He who is filled with Virtue is like a newborn child. Wasps and serpents will not sting him; Wild beasts will not pounce upon him; He will not be attacked by birds of prey. His bones are soft, his muscles weak, But his grip is firm. He has not experienced the union of man and woman, but is whole. His manhood is strong. He screams all day without becoming hoarse. This is perfect harmony.
Knowing harmony is constancy. Knowing constancy is enlightenment.
It is not wise to rush about. Controlling the breath causes strain. If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows. This is not the way of Tao. Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.
Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed. Guard your senses. Temper your sharpness. Simplify your problems. Mask your brightness. Be at one with the dust of the Earth. This is primal union.
He who has achieved this state Is unconcerned with friends and enemies, With good and harm, with honor and disgrace. This therefore is the highest state of man.
Rule a nation with justice. Wage war with surprise moves. Become master of the universe without striving. How do I know that this is so? Because of this!
The more laws and restrictions there are, The poorer people become. The sharper men’s weapons, The more trouble in the land. The more ingenious and clever men are, The more strange things happen. The more rules and regulations, The more thieves and robbers.
Therefore the sage says: I take no action and people are reformed. I enjoy peace and people become honest. I do nothing and people become rich. I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.
When the country is ruled with a light hand The people are simple. When the country is ruled with severity, The people are cunning.
Happiness is rooted in misery. Misery lurks beneath happiness. Who knows what the future holds? There is no honesty. Honesty becomes dishonest. Goodness becomes witchcraft. Man’s bewitchment lasts for a long time.
Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting, Pointed but not piercing, Straightforward but not unrestrained, Brilliant but not blinding.
In caring for others and serving heaven, There is nothing like using restraint. Restraint begins with giving up one’s own ideas. This depends on Virtue gathered in the past. If there is a good store of Virtue, then nothing is impossible. If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits. If a man knows no limits, then he is fit to be a ruler. The mother principle of ruling holds good for a long time. This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation, The Tao of long life and eternal vision.
Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish. Approach the universe with Tao, And evil is not powerful, But its power will not be used to harm others. Not only will it do no harm to others, But the sage himself will also be protected. They do not hurt each other, And the Virtue in each one refreshes both.
A great country is like low land. It is the meeting ground of the universe, The mother of the universe.
The female overcomes the male with stillness, Lying low in stillness.
Therefore if a great country gives way to a smaller country, It will conquer the smaller country. And if a small country submits to a great country, It can conquer the great country. Therefore those who would conquer must yield, And those who conquer do so because they yield.
A great nation needs more people; A small country needs to serve. Each gets what it wants. It is fitting for a great nation to yield.
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.
Practice non-action. Work without doing. Taste the tasteless. Magnify the small, increase the few. Reward bitterness with care.
See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in little things.
In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy. In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds. The sage does not attempt anything very big, And thus achieved greatness.
Easy promises make for little trust. Taking things lightly results in great difficulty. Because the sage always confronts difficulties, He never experiences them.
Peace is easily maintained; Trouble is easily overcome before it starts. The brittle is easily shattered; The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens. Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs up from a small shoot; A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth; A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.
He who acts defeats his own purpose; He who grasps loses. The sage does not act, and so is not defeated. He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success. So give as much care to the end as to the beginning; Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire. He does not collect precious things. He learns not to hold on to ideas. He brings men back to what they have lost. He help the ten thousand things find their own nature, But refrains from action.
In the beginning those who knew the Tao did not try to enlighten others, But kept it hidden. Why is it so hard to rule? Because people are so clever. Rulers who try to use cleverness Cheat the country. Those who rule without cleverness Are a blessing to the land. These are the two alternatives. Understanding these is Primal Virtue. Primal Virtue is deep and far. It leads all things back Toward the great oneness.
Why is the sea king of a hundred streams? Because it lies below them. Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility. If he would lead them, he must follow behind. In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed; When he stands before them, they will not be harmed. The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.
Because he does not compete, He does not meet competition.
Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great and beyond compare. Because it is great, it seems different. If it were not different, it would have vanished long ago.
I have three treasures which I hold and keep. The first is mercy; the second is economy; The third is daring not to be ahead of others. From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity; From humility comes leadership.
Nowadays men shun mercy, but try to be brave; They abandon economy, but try to be generous; They do not believe in humility, but always try to be first. This is certain death.
Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense. It is the means by which heaven saves and guards.
A good soldier is not violent. A good fighter is not angry. A good winner is not vengeful A good employer is humble. This is known as the Virtue of not striving. This is known as ability to deal with people. This since ancient times has been known as the ultimate unity with heaven.
There is a saying among soldiers: I dare not make the first move but would rather play the guest; I dare not advance and inch but would rather withdraw a foot.
This is called marching without appearing to move, Rolling up your sleeves without showing your arm, Capturing the enemy without attacking, Being armed without weapons.
There is no greater catastrophe than underestimating the enemy. By underestimating the enemy, I almost lost what I value.
Therefore when the battle is joined, The underdog will win.
My words are easy to understand and easy to perform, Yet no man under heaven knows them or practices them.
My words have ancient beginnings. My actions are disciplined. Because men do not understand, they have no knowledge of me.
Those that know me are few; Those that abuse me are honored. Therefore the sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart.
Knowing ignorance is strength. Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
If one is sick of sickness, then one is not sick. The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness. Therefore he is not sick.
When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.
Do not intrude in their homes. Do not harass them at work. If you do not interfere, they will not weary of you.
Therefore the sage knows himself but makes no show, Has self-respect but is not arrogant. He lets go of that and chooses this.
A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed. A brave and calm man will always preserve life. Of these two which is good and which is harmful? Some things are not favored by heaven. Who knows why? Even the sage is unsure of this.
The Tao of heaven does not strive, and yet it overcomes. It does not speak, and yet is answered. It does not ask, yet is supplied with all its needs. It seems to have no aim and yet its purpose is fulfilled.
Heaven’s net casts wide. Though its meshes are course, nothing slips through.
If men are not afraid to die, It is no avail to threaten them with death.
If men live in constant fear of dying, And if breaking the law means that a man will be killed, Who will dare to break the law?
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.
Why are the people starving? Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes. Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious? Because the rulers interfere too much. Therefore they are rebellious.
Why do the people think so little of death? Because the rulers demand too much of life. Therefore the people take death lightly.
Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.
A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle. A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall. The soft and weak will overcome.
The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow. The high is lowered, and the low is raised. If the string is too long, it is shortened; If there is not enough, it is made longer.
The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much and give to those who do not have enough. Man’s way is different. He takes from those who do not have enough and give to those who already have too much. What man has more than enough and gives it to the world? Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the sage works without recognition. He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it. He does not try to show his knowledge.
Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water. Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; It has no equal. The weak can overcome the strong; The supple can overcome the stiff. Under heaven everyone knows this, Yet no one puts it into practice. Therefore the sage says: He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them. He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves to be king of the universe. The truth often sounds paradoxical.
After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain. What can one do about it? Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain But does not exact his due. A man of Virtue performs his part, But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations. The Tao of heaven is impartial. It stays with good men all the time.
A small country has fewer people. Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed. The people take death seriously and do not travel far. Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them. Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them. Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing. Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure; They are happy in their ways. Though they live within sight of their neighbors, And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way, Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.
Truthful words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful. Good men do not argue. Those who argue are not good. Those who know are not learned. The learned do not know.
The sage never tries to store things up. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance. The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm. The Tao of the sage is work without effort