Tao Te Ching Cards
Lao Tzu’s Classic Taoism Text in 81 Cards
A new and complete translation By: Chao-Hsiu Chen
1) To see the mysterious
–The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.
–The name that can be spoken is not the eternal name.
–The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
–The named is the Mother of all Creatures.
–Observe the mysteries of the Tao without longing.
–Survey its appearance with desire.
–Both mysteries and appearance come from the same origin but wear a different name; they are enigmatic.
–The greatest mystery is the gate to all mysteries.
2) To observe the appearance
–The whole world can see the beautiful as the beautiful only because of the ugly.
–The whole world can recognize the good as the good only because of the bad.
–Something and nothing create each other.
–The difficult and the easy complement each other.
–The long and the short define each other.
–The high and the low counterbalance each other.
–Before and after follow each other.
–Therefore the sage acts without action, teaches without words.
–The myriad creatures keep on going without an end, creating life without possessing it, performing deeds without expectations, fulfilling the mission without claiming a victory, because the sage does not ask for praise, therefore the praise remains with him for ever.
3) The reassure the nation
–Not to value one’s own virtues is the way to restrain people from striving for wealth.
–Not to value the precious is the way to restrain people from theft.
–Not to see the desirable is the way to restrain confusion in the mind.
–Therefore the wise way to rule is: Not to give importance to oneself, or try to enrich one’s spirit and virtue, not to be inordinately proud of one’s ability, or try to make unceasing efforts to improve oneself.
–Let the people stay free from desire and knowledge in order to avoid the pitfalls that knowledge may bring.
–Rule by doing nothing, then everything will be as is should.
4) The Hidden presence
–The Tao is based on harmony between emptiness and abundance.
–It is the deep source of the myriad creatures.
–It softens their sharpness.
–It releases their confusion.
–It lessons their lustre.
–It merges with their dust.
–The Tao is so clear and so transparent that it is nearly invisible, nearly formless; no one can know its origin, for it came before all creation.
5) To guard the Void
–Heaven and Earth treat all creatures as they treat a straw dog; withe great kindness.
–The sage treats the people as he treats a straw dog: with great kindness.
–Between Heaven and Earth there is a big void, it is like a bag without a seam, it is like the hole in a bamboo flute. This void cannot be overpowered, the more it moves, the more it yields.
–Many words lead to less understanding, therefore it is best to guard the void.
6) The Spirit of the Valley
–The spirit is as deep as a valley and will never fade.
–It is the great mysterious mother.
–The gateway of this mysterious creature is the roof of Heaven and Earth.
–Although it is invisible, it endures, it will never end.
7) To be without Ego
–Heaven and Earth are enduring only because they have no ego; therefore they can live for ever.
–The sage does not try to be the first, and does not fight for fame.
–Only through unselfishness can he achieve fulfillment.
8) To be like water
–The greatest good is like water: it benefits all life without being noticed.
–It flows even to the lowliest places where no one chooses to be and so it is very close to the Tao.
–It settles only in quiet locations.
–Its deepest heart is always clear.
–It offers itself with great goodness.
–It keeps its rhythm as it keeps its promises.
–It governs tributaries as it governs its people.
–It adapts to all necessities.
–It moves at the right moment.
–It never flaunts its goodness and so it never attracts any blame.
9) To Hold Fullness
–To stop in time is better than to hold a full bowl with fear of spilling.
–A knife cannot be kept constantly sharp, therefore it is wise not to flaunt the blade.
–A mass a hoard of gold and jade and it cannot be possessed for ever.
–Those who vaunt their position and worth risk attracting blame.
–To retire when the goal is reached: this is the Tao of Heaven.
10) Mysterious Virtue
–Can one hold the soul the body, hold the mind in the spirit, and keep them as one?
–Can one concentrate the energy of life and keep it supple like a newborn child?
–Can one study everything and really know everything without making a mistake?
–Can one govern the nation with all the right actions and really love the people?
–Can one always make a decision with the right mind?
–Can one empty the mind and fill it with the brightness of wisdom and learn to step back from this knowledge?
–Can one give life and grow life and yet claim no possessions?
–Can one supervise and benefit others, yet exercise no authority and rely on pride?
–This is what is called the mysterious virtue.
11) The Void Centre
–Thirty spokes share one hub, yet the spokes and the hub cannot make use of the carriage.
–Mix water, mud and earth and they can be shaped into a vessel, yet they cannot make use of the vessel itself.
–Cut out windows and doors to create a room, yet they cannot make use of the room itself.
–Therefore take the useful as the useless, the useless as the useful.
12) To be the belly
–The five colours blind man’s eye.
–The five tones deafen man’s ears.
–The five flavours dull man’s taste.
–Riding and hunting drive man’s mind mad.
–Precious goods alter man’s behaviour.
–Therefore the sage tries to fill the belly (the virtuous character) and not the eyes (the gateway to the emotions).
–And so he discards one and keeps the other.
13) Favour and disgrace
–Accept favour and disgrace as a treat that troubles the body like a disease.
–What does it mean to accept favour and disgrace as a treat? Everyone seeks to be favoured. No one seeks to be disgraced. When one receives it, it causes alarm. When one loses it, it causes alarm. Therefore favour and disgrace are both threatening.
–What does it mean that the disease troubles one’s body? One suffers from the disease because one treasures one’s body. If one does not love one’s body, one will no longer suffer from the disease.
–Therefore entrust the land under Heaven to the one who does not treasure his body, sanction the land under Heaven to the one who does not love his body.
–He who does not love even his own body will not treasure rulership, and so he will truly care for all things.
14) The discipline of Tao
–That which cannot be seen is called invisible.
–That which cannot be heard is called inaudible.
–That which cannot be held is called intangible.
–These three cannot be defined, therefore they are merged into one.
–Look at its highest part- it is not bright. Look at its lowest part- it is not dark.
–It never ends and it cannot be named. It returns to nothingness.
–Therefore it is called the shape without shape and the substance without substance. It is called indefinable.
–One approaches it but cannot see its beginning. One follows it but cannot see it end.
–Hold fast to the original path in order to control the realm of the present.
–To know the ancient origin is the discipline of Tao.
15) Without seeking plenitude
–Since ancient times, he who is versed in the Tao has been regarded as subtle, mysterious and obscurely discerning, too profound to be understood.
–And because he is elusive, one is barely able to describe him.
–Prudent as if fording a stream in winter.
–Weary as if in fear of those around him.
–Formal as if holding a memorial ceremony.
–He lets his heart yield like melting snow.
–He keeps his character rough like uncarved wood.
–He makes his mind empty like a spacious valley.
–He is opaque like muddy water.
–There is one who remains still wile the mud settles and the water clears itself.
–There is one who remains quiet and finds that the moment of action arises of its own accord.
–There is one who follows the Tao and does not seek plentitude simply because he is not fulfilled.
–In that way he can be named and reach the Tao.
16) To return to life
–Do one’s best to achieve emptiness. Hold firmly to stillness. All things on earth follow the same cycle. I observe their return.
–All the teeming creatures return to their roots. Returning to the root is called stillness. Stillness means to return to life.
–A return to life means constancy.
–Understanding constancy means enlightenment.
–Not knowing constancy leads to evil deeds.
–Knowing constancy is knowing to lerance.
–To lerance is impartiality.
–Impartiality is the skillful exercise of kingship.
–Kingship is Heaven.
–Heaven is Tao.
–Tao is eternity.
–Until the end of one’s own life, one will meet no danger.
17) To know existence
–The best rulers are those whom the people barely know exist.
–The next best are those whom the people love and praise.
–Then there are those whom the people fear and despise.
–If they do not rule the country with faith, the people will not respond to them with trust.
–The best rulers do not need to rule the people with words.
–If they have accomplished their task, the people will be ruled automatically.
18) Four Appearances
–When the Tao disappears, humanity and justice will appear by themselves.
–When intelligence appears, falsity will appear too.
–When relatives fall into disharmony, filial piety and kind heartedness will appear.
–When the country falls into chaos, official loyalists will appear.
19) Simple and unadorned
–Eliminate the virtuous man, discard the wise, and the people will benefit a hundred fold.
–Eliminate the good hearted, discard justice, and the people will fulfill filial duty with kindness.
–Eliminate skilled workmen, discard profit, and the thief will not appear.
–These three exist only as superficial forms.
–Therefore this is the teaching to the people. Embrace the simple, hold the unadorned, remove selfishness, reduce desire.
20) To be nourished by the mother
–One who renounces learning has sorrow.
–Between the ‘yea’ and the ‘nay’, is there much difference?
–Between the good and the bad, is there great distance?
–Should one fear what other people fear?
–If one does not cultivate one’s virtue, it is like letting the land lie waste.
–Everyone seeks the things that taste good, the joy in life.
–I alone an detached and expressionless, like a newborn baby that has not yet learned knowledge or worry.
–Everyone wishes for more than they need but I’ll seek to avoid it.
–I have the mind of a fool, but pure.
–Everyone shows their intelligence, I show only stupidity.
–Everyone tries to find profit with sharpness; I alone do not find it.
–Others’ desire has no end; like the sea, they drift without reaching a goal.
–Everyone thinks that they are someone; I only think of myself as no one.
–I behave differently to all the others, and only treasure being nourished by the other of all creatures.
21) To follow the Tao
–A virtuous person comes into being only according to the Tao.
–Tao is something which is obscure and indistinct. In distinct and obscure- yet there is an appearance- obscure and indistinct- yet there is a substance.
–Vague and dim- yet there is an essence within it. This essence is genuine. There is truth within it. Since ancient times until now, its name never forsaken, it stands there to guard all the good deeds.
–How do I know all the good deeds are guarded by this Tao?
22) To hold the Unity
–The tortured will seek for the snug. The bent will seek for the straight. The hollow will seek for the full. The worn will seek for the new. The minor will seek the major. The affluent will seek for the perplexed.
–Therefore the virtuous man considers unity as the only model for the world.
–He does not flaunt himself, therefore he is brilliant. He does not consider himself right, therefore he is incontestable. He does not require his fame, therefore he is meritorious. He does not stick to his own knowledge, therefore he grows. Only because he does not fight. Can no one under Heaven fight with him?
–The ancient saying ‘The tortured will be made snug’ is very well put. It truly enables one to preserve the unity.
23) To be equal to the Tao
–Nature speaks rarely.
–A stormy wind cannot blow for the whole morning, a passing heavy shower cannot fall for the whole day.
–Even Heaven and Earth cannot show their sudden power for ever- much less can men.
–This is the reason why one who follows the Tao accords the Tao with the Tao. Accords the virtue with the virtue, accords the loss with the loss.
–He who accords with the Tao is gladly accepted by the Tao. He who accords with the virtue is gladly accepted by the virtue. He who accords with the loss is gladly accepted by the loss.
–When there isn’t enough faith from he who leads the people, the people who follow him will not have good faith.
24) Do not flaunt
–He who tiptoes cannot stand. He who strides cannot walk.
–He who sees only himself is not enlightened.
–He who is self-righteous is not notable.
–He who boasts about himself will have no merit.
–He who praises himself will have no improvement.
–The way he takes the Tao, as if eating with a full stomach and moving with excess baggage, will be disliked.
–Therefore he who follows the Tao will not abide this.
25) Formed of Confusion
–There is not matter formed of confusion, born earlier than Heaven and Earth.
–In the silence and the void it stands alone and does not change. It turns around without worry. It is capable of being the mother of all creatures under Heaven.
–I do not know its name, but call it Tao. It is compelled to be named ‘great’. ‘Great’ means passing away, passing away means far away, far away means returning.
–That is why the Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. The emperor is great. Within the realm there are four great things; the emperor is one of the four.
–Human beings follow the Earth. The Earth follows Heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. The Tao follows Nature.
–The heavy is the root of the light. Stillness is the sovereign of restless movement.
–Therefore a virtuous man will not lose sight of his impedimenta during the whole day.
–Although he has splendour, he stands aloof.
–Unfortunately the great ruler often thousand chariots governs the country indiscreetly.
–To act abruptly is to lose the trust of his officials. To act restlessly is to lose his respect as a sovereign.
27) To follow discernment
–He who knows how to travel does not leave any trace.
-He who knows how to use words does not make any errors. He who knows stratagems needs not any plans.
–He who knows how to lock uses no bolts, yet what has been locked cannot be opened. He who knows how to tie uses no rope, yet what has been tied cannot be released.
–Therefore the sage always knows how to take care of people, and so no one is abandoned. He knows how to take care of all things, and so nothing is abandoned. This is what is called following discernment.
–That is why good men are the teachers of bad men, and bad men are the sources of warning of good men.
–Not to value the teacher, not to care for the sources, this reveals foolishness, however clever one may be. This is the essential secret.
28) Constant virtue
–Recognize the male- the yang, guard the female- the yin. Be a valley under Heaven. Be a valley under Heaven and the constant virtue will not fade away. One will become like a little child again.
–Recognize the white- the yang, guard the black- the yin. Be a model under Heaven. Be a model under Heaven and the constant virtue will not fade away. One will return to the infinite.
–Recognize the glory, guard the disgrace. Be a valley under Heaven. Be the valley under Heaven and return again to the uncarved block.
–When the block is carved up it is transformed into useful wares. The sage will use them with equal heart. Therefore the great law will not crumble.
29) The natural
–To rule the country with force is a matter that cannot be avoided- as I see.
–Yet to hold the land under Heaven with force cannot be done. Whoever does it will fail. Whoever tries to control it will lose it.
–If there is something that goes in the front, there will be something that follows behind.
–If there is something that makes warmth, there will be something that cools it down.
–If there is something that creates strength, there will be something that makes it weak.
–If there is something that reaches its goal, there will be something that breaks it.
–Therefore the sage stays away from opposing the rule of Nature, from seeking luxuriousness, from doing what is against his own duty.
30) To oppose the Tao
–The ruler who rules his people with Tao need not show his force with an army. If he who rules does so with the force of an army the others will return with the force of an army.
–Wherever armies have marched, thistles and thorns grow, whenever a great war has begun, crop failure and famine follow.
–That is why a good ruler would not dare to flaunt the power of his army. He would not use the force to glory in the force. He uses the army, yet with politeness. He uses the army just because he is forced to do so. That is what ‘to show consideration and not force’ means.
–A strong army is like a creature in its prime: it will only grow older. This is the rule of the Tao and that is the reason why one should not oppose the Tao. He who opposes the Tao will meet an early end.
31) To value the left
–Weapons are cursed instruments.
–They are something to hate. Therefore he who holds the Tao will not use them.
–A virtuous man keeps to the left position in his daily life, but values the right in times of war.
–Weapons are cursed instruments and not made for virtuous men. He who uses them against his will will handle them with great concern.
–One should regard victory as something ugly. He who regards it as beautiful enjoys killing and will not achieve his ambition under Heaven.
–A lucky event is honoured by the left position, an unlucky event by the right. In preparation for war, a lieutenant stands on the left, a general stands on the right. This means that the matter is treated as a funeral.
–Cry with sorrow when many people are killed. Regard it as a period of mourning when the battle is won.
32) To stop in time
–The Tao has no name, like an uncarved block. But no one under Heaven dares claim its allegiance.
–Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it, the myriad creatures will submit to their own accord. Heaven and Earth will unite and the sweet dewdrop will fall. People will live in peace, even though no one is seeking for it.
–When the block is carved it will be named. It will also be time to stop. Knowing to stop in time avoids danger. The Tao runs under Heaven as the river and the water of the valley runs into the sea.
33) To do one’s best
–He who knows others is resourceful; he who knows himself is enlightened.
–He who surpasses others has power; he who surpasses himself is strong.
–He who is content is rich.
–He who keeps going has will.
–He who maintains his own position will last long.
–He who dies, yet whose natural character remains; will live a long life.
34) To be the greatest
–The Tao is floating everywhere, to the left and to the right.
–The lives of the myriad creatures depend on it, no one can live without it.
–It accomplishes its task, yet claims no honour.
–It nourishes the myriad creatures, yet claims no possession.
–It is always free from desire; it can be called small. The myriad creatures turn to it, yet it does not master them; it can be called great.
–That is why the sage never boasts to be the great one, therefore he is the great one.
35) The great appearance
–Embrace the appearance of Tao. Everyone under the great Heaven will follow it, yet no one tries to cause harm to it. Peace and safety and equality will arise.
–Banquets and delicacies are like passing guests: they cannot last.
–The Tao passes the mouth, it cannot be tasted.
–The Tao passes the eyes, it cannot be seen.
–The Tao passes the ears, it cannot be heard.
–Yet it can never be exhausted by use.
36) Profound understanding
–To gather things, one must find disseminate them.
–To weaken things, one must first strengthen them.
–To abolish things, one must first prevail upon them.
–To seize things, one must first grant them.
–That is what ‘profound understanding’ means.
–The soft will overcome the hard. The weak will over come the strong.
–The fish shall not leave deep waters.
–The weapons of a country should not be displayed in public.
37) To do nothing
–The Tao always does nothing but nothing remains undone.
–If the ruler observes this the myriad creatures will act of their own accord.
–After their metamorphosis, desire will arise. It will press them down with the power of the uncarved block, the Tao.
–The nameless uncarved block is free from desire. Absence of desire will lead to the stillness and the world under Heaven will be harmonized by itself.
38) Living with magnanimity
–A man of great virtue is not aware of virtue; that is the reason why he has virtue.
–A man of little virtue does not miss virtue; that is the reason why he has no virtue.
–The great virtue is when one does not do anything, yet everything is done.
–The little virtue is when one does everything, yet something remains undone.
–A man of great humanity acts, yet he acts without purpose of great justice acts, yet he acts with purpose. A man of great courtesy acts, and if no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and tries to persuade them to respond.
–That is why when the Tao is lost, virtue appears.
–When virtue is lost, humanity appears. When humanity is lost, justice appears. When justice is lost, courtesy appears.
–Courtesy is the superficial form of faith and trust; it is the beginning of disorder.
–A man of much knowledge results in the flourishing of the Tao; it is the beginning of foolishness.
–Therefore a true man lives with magnanimity, renounces the frivolous, lives with simplicity, renounces the luxuriant.
–That is why he chooses the one and renounces the other.
39) Possess the “One”
–Since ancient times, what comes into possession is the ‘one’.
–Heaven in possession of the ‘one’ is clear. The Earth in possession of the ‘one’ is tranquil. The gods in possession of the ‘one’ are efficacious. The valley in possession of the ‘one’ is full. The myriad creatures in possession of the ‘one’ are faithful to their country. Although they are different, they are the same ‘one’.
–When Heaven is not clear, it risks cracking. When the earth is not tranquil, it risks exploding. When the gods are not efficacious, they risk ceasing to exist. When the valley is not full, it risks drying up. When the myriad creatures possess no life, they risk extinction. When rulers are not faithful, they risk a fall from their heights.
–Therefore the humble is the basis of the precious. The low is the basis of the high. The rulers shall humiliate themselves. That is why one grows the root at the base- isn’t it? That is why one prefers to be the wheel instead of the carriage, one chooses to be a stone instead of jade.
–Returning is the movement of the Tao.
–Weakness is the use of the Tao.
–The myriad creatures under Heaven are born from something.
–The something is born from nothing.
41) To hear the Tao
–A first-rate scholar hears the Tao and practices it conscientiously. A second-rate scholar hears the Tao and follows it just at that moment. A pour scholar hears the Tao and laughs out loud. If the pour scholar does not laugh, it cannot be Tao.
–That is why it is said: one who knows the Tao clearly seems ignorant. One who improves himself according to the Tao seems backward. One who moves with the Tao is equal to the Tao. The highest virtue feels empty, like the valley. The purest whiteness feels tainted. The brightest virtue never seems adequate. He who is virtuous feels like a thief. The purest nature seems polluted. The truest square has no corners. The greatest abilities mature slowly. The greatest tone has no sound. The greatest shape has no form. The Tao hides within the nameless only the Tao is able to change and to bring everything to completion.
42) To melt into harmony
–The Tao bears the ‘one’.
–The ‘one’ bears the ‘two’.
–The ‘two’ bears the ‘three’.
–The ‘three’ bears the myriad creatures.
–The myriad creatures carry yin and embrace yang, which both melt into ‘chi’ -the energy of life- to achieve harmony.
–People detest above all orphanhood and widowhood, yet the rulers use these titles to describe themselves.
–That is why in losing much is gained, and in gaining much is lost.
–What others teach, I teach also: He who is a ferocious adversary does nothing else but cause his own death.
–With these words I will maintain my teaching.
43) The softest
–The softest under Heaven can ride rough shod over the hardest.
–That without substance can enter even into the smallest space.
–That is why I know the benefit of doing nothing.
–Teaching without words, benefits without doing: there are unfortunately very few people under Heaven who can reach these goals.
44) To know when to stop
–Fame or yourself: which is dearer?
–Your self or your possessions: which is more precious?
–To have or to lose: which is more detrimental?
–That is why the most beloved will cost a great deal.
–The more one stores, the more one will lose.
–He who is content will not meet disgrace.
–He who knows when to stop will not face danger.
–Only then is there longevity.
45) Purity and stillness
–Great achievement seems imperfect, yet its usefulness is not diminished.
–Great fullness seems empty, yet it is inexhaustible.
–Great frankness seems to succumb.
–Great discussion seems silent.
–Activity overcomes coldness.
–Stillness overcomes heat.
–Purity and stillness are the ideal for the world.
46) To feel content
–When there is Tao under Heaven, fleet-footed horses are working in the fields.
–When there is no Tao under Heaven, war horses appear outside the city.
–There is no greater crime than having wrong desires.
–There is no greater hardship than being discontent.
–There is no greater misfortune than obtaining one’s own triumph.
–That is why he who feels content is always content.
47) The Tao of Heaven
–Without going outside one can know the whole world. Without looking out of the window one can see the Tao of Heaven.
–The further one goes, the less one knows.
–Therefore the sage without walking, knows everything, without seeing, identifies everything, without doing, accomplishes everything.
–In the course of learning, one increases every day. In the course of the Tao, one decreases every day.
–Decreasing and decreasing, until doing nothing.
–Doing nothing, yet everything is done.
–That is why he who aims at rulership should let things take their course. Should he try to interfere, he is not worthy of aiming at rulership.
49) Virtuous goodness
–The sage has no mind of his own. He takes the minds of the people as his own.
–Whatever others like, he likes too. Whatever others dislikes, he likes too. This is what is meant by virtuous goodness.
–Whatever others trust, he trust too. Whatever others mistrust, he trusts too. This is what meant by virtuous trust.
–The sage leads his life with vigilance. He merges his mind with all others’ under Heaven.
–People are used to hearing and seeing the behavious of the sage and so they are influenced, and become pure again, as a newborn child.
50) Life and death
–Emotions and longings are life. Passions and desires are death.
–There are thirteen kinds of life: seven are emotions and they refer to the gates of the mind; six are longings and they refer to the gates of the body.
–There are also thirteen kinds of death: seven are passions and they refer to the gates of the mind; six are desires and they refer to the gates of the body.
–There thirteen kinds and life and death rule also human beings, because one treasures life.
–He who is good at conserving his life will not meet the rhinoceros and the tiger on his journey.
–He can enter a battle without being hurt.
–The rhinoceros cannot attack him with its horn, the tiger cannot scratch him with its claws, troops cannot use their swords against him. That is only because he has no place for death to enter.
51) Profound virtue
–The Tao creates.
–The virtue nourishes.
–The things form.
–The environment shapes them to completion.
–That is why the myriad creatures all respect the Tao, and value virtue. When the Tao is respected, virtue is valued. No one can command them but the Tao.
–That is why the Tao creates myriad creatures. Virtue nourishes them, cultivates them, educates them, completes them, ripens them, supports them, carries them.
–The Tao creates them without possessing them, benefits them without profiting from them, guides them without commanding them.
–That is what profound virtue means.
52) To embrace the mother
–The world had a beginning. This beginning is the mother of the world.
–Once you know the mother you know the children. When you know the children you will return to embrace the mother. Then you will live life long without danger.
–Close the mouth, and the spirit will not escape. Seal the ears, and the mind will not escape. You will live life long beyond hope.
–To see the small is called clarity. To know how to yield is called strength.
–Use virtue outside the mind but return to virtue in the mind, and you will live life long without danger.
–This is what is called practicing constancy.
53) The great Tao
–Should I know just a fraction of Tao, I would walk on the great way, fearing to impose upon the people.
–The main road is smooth to walk but the people prefer the smaller footpath.
–That is why the court is corrupt, the fields lie in waste, the granaries are empty.
–Yet the rulers wear clothes adorned with finery, carry sharp swords decorated with patterns, possess storehouses over flowing with goods and wealth.
–This is the rule by stealing. This is not the Tao.
54) To be well established
–He who is well established cannot be uprooted.
–He who is holding tight cannot slip away.
–His descendants will never cease to honour him.
–He who cultivates the moral character, his virtue will be clear. He who cultivates his own family, his virtue will flourish. He who cultivates the village, his virtue will endure. He who cultivates the country, his virtue will be abundant. He who cultivates the land, his virtue will be widespread.
–Therefore look at others as at your own person. Look at other families as at your own family. Look at other villages as at your own village. Look at other countries as at your own country. Look at other lands as at your own land.
–How do I know it is like this under Heaven? By means of this.
55) To cherish virtue
–He who cherishes deep virtue is comparable to a newborn baby.
–Poisonous insects will not sting him. Ferocious animals will not pounce upon him. Predatory birds will not swoop down upon him.
–His bones are weak and his muscles are soft. He does not know of the union between male and female.
–He has the highest spirit. He can cry all day but never become hoarse. He has perfect harmony.
–He knows harmony as constancy. He knows constancy as clarity.
–To nourish the body with abundant food and clothing means to borrow the outer energy. To command the ‘chi’ with the mind means to use force.
–When reaching their prime; creatures begin to age. He who tries to oppose this rule means to go against the Tao.
56) The value of the Tao
–One who knows does not speak.
–One who speaks does not know.
–He closes his mouth, seals his ears.
–He subdues his sharpness, releases his worries.
–He blends himself with the light, he becomes one with the dust.
–This is what is called mysterious identity.
–Therefore he regards things out of his reach as dear. He regards things out of his reach as distant, he perceives unreachable things with harm, he perceives unreachable things with value, he perceives unreachable things with humbleness.
–That is why he values everything under Heaven.
57) To govern the nation
–Govern the nation with correctness.
–Resort to arms with surprise maneuvers.
–Obtain the land under Heaven without tiring out the people.
–How do I know this? Because:
–The more rules there are in the country, the poorer the people will become. The more power the people hold, the more confused the country will become. The more skills and intelligence the people possess, the more valuable goods will be created and the more strict the laws will become, yet the thieves and robbers will breed.
–That is why the sage says: ‘I do nothing, and the people are nurtured by themselves’.
–‘I do not tire people and drain the treasury, and the people become rich by themselves.’
–‘I prefer quietness, and the people behave correctly by themselves.’
–‘I have no desire, and the people return to the simple life by themselves.’
–‘I have no emotions, and the people become pure by themselves.’
58) To scrutinize the politics
–When the government is unobtrusive, the people will be simple and honest.
–When the government is dictatorial, the people will be seized and panic.
–Fortune depends on misfortune. Misfortune is hidden in fortune. He who knows how to stay within the limits will not have misfortune.
–Correctness will lead to deceit. Good will lead to evil. Nothing can remain always the same. People have been confused by this since ancient times.
–That is why the sage behaves correctly without hurting others, behaves honestly without damaging others, behaves straightforwardly without vilifying others, behaves brightly without dazzling others.
59) Long life
–The best way to rule the people are serve Heaven is to be frugal.
–To be frugal means to return to the beginning of creation. To know the beginning of creation means to accumulate virtue.
–Accumulating virtue means to over come everything.
–To overcome everything means to reach the limit.
–By reaching the limit, one can possess a kingdom.
–When one has possessed the mother of the kingdom, the kingdom will then live long. This is called the deep-rooted foundation. This is the way to long life.
60) To govern a large country
–Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish. It is spoiled by too much interference.
–When the ruler presents his country with Tao, Heaven will not harm him.
–Not only with the curse not fall upon him, bu it will not even cause harm to the people.
–As the curse will not hurt the people, neither will the sage cause harm to the people.
–Only because they do not hurt one another, will they blend their virtue.
51) To be humble
–When a large country is like water, which runs towards lower places, all the other countries will unite with it.
–In the unity of the world, the female always over comes the male with stillness.
–The stillness is a kin to the lower position- that is how a large country can be respected by a small country and conquer it. And if a small country takes the lower position and allows itself to be influenced by the large country, the small can conquer the large.
–That is why by being lower to take, or lower to be taken, a large country only tries to annex a small one and a small country only tries to protect its people.
–They both find what they want. Therefore it is fitting for a large country to be the lower one.
62) The mystery on Tao
–The Tao is the mystery of the myriad creatures.
–It is the treasure of good men.
–It is the protection of bad men.
–Beautiful words of Tao can reach a high rank. Respectful deeds of Tao can raise a man above others.
–Even of a man is not good, why should he be abandoned?
–That is why when the emperor takes office and the three ducal ministers are appointed, although gifts such as the ceremonial jade and the carriage and horses are usually given, it is better to offer the Tao.
–And the Tao has been valued since ancient times, so why shouldn’t the emperor seek for it every day? If he can follow this Tao, all sins will be absolved. That is why the most valuable thing under Heaven is Tao.
63) To live without difficulties
–Do that which takes no action. Deal with that which engenders no effect. Taste that which has no flavour.
–Treat the small as the great. Return enmity with virtue.
–Plan the difficult as the easy. Carry out the hard work as if it were the finer details. The difficult things under Heaven come from the easy things. Great matter is made up of minor matter. Therefore the sage does not try to be great, and thus he can be great.
–He who makes easy promises can be little trusted. He who considers things to be easy will meet many difficulties. That is why the sage expects difficulties. And therefore encounters none.
64) To be in tune
–It is easy to control a situation when it is in tranquil.
–It is easy to deal with a matter before the omen is cast.
–It is easy to break something when it is fragile.
–It is easy to scatter something when it is minute.
–Deal with things before they arise. Govern a situation before it descends into disorder.
–A huge tree as great as a man’s arm-span grows from a tiny seed. A thousand-mile journey starts from a single footstep. He who acts to reach something will lead to its decline. He who tries hard to hold on to something will lose it.
–That is why the sage does nothing, and leads nothing to decline. He does not hold on to anything, therefore he does not lose anything. People often lead their actions to the verge of success, then fail. Be careful to treat the end with equal care as the beginning. Then you will not fail.
–Therefore the sage desires not to desire, not to value precious goods, to learn how not to learn, to cover the mistakes of the multitude, to assist the myriad creatures according to the law of Nature. Yet he dares not act.
65) To know the principle
–In ancient times, those who know well how to serve the Tao did not use it to enlighten the people but to fool them.
–People are difficult to govern only because they are intelligent and resourceful.
–Therefore to rule with intelligence harms the country. To govern the country without intelligence is a blessing for the nation. He who knows the difference, knows the principle.
–To know the principle is called mysterious virtue. Mysterious virtue is deep and far.
–It might at first seem to go against the natural order but it will then lead to harmony.
66) Rivers and seas
–Rivers and seas can be king of the hundred valleys, only because they accept their lower position. Therefore they can be king of the hundred valleys.
–That is why the sage who wishes to rule the people must stay beneath them, who wishes to lead the people, must follow behind them.
–In this way the sage stays above the people, yet does not oppress them. He stays ahead of the people, yet does not exhaust them.
–Then the people will support him with joy and never tire of following him. And because he does not fight, no one can fight against him.
67) Three treasures
–The whole world says that the Tao is great, and that it seems without form.
–It is great- that is why it has no form.
–It has existed for a long time, and can also seem small.
–I have three treasures that I keep and protect: the first is good heartedness, the second is frugality, the third is not daring to take the lead.
–Only good heartedness can bring courage. Only frugality can bring generosity. Not daring to take the lead can bring leadership.
–Now to give up good heartedness for courage, frugality for generosity, the rear for the lead, will surely lead to the end. Good heartedness in battle will lead to victory, and defense will strengthen the territory. Heaven will save the ones who follow this and guard him with good heartedness.
–The perfect warrior does not flaunt his bravery.
–The perfect fighter does not get angry.
–The perfect winner does not reveal his tactics.
–The perfect employer is humble before his employees.
–This is called the virtue of non-fighting.
–This is called the ability to manage others.
–This is called uniting with the laws of Heaven. Since ancient times, it has been the highest goal.
69) To use arms
–There is a saying among military strategists: ‘I dare not act as the host, but the guest. I dare advance an inch, but retreat a foot.’
–This is called conducting in non-conducting.
–Pulling back without using force.
–Facing the fight without engaging the enemy.
–Holding no weapons.
–The greatest danger is to undervalue the enemy.
–To undervalue the enemy will cause loss of the three treasures.
–That is why when two forces fight against each other, the one that is full of sorrow will win.
70) To hold the treasure
–My words are very easy to understand, very easy to practice.
–Yet no one in the world can understand them and put them into practice.
–The words have a root. The affairs have a sovereign.
–Because people are ignorant, they do not understand me.
–Those who understand me are few. That is why I became valued.
–This is why the sage does not flaunt himself but holds the treasure in his heart.
71) To know ignorance
–Knowing ignorance is best.
–Thinking one knows is foolish.
–Only by being a fool can one avoid becoming a fool.
–The sage does not think he knows, therefore he is not a fool.
72) To keep the power in awe
–When people lack a senor of awe, then disaster will descend upon them.
–Do not narrow the living space of the mind.
–Do not reject the inherent character.
–Because one does not reject, one will not be rejected.
–That is why the sage knows himself but does not flaunt himself.
–He loves himself but does not value himself.
–Therefore he discards one and takes the other.
73) Heaven’s net
–He who is brave and unscrupulous will meet his death. He who is brave and cautious will stay alive. Of these both, one leads to good, one leads to harm. Everyone hates the bad- the reason why is clear. That is why the sage is always cautious.
–The Tao of Heaven does not fight but wins, does not speak but is answered, is not summoned but appears, does not plan but consults. The net of Heaven is widely cast; the mesh is loose, yet nothing slips through.
74) In charge of execution
–If people are not afraid of death, why threaten them with death to prevent them from committing a crime?
–When people are afraid of death, there are still those who are not afraid of it, who will dare to commit a crime, and so why arrest and execute them?
–There is an official executioner who is in charge of execution.
–To kill on behalf of the executioner is like carving wood on behalf of the carpenter. Those who cut wood on behalf of the carpenter can seldom escape from hurting their own hands.
75) Virtuous life
–The people are hungry. It is because those who govern them consume too much in taxes. That is why the people are hungry.
–The people are hard to govern. It is because those who govern them interfere too much. That is why the people are hard to govern.
–The people scorn death. It is because they seek dearly for life. That is why people treat death with disdain.
–Only he who does not seek dearly for his life can value life worthily.
76) Softness and weakness
–A man is soft and weak when living. But hard and rigid when dead.
–The myriad creatures and grass and plants, when living, are soft and fragile. When dead, they are dried and withered.
–That is why the hard and the rigid are the disciples of death, the soft and the weak the disciples of the living.
–Therefore an army which is inflexible cannot win. A plant which is hard will break.
–The strong and hard will fall. The soft and weak will over come.
77) To offer the surplus
–Isn’t the Tao of Heaven like stretching a bow?
–When it is high, it presses down, when it is low, it lifts up. When it is surplus, it reduces. When it is deficient, it increases.
–The Tao of mankind is the opposite: it reduces the deficiency in order to add to the surplus.
–Only the one who has the Tao offers his surplus to others. Therefore the sage benefits others, yet claims no gratitude, accomplishes his task, yet assumes no merit.
–It is only because he does not want to be considered as a virtuous person.
78) The virtue of water
–There is nothing under Heaven softer and weaker than water, yet to attack the hard and the strong nothing can surpass it, nothing can take its place.
–That is why the soft over comes the hard, the weak surpasses the strong. Everyone knows this, yet no one is able to practice it.
–Therefore the sage says: He who can take upon himself the humiliation and insults inflicted on the country is called the king of a state. He who can take upon himself the bad luck suffered by the country is called the emperor of the land under Heaven.
–Straight forward words often seem contrary.
79) Half the agreement
–When peace is made between two great rivals, some resentment will surely remain. How can this be considered a good deed?
–That is why the sage keeps his half of the agreement, but does not require the debt from the other party. That is how a man with virtue takes charge of the agreement. But a man without virtue requires the other to fulfil his obligation, like a wheel running in a rut.
–The Tao of Heaven shows no favouritism: it is always on the side of good men.
80) Without moving
–A small country with a limited population ensures that even though the people may have many valuables, they do not need to use them.
–The ruler lets the people consider death as a serious matter, so that they will not wish to leave their homes. Though they have ships and carriages, they will not use them, and though they have soldiers and arms, there is no need to deploy them.
–The ruler lets the people return to the time of knotting ropes to record information. They will find pleasure in their tasteless food. They will find beauty in their simple clothes. They will find peace in their small houses. They will enjoy their own customs. They can see the neighbouring country. They can even hear the sounds of each other’s roosters and dogs. They will grow old and die, but remain content never to go to the neighbouring country.
81) To not amass
–Truthful words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful. Good men do not argue. He who argues is not good. He who knows, does not learn everything. He who learns everything, does not know.
–The sage does not hoard. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to other, the greater his abundance.
–The Tao of Heaven gives benefits but no harm. The Tao of the sage accomplishes good deeds but makes no claims.