Tao Te Ching

A New English Version, with Foreword and Notes, by Stephen Mitchell

Harper Perennial
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,

the poem writes the poem. we can't tell the dancer from the dance. . without any interference of the conscious will." 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. in fact. nothing is left undone. A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself. The game plays the game.whether of a country or of a child. When nothing is done. Hence Lao-Tzu's emphasis on softness. endurance. adaptability. Nothing could be further from the truth. literally "doing notdoing. Nothing is done because the doer has wholeheartedly vanished into the deed. Less and less do you need to force things. Until finally you arrive at non-action. This "nothing" is. The misperception may arise from his insistence on wei wu wei. the fuel has been completely transformed into flame. This is a paradigm for non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. Anyone who has seen a T'ai Chi or Aikido master doing not-doing will know how powerful this softness is. everything. and is synonymous with suppleness. effortlessly. Softness means the opposite of rigidity.

it is a reality. not in the sense of conquering it. Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone. the more we let go of what we love. "I am the Tao. in all humility. but of becoming it. judgments. but simply as an opaqueness. What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? . her mind has grown naturally compassionate. He is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything. the light can't shine through. This is not an idea. the more present our love becomes. in giving up all concepts. a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process. I have seen it. the Truth. Until finally she is able to say. the more we can embody the good. The Master has mastered Nature. as with a dirty window. In surrendering to the Tao. the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil." The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. and desires. so that.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. which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are. This freedom from moral categories allows him his great compassion for the wicked and the selfish. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living. the more compassionate we can be. the Life. the Master doesn't see evil as a force to resist. This is called embodying the light.

potentially." I have often been fairly literal-or as literal as one can be with such a subtle. It is the great secret. I also consulted dozens of translations into English. As to method: I worked from Paul Carus's literal version. us). ironically. the Master (since the Master is. you should feel free. done. But since we are all. Johnson said. the freest translation is sometimes the most faithful. I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype. as other versions have." The Chinese language doesn't make this kind of distinction. which provides English equivalents (often very quaint ones) alongside each of the Chinese ideograms. to substitute "he" for "she" or vice versa.If you don't understand this. I have used the pronoun "she" at least as often as "he. and French. you will get lost. But the most essential preparation for my work was a fourteenyears-long course of Zen training. The reader will notice that in the many passages where Lao-tzu describes the Master. "We must try its effect as an English poem. however intelligent you are. throughout the book. because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao-tzu is by far the most female." Dr. in English we have to choose. Ironically. which brought me face to face with Lao-tzu and his true disciples and heirs. "that is the way to judge of the merit of a translation. With great poetry. the early Chinese Zen Masters. essentially. German. kaleidoscopic book as the Tao Te . Of course.

my intention has always been to translate his mind. worked with the text. But I have also paraphrased.Ching. contracted. If I haven't always translated Lao-tzu's words. played with it. interpreted. until it became embodied in a language that felt genuine to me. . expanded.

Tao Te Ching .

Free from desire. Caught in desire. The unnamable is the eternally real. The gateway to all understanding.1 The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. Naming is the origin of all particular things. you realize the mystery. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. Darkness within darkness. This source is called darkness. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. . you see only the manifestations.

other things become bad. That is why it lasts forever. Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. . She has but doesn't possess. Things arise and she lets them come. When people see some things as good. things disappear and she lets them go. When her work is done. Long and short define each other. she forgets it. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow each other.2 When people see some things as beautiful. other things become ugly. acts but doesn't expect. Difficult and easy support each other. Being and non-being create each other.

and everything will fall into place. everything they desire. . The Master leads by emptying people's minds and filling their cores. Practice not-doing. people become powerless. by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve. He helps people lose everything they know.3 If you overesteem great men. people begin to steal. and creates confusion in those who think that they know. If you overvalue possessions.

It is hidden but always present.4 The Tao is like a well: used but never used up. I don't know who gave birth to it. . It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities. It is older than God.

The more you use it. she welcomes both saints and sinners. The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable.5 The Tao doesn't take sides. the more it produces. the less you understand. The Master doesn't take sides. the more you talk of it. Hold on to the center. . it gives birth to both good and evil.

it gives birth to infinite worlds. You can use it any way you want. It is always present within you. .6 The Tao is called the Gteat Mother: empty yet inexhaustible.

7 The Tao is infinite. that is why she is ahead. The Master stays behind. She is detached from all things. Why is it eternal? It was never born. eternal. thus it can never die. Why is it infinite? It has no desires for itself. Because she has let go of herself. she is perfectly fulfilled. . thus it is present for all beings. that is why she is one with them.

In conflict. When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete. In dwelling. don't try to control. which nourishes all things without trying to. . In family life. everybody will respect you. do what you enjoy. In work. keep to the simple. live close to the ground. In governing. be completely present. be fair and generous. Thus it is like the Tao. lt is content with the low places that people disdain.8 The supreme good is like water. In thinking.

9 Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Do your work. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. . Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner. then step back The only path to serenity.

having without possessing. acting with no expectations. 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. .

We work with being. .11 We join spokes together in a wheel. We shape clay into a pot. but it is the inner space that makes it livable. but non-being is what we use. We hammer wood for a house. but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.

12 Colors blind the eye. . Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart. Flavors numb the taste. 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.

When you stand with your two feet on the ground. 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. your position is shaky. Hope is as hollow as fear. 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. then you can care for all things.13 Success is as dangerous as failure. what do we have to fear? See the world as your self. you will always keep your balance. Love the world as your self. .

Approach it and there is no beginning. follow it and there is no end. .14 Look. and it can’t be grasped. Seamless. image without an image. Reach. and it can’t be seen. Above. it returns to the realm of nothing. unnamable. it isn’t dark. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom. but you can be it. at ease in your own life. subtle. it isn’t bright. and it can’t be heard. Form that includes all forms. Listen. Below. beyond all conception. You can’t know it.

Clear as a glass of water. not expecting. all we can describe is their appearance. 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. Shapeable as a block of wood. There is no way to describe it. Receptive as a valley. she is present. and can welcome all things.15 The ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. They were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream. . Courteous as a guest. Not seeking. Fluid as melting ice. Their wisdom was unfathomable.

You can deal with whatever life brings you. you stumble in confusion and sorrow. but contemplate their return. Watch the turmoil of beings. Let your heart be at peace. disinterested.16 Empty your mind of all thoughts. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao. And when death comes. . dignified as a king. Returning to the source is serenity. If you don’t realize the source. When you realize where you come from. amused. you naturally become tolerant. kindhearted as a grandmother. you are ready.

the people are hardly aware that he exists. all by ourselves!” . he acts. one who is feared. Next best is a leader who is loved. If you don’t trust the people. “Amazing: We did it. You make them untrustworthy. The Master doesn’t talk. Next.17 When the Master governs. The worst is one who is despised. The people say. When his work is done.

goodness and piety appear.18 When the great Tao is forgotten. Filial piety begins. When the body’s intelligence declines. cleverness and knowledge step forth. patriotism is born. . When there is no peace in the family. When the country falls into chaos.

Throw away morality and justice. Just at the center of the circle And let all things take their course. and there won’t be any thieves. If these three aren’t enough. . and people will be a hundred times happier. and people will do the right thing.19 Throw away holiness and wisdom. Throw away industry and profit.

Other people are sharp. I alone am dark. Other people are bright. my mind is so empty. like someone without a home. I am like and idiot. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value. I alone don’t care.20 Stop thinking and end your problems. as though they were at a parade. I alone am dull. avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous? Other people are excited. I alone possess nothing. I alone am expressionless. . I alone drift about. like an infant before it can smile. Other people have what they need.

I am different from ordinary people. I blow as aimless as the wind. I drink form the Great Mother’s breasts.Other people have purpose. I alone don’t know. I drift like a wave on the ocean. .

It is beyond is and is not. The Tao is dark and unfathomable. . Since before time and space were. that is what gives her the radiance. How can it make her radiant? Because she lets it.21 The Master keeps her mind always at one with the Tao. How can her mind be at one with it? Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. The Tao is ungraspable. the Tao is. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.

sets an example for all beings. let yourself be crooked. let yourself be empty. If you want to be given everything. If you want to be reborn. “If you want to be given everything. give everything up. everything he does succeeds.22 If you want to become whole. people can trust his words. When the ancient Masters said. Only in being lived by the Tao Can you be truly yourself. people can see his light. . The Master. Because he doesn’t know who he is. Because he has no goal in mind. people recognize themselves in him. let yourself be partial. by residing in the Tao. If you want to become full. Because he has nothing to prove. let yourself die.” they weren’t using empty phrases. If you want to become straight. give everything up. Because he doesn’t display himself.

If you open yourself to insight. then keep quiet. you are at one with insight and you can use it completely. Open yourself to the Tao. there is only rain.23 Express yourself completely. you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely. you are at one with loss and you can accept it completely. If you open yourself to the Tao. when it rains. Be like the forces of nature: when it blows. then trust your natural responses: and everything will fall into place. the sun shines through. there is only wind. when the clouds pass. If you open yourself to loss. .

. He who tries to shine dims his own light. He who defines himself can't know who he really is. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. just do your job. If you want to accord with the Tao. then let go.24 He who stands on tiptoe doesn’t stand firm. He who rushes ahead doesn’t go far. He who has power over others can't empower himself.

25 There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is the mother of the universe. The Tao follows only itself. Solitary. Man follows the earth. It flows through all things. Man is great. Unchanging. and returns to the origin of all things. Earth is great. Infinite. I call it the Tao. It is serene. Earth follows the universe. These are the four great powers. Eternally present. inside and outside. The universe is great. Empty. The universe follows the Tao. For lack of a better name. . The Tao is great.

you lose touch with your root. Thus the master travels all day without leaving home. 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. The unmoved is the source of all movement. However splendid the views.26 The heavy is the root of the light. If you let restlessness move you. she stays serenely in herself. .

27 A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. you will get lost. . A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job? If you don’t understand this. He is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything. However intelligent you are. It is the great secret. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn’t reject anyone. This is called embodying the light.

If you receive the world. the Tao will be luminous inside you and you will return to your primal self.28 Know the male. the Tao will never leave you and you will be like a little child. yet keep to the black: be a pattern for the world. The Master knows the utensils. Know the personal. If you accept the world. Like utensils from a block of wood. yet keep to the impersonal: accept the world as it is. yet keep to the female: receive the world in your arms. the Tao will be strong inside you and there will be nothing you can’t do. . Know the white. If you are a pattern for the world. The world is formed from the void. yet keeps to the block: thus she can use all things.

If you treat it like an object. And resides at the center of the circle.29 Do you want to improve the world? I don’t think it can be done. . you’ll ruin it. a time for being in danger. She let’s them go their own way. a time for being exhausted. a time for being safe. a time for being at rest. It can’t be improved. without trying to control them. If you tamper with it. There is a time for being ahead. a time for being in motion. The world is sacred. a time for being behind. you’ll lose it. a time for being vigorous. The Master sees things as they are.

The Master does his job and then stops. Because he is content with himself. he doesn’t need others’ approval. and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. even well intentioned. Because he accepts himself.30 Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. he doesn’t try to convince others. Violence. . Because he believes in himself. always rebounds upon oneself. For every force there is a counterforce. He understands that the universe is forever out of control. the whole world accepts him.

. How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely.31 Weapons are the tools of violence. Nor does he rejoice in victory. If the peace has been shattered. all decent men detest them. will use them only with the utmost restraint. but human beings like himself. as if he were attending a funeral. Peace is his highest value. if compelled. He doesn't wish them personal harm. Weapons are the tools of fear. with sorrow and with great compassion. how can he be content? His enemies are not demons. a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and.

all things would be in harmony. and the law would be written in their hearts.32 The Tao can't be perceived. When you have institutions. All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea. know where their functions should end. Knowing when to stop. The world would become a paradise. it contains uncountable galaxies. you can avoid any danger. When you have names and forms. Know that they are provisional. . Smaller than an electron. If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao. All people would be at peace.

knowing yourself is true wisdom. If you realize that you have enough. mastering yourself is true power. If you stay in the center and embrace death with your whole heart. you will endure forever. you are truly rich. Mastering others is strength. .33 Knowing others is intelligence.

It nourishes infinite worlds. Since all things vanish into it and it alone endures. thus it is truly great. yet it doesn't create them. it can be called humble. All things are born from it. Since it is merged with all things and hidden in their hearts. . yet it makes no claim. it can be called great. yet it doesn't hold on to them. It isn't aware of its greatness. It pours itself into its work.34 The great Tao flows everywhere.

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.

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

endlessly renewed. the sky is clear and spacious. the earth becomes depleted. He doesn’t glitter like a jewel but lets himself be shaped by the Tao. endlessly repeating themselves. content with the way they are. His constant practice is humility.39 In harmony with the Tao. The Master views the parts with compassion. all creatures flourish together. as rugged and common as a stone. . the equilibrium crumbles. When man interferes with the Tao. the earth is solid and full. the sky becomes filthy. creatures become extinct. because he understands the whole.

Yielding is the way of the Tao.40 Return is the movement of the Tao. Being is born of non-being. All things are born of being. .

. he half believes it. When a foolish man hears of the Tao. the greatest love seems indifferent. Thus it is said: The path into the light seems dark. true power seems weak. the path forward seems to go back.41 When a superior man hears of the Tao. When an average man hears of the Tao. it wouldn't be the Tao. the greatest art seems unsophisticated. the direct path seems long. true steadfastness seems changeable. true purity seems tarnished. Yet it nourishes and completes all things. The Too is nowhere to be found. If he didn't laugh. he laughs out loud. half doubts it. true clarity seems obscure. the greatest wisdom seems childish. he immediately begins to embody it.

Three gives birth to all things. all things achieve harmony.42 The Too gives birth to One. embracing his aloneness. Ordinary men hate solitude. Two gives birth to Three. When male and female combine. 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. One gives birth to Two.

This shows the value of non-action. performing without actions: that is the Master's way. . Teaching without words. That which has no substance enters where there is no space.43 The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.

. Be content with what you have. you will never truly be fulfilled. rejoice in the way things are. If your happiness depends on money. the whole world belongs to you. When you realize there is nothing lacking.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. you will never be happy with yourself.

45 True perfection seems imperfect. yet it is perfectly itself. True wisdom seems foolish. . True art seems artless. She shapes events as they come. True fullness seems empty. The Master allows things to happen. True straightness seems crooked. yet it is fully present. She steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself.

no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself.46 When a country is in harmony with the Tao. no greater misfortune than having an enemy. warheads are stockpiled outside the cities. When a country goes counter to the Tao. There is no greater illusion than fear. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. the factories make trucks and tractors. .

.47 Without opening your door. you can see the essence of the Tao. sees the light without looking. achieves without doing a thing. the less you understand. Without iooking out your window. you can open your heart to the world. The more you know. The Master arrives without leaving.

It can't be gained by interfering. until finally you arrive at non-action. In the practice of the Tao.48 In the pursuit of knowledge. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. . When nothing is done. Less and less do you need to force things. every day something is dropped. nothing is left undone. every day something is added.

This is true goodness. She is also good to people who aren't good. She trusts people who are trustworthy.49 The Master has no mind of her own. She works with the mind of the people. People don't understand her. They look to her and wait. The Master's mind is like space. This is true trust. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy. . She is good to people who are good. She treats them like her own children.

50 The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. as a man is ready for sleep after a good day's work. He holds nothing back from life. . and he has nothing left to hold on to: no illusions in his mind. He knows that he is going to die. therefore he is ready for death. they flow from the core of his being. He doesn't think about his actions. no resistances in his body.

maintains them. nourishes them. takes them back to itself. It springs into existence. protects them. . The Tao gives birth to all beings. creating without possessing. takes on a physical body. guiding without interfering. That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao. comforts them. acting without expecting. unconscious. lets circumstances complete it. cares for them. That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things. perfect.51 Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. free.

Knowing how to yield is strength. . your heart will find peace. you will be free of sorrow. Seeing into darkness is clarity. trace back the manifestations. This is called practicing eternity. When you recognize the children and find the mother. your heart will be troubled. If you close your mind in judgments and traffic with desires. Use your own light and recurn to the source of light. all things return to it. If you keep your mind from judging and aren't led by the senses.52 In the beginning was the Tao. All things issue from it. To find the origin.

Be aware when things are out of balance. It is not in keeping with the Tao.53 The great Way is easy. 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 government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures. yet people prefer the side paths. When rich speculators prosper while farmers lose their land. .

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 the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine.54 Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up. Let it be present in the universe and the universe will sing. Let it be present in your family and your family will flourish. Let it be present in your country and your country will be an example to all countries in the world. .

yet its penis can stand erect. He lets all things come and go effortlessly. without desire.55 He who is in harmony with the Tao is like a newborn child. Its bones are soft. It doesn't know about the union of male and female. but its grip is powerful. yet it never becomes hoarse. thus his spirit never grows old. He never expects results. so complete is its harmony. so intense is its vital power. The Master's power is like this. thus he is never disappointed. . It can scream its head off all day. its muscles are weak. He is never disappointed.

untie your knots. It can't be approached or withdrawn from. Be like the Tao. block off your senses. Those who talk don't know. benefited or harmed.56 Those who know don't talk. This is the primal identity. . It gives itself up continually. settle your dust. That is why it endures. Close your mouth. soften your glare. honored or brought into disgrace. blunt your sharpness.

The more weapons you have.57 If you want to be a great leader. Let go of fixed plans and concepts. and the good becomes common as grass. Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law. The more subsidies you have. I let go of economics. . I let go of all desire for the common good. The more prohibitions you have. and people become serene. and people become prosperous. and people become honest. Stop trying to control. the less virtuous people will be. the less secure people will be. I let go of religion. you must learn to follow the Tao. the less self-reliant people will be. and the world will govern itself.

Radiant. but easy on the eyes. She is pointed. the lower the results. but doesn't pierce. and you lay the groundwork for misery. Try to make people happy.58 If a country is governed with tolerance. Thus the Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will. the people are depressed and crafty. but supple. When the will to power is in charge. Try to make people moral. Straightforward. the people are comfortable and honest. the higher the ideals. and you lay the groundwork for vice. . If a country is governed with repression.

all-pervading like sunlight. he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way.59 For governing a country well there is nothing better than moderation. Nothing is impossible for him. firm like a mountain. Because he has let go. he can care for the people's welfare as a mother cares for her child. The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas. . Tolerant like the sky. supple like a tree in the wind.

but you'll be able to step out of its way. Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power. 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. You spoil it with too much poking.

He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts. the greater the need for humility. Humility means trusting the Tao. if it nourishes its own people and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others. it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it. .61 When a country obtains great power. he admits it. If a nation is centered in the Tao. it will be a light to all nations in the world. he corrects it. he realizes it. Having admitted it. A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake. Having realized it. The more powerful it grows. thus never needing to be defensive.

you find. but the Tao is beyond all value. and no one can achieve it. Offer instead to teach him about the Tao. don't offer to help him with your wealth or your expertise. being one with the Tao. when you seek. the good man's treasure. That is why everybody loves it. the bad man's refuge. you are forgiven. Thus. Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao? Because. and when you make a mistake.62 The Tao is the center of the universe. Honors can be bought with fine words. . when a new leader is chosen. respect can be won with good deeds.

she stops and gives herself to it. Confront the difficult while it is still easy. thus she achieves greatness. When she runs into a difficulty. Think of the small as large and the few as many. thus problems are no problem for her. She doesn't cling to her own comfort. .63 Act without doing. work without effort. The Master never reaches for the great. accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.

What is small is easy to scatter. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning. Rushing into action. you fail. He has nothing. The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout. What is brittle is easy to break. Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. thus has nothing to lose. Prevent trouble before it arises. you lose them. . Forcing a project to completion. you ruin what was almost ripe. Trying to grasp things. What is recent is easy to correct. Put things in order before they exist.64 What is rooted is easy to nourish. The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet.

He cares about nothing but the Tao. . what he learns is to unlearn. He simply reminds people of who they have always been. Thus he can care for all things.What he desires is non-desire.

avoid being clever or rich. but kindly taught them to not-know.65 The ancient Masters didn't try to educate the people. people can find their own way. If you want to learn how to govern. When they know that they don't know. The simplest pattern is the clearest. you can show all people the way back to their own true nature. people are difficult to guide. When they think that they know the answers. Content with an ordinary life. .

. and no one feels oppressed. you must learn how to follow them. and no one feels manipulated.66 All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Because she competes with no one. The whole world is grateful to her. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people. The Master is above the people. no one can compete with her. She goes ahead of the people. you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people.

And to those who put it into practice. this nonsense makes perfect sense. this loftiness has roots that go deep. Patient with both friends and enemies. you return to the source of being. compassion. Others call it lofty but impractical. you reconcile all beings in the world. Simple in actions and in thoughts. you accord with the way things are. These three are your greatest treasures. I have just three things to teach: simplicity. But to those who have looked inside themselves.67 Some say that my teaching is nonsense. Compassionate toward yourself. patience. .

The best general enters the mind of his enemy. The best businessman serves the communal good. The best leader follows the will of the people. Not that they don't love to compete. . but they do it in the spirit of play. All of them embody the virtue of non-competition. In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao.68 The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.

69 The generals have a saying: "Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see. Thus you destroy your three treasures and become an enemy yourself." This is called going forward without advancing. When two great forces oppose each other. . pushing back without using weapons. There is no greater misfortune than underestimating your enemy. the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield. Underestimating your enemy means thinking that he is evil. Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard.

look inside your heart. you'll fail. and if you try to practice them. My teachings are older than the world.70 My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. How can you grasp their meaning? If you want to know me. . Yet your intellect will never grasp them.

First realize that you are sick.71 Not-knowing is true knowledge. then you can move toward health. Thus she is truly whole. The Master is her own physician. . Presuming to know is a disease. She has healed herself of all knowing.

Therefore the Master steps back so that people won't be confused. they begin to depend upon authority. He teaches without a teaching. so that people will have nothing to learn. .72 When they lose their sense of awe. When they no longer trust themselves. people turn to religion.

accomplishes without a plan. it doesn't let a thing slip through. arrives without being summoned. It overcomes without competing.73 The Tao is always at ease. And though its meshes are wide. Its net covers the whole universe. . answers without speaking a word.

there is nothing you will try to hold on to. Chances are that you'll cut your hand. If you aren't afraid of dying.74 If you realize that all things change. there is nothing you can't achieve. Trying to control the future Is like trying to take the master carpenter's place. When you handle the master carpenter's tools. .

When the government is too intrusive. leave them alone. people go hungry. people lose their spirit. Act for the people's benefit.75 When taxes are too high. . Trust them.

The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail. dead. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. . they are brittle and dry. Plants are born tender and pliant. dead. they are stiff and hard. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.76 Men are born soft and supple.

and doesn't think that she is better than anyone else. 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. Those who try to control. go against the direction of the Tao. They take from those who don't have enough and give to those who have far too much. She acts without expectation. The top is bent downward. succeeds without taking credit. It adjusts excess and deficiency so that there is perfect balance.77 As it acts in the world. . who use force to protect their power. the bottom is bent up. the Tao is like the bending of a bow.

Because he has given up helping. nothing can surpass it. Evil cannot enter his heart. . The soft overcomes the hard. True words seem paradoxical. but few can put it into practice. the gentle overcomes the rigid. Therefore the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible. he is people's greatest help. Everyone knows this is true.78 Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.

there is no end to the blame. . She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others.79 Failure is an opportunity. If you blame someone else. Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes.

They enjoy the labor of their hands and don't waste time inventing labor-saving machines. Since they dearly love their homes. People enjoy their food. but nobody ever uses them. But these don't go anywhere. they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it. There may be a few wagons and boats. delight in the doings of the neighborhood. They aren't interested in travel. take pleasure in being with their families.80 If a country is governed wisely. There may be an arsenal of weapons. And even though the next country is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking. Its inhabitants will be content. . spend weekends working in their gardens.

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

Hence Po Chu-i. in a book of five thousand words. you can't see the moon. "To stop a baby from crying. "When the crying has stopped. No way. how could he have been such a blabbermouth? That’s the problem with spiritual teachers. But their words are (in the traditional Buddhist metaphor) fingers pointing at the moon. teaching the un-teachable. 'Mind is Buddha'?" Ma-tsu said. what then?" .Notes CHAPTER 1 Describing the indescribable." The monk said. if you watch the finger. wrote. How meticulous the great Masters had to be! A monk asked Ma-tsu. "Why do you teach. They have to be blabbermouths. If he was the one who knew. 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.

Lao-tzu lived for a long time in the country of Chou. He uses them as he would use gardening tools. "I would tell him. but seeing its decline he departed. so simple that every child understands it.Ma-tsu said. as Bankei said. not Buddha. "Since you are going away. he answers. but it is an accurate description of the way in which true teaching happens. the deeper it is. When someone asks. for complicated minds.'” The monk said." In fact. "How about someone who isn't attached to either?" Ma-tsusaid. . the truth is right before our eyes. Lao-tzu's book was written as a response. 'Not beings. right under our noses. the guard said. According to the oldest biography. the farther you enter into it. "Then I teach. could you write a book to teach me the art of living?" Thereupon Lao-tzu wrote his book about the Tao. and departed. When he reached the frontier. "I would just let him experience the great Tao. and yet. This is legend. Sir. “and what if you me t a man unattached to all things: what would you tell him?" Ma-tsu said. 'Not mind.' " The monk said. drastic measures are needed. He who knows doesn't talk. Where is the way to the Way? What a question! Still. but words are no hindrance for him. out of grandmotherly kindness.

She embodies compassion. . "The tao that can be tao-ed [one meaning of Tao. Impossible to know. She goes her own way. She doesn't struggle to make money. The gateway to all understanding: In order to understand. yet as ordinary as sunlight." Other possible renderings: "The way that can be weighed / is not the eternal Way. yet she doesn't try to be compassionate. She is not elated by praise. CHAPTER 2 acts without doing anything: Her actions are appropriate responses. She never has to make a decision. Thus they are effortless. yet as easy as touching your nose when you wash your face. being 'co express'] / is not the eternal Tao. She is like an actress who loves her role. It is also called "light. The Tao is writing the script. yet she accepts help gratefully and has no pride in walking alone. She doesn't give even moment's thought to right or wrong. yet she enjoys spending it when it comes to her. the more radiant we are." "The force that can be forced / is not the eternal Force. decisions arise by themselves." because the less we obstruct it. This source is called darkness: Because none of our senses can perceive it." You realize the mystery: Infinitely marvelous. we have to remain in the darkness of not-knowing. not discouraged by neglect.The tao that can be told / is not the eternal Tao: The text reads.

Thus they can return to a state of childlike simplicity. CHAPTER 3 emptying people's minds: He empties them of concepts. toughening their resolve: Their innermost intention. Her face is more eloquent than any scripture could be. which seems to be an interpolation from chapter 56. they find that greed. judgments. and arrogance vanish by themselves. . Thus they can return to a state of joy.teaches without saying anything: The way she buys oranges or ties her shoelaces is a teaching. I have deleted the second stanza of the Chinese text. 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 4 Following Ch'en Ku-ying. weakening their ambition: When they have no false self to nourish or defend. hatred. and desires. They develop enough self-reliance to give up the idea of self.

but that they are impartial. "The . The gate of the mysterious female is the root of heaven and earth. Why should she pin them motionless with a judgment of "good" or "bad"? CHAPTER 6 First stanza: Literally. | it gives birth to both good and evil: Literally.It is older than God: There is no God when there is nothing but God. The Master sees all beings arising from the same source. nor that the Master is ruthless with people.” as the master “treats all people like straw dogs. And since people are in constant flux. "Heaven and earth are impartial. CHAPTER 5 The Tao doesn't take sides. venerated before the ceremony but afterward abandoned and trampled underfoot. she understands that at any moment they are capable of the most astonishing spiritual transformations." Chu Hsi said. "The spirit of the valley never dies. and returning to the source. It is called the mysterious female.” Straw dogs were ritual objects. working out their karma (usually with great suffering). The point here is not that the Tao is cruel to things. they treat all things like straw dogs.

exactly as they are. without judgment. that is why she is ahead: She is like a turtle: wherever she is. which reflects all faces. is home. creates.female is one who receives something and. but exactly even with all things. She is neither behind nor ahead. This creative principle is the most marvelous thing in the universe. it is hard to be naturally beyond them. "It is easy to keep things at a distance.” Detachment results in clarity. She is detached: Bunan said. with it. clarity expresses itself in love. Her heart is like a mirror. The Master stays behind. Actually. eternal: Here is everywhere. . Any time is now." CHAPTER 7 The Tao is infinite.

" supple as a newborn child's: Emilie Conrad Da'oud's comment: . into its own life. founder of Continuum to comment on this verse. In fact.CHAPTER 8 The supreme good is like water: I asked my friend and teacher Emilie Conrad-Da'oud. And the idea that we ever leave the amniotic fluid is a misconception. CHAPTER 10 Can you let your body become: Literally. it overflows into everything. . She said. We are fundamentally water: muscled water. we are that fluid of love. It is always present for us and contains everything we could possibly want. then step back: When you do your work wholeheartedly. The amniotic fluid is the state of total nourishment and unconditional love. Water is the source of all life. "Can you concentrate your chi [vital energy] until it becomes. just as a parent lets a child go. . it moves everywhere. you are glad to let it go. life's matrix and fecundity. CHAPTER 9 Do your work.

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.

He said. expectations – everything that obscures and narrows reality. But originally the water is clear. and it can't be seen: Another way of saying this "Look. When we step out of consciousness. the light of the Tao shines through. judgments. without grasping or rejecting.CHAPTER 14 Look." Insight into the Tao has nothing to do with the intellect or its abstractions. The mind is originally empty. Zen Master Seung Sahn. desires. it becomes shit water. The Master's life pure and placid: predictable like the seasons. When our mind/heart beco~ transparent. No mind. can it ." CHAPTER 15 till your mud settles: "Mud" stands for concepts. and it's right before your eyes. If we put salt into the water. No thinking. CHAPTER 16 Empty our mind: This doesn't mean "suppress your thought. no mind. and only when it remains empty. it becomes sugar water. no problem. to comment on this verse. it becomes salt water. sugar. we step into the Tao. the water is clear: I asked my old teacher. Our mind is like a glass of clear water. shit. obvious like the moon." but "step back from them. Lin Ching-hsi said.

without prejudice. which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that. without any omission. nor does it retain the thing after it is gone. all the systematic thinking of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. CHAPTER 18 . It should be like a river gorge with a swan flying overhead. The Master doesn't talk. he acts: His words are in perfect harmony with his actions. the river has no desire to retain the swan. yet the swan's passage is traced by its shadow. it never refuses to show a thing. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work. CHAPTER 17 One of several chapters that are as relevant to child rearing as to government.respond to natural things. Another example: A mirror will reflect all things perfectly. The mind should be as open as this. He is always genuine. 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. in comparison with it. whether they are beautiful or ugly.

This goodness is as insecure as Job's and can be as self-satisfied as Little Jack Horner's. "How can I approach it?" Nan-ch'uan said. The Master doesn't have these categories. people act according to rules. thus.the great Tao: Jayata said to Vasubandu. others imagine that there is something they need to know. other folks think of themselves as sinners. Whereas a good father has no intention of being good. he just acts naturally. for her. CHAPTER 19 Throw away holiness and wisdom: When some folks are called saints. that state of mind is called the Tao." Chao-chou said. "What is the Tao?" Nan-ch'uan said. not from the heart. how can I understand it?" ." goodness and Piety appear: When the Tao is forgotten. no one is wise or holy. "If you have nothing to ask for in your mind. the farther away you'll be:' "But if I don't get close. "Everyday mind is the Tao. CHAPTER 20 yes and no: Chao-chou asked Nan-ch’uan. "The more you try to approach it. When one fellow is called wise. in her presence everyone feels at home.

. I eat. Where is the room in it for yes or no?” I alone don't care: If good happens. The ordinary person's mind is the same as the sage's. "It's not a question of understanding or not understanding.The Master said. limitless and serene. because Original Mind is perfect and complete in itself. When I am hungry. After enlightenment one is still the same as one was before. please don't lose it. it is like pure space. not understanding is indifference. Paichang said. when I am tired sleep. good. good. One is simply free from unreality and delusion. After you have had this recognition. But when you reach the unattainable Tao. that's all. I am like an idiot: First you erase the blackboard then you can write something new. I am different from ordinary people: I am more ordinary. Understanding is delusion. if bad happens.

He doesn't know. etc. in a more lighthearted vein. but the true name of eternity is Today. Months and years and all periods of time are concepts of men. but Christ in me. rather than be used by it." Or.” CHAPTER 22 If you to become whole. there is nowhere to stand and no self to know.CHAPTER 21 before time and space: Philo said. "Not I. who gauge everything by number. he knows very well who he is. But from the standpoint of his true self. Only in being lived by the Tao: This is what Paul of Tarsus meant by. you can't let go of yourself. the little boy who when his mother got annoyed and said "Stop sneezing!" answered. "Today means boundless and inexhaustible eternity. he just is. that is what allows him to use his personality for people’s benefit.: Unless you accept yourself. "I'm not sneezing! It's sneezing me!" CHAPTER 23 Trust your natural responses: Trust the intelligence of the body. Because he doesn't know who he is: From the standpoint of personality. .

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.


God doesn't say 'Let there be light. they eventually wither away." The light simply is. CHAPTER 34 It doesn’t create them: It is more like a mother than like an artisan. I know others. CHAPTER 35 Peace in her heart: She is centered in the peace. Or. as Blake said from a slightly different . In complete stillness. I don't need to master others. defects in your character. The tongue has no bone. giving birth rather than making. a stone girl is dancing. When suppressed or ignored. CHAPTER 36 If you want to shrink something: For example. without flavor: Zen Master Seung Sahn's comment: The Great Way has no gate. they continue.true wisdom: When I know myself. It acts without any conscious plan or purpose. thus she can give herself fully to the pain. and is God. Clear water has no taste. but when allowed to be present in your awareness. When I master myself.

No residue. He enjoys the flowers. "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. But you can find it. He's just along for the ride. Therefore the Master concerns himself / with the detpth and not the surface: In the depths. No regrets. Fruit in autumn.” CHAPTER 37 If powerful men and women / could center themselves in it: They can! CHAPTER 38 The Master does nothing: He has no goal in mind.perspective. yet he leaves nothing undone: No expectations. . there is no distinction between depths and surface. doesn't think that he is doing anything. flowers in spring. When the Tao is lost: You can never lose the Tao. as he enjoys the fruits.

) One gives birth to Two: Oy! . "Love your enemies [i. Hammer and chisel are necessary agents. it is no longer the Tao. A good father loves all his children equally. (When it's called the Tao. whether they turn out to be thieves or carpenters or Messiahs. so that the statute inside can be revealed. it is no longer the Tao. treat them with generosity and compassion]." CHAPTER 42 The Tao gives birth to One: When it's called One. As Jesus of Nazareth said. so that you may be children of your father in heaven: for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.. and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.CHAPTER 39 Lets himself be shaped by the Tao: As a piece of marble lets itself be shaped by the sculptor. Ouch CHAPTER 40 Being is born of non-being: "Non-being" means beyond the categories of being and non-being.e. CHAPTER 41 The greatest love seems indifferent: Because it has no preferences.

love and hostility. Success . / hardest. he uses it with integrity. I teach also: 'The violent will not die a natural death. sometimes you lose by gaining. with feeling. etc.' I will make this the father of my teaching CHAPTER 43 gentlest .Two gives birth to Three: Where will it end? Three gives birth to all things: I knew it! Now once more from the top. : Examples: water and rock. they achieve harmony.: Literally. . What others have taught. he uses it as pure energy. etc. Yet kings and princes take these names as their titles. If money comes. "The ten thousand things carry (at there backs] the yin and embrace (in front] the yang. Therefore sometimes you gain by losing. . . CHAPTER 44 Fame or integrity. through the blending of the energy [chi] of these two. The text reads: People hate to be orphans. If fame comes.: But why be caught in these dichotomies? Once he has surrendered to the Tao. starvelings. the Master accepts whatever comes to him.” Last stanza: I have improvised here. widowers. . All things have their backs to the female.

True fullness: Attention. “Not even that.and failure are equally irrelevant to him. it can't be gained. because his heart rests in the Tao.” CHAPTER 47 The more you know: The more you know without knowing yourself.” I would say. . for example. President Roosevelt said. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself. CHAPTER 45 True perfection: A cracked coffee cup. CHAPTER 48 every day something is dropped: Gratefully. True mastery can be gained: Actually. The sound of traffic outside your window. CHAPTER 46 Whoever can see through all fear: This is the only real defense. True mastery is letting things take their course.

going out is death. if a parent is genuine. The text here reads: Coming in is life. but she is permeable. And her mind is so subtle that. These passages may be interpolations (several show a concern with immorality.CHAPTER 49 The Master has no mind of her own: She has a strong will and a strong character. in comparison with the rigid thought. I have included literal translations in these notes. Of course. always taking care to remain within the consciousness and language of the main body of the text. Three in ten are companions of life. For those who are curious. Or perhaps the old fellow had indigestion on the days he wrote them. three in ten are companions in . magical Taoism did). 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. it seems to be pure space. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy: Like a parent whose child has broken a rule. But since my job was to recreate the essential mind of Lao-tzu. as the later. What I have done instead is to make improvisations on the passage's theme. I could not in good conscience include them in this version.and desirestructures of other people.

I have heard that he who knows bow to preserve his life meets neither rhinoceros nor tiger when he travels by land. "What can I do to put my heart at rest?" She said. One day a fellow Buddhist. the soldier finds no place in him to thrust his sword. the tiger finds no place in him to sink its claws.death. and is untouched by the sword when he enters a battle. asked. he has nothing left: Zen Master Seung Sahn's comment: Coming in empty handed. "Every morning and every evening. What is your original face? The moon is shining everywhere. CHAPTER 51 spontaneously honors the Tao: Honoring the Tao means respecting the way things are. having made a long trip to see her. The rhinoceros finds no place in him to drive its horn. whose devotion and purity of heart were respected far and wide. And three in ten are moving from life to the place of death. and whenever . going out empty handed. Why is this? Because they live life too intensely. 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. Why is this? Because in him there is no place of death.

. and yet nothing in my life has changed. 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. but his heart was still not at peace. "I've said your prayer over and over.anything happens to you. I'm still the same selfish person as before. and returned home with a great joy.'" The man did as he was instructed. for a whole year. 'Thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. The great Way is not difficult if you don't cling to good and bad. the man was able to open his spiritual eye. keep on saying. He returned to Sono. What should I do now?" Sono immediately said. CHAPTER 54 genuine: The mark of a genuine person is straightforwardness.' " On hearing these words. crestfallen. " 'Thanks for everything. Just let go of your preferences: and everything will be perfectly clear. He has nothing to hide. nothing to defend.

To improve upon life is ominous. doesn't need to know. etc. not the openness of not-knowing. The infant cries all day long without straining its throat. Free from all worries. When they are too aggressive.: I have improvised here. CHAPTER 56 Those who know don't talk: They don't talk for the sake of talking. things decay. to control the chi by the mind is aggressiveness. unaware of itself. it acts without thinking. This is non-Tao. They talk only if it's appropriate (and if they feel like talking). The Master's power is like this. or to prove something. Those who talk don't know: This is ignorance. The text reads: To know harmony is to know the eternal.CHAPTER 55 Like a newborn child: Chuang-tzu said. doesn't know why things happen. It clenches its fist all day long without cramping its hand. or to display themselves. . It stares all day long without weakening its eyes. Non-Tao soon ends. to know the eternal is to have insight.

People have long been confused about this. nothing is better than moderation. This is called having deep roots and a strong stem. He who overcomes all obstacles has no limits. CHAPTER 59 I have improvised here. Who knows the line that separates them? The normal becomes the perverted. . The text reads: Prosperity rests on disaster.CHAPTER 57 the world will govern itself: Just as Nature regulates itself without any need of our bright ideas. the Tao as it informs things and acts in the world]. Only he who is moderate can prepare in advance. the good becomes the monstrous. He who has no limits can possess a country. He who accumulates a reserve of te overcomes all obstacles. The text reads: In governing people and serving heaven. long life and enduring vision. He who prepares in advance accumulates a reserve of te [virtue or power. disaster is hidden in prosperity. CHAPTER 58 Second stanza: I have improvised here. He who possesses the mother of a country can keep it for a long time.

A small country by being in a lower position can conquer a large country. Therefore a large country by placing itself in lower position can conquer a small country. A small country wants nothing more than to enter and serve the people. the other conquers by being naturally lower. Since both get what they want. It is the meeting-point of the universe. By tranquility she takes the lower position. Therefore the one conquers by placing itself lower. . The text reads: A large country is like the lower part of a river. the large country should take the lower position. CHAPTER 61 I have improvised here. by tranquility.CHAPTER 60 step out of its way: It will be like a sword cutting the air. The female. CHAPTER 62 The Tao is the center of the universe: The center is everywhere. the good man's treasure: It is like the magic purse. and there is always more. he can spend it freely. A large country wants nothing more than to gather people and nourish them. the female of the universe. conquers the male. No harm.

don’t offer." Offer instead / to teach him about the Tao: Better yet. There is always another chance. no one can achieve it: Because there is no "it. friends. and with all your strength.the badman's refuge: It doesn't judge him. planet. he will be glad to answer it. Thus he can step outside his idea of himself. If the president or the pope or a border guard has a question. But he sees them in the proper perspective. of eternity. CHAPTER 63 When she runs into a difficulty: A difficulty is like a letter with her address on it. with all your soul. The Master simply responds to circumstances in the appropriate way. This is the meaning of the Biblical verse "You shall love the Unnamable your God with all your heart. And since he and his wife love the Tao even more than they love each other. children." . country. he minds his business and leaves everything to the Tao. CHAPTER 64 He cares about nothing but the Tao: Which is not to say that he doesn't love his wife. Otherwise. their marriage is radiant with love.

this is fatal. prominent without humility. Whoever shows compassion in battle will conquer.) CHAPTER 66 The Master is above the people: Not that she feels superior but that. (Another name for it is Beginner’s Mind. looking from a higher vantage point. But to be brave without compassion. Whoever shows compassion in defense will stand firm. The whole world is grateful to her: Even those who think they are ungrateful. 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 compassion can be brave. the third is daring not to be first in the world. The text reads: I have three treasures which I preserve and treasure. open. She can see more. The first is compassion. Whoever has frugality can be generous. and fertile with possibilities. which is forever fresh. Whoever dares not to be first in the world can become the leader of the world. no one can compete with her: She sees everyone as her equal. Heaven . generous without frugality. the second is frugality.

A skillful conqueror isn't competitive.helps and protects those with compassion. CHAPTER 70 easy to put into practice: Grasses and trees have no trouble with it. Since ancient times it has been the best way. too. Keep listening. A skillful employer places himself below others. animals are perfect disciples. until the sights and the sounds disappear by themselves. CHAPTER 69 Underestimating your enemy: Even thinking of him as an enemy is dangerous. This is called the Te of not competing. The text reads: A skillful officer isn't warlike. look inside your heart: And keep looking. This is called the power to use men's abilities. CHAPTER 68 I have improvised here." May the best man (as they say) win. A skillful fighter isn't violent. CHAPTER 71 . If you need a word. use 'opponent. This called complying with heaven.

because he doesn't want to keep people dependent on him. what is advantageous or harmful. When people start to treat him like a holy man. CHAPTER 74 Trying to control the future: Thinking that you know what is good or bad. he nips their adoration in the bud and points them to their inner messiah.First realize that you are sick: Novalis said." 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. but his father said. "We are close to waking up when we dream that we are dreaming. the Master puts everyone else at ease. people will have nothing to learn: They just need to unlearn. "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. The Huai Nan Tzu tells a story about this: A poor farmer's horse ran off into the country of the barbarians. All his neighbors offered their condolences.

the readier for life or death. but his father said. All his neighbors offered their congratulations. and nine-tenths of them died in the war.stock. Thus good fortune can be disaster and vice versa. "How do you know that this isn't a disaster?" The two horses bred. 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 barbarians invaded the frontier. All the ablebodied young men were conscripted. The farmer's son spent much of his time riding them. and the family became rich in fine horses. CHAPTER 78 . All his neighbors offered the farmer their condolences. CHAPTER 76 disciple of life: The less rigid. but his father said. "How do you know that this isn't good fortune?" Another year passed. one day he fell off and broke his hipbone. CHAPTER 77 and don’t think that she is better: She is simply more transparent.

a room full of books. The more he does for others. he turns and seeks the reason for his failure in himself. / the happier he is: Because he is doing it for himself. a car. In the archer there is a resemblance to the mature person. CHAPTER 79 The Master has no possessions: These no-possessions may include a house. like a good parent. True words seem paradoxical: Only when the mind is cluttered with untruth. CHAPTER 79 If you blame someone else: Confucius said. When he misses the mark.he is people's greatest help: The greatest help is wholeheartedly trusting people to resolve their own problems. CHAPTER 80 without ever having gone to see it: Not that they are lacking in appropriate curiosity. . But they have their priorities straight. and an electric toothbrush. brings people to the point where they can help themselves. a computer. A true philanthropist.

. When he can give himself completely his wealth is infinite. the more he can give himself to others.The more he gives to others. / the wealthierhe is: The less he holds on to.

and Comments by Ch'en Ku-ying (Chinese Materials Center. 1967) was particularly useful. and Robert Aitken Roshi read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions. my friend Michael Katz. . Of the many translations that I consulted. For his considerable share in the making of this book.Acknowledgments Lao Tzu: Text. I would like to express my deep gratitude to that prince among agents. 1981) furnished help on textual matters and commentaries. Occasionally I have borrowed a phrase from the translation of Gia-fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage. Liou Kia-Hway's Tao To King (Gallimard. Jane Hirshfield. Notes. 1972). Jacob Needleman. John Tarrant.

in 1943. and studied at Amherst. the University of Paris. and The Gospel According to Jesus. The Enlightened Heart. an acupuncturist and healer in northern California . The Book of Job. and Yale. New York. Parables and Portraits.About the Translator Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn. The Enlightened mind. He lives his wife. His books include The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Vicki Chang.

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