful or ugly. without any omission.respond to natural things. He is always genuine. he acts: His words are in perfect harmony with his actions. it never refuses to show a thing. The Master doesn't talk. Does this sound anti-intellectual? But listen to Einstein: The scientist's religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law. The mind should be as open as this. in comparison with it. CHAPTER 17 One of several chapters that are as relevant to child rearing as to government. all the systematic thinking of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. yet the swan's passage is traced by its shadow. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work. nor does it retain the thing after it is gone. Another example: A mirror will reflect all things perfectly. without prejudice. the river has no desire to retain the swan. CHAPTER 18 . It should be like a river gorge with a swan flying overhead.
CHAPTER 19 Throw away holiness and wisdom: When some folks are called saints. not from the heart. the farther away you'll be:' "But if I don't get close. that state of mind is called the Tao. The Master doesn't have these categories. in her presence everyone feels at home. he just acts naturally. "How can I approach it?" Nan-ch'uan said. "What is the Tao?" Nan-ch'uan said. others imagine that there is something they need to know." Chao-chou said. CHAPTER 20 yes and no: Chao-chou asked Nan-ch’uan. When one fellow is called wise. "Everyday mind is the Tao. thus. Whereas a good father has no intention of being good. other folks think of themselves as sinners. "The more you try to approach it. no one is wise or holy. how can I understand it?" . This goodness is as insecure as Job's and can be as self-satisfied as Little Jack Horner's. people act according to rules. "If you have nothing to ask for in your mind." goodness and Piety appear: When the Tao is forgotten.the great Tao: Jayata said to Vasubandu. for her.
After you have had this recognition. not understanding is indifference. "It's not a question of understanding or not understanding.The Master said. The ordinary person's mind is the same as the sage's. I am different from ordinary people: I am more ordinary. I am like an idiot: First you erase the blackboard then you can write something new. good. I eat. that's all. But when you reach the unattainable Tao. because Original Mind is perfect and complete in itself. Paichang said. it is like pure space. One is simply free from unreality and delusion. When I am hungry. please don't lose it. when I am tired sleep. good. . limitless and serene. After enlightenment one is still the same as one was before. Understanding is delusion. Where is the room in it for yes or no?” I alone don't care: If good happens. if bad happens.
But from the standpoint of his true self. . "Today means boundless and inexhaustible eternity. etc. "I'm not sneezing! It's sneezing me!" CHAPTER 23 Trust your natural responses: Trust the intelligence of the body. in a more lighthearted vein.: Unless you accept yourself." Or. he just is. He doesn't know. there is nowhere to stand and no self to know. but the true name of eternity is Today. you can't let go of yourself.” CHAPTER 22 If you to become whole. Only in being lived by the Tao: This is what Paul of Tarsus meant by.CHAPTER 21 before time and space: Philo said. Because he doesn't know who he is: From the standpoint of personality. "Not I. the little boy who when his mother got annoyed and said "Stop sneezing!" answered. that is what allows him to use his personality for people’s benefit. Months and years and all periods of time are concepts of men. rather than be used by it. who gauge everything by number. but Christ in me. he knows very well who he is.
CHAPTER 24 power over others: The other is the self. When we understand this, we are able to use power wisely. CHAPTER 25 mother of the universe: As chapter 51 says, "The Tao gives birth to all beings, / nourishes them, maintains them, / cares for them, comforts them, protects them, / takes them back to itself." These are the four great powers: Ho-hum.
CHAPTER 26 without leaving home: She never loses touch with who she really is. In the midst of joy or anger or sorrow she remains imperturbable.
CHAPTER 27 This is one of the most important chapters in the Tao Te Ching.
First stanza: I have been very free here, because the central point – openness to reality, openheartedness – needs to be made as clearly as possible. The original text reads:
A good walker leaves no traces or tracks. A good speaker makes no slips or errors. A good calculator needs no counting-sticks or tallies. A good locksmith uses no bolts or keys, yet no one can open. A good binder uses no ropes or cords, yet no one can loosen.
available to all people: Because he is not attached to his own ideas. You will get lost: In moral judgments. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the Tree of Death.
CHAPTER 28 Know the male, / yet keep to the female: Keeping to the receptive allows the creative to arise. Actually, the creative and the receptive are complementary sides of the same process.
CHAPTER 29 Do want to improve the world: Ramana Maharshi said,
Wanting to reform the world without discovering ones true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.
It can't be improved: This is the Sabbath mind, as in the first chapter of Genesis: when God, from a state of perfect repose, looks at the world and says, “Behold, it is very good." Actually, this "it can't be improved" is the greatest possible improvement. Compare chapter 35: "She perceives the universal harmony, / even amid great pain, / because she has found peace in her heart." CHAPTER 30 doesn't try to force issues: He lets the issues resolve themselves. out of control: Out of the control of his own, tiny personal, conscious self. CHAPTER 31 Peace is his highest value: Peace means wholeness. CHAPTER 32 Smaller than an electron: Neither small nor large. Neither here nor there. Neither past nor future nor present. Also (as long as we're discussing this) all of the above.
without flavor: Zen Master Seung Sahn's comment: The Great Way has no gate. a stone girl is dancing. Clear water has no taste. In complete stillness. CHAPTER 35 Peace in her heart: She is centered in the peace. defects in your character. they continue. Or. they eventually wither away. The tongue has no bone. as Blake said from a slightly different . When suppressed or ignored. When I master myself. I don't need to master others. giving birth rather than making." The light simply is. thus she can give herself fully to the pain. and is God. but when allowed to be present in your awareness. I know others. God doesn't say 'Let there be light. It acts without any conscious plan or purpose. CHAPTER 34 It doesn’t create them: It is more like a mother than like an artisan.true wisdom: When I know myself. CHAPTER 36 If you want to shrink something: For example.
"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. But you can find it. yet he leaves nothing undone: No expectations. there is no distinction between depths and surface. No regrets. doesn't think that he is doing anything. Fruit in autumn.” CHAPTER 37 If powerful men and women / could center themselves in it: They can! CHAPTER 38 The Master does nothing: He has no goal in mind. He enjoys the flowers. flowers in spring. When the Tao is lost: You can never lose the Tao. He's just along for the ride. as he enjoys the fruits.perspective. No residue. Therefore the Master concerns himself / with the detpth and not the surface: In the depths. .
"Love your enemies [i.e. Hammer and chisel are necessary agents. Ouch CHAPTER 40 Being is born of non-being: "Non-being" means beyond the categories of being and non-being. it is no longer the Tao.) One gives birth to Two: Oy! . CHAPTER 41 The greatest love seems indifferent: Because it has no preferences. (When it's called the Tao. treat them with generosity and compassion].CHAPTER 39 Lets himself be shaped by the Tao: As a piece of marble lets itself be shaped by the sculptor. A good father loves all his children equally. so that the statute inside can be revealed. whether they turn out to be thieves or carpenters or Messiahs. As Jesus of Nazareth said. so that you may be children of your father in heaven: for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.. and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust. it is no longer the Tao." CHAPTER 42 The Tao gives birth to One: When it's called One.
etc. widowers. CHAPTER 44 Fame or integrity. : Examples: water and rock. If money comes. . they achieve harmony.Two gives birth to Three: Where will it end? Three gives birth to all things: I knew it! Now once more from the top. If fame comes. love and hostility. All things have their backs to the female. Success . Yet kings and princes take these names as their titles.: Literally. The text reads: People hate to be orphans. he uses it as pure energy.: But why be caught in these dichotomies? Once he has surrendered to the Tao. starvelings. sometimes you lose by gaining. / hardest. he uses it with integrity.' I will make this the father of my teaching CHAPTER 43 gentlest . etc.” Last stanza: I have improvised here. . with feeling. . What others have taught. "The ten thousand things carry (at there backs] the yin and embrace (in front] the yang. the Master accepts whatever comes to him. . through the blending of the energy [chi] of these two. Therefore sometimes you gain by losing. I teach also: 'The violent will not die a natural death.
True mastery can be gained: Actually.” I would say. . "We have nothing to fear but fear itself. “Not even that. CHAPTER 46 Whoever can see through all fear: This is the only real defense. for example. CHAPTER 45 True perfection: A cracked coffee cup. it can't be gained. President Roosevelt said.and failure are equally irrelevant to him. because his heart rests in the Tao. CHAPTER 48 every day something is dropped: Gratefully. True fullness: Attention. The sound of traffic outside your window.” CHAPTER 47 The more you know: The more you know without knowing yourself. True mastery is letting things take their course.
And her mind is so subtle that. three in ten are companions in . These passages may be interpolations (several show a concern with immorality. magical Taoism did). in comparison with the rigid thought. as the later. I could not in good conscience include them in this version. it seems to be pure space. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy: Like a parent whose child has broken a rule.and desirestructures of other people. going out is death. What I have done instead is to make improvisations on the passage's theme. Of course. Three in ten are companions of life. but she is permeable. CHAPTER 50 There are a number of passages in the Tao Te Ching where a much narrower consciousness is at work than in the rest of the book. always taking care to remain within the consciousness and language of the main body of the text.CHAPTER 49 The Master has no mind of her own: She has a strong will and a strong character. if a parent is genuine. I have included literal translations in these notes. Or perhaps the old fellow had indigestion on the days he wrote them. But since my job was to recreate the essential mind of Lao-tzu. The text here reads: Coming in is life. the child will be genuine too. For those who are curious.
The rhinoceros finds no place in him to drive its horn. I have heard that he who knows bow to preserve his life meets neither rhinoceros nor tiger when he travels by land. "What can I do to put my heart at rest?" She said. he has nothing left: Zen Master Seung Sahn's comment: Coming in empty handed. Why is this? Because in him there is no place of death. "Every morning and every evening. and whenever . Why is this? Because they live life too intensely. going out empty handed. the tiger finds no place in him to sink its claws. asked. having made a long trip to see her.death. One day a fellow Buddhist. And three in ten are moving from life to the place of death. CHAPTER 51 spontaneously honors the Tao: Honoring the Tao means respecting the way things are. and is untouched by the sword when he enters a battle. whose devotion and purity of heart were respected far and wide. There is a wonderful Japanese story (adapted here from Zenkei Shibayama Roshi's A Flower Does Not Talk) which portrays this attitude: A hundred and fifty years ago there lived a woman named Sono. What is your original face? The moon is shining everywhere. the soldier finds no place in him to thrust his sword.
crestfallen. and yet nothing in my life has changed. He returned to Sono. but his heart was still not at peace. 'Thanks for everything. keep on saying. nothing to defend. The great Way is not difficult if you don't cling to good and bad. "I've said your prayer over and over. the man was able to open his spiritual eye.'" The man did as he was instructed. I have no complaint whatsoever. CHAPTER 52 Trace back the manifestations: Where do you come from? CHAPTER 53 The Great Way is easy: Zen Master Seng-ts'an said. What should I do now?" Sono immediately said.' " On hearing these words. CHAPTER 54 genuine: The mark of a genuine person is straightforwardness. I'm still the same selfish person as before. Just let go of your preferences: and everything will be perfectly clear. " 'Thanks for everything. and returned home with a great joy.anything happens to you. . for a whole year. He has nothing to hide. I have no complaint whatsoever.
to control the chi by the mind is aggressiveness. Those who talk don't know: This is ignorance. This is non-Tao. They talk only if it's appropriate (and if they feel like talking). Free from all worries. The Master's power is like this. doesn't need to know.: I have improvised here. not the openness of not-knowing. The text reads: To know harmony is to know the eternal. or to prove something. etc. or to display themselves. It stares all day long without weakening its eyes. it acts without thinking. things decay. The infant cries all day long without straining its throat. . Non-Tao soon ends. CHAPTER 56 Those who know don't talk: They don't talk for the sake of talking.CHAPTER 55 Like a newborn child: Chuang-tzu said. to know the eternal is to have insight. unaware of itself. To improve upon life is ominous. When they are too aggressive. It clenches its fist all day long without cramping its hand. doesn't know why things happen.
Who knows the line that separates them? The normal becomes the perverted. This is called having deep roots and a strong stem. the good becomes the monstrous. disaster is hidden in prosperity.CHAPTER 57 the world will govern itself: Just as Nature regulates itself without any need of our bright ideas. CHAPTER 59 I have improvised here. the Tao as it informs things and acts in the world]. He who prepares in advance accumulates a reserve of te [virtue or power. He who has no limits can possess a country. The text reads: In governing people and serving heaven. nothing is better than moderation. . He who possesses the mother of a country can keep it for a long time. long life and enduring vision. People have long been confused about this. He who overcomes all obstacles has no limits. The text reads: Prosperity rests on disaster. Only he who is moderate can prepare in advance. CHAPTER 58 Second stanza: I have improvised here. He who accumulates a reserve of te overcomes all obstacles.
The female. A small country by being in a lower position can conquer a large country. the other conquers by being naturally lower. Since both get what they want. CHAPTER 62 The Tao is the center of the universe: The center is everywhere. Therefore the one conquers by placing itself lower. . the large country should take the lower position. CHAPTER 61 I have improvised here. Therefore a large country by placing itself in lower position can conquer a small country.CHAPTER 60 step out of its way: It will be like a sword cutting the air. conquers the male. by tranquility. It is the meeting-point of the universe. the good man's treasure: It is like the magic purse. A large country wants nothing more than to gather people and nourish them. The text reads: A large country is like the lower part of a river. and there is always more. No harm. the female of the universe. By tranquility she takes the lower position. A small country wants nothing more than to enter and serve the people. he can spend it freely.
" . their marriage is radiant with love. If the president or the pope or a border guard has a question. CHAPTER 64 He cares about nothing but the Tao: Which is not to say that he doesn't love his wife. Otherwise. of eternity. he will be glad to answer it. country. The Master simply responds to circumstances in the appropriate way. no one can achieve it: Because there is no "it. There is always another chance. Thus he can step outside his idea of himself. he minds his business and leaves everything to the Tao. This is the meaning of the Biblical verse "You shall love the Unnamable your God with all your heart. and with all your strength. don’t offer. And since he and his wife love the Tao even more than they love each other. friends." Offer instead / to teach him about the Tao: Better yet. with all your soul. But he sees them in the proper perspective. children.the badman's refuge: It doesn't judge him. planet. CHAPTER 63 When she runs into a difficulty: A difficulty is like a letter with her address on it.
generous without frugality. prominent without humility. But to be brave without compassion. She can see more. Whoever shows compassion in battle will conquer. Whoever dares not to be first in the world can become the leader of the world. open. The text reads: I have three treasures which I preserve and treasure. and fertile with possibilities. this is fatal. Whoever has compassion can be brave. Heaven . The first is compassion. the third is daring not to be first in the world. no one can compete with her: She sees everyone as her equal. Whoever shows compassion in defense will stand firm. the second is frugality.CHAPTER 65 kindly taught them to not-know: The ancient Masters taught them the supreme value of Don't-know Mind. CHAPTER 67 Second stanza: I have improvised here. The whole world is grateful to her: Even those who think they are ungrateful. (Another name for it is Beginner’s Mind. Whoever has frugality can be generous. which is forever fresh. looking from a higher vantage point.) CHAPTER 66 The Master is above the people: Not that she feels superior but that.
A skillful fighter isn't violent. CHAPTER 71 . A skillful employer places himself below others. until the sights and the sounds disappear by themselves. animals are perfect disciples. This is called the power to use men's abilities. use 'opponent. If you need a word.helps and protects those with compassion. look inside your heart: And keep looking. Keep listening. CHAPTER 68 I have improvised here. Since ancient times it has been the best way. too. CHAPTER 70 easy to put into practice: Grasses and trees have no trouble with it. This called complying with heaven. This is called the Te of not competing. The text reads: A skillful officer isn't warlike. A skillful conqueror isn't competitive. CHAPTER 69 Underestimating your enemy: Even thinking of him as an enemy is dangerous." May the best man (as they say) win.
When people start to treat him like a holy man." CHAPTER 72 Therefore the Master steps back: He doesn't act as guru or messiah. because he doesn't want to keep people dependent on him. "How do you know that this isn't good fortune?" After a few months the horse returned with a barbarian horse of excellent . he nips their adoration in the bud and points them to their inner messiah. and thus spiritually immature. what is advantageous or harmful. CHAPTER 73 The Tao is always at ease: At ease with herself. "We are close to waking up when we dream that we are dreaming. people will have nothing to learn: They just need to unlearn. CHAPTER 74 Trying to control the future: Thinking that you know what is good or bad. but his father said. All his neighbors offered their condolences. The Huai Nan Tzu tells a story about this: A poor farmer's horse ran off into the country of the barbarians. the Master puts everyone else at ease.First realize that you are sick: Novalis said.
and the barbarians invaded the frontier. the readier for life or death. CHAPTER 78 . The farmer's son spent much of his time riding them. "How do you know that this isn't good fortune?" Another year passed. Thus good fortune can be disaster and vice versa. Who can tell how events will be transformed? CHAPTER 75 leave them alone: Offer them the gift of not being dependent on you. All his neighbors offered the farmer their condolences. and nine-tenths of them died in the war. "How do you know that this isn't a disaster?" The two horses bred. but his father said. one day he fell off and broke his hipbone. CHAPTER 76 disciple of life: The less rigid. All his neighbors offered their congratulations. and the family became rich in fine horses.stock. All the ablebodied young men were conscripted. but his father said. CHAPTER 77 and don’t think that she is better: She is simply more transparent.
/ the happier he is: Because he is doing it for himself. CHAPTER 80 without ever having gone to see it: Not that they are lacking in appropriate curiosity. True words seem paradoxical: Only when the mind is cluttered with untruth. But they have their priorities straight. A true philanthropist. he turns and seeks the reason for his failure in himself. like a good parent. When he misses the mark. and an electric toothbrush. The more he does for others.he is people's greatest help: The greatest help is wholeheartedly trusting people to resolve their own problems. brings people to the point where they can help themselves. CHAPTER 79 If you blame someone else: Confucius said. In the archer there is a resemblance to the mature person. . a room full of books. CHAPTER 79 The Master has no possessions: These no-possessions may include a house. a computer. a car.
/ the wealthierhe is: The less he holds on to. .The more he gives to others. the more he can give himself to others. When he can give himself completely his wealth is infinite.
John Tarrant. Occasionally I have borrowed a phrase from the translation of Gia-fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage. Of the many translations that I consulted. and Robert Aitken Roshi read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions. Notes. . Jane Hirshfield. 1967) was particularly useful. 1972). and Comments by Ch'en Ku-ying (Chinese Materials Center. 1981) furnished help on textual matters and commentaries. I would like to express my deep gratitude to that prince among agents.Acknowledgments Lao Tzu: Text. Jacob Needleman. For his considerable share in the making of this book. Liou Kia-Hway's Tao To King (Gallimard. my friend Michael Katz.
The Enlightened mind. in 1943. an acupuncturist and healer in northern California . He lives his wife. The Enlightened Heart. and Yale. The Book of Job. the University of Paris. Parables and Portraits.About the Translator Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn. His books include The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. and studied at Amherst. Vicki Chang. New York. and The Gospel According to Jesus.