Article Index


1.1 A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path; names can be given, but not permanent labels.
1.2 Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth; being is called the mother of all things.
1.3 Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle; ever intent, thereby observe the apparent.
1.4 These two come from the same source but differ in name;
1.5 both are considered mysteries. The mystery of mysteries is the gateway of marvels.

2.1 When everyone knows beauty is beauty, this is bad.
2.2 When everyone knows good is good, this is not good.
2.3 So being and nonbeing produce each other: difficulty and ease complement each other, long and short shape each other,
2.4 high and low contrast with each other, voice and echoes conform to each other, before and after go along with each other.
2.5 So sages manage effortless service and carry out unspoken guidance.
2.6 All beings work, without exception: if they live without possessiveness,
2.7 act without presumption, and do not dwell on success, then by this very nondwelling success will not leave.

3.1 Not exalting cleverness causes the people not to contend.
3.2 Not putting high prices on hard-to-get goods causes the people not to steal.
3.3 Not seeing anything to want causes the mind not to be confused.
3.4 Therefore the government of sages empties the mind and fills the middle, weakens the ambition and strengthens the bones,
3.5 always keeping the people innocent and passionless. It makes the sophisticated not dare to contrive;
3.6 action being without contrivance, nothing is disordered.

4.1 The Way is unimpeded harmony; its potential may never be fully exploited.
4.2 It is as deep as the source of all things;
4.3 it blunts the edges, resolves the complications, harmonizes the light, assimilates to the world.
4.4 Profoundly still, it seems to be there:
4.5 I don't know whose child it is, before the creation of images.

5.1 Heaven and earth are not humane; they regard all beings as straw dogs.
5.2 Sages are not humane; they see all people as straw dogs..
5.3 The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows and pipes, empty yet inexhaustible, producing more with each movement.
5.4 The talkative reach their wits' end again and again; that is not as good as keeping centered.

6.1 The valley spirit not dying is called the mysterious female.
6.2 The opening of the mysterious female is called the root of heaven and earth.
6.3 Continuous, on the brink of existence, to put in into practice, don't try to force it.

7.1 Heaven is eternal, earth is everlasting.
7.2 The reason they can be eternal and everlasting is that they do not foster themselves, that is why they can live forever.
7.3 For this reason sages put themselves last, and they were first;
7.4 they excluded themselves, and they survived.
7.5 Was it not by their very selflessness that they managed to fulfill themselves?

8.1 Higher good is like water: the good in water benefits all, and does so without contention. It rests where people dislike to be, so it is close to the Way.
8.2 Where it dwells becomes good ground; profound is the good in its heart, benevolent the good it bestows. Goodness in words is trustworthiness,
8.3 goodness in government is order; goodness in work is ability, goodness in action is timeliness.
8.4 But only by non-contention is there nothing extreme.

9.1 To keep on filling is not as good as stopping.
9.2 Calculated sharpness cannot be kept for long.
9.3 Though gold and jewels fill their house, no one can keep them.
9.4 When the rich upper classes are haughty, their legacy indicts them.
9.5 When one' work is accomplished honorably, to retire is the Way of heaven.

10.1 Carrying vitality and consciousness, embracing them as one, can you keep from parting?
10.2 Concentrating energy, making it supple, can you be like an infant?
10.3 Purifying hidden perception, can you make it flawless?
10.4 Loving the people, governing the nation, can you be uncontrived?
10.5 As the gate of heaven opens and closes, can you be impassive?
10.6 As understanding reaches everywhere, can you be innocent?
10.7 Producing and developing, producing without possessing, growing without domineering: this is called mysterious power.

11.1 Thirty spokes join at a hub: their use for the cart is where they are not.
11.2 When the potter's wheel makes a pot, the use of the pot is precisely where there is nothing.
11.3 When you open the doors and windows for a room, it is where there is nothing that they are useful to the room.
11.4 Therefore being is for benefit, nonbeing is for usefulness.

12.1 Colors blind people's eyes; sounds deafen their ears; flavors spoil people's palates,
12.2 the chase and the hunt craze people's minds; goods hard to obtain make people's actions harmful.
12.3 Therefore sages work for the middle and not the eyes, leaving the latter and taking the former.

13.1 Favor and disgrace seem alarming; high status greatly afflicts your person.
13.2 What are favor and disgrace? Favor is the lower: get it and you're surprised, lose it and you're startled. This means favor and disgrace are alarming.
13.3 Why does high status greatly afflict your person? The reason we have a lot of trouble is that we have selves. If we had no selves what troubles would we have?
13.4 Therefore those who embody nobility to act for the sake of the world seem to be able to draw the world to them, while those who embody love to act for the sake of the world seem to be worthy of the trust of the world.

14.1 What you don't see when you look is called the unobtrusive. What you don't hear when you listen is called the rarefied. What you don't get when you grasp is called the subtle.
14.2 These three cannot be completely fathomed, so they merge into one;
14.3 above is not bright, below is not dark. Continuous, unnameable, it returns again to nothing.
14.4 This is called the stateless state, the image of no thing; this is called mental abstraction. When you face it you do not see its head, and when you follow it you do not see its back.
14.5 Hold to the ancient Way so as to direct present existence: only when you know the ancient can this be called the basic cycle of the Way.

15.1 Skilled warriors of old were subtle, mysteriously powerful, so deep they were unknowable.
15.2 Just because they are unknowable, I will try to describe them. Their wariness was as that of one crossing a river in winter, their caution was as that of one in fear of all around; their gravity was as that of a guest,
15.3 their relaxation was as that of ice at the melting point. Simple as uncarved wood, open as valleys, they were as inscrutable as murky water.
15.4 Who can, in turbidity, use the gradual clarification of stillness? Who can, long at rest, use the gradual enlivening of movement?
15.5 Those who preserve this Way do not want fullness. Just because of not wanting fullness, it is possible to use to the full and not make anew.

16.1 Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet:
16.2 as myriad things act in concert, I thereby observe the return. Things flourish, then each returns to its root.
16.3 Returning to the root is called stillness; stillness is called return to Life, return to Life is called the constant; knowing the constant is called enlightenment. Acts at random, in ignorance of the constant, bode ill.
16.4 Knowing the constant gives perspective; this perspective is impartial. Impartiality is the highest nobility; the highest nobility is divine, and the divine is the Way.
16.5 This Way is everlasting, not endangered by physical death.

17.1 Very great leaders in their domains are only known to exist. Those next best are loved and praised. The lesser are feared and despised.
17.2 Therefore when faith is insufficient and there is disbelief,
17.3 it is from the high value placed on words. Works are accomplished, tasks are completed, and ordinary folk all say they are acting spontaneously.

18.1 When the Great Way is deserted, then there is humanitarian duty.
18.2 When intelligence comes forth, there is great fabrication.
18.3 When relations are discordant, there is family love.
18.4 When the national polity is benighted and confused, then there are loyal ministers.

19.1 Eliminate sagacity, abandon knowledge, and the people will benefit a hundredfold.
19.2 Eliminate humanitarianism, abandon duty, and the people return to familial love.
19.3 Eliminate craft, abandon profit, and theft will no longer exist.
19.4 These three become insufficient when used for embellishment causing there to be attachments.
19.5 See the basic, embrace the unspoiled, lessen selfishness, diminish desire.

20.1 Detach from learning and you have no worries. How far apart are yes and yeah? How far apart are good and bad?
20.2 The things people fear cannot but be feared. Wild indeed the uncentered!
20.3 Most people celebrate as if they were barbecuing a slaughtered cow, or taking in the springtime vistas; I alone am aloof, showing no sign, like an infant that doesn't yet smile, riding buoyantly as if with nowhere to go.
20.4 Most people have too much; I alone seem to be missing something. Mine is indeed the mind of an ignoramus in its unadulterated simplicity.
20.5 Ordinary people try to shine; I alone seem to be dark. Ordinary people try to be on the alert; I alone am unobtrusive, calm as the ocean depths, buoyant as if anchored nowhere.
20.6 Most people have ways and means; I alone am unsophisticated and simple. I alone am different from people in that I value seeking food from the mother.