Article Index

Lin Yutang(Translator)

1.1 The Tao the can be told of Is not the Absolute Tao; The Names that can be given Are not Absolute Names.
1.2 The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the Mother of All Things.
1.3 Therefore: Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion In order to see the Secret of Life; Oftentimes, one regards life with passion, In order to see its manifest forms.
1.4 These two (the Secret and its manifestations) Are (in their nature) the same; They are given different names When they become manifest.
1.5 They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery: Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.

2.1 When the people of the Earth all know beauty as beauty, There arises (the recognition of) ugliness.
2.2 When the people of the Earth all know the good as good, There arises (the recognition of) evil.
2.3 Therefore: Being and non-being interdepend in growth; Difficult and easy interdepend in completion; Long and short interdepend in contrast;
2.4 High and low interdepend in position; Tones and voice interdepend in harmony; Front and behind interdepend in company.
2.5 Therefore the Sage: Manages affairs without action; Preaches the doctrine without words;
2.6 All things take their rise, but he does not turn away from them; He gives them life, but does not take possession of them; He acts, but does not appropriate;
2.7 Accomplishes, but claims no credit. It is because he lays claim to no credit That the credit cannot be taken away from him.

3.1 Exalt not the wise, So that the people shall not scheme and contend;
3.2 Prize not rare objects, So that the people shall not steal;
3.3 Shut out from site the things of desire, So that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.
3.4 Therefore in the government of the Sage: He keeps empty their hearts Makes full their bellies, Discourages their ambitions, Strengthens their frames;
3.5 So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and desires. And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere.
3.6 By action without deeds May all live in peace.

4.1 Tao is a hollow vessel, And its use is inexhaustible!
4.2 Fathomless! Like the fountain head of all things,
4.3 Its sharp edges rounded off, Its tangles untied, Its light tempered, Its turmoil submerged,
4.4 Yet dark like deep water it seems to remain.
4.5 I do not know whose Son it it, An image of what existed before God.

5.1 Nature is unkind: It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.
5.2 The Sage is unkind: He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.
5.3 How the universe is like a bellows! Empty, yet it gives a supply that never fails; The more it is worked, the more it brings forth.
5.4 By many words is wit exhausted. Rather, therefore, hold to the core.

6.1 The Spirit of the Valley never dies. It is called the Mystic Female.
6.2 The Door of the Mystic Female Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
6.3 Continuously, continuously, It seems to remain. Draw upon it And it serves you with ease.

7.1 The universe is everlasting.
7.2 The reason the universe is everlasting Is that it does not live for Self. Therefore it can long endure.
7.3 Therefore the Sage puts himself last, And finds himself in the foremost place;
7.4 Regards his body as accidental, And his body is thereby preserved.
7.5 Is it not because he does not live for Self That his Self is realized?

8.1 The best of men is like water; Water benefits all things And does not compete with them. It dwells in (the lowly) places that all disdain - Wherein it comes near to the Tao.
8.2 In his dwelling, (the Sage) loves the (lowly) earth; In his heart, he loves what is profound; In his relations with others, he loves kindness; In his words, he loves sincerity;
8.3 In government, he loves peace; In business affairs, he loves ability; In his actions, he loves choosing the right time.
8.4 It is because he does not contend That he is without reproach.

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 wealth and honor Is to sow seeds of one's own downfall.
9.5 Retire when your work is done, Such is Heaven's way.

10.1 In embracing the One with your soul, Can you never forsake the Tao?
10.2 In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness, Can you become like the new-born child?
10.3 In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision, Can you strive after perfection?
10.4 In loving the people and governing the kingdom, Can you rule without interference?
10.5 In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven, Can you play the part of the Female?
10.6 In comprehending all knowledge, Can you renounce the mind?
10.7 -

11.1 Thirty spokes unite around the nave; From their not-being (loss of their individuality) Arises the utility of the wheel.
11.2 Mold clay into a vessel; From its not-being (in the vessel's hollow) Arises the utility of the vessel.
11.3 Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall), From their not-being (empty space) arises the utility of the house.
11.4 Therefore by the existence of things we profit. And by the non-existence of things we are served.

12.1 The five colors blind the eyes of man; The five musical notes deafen the ears of man; The five flavors dull the taste of man;
12.2 Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man; Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
12.3 Therefore the Sage: Provides for the belly and not the eye. Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.

13.1 "Favor and disgrace cause one dismay; What we value and what we fear are within our Self."
13.2 What does this mean: "Favor and disgrace cause one dismay?" Those who receive a favor from above Are dismayed when they receive it, And dismayed when they lose it.
13.3 What does this mean: "What we value and what we fear are within our Self?" We have fears because we have a self. When we do not regard that self as self, What have we to fear?
13.4 Therefore he who values the world as his self May then be entrusted with the government of the world; And he who loves the world as his self - The world may then be entrusted to his care.

14.1 Looked at, but cannot be seen - That is called the Invisible (yi). Listened to, but cannot be heard - That is called the Inaudible (hsi). Grasped at, but cannot be touched - That is called the Intangible (wei).
14.2 These three elude our inquiries And hence blend and become One.
14.3 Not by its rising, is there light, Nor by its sinking, is there darkness. Unceasing, continuous, It cannot be defined, And reverts again to the realm of nothingness.
14.4 That is why it is called the Form of the Formless, The Image of Nothingness. That is why it is called the Elusive: Meet it and you do not see its face; Follow it and you do not see its back.
14.5 -

15.1 The wise ones of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding, So profound that they could not be understood.
15.2 And because they could not be understood, Perforce must they be so described: Cautious, like crossing a wintry stream, Irresolute, like one fearing danger all around, Grave, like one acting as guest,
15.3 Self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt, Genuine, like a piece of undressed wood, Open-minded, like a valley, And mixing freely, like murky water.
15.4 Who can find repose in a muddy world? By lying still, it becomes clear. Who can maintain his calm for long? By activity, it comes back to life.
15.5 He who embraces this Tao Guards against being over-full. Because he guards against being over-full, He is beyond wearing out and renewal.

16.1 Attain the utmost in Passivity, Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.
16.2 The myriad things take shape and rise to activity, But I watch them fall back to their repose. Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows But returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.
16.3 To return to the root is Repose; It is called going back to one's Destiny. Going back to one's Destiny is to find the Eternal Law. To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment. And not to know the Eternal Law Is to court disaster.
16.4 He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant; Being tolerant, he is impartial; Being impartial, he is kingly; Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature; Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
16.5 Being in accord with Tao, he is eternal, And his whole life is preserved from harm.

17.1 The people (only) know that they exist; The next best the love and praise; The next they fear; And the next they revile.
17.2 When they do not command the people's faith, Some will lose faith in them, And then they resort to oaths!
17.3 But (of the best) when their task is accomplished, their work done, The people all remark, "We have done it ourselves."

18.1 On the decline of the great Tao, The doctrine of "humanity" and "justice" arose.
18.2 When knowledge and cleverness appeared, Great hypocrisy followed in its wake.
18.3 When the six relationships no longer lived at peace, There was (praise of) "kind parents" and" filial sons."
18.4 When a country fell into chaos and misrule, There was (praise of) "loyal ministers."

19.1 Banish wisdom, discard knowledge, And the people shall profit a hundredfold;
19.2 Banish "humanity," discard "justice," And the people shall recover love of their kin;
19.3 Banish cunning, discard "utility," And the thieves and brigands shall disappear.
19.4 As these three touch the externals and are inadequate,
19.5 The people have need of what they can depend upon: Reveal thy simple self, Embrace thy original nature, Check thy selfishness, Curtail thy desires.

20.1 Banish learning, and vexations end. Between "Ah!" and "Ough!" How much difference is there? Between "good" and "evil" How much difference is there?"
20.2 That which men fear Is indeed to be feared; But, alas, distant yet is the dawn (of awakening)!
20.3 The people of the world are merry-making, As if partaking of the sacrificial feasts, As if mounting the terrace in spring; I alone am mild, like one unemployed, Like a new-born babe that cannot yet smile, Unattached, like one without a home.
20.4 The people of the world have enough and to spare, But I am like one left out, My heart must be that of a fool, Being muddled, nebulous!
20.5 The vulgar are knowing, luminous; I alone am dull, confused. The vulgar are clever, self-assured; I alone, depressed. Patient as the sea, Adrift, seemingly aimless.
20.6 The people of the world all have a purpose; I alone appear stubborn and uncouth. I alone differ from the other people, And value drawing sustenance from the Mother.