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