Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu
translation by James Clum
The way that is the way is not the common way.
The name that is a name is not the common name.
Heaven and earth arose from the nameless,
Our mother has a name.
So, without desire there is mystery.
With desire there are manifestations.
These two depart from two different names,
Together they are called unfathomable.
Being unfathomable it is profound,
The profound is the door to the mysterious.
Everybody knows beauty as beauty because there is ugliness.
Everybody knows friendliness as friendliness and so there is unfriendliness.
Having and not having simultaneously arise.
Difficult and the easy simultaneously develop.
Long and short simultaneously provide shape.
High and low simultaneously generate fullness.
Tone and pitch simultaneously produce harmony.
Front and back simultaneously follow.
Hence, the sage manages affairs by non-action.
This is a wordless instruction.
Everybody is working and nothing has taken off.
Living yet not being possessive and dependent,
Accomplishing but not lingering.
Being neither fixed nor moving.
By not holding individuals in high esteem,
Others will not quarrel over their status.
By not valuing expensive items,
People will not take what is not theirs.
By not looking at desirable things,
The people’s minds will not be troubled.
Hence, this is the way a sage manages his affairs.
By emptying his mind,
By fortifying his belly,
By weakening his will,
By strengthening his bones.
The people then are free of knowledge and desire.
The educated are not daring.
Do without doing,
Rule without governing.
The way is like a bowl that can never be filled.
The abyss is the ancestor of all things;
The profound exists.
I don’t know whose child it is,
It appears to be older than the gods.
Heaven and earth are not kind,
Everyone then becomes a straw dog;
The wise are also not kind,
So everyone becomes a straw dog.
Between heaven and earth is like a bellows.
It is empty but not vacant.
The more you use it, the more it produces.
Too many words are exhausting.
Better keep centered.
The valley spirit never dies,
It’s called the mysterious female.
The mysterious female is the gate,
It’s known as the root of heaven and earth.
Without effort, existence goes on and on.
Heaven is eternal whereas earth is temporal.
Heaven and earth are therefore eternal and temporal.
They do not live for themselves,
So they can live forever.
The sage puts himself last and therefore can be first.
He is excluded so that he may be inclusive.
He does not strive for personal gain,
So he attains his personal aims.
Water reveals an lofty virtue.
Water’s virtue is that it benefits all things without a struggle,
It dwells in places disliked by the multitudes.
So, how much different is the Way?
For a good home-good foundation,
For a good heart -good depth,
For good interaction-good kindness,
For good words- good honesty,
For good justice- good governance,
For good affairs-good abilities,
For good movement -good timing,
A man then should not struggle.
Then there will be no error.
It’s easier to hold a cup when it’s empty.
It’s hard to maintain the sharpness of a knife for a long time.
Gold and jade adorn the halls but then you have to watch over it.
Abundance and wealth result in arrogance,
Personal loss results in blame.
When the task is finished retreat from it,
This is heaven’s way.
Can you nourish the soul and embrace unity without separation?
Can you focus the vital breath to show suppleness like a child?
Can you wipe away the darkness of things you’ve seen
and not leave blemishes?
When you love your country and govern the people?
Can this be done with non-action?
Heaven’s gate opens and closes,
Can this be feminine?
Knowing the four direction,
Can you be unaware of them?
Can we allow them to live without possessing them?
Serving yet not being reliant,
Can you live a long time and not rule?
This is called a mysterious virtue.