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