1.1 The Way that can be described is not the absolute Way; the name that can be given is not the absolute name.
1.2 Nameless it is the source of heaven and earth; named it is the mother of all things.
1.3 Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life. Whoever desires, sees its manifestations.
1.4 These two are the same, but what is produced has names.
1.5 They both may be called the cosmic mystery: from the cosmic to the mystical is the door to the essence of all life.
2.1 When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the recognition of ugliness.
2.2 When they all know the good as good, there arises the recognition of bad.
2.3 Therefore being and non-being produce each other; difficult and easy complete each other; long and short contrast each other;
2.4 high and low distinguish each other; sound and voice harmonize with each other; beginning and end follow each other.
2.5 Therefore the wise manage affairs without interfering and teach beyond the words.
2.6 All things rise, and they do not turn away from them. They give them life, but do not take possession of them. They act, but do not rely on their own ability.
2.7 They accomplish, but claim no credit. Because they claim no credit, their accomplishment remains with them.
3.1 Do not exalt the worthy, so that people will not compete.
3.2 Do not value rare treasure, so that people will not steal.
3.3 Do not display objects of desire, so that people's hearts will not be disturbed.
3.4 Therefore the wise lead by keeping their hearts pure, their bellies full, their ambitions weak, and their bones strong,
3.5 so that the people may be purified of their thoughts and desires; and the cunning ones will not interfere.
3.6 By acting without interfering, all may live in peace.
4.1 The Way is infinite; its use is never exhausted.
4.2 It is bottomless, like the fountainhead of all things.
4.3 It smoothes its roughness; it unties its tangles. It softens its light; it calms its turmoil.
4.4 Deep and still, ever present.
4.5 I do not know its source. It seems to have existed before the Lord.
5.1 Nature is not humane. It treats all things like sacrificial objects.
5.2 The wise are not humane. They regard people like sacrificial objects.
5.3 How the universe is like a bellows! While empty, it is never exhausted. The more it is worked, the more it produces.
5.4 Much talk brings exhaustion. It is better to keep to the center.
6.1 The spirit of the valley never dies. It is called the mystical female.
6.2 The door of the mystical female is the root of heaven and earth.
6.3 It seems to be continuously within us. Use it, and it will never fail.
7.1 Heaven is eternal, and the earth is very old.
7.2 They can be eternal and long lasting, because they do not exist for themselves, and for this reason can long endure.
7.3 Therefore the wise put themselves last, but find themselves foremost.
7.4 They are indifferent to themselves, and yet they always remain.
7.5 Is it not because they do not live for themselves that they find themselves fulfilled?
8.1 The best are like water. Water benefits all things and does not compete with them. It flows to the lowest level. In this it comes near to the Way.
8.2 In their dwellings, they love the earth. In their hearts, they love what is profound. In their friendship, they love humanity. In their words, they love sincerity.
8.3 In government, they love peace. In business, they love ability. In their actions, they love timeliness.
8.4 It is because they do not compete that there is no resentment.
9.1 Stretch a bow to the very full, and you will wish you had stopped in time.
9.2 Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest, and the edge will not last long.
9.3 When gold and jade fill your hall, you will not be able to keep them safe.
9.4 To be proud with honor and wealth is to cause one's own downfall.
9.5 Withdraw as soon as your work is done. Such is heaven's way.
10.1 Can you embrace the One with your soul, and never depart from the Way?
10.2 Can you concentrate your vital force to achieve the gentleness of a new-born baby?
10.3 Can you cleanse and purify your mystic vision until it is clear?
10.4 Can you love the people and govern the state without interfering?
10.5 Can you play the role of the female in opening and closing the doors of heaven?
10.6 Can you understand all and penetrate all without using the mind?
10.7 To give birth and to nourish, to give birth without taking possession, to act without obligation, to lead without dominating - this is mystical power.
11.1 Thirty spokes are united around the hub of a wheel, but the usefulness of the wheel depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.2 Clay is molded into a vessel, but the usefulness of the vessel depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.3 Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house, and the usefulness of the house depends on the space where nothing exists.
11.4 Therefore take advantage of what exists, and use what does not exist.
12.1 The five colors blind the eyes; the five musical tones deafen the ears; the five flavors dull the taste.
12.2 Racing and hunting madden the mind. Precious goods keep their owners on guard.
12.3 Therefore the wise satisfy the inner self rather than external senses. They accept the one and reject the other.
13.1 Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension. Regard great trouble as you regard your self.
13.2 What is meant by "Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension?" Those with good fortune are apprehensive of their gain. Those with misfortune are apprehensive of their loss.
13.3 What is meant by "Regard great trouble as you regard your self?" Great trouble comes from being selfish. Being selfless, what trouble is there?
13.4 Therefore those who value the world as themselves may be entrusted to govern the world. Those who love the world as themselves may be entrusted to care for the world.
14.1 We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible. We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible. We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
14.2 These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.
14.3 Not by its rising, is it bright, nor by its sinking, is it dark. Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined. It returns to nothingness.
14.4 This is the form of the formless, being in non-being. It is nebulous and elusive. Meet it, and you do not see its beginning. Follow it, and you do not see its end.
14.5 Stay with the ancient Way in order to master what is present. Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.
15.1 The wise have ancient mystic wisdom and profound understanding, too deep to comprehend.
15.2 Because they can not be comprehended, they can only be described by analogy: cautious, like crossing a stream in winter; alert, like one aware of danger on all sides; courteous, like a visiting guest;
15.3 self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt; genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood; open and receptive, like a valley; freely mixing, like muddy water.
15.4 Who can make sense of a muddy world? Let it be still, and it becomes clear. Who can remain calm, and through activity come back to life?
15.5 Those who embrace this Way do not over-extend themselves. Because they do not over-extend themselves, they do not wear out and are not replaced.
16.1 Empty yourself of everything. Maintain a steady serenity.
16.2 All things take shape and become active, but I see them return to their source, like vegetation that grows and flourishes, but returns to the root from which it springs.
16.3 Returning to the source is serenity; it is to realize one's destiny. To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal. To know the eternal is to be enlightened. Not to know the eternal is to act blindly and court disaster.
16.4 Whoever knows the eternal is open to everything. Whoever is open to everything is impartial. To be impartial is to be universal. To be universal is to be in accord with heaven. To be in accord with heaven is to be in accord with the Way.
16.5 To be in accord with the Way is to be eternal and to live free from harm even though the body dies.
17.1 The best leaders the people barely know. The next best they love and praise. The next they fear. And the next they hate.
17.2 Those who lack trust will not be trusted. Then they resort to promises.
17.3 But when they accomplish their task and complete their work, the people say, "We did it ourselves."
18.1 When the great Way is forgotten, the doctrines of humanity and morality arise.
18.2 When knowledge and cleverness appear, there emerges great hypocrisy.
18.3 When family relationships are not in harmony, filial piety and parental love are advocated.
18.4 When a country falls into chaos and disorder, there is praise of loyal patriots.
19.1 Abandon religion and discard cleverness, and people will benefit a hundredfold.
19.2 Abandon humanity and discard morality, and people will rediscover love and duty.
19.3 Abandon skill and discard profit, and there will be no thieves or robbers.
19.4 These three things relate to externals and are inadequate.
19.5 People need what they can depend on: reveal simplicity; embrace the natural; control selfishness; reduce desires.
20.1 Abandon memorizing, and vexations end. How much difference is there between yes and no? How much difference is there between good and evil?
20.2 Is what people fear really to be feared? How very remote the actual occurrence!
20.3 The people of the world make merry as though at a holiday feast or a spring carnival. I alone am inactive and desireless, like a new-born baby who cannot yet smile, unattached, as though homeless.
20.4 The people of the world possess more than enough. I alone seem to have lost all. I must be a fool, so indiscriminate and nebulous.
20.5 Most people seem knowledgeable and bright. I alone am simple and dull. Most people see differences and are sharp. I alone make no distinctions, seeming aimless, drifting as the sea, like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
20.6 People of the world all have a purpose. I alone seem impractical and out of place. I am different from others, and value drawing sustenance from the Mother.
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