Some interpretation and comments on different translations of the Tao Te Ching, The first by Stephen Mitchell, the second by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.
Tao is source of the ten thousand things.
It is the treasure of the good man, and the refuge of the bad.
Sweet words can buy honor;
Good deeds can gain respect.
If a man is bad, do not abandon him.
Therefore on the day the emperor is crowned,
Or the three officers of state installed,
Do not send a gift of jade and a team of four horses,
But remain still and offer the Tao.
Why does everyone like the Tao so much at first?
Isn’t it because you find what you seek and are forgiven when you sin?
Therefore this is the greatest treasure of the universe.
When I see the phrase ‘ten thousand things’ I think of the old translation ‘the myriad things’. These days we might say the squillion things. It just means a huge number. It refers to the manifestations of the mind, which are innumerable, and often compares them to the source, which is one.
Honour can be bought, while respect must be earned. Compassion for a ‘bad’ person is a good deed. The greatest gift is stillness, oneness, silence, not action.
The last three lines in this translation don’t make sense to me. Now to the Feng-English translation:
The Tao is the center of the universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Tao.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek, you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.
The Tao is one, the centre. The centre is tiny, just a single point. Honour can be bought, respect can be earned, but the Tao is elusive. It is the greatest thing you have to offer. The last lines here are a bit clearer; the Tao has the quality of compassion. Who seeks? Those who have not. And who makes mistakes? Everybody. The Tao understands this.