Return to Homepage
Tao Te Ching
By Lao Tsu
Chapters 1 - 10
The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same--
When they appear they are named differently.
Their sameness is the mystery,
Mystery within mystery;
The door to all marvels.
All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful.
Herein lies ugliness.
All recognize the good as good.
Herein lies evil.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficulty and ease bring about each other.
Long and short delimit each other.
High and low rest on each other.
Sound and voice harmonize each other.
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore the sage abides in the condition of wu-wei (unattached action).
And carries out the wordless teaching.
Here, the myriad things are made, yet not separated.
Therefore the sage produces without possessing,
Acts without expectations
And accomplishes without abiding in her accomplishments.
It is precisely because she does not abide in them
That they never leave her.
If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.
If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
If people do not see desirables, they will not be agitated.
Therefore, when the sage governs,
He clears peoples' minds,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambition and
Strengthens their bones.
If the people are kept without cleverness and desire
It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.
Acting without contrivance, there is no lack of manageability.
The Tao is so vast that when you use it, something is always left.
How deep it is!
It seems to be the ancestor of the myriad things.
It blunts sharpness
Softens the glare
Unifies with the mundane.
It is so full!
It seems to have remainder.
It is the child of I-don't-know-who.
And prior to the primeval Lord-on-high.
Heaven and Earth are not jen,
And regard the people as straw dogs.
The sage is not jen,
And regards all things as straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth is just like a bellows:
Empty it, it is not exhausted.
Squeeze it and more comes out.
Investigating it with a lot of talk
Is not like holding to the center.
The valley spirit never dies.
It is called "the mysterious female."
The opening of the mysterious female
Is called "the root of Heaven and Earth."
Continuous, seeming to remain.
Use it without exertion.
Heaven and Earth last forever.
The reason that Heaven and Earth are able to last forever
Is because they do not give birth to themselves.
Therefore, they are always alive.
Hence, the sage puts herself last and is first.
She is outside herself and therefore her self lasts.
Is it not through her selflessness
That she is able to perfect herself?
The highest goodness is like water.
Water easily benefits all things without struggle.
Yet it abides in places that men hate.
Therefore it is like the Tao.
For dwelling, the Earth is good.
For the mind, depth is good.
The goodness of giving is in the timing.
The goodness of speech is in honesty.
In government, self-mastery is good.
In handling affairs, ability is good.
If you do not wrangle, you will not be blamed.
To hold until full is not as good as stopping.
An oversharpened sword cannot last long.
A room filled with gold and jewels cannot be protected.
Boasting of wealth and virtue brings your demise.
After finishing the work, withdraw.
This is the Way of Heaven.
Pacifying the agitated material soul and holding to oneness:
Are you able to avoid separation?
Focusing your energy on the release of tension:
Can you be like an infant?
In purifying your insight:
Can you un-obstruct it?
Loving the people and ruling the state:
Can you avoid over-manipulation?
In opening and closing the gate of Heaven:
Can you be the female?
In illuminating the whole universe:
Can you be free of rationality?
Give birth to it and nourish it.
Produce it but don't possess it.
Act without expectation.
Excel, but don't take charge.
This is called Mysterious Virtue.