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Tao Te Ching

By Lao Tsu

Chapters 41 - 50


When superior students hear of the Tao

They strive to practice it. 

When middling students hear of the Tao

They sometimes keep it and sometimes lose it.

When inferior students hear of the Tao

They have a big laugh.

But "not laughing" in itself is not sufficient to be called the Tao, and therefore it is said:

The sparkling Tao seems dark

Advancing in the Tao seems like regression.

Settling into the Tao seems rough.

True virtue is like a valley.

The immaculate seems humble.

Extensive virtue seems insufficient.

Established virtue seems deceptive.

The face of reality seems to change.

The great square has no corners.

Great ability takes a long time to perfect.

Great sound is hard to hear.

The great form has no shape.

The Tao is hidden and nameless.

This is exactly why the Tao is good at developing and perfecting.


The Tao produces one, one produces two.

The two produce the three and the three produce all things.

All things submit to yin and embrace yang.

They soften their energy to achieve harmony.

People hate to think of themselves as "orphan," "lowly," and "unworthy"

Yet the kings call themselves by these names.

Some lose and yet gain,

Others gain and yet lose.

That which is taught by the people

I also teach:

"The forceful do not choose their place of death."

I regard this as the father of all teachings.


The softest thing in the world

Will overcome the hardest.

Non-being can enter where there is no space.

Therefore I know the benefit of unattached action.

The wordless teaching and unattached action

Are rarely seen.


Which is dearer, fame or your life?

Which is greater, your life or possessions?

Which is more painful, gain or loss?

Therefore we always pay a great price for excessive love

And suffer deep loss for great accumulation.

Knowing what is enough, you will not be humiliated.

Knowing where to stop, you will not be imperiled

And can be long-lasting.


Great perfection seems flawed, yet functions without a hitch.

Great fullness seems empty, yet functions without exhaustion.

Great straightness seems crooked,

Great skill seems clumsy,

Great eloquence seems stammering.

Excitement overcomes cold, stillness overcomes heat.

Clarity and stillness set everything right.


When the Tao prevails in the land

The horses leisurely graze and fertilize the ground.

When the Tao is lacking in the land

War horses are bred outside the city.

Natural disasters are not as bad as not knowing what is enough.

Loss is not as bad as wanting more.

Therefore the sufficiency that comes from knowing what is enough is an eternal sufficiency.


Without going out the door, knowing everything,

Without peeking out the windowshades, seeing the Way of Heaven.

The further you go, the less you know.

The sage understands without having to go through the whole process.

She is famous without showing herself.

Is perfected without striving.


In studying, each day something is gained.

In following the Tao, each day something is lost.

Lost and again lost.

Until there is nothing left to do.

Not-doing, nothing is left undone.

You can possess the world by never manipulating it.

No matter how much you manipulate

You can never possess the world.


The sage has no fixed mind,

She takes the mind of the people as her mind.

I treat the good as good, I also treat the evil as good.

This is true goodness.

I trust the trustworthy, I also trust the untrustworthy.

This is real trust.

When the sage lives with people, she harmonizes with them

And conceals her mind for them.

The sages treat them as their little children.


Coming into life and entering death,

The followers of life are three in ten.

The followers of death are three in ten.

Those whose life activity is their death ground are three in ten.

Why is this?

Because they live life grasping for its rich taste.

Now I have heard that those who are expert in handling life

Can travel the land without meeting tigers and rhinos,

Can enter battle without being wounded.

The rhino has no place to plant its horn,

The tiger has no place to place its claws,

Weapons find no place to receive their sharp edges.


Because he has no death-ground.