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"No one has done better in conveying Lao Tsu's simple and laconic style of writing, so as to produce an English version almost as suggestive of the many meanings intended. This is a most useful, as well as beautiful, volume-and what it has to say is exactly what the world, in its present state, needs to hear." - Alan Watts RELIGION/ EASTERN STUDIES The Tao Te Ching, the esoteric but infinitely practical book written most probably in the sixth century B.C. by Lao Tsu, has been translated more frequently than any work except the Bible. This translation of the Chinese classic, which was first published twenty-five years ago, has sold more copies than any of the others. It offers the essence of each word makes Lao Tsu's teaching immediate and alive. The philosophy of Lao Tsu is simple: Accept what is in front of you without wanting the situation to be other than it is. Study the natural order of things and work with it rather than against it, for to try to change what is only sets up resistance. Nature provides for all without discrimination-therefore let us present the same face to everyone and treat all men as equals, however they may be have. If we watch carefully, we will see that work proceeds more quickly and easily if we stop looking for results. In the clarity of a still and open mind, truth will be reflected. We will come to appreciate the original meaning of the word "understand," which means "to stand under." We serve whatever or whoever stands before us, without any thought for ourselves. Te-which may be translated as "virtue" or "strength"-lies always in Tao, or "natural law." In other words: Simply be.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; This appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Therefore having and not having arise together; Difficult and easy complement each other; Long and short contrast each other; High and low rest upon each other; Voice and sound harmonize each other; Front and back follow each other. Therefore the wise go about doing nothing, teaching -no--talking. The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease, Creating, yet not possessing, Working, yet not taking credit. Work is done, then forgotten. Therefore it lasts forever.
Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling. Not collecting treasures prevents stealing. Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart. The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, By weakening ambitions and strengthening bones. If people lack knowledge and desire, Then it is best not to interfere. If nothing is done, then all will be well.
The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled. Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things! Blunt the sharpness, Untangle the knot, Soften the glare, Merge with dust. Oh, hidden deep but ever present! I do not know from whence it comes. It is the forefather of the ancestors.
Heaven and earth are impartial; They see the ten thousand things as they are. The wise are impartial; They see the people as they are. The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows. The shape changes but not the form; The more it moves, the more it yields. More words count less. Hold fast to the center.
The valley spirit never dies; It is the woman, primal mother. Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth. It is like a veil barely seen. Use it; it will never fail.
Heaven and earth last forever. Why do heaven and earth last forever? They are unborn, So ever living. The wise stay behind, and are thus ahead. They are detached, thus at one with all. Through selfless action, they attain fulfillment.
The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places people reject and so is like the Tao. In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In business, be competent. In action, watch the timing. No fight: No blame.
Better stop short than fill to the brim. Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt. Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it. Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow. Retire when the work is done. This is the way of heaven.
Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, Can you avoid separation? Attending fully and becoming supple, Can you be as a newborn babe? Washing and cleansing the primal vision, Can you be without stain? Loving the people and ruling the country, Can you be without cleverness? Opening and closing the gates of heaven, Can you play the role of woman? Understanding and being open to all things, Are you able to do nothing? Giving birth and nourishing, Bearing yet not possessing, Working yet not taking credit, Leading yet not dominating, This is the Primal Virtue.
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; It is the center hole that makes it useful. Shape the clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes that make it useful. Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.
The five colors blind the eye. The five tones deafen the ear. The five flavors dull the taste. Racing and hunting madden the mind, Precious things lead us astray. Therefore the wise are guided by what they feel and not by what they see, Letting go of that and choosing this.
Accept disgrace willingly. Accept misfortune as the human condition. What do you mean by "Accept disgrace willingly"? Accept being unimportant. Do not be concerned with loss or gain. This is called "accepting disgrace willingly." What do you mean by "Accept misfortune as the human condition"? Misfortune comes from having a body. Without a body, how could there be misfortune? Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
Look, it cannot be -seen--it is beyond form. Listen, it cannot be -heard--it is beyond sound. Grasp, it cannot be -held--it is intangible. These three are indefinable; Therefore they are joined in one. From above it is not bright; From below it is not dark: An unbroken thread beyond description. It returns to nothingness. The form of the formless, The image of the imageless, It is called indefinable and beyond imagination. Stand before it and there is no beginning. Follow it and there is no end. Stay with the ancient Tao, Move with the present. Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
The ancients were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive. The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable. Because it is unfathomable, All we can do is describe their appearance. Watchful, as though crossing a winter stream. Alert, like people aware of danger. Courteous, like visiting guests. Yielding, like ice about to melt. Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood. Hollow, like caves. Opaque, like muddy pools. Who can wait quietly while the mud settles? Who can remain still until the moment of action? Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment. Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.
Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind become still. The ten thousand things rise and fall while the self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then return to the source. Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature. The way of nature is unchanging. Knowing constancy is insight. Not knowing constancy leads to disaster. Knowing constancy, the mind is open. With an open mind, you will be openhearted. Being openhearted, you will act royally. Being royal, you will attain the divine. Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao. Being at one with the Tao is eternal. And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.
Very few are aware of the highest. Then comes that which they know and love, Then that which is feared, Then that which is despised. Those who do not trust enough will not be trusted. When actions are performed Without unnecessary talk, People say, "We did it!"
When the great Tao is forgotten, Kindness and morality arise. When wisdom and intelligence are born, The great pretense begins. When there is no peace within the family, Filial piety and devotion arise. When the country is confused and in chaos, Loyal ministers appear.
Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, And it will be a hundred times better for everyone. Give up kindness, renounce morality, And people will rediscover filial piety and love. Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, And bandits and thieves will disappear. These three are outward forms alone: They are not sufficient in themselves. It is more important To see the simplicity, To realize our true nature, To cast off selfishness And temper desire.
Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles. Is there a difference between yes and no? Is there a difference between good and evil? Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense! Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox. In spring some go to the park and climb the terrace, But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am. Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile, I am alone, without a place to go. Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing. I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused. Others are clear and bright, But I alone am dim and weak. Others are sharp and clever, But I alone am dull and stupid. Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea, Without direction, like the restless wind. Everyone else is busy, But I alone am aimless and without desire. I am different. I am nourished by the great mother.
The greatest Virtue is to follow Tao and Tao alone. The Tao is elusive and intangible. Oh, it is intangible and elusive, and yet within is image. Oh, it is elusive and intangible, and yet within is form. Oh, it is dim and dark, and yet within is essence. This essence is very real, and therein lies faith. From the very beginning until now its name has never been forgotten. Thus I perceive creation. How do I know the ways of creation? Because of this.
Yield and overcome; Bend and be straight; Empty and be full; Wear out and be new; Have little and gain; Have much and be confused. Therefore the wise embrace the one And set an example to all. Not putting on a display, They shine forth. Not justifying themselves, They are distinguished. Not boasting, They receive recognition. Not bragging, They never falter. They do not quarrel, So no one quarrels with them. Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome." Is that an empty saying? Be truly whole, And all things will come to you.
To talk little is natural. High winds do not last all morning. Heavy rain does not last all day. Why is this? Heaven and earth! If heaven and earth cannot make things last forever, How is it possible for us? Those who follow the Tao Are at one with the Tao. Those who are virtuous Experience Virtue. Those who lose their way Are lost. When you are at one with the Tao, The Tao welcomes you. When you are at one with Virtue, Virtue is always there. When you are at one with loss, Loss is experienced willingly. Those who do not trust enough Will not be trusted.
Those who stand on tiptoe are not steady. Those who stride cannot maintain the pace. Those who put on a show are not enlightened. Those who are -self--righteous are not respected. Those who boast achieve nothing. Those who brag will not endure. According to followers of the Tao, "These are unnecessary food and baggage." They do not bring happiness. Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.
Something mysteriously formed, Born before heaven and earth. In the silence and the void, Standing alone and unchanging, Ever present and in motion. Perhaps it is the mother of ten thousand things. I do not know its name. Call it Tao. For lack of a better word, I call it great. Being great, it flows. It flows far away. Having gone far, it returns. Therefore, "Tao is great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; The human being is also great." These are the four great powers of the universe, And the human being is one of them. The human being follows the earth. Earth follows heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. Tao follows what is natural.
The heavy is the root of the light; The still is the master of unrest. Therefore the wise, traveling all day, Do not lose sight of their baggage. Though there are beautiful things to be seen, They remain unattached and calm. Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots act lightly in public? To be light is to lose our root. To be restless is to lose control.
A good walker leaves no tracks; A good speaker makes no slips; A good reckoner needs no tally. A good door needs no lock, Yet no one can open it. Good binding requires no knots, Yet no one can loosen it. Therefore the wise take care of everyone And abandon no one. They take care of all things And abandon nothing. This is called "following the light." What is a good person? The teacher of a bad person. What is a bad person? A good person's charge. If the teacher is not respected, And the student not cared for, Confusion will arise, however clever one is. This is the crux of mystery.
Know the strength of a man, But keep a woman's care! Be the stream of the universe! Being the stream of the universe, Ever true and unswerving, Become as a little child once more. Know the white, But keep the black! Be an example to the world! Being an example to the world, Ever true and unwavering, Return to the infinite. Know honor, Yet remain humble. Be the valley of the universe! Being the valley of the universe, Ever true and resourceful, Return to the state of the uncarved block. When the block is carved, it becomes useful. When the wise use it, they become rulers. Thus, "A great tailor makes few cuts."
Do you think you can conquer the universe and improve it? I do not believe this can be done. The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it. If you try to change it, you will ruin it. If you try to hold on to it, you will lose it. So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind; Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily; Sometimes there is strength, and sometimes weakness; Sometimes one is up and sometimes down. Therefore the wise avoid extremes, excesses, and complacency.
Whenever you advise rulers in the way of Tao, Counsel them not to use force to conquer the universe. For this would only cause resistance. Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed. Lean years follow in the wake of a great war. Just do what needs to be done. Never take advantage of power. Achieve results, But never glory in them. Achieve results, But never boast. Achieve results, But never be proud. Achieve results, Because this is the natural way. Achieve results, But not through violence. Force is followed by loss of strength. This is not the way of the Tao. That which goes against the Tao Comes to an early end.
Good weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them. Therefore followers of Tao never use them. The wise prefer the left. Soldiers prefer the right. Weapons are instruments of fear; they are not tools of the wise. They use them only when there is no choice. Peace and quiet are dear to their hearts, And victory no cause for rejoicing. If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing; If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself. On happy occasions precedence is given to the left, On sad occasions to the right. In the army the general stands on the left, The -commander--in--chief on the right. This means that war is conducted like a funeral. When many people are killed, They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow. That is why a victory must be observed like a funeral.