06 June 2011


That which can be perceived is not the timeless That.
That which can be named is not the nameless One.

The source of heaven and earth is without form or substance.
Naming creates the ten thousand things.

When desire is absent, Mystery is obvious.
When desire occurs, Creation unfolds.

Mystery and Creation arise from the same source.
The source is emptiness.
Void within Void.
The realm of Tao.


Judging beauty creates ugliness.
Defining good creates evil.
All and Void arise together.

Hard and soft,
long and short,
high and low,
sound and silence,
now and then.
Opposites exist because of each other.

Therefore, the sage acts by not-doing, and teaches no-thought.
The ten thousand things arise and vanish without him.

He works without motive, indifferent to outcome.
Because there is no doer, his actions are timeless.


Bestowing honor breeds ambition.
Hoarding treasure invites thieves.
Displaying objects of desire
sows the seeds of discontent.

Therefore, the sage governs
by emptying minds and filling bellies,
by weakening wills and strengthening bones.

He extols the virtues of desireless unknowing,
and keeps intellects off balance.

When not-doing is accomplished,
nothing remains undone.


Tao is hollow emptiness.

The substance of All,
it is absent of substance.
Dimensionless Void,
it is the source of the ten thousand things.

It blunts sharpness,
unravels entanglements,
diffuses brightness,
merges with dust.

Dark, invisible, it only seems to be.
It is the child of No-thing
and the father of God.


The realm of heaven and earth is indifferent
to the myriad creatures.
They appear as straw dogs.

The sage is indifferent to the multitudes of men.
They appear as straw dogs.

The realm of heaven and earth is like a bellows,
both empty and full.
Moving, it brings forth, endlessly.

More words, less understanding.
Hold fast to the core.


The urge of creation is ceaseless.
It is called the Dark Mother.

The womb of the Dark Mother
is the ground of heaven and earth.

Timeless, imperceptible, it continues ever-present.
Endless use does not touch it.


The realm of heaven and earth is everlasting.

Why is it everlasting?
Because it is not conscious of itself.
Having no thought of being,
it never is not.

Like this, the sage forgets himself,
so he is always present.

Without self-concern, the self is eternal.
When self-interest subsides, fulfillment happens.


Supreme virtue is like water.
It nourishes the ten thousand things without effort,
and flows in places men shun.
It is like Tao.

Stand on solid ground.
Go deep into the heart.
Speak only what is true.

In friendship, be kind.
In governing, be just.
In enterprise, be able.
In action, watch the timing.

Do not contend with nature, and nothing will go wrong.


An over-filled cup is difficult to carry.
An over-sharp point is easily broken.

Fill your house with gold and jade,
and it cannot be protected.
Become puffed with pride,
and disaster will follow.

Do only what needs doing, then forget it.
This is the way of heaven.


While maintaining a body,
can you become one?
While breathing the force of life,
can you be innocent as a babe?

While polishing the dark mirror,
can you be without dust?
While loving and ruling the people,
can you refrain from action?

While coming and going from heaven,
can you be passive as a woman?
Understanding all things,
can you abide in unknowing?

Give birth and nurture.
Create without claim.
Lead without taking command.
This is supreme virtue.


Thirty spokes of a wheel converge
to define a hole.
Clay is molded into pots
to shape the emptiness.
Walls are hammered into rooms
to enclose space.
Windows are cut into walls
to frame absence.

Though things may have value,
without no-thing they are useless.


The five colors confuse the eye.
The five tones deaden the ear.
The five flavors dull the palette.

Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Valuable goods hinder movement.

Therefore, the sage is guided by his gut, not his senses.
He attends to one and ignores the other.


Receive honor with dismay.
Accept misfortune gratefully.

Why receive honor with dismay?
Honor and dishonor cause the same disturbance.
With honor comes the fear of disgrace.
With disgrace comes anxiety and dread.

Why accept misfortune gratefully?
Misfortune weakens the bond to body and self.
Without a separate self, what misfortune is possible?

See misfortune as a condition of separation,
and you will become whole.
See the world as your body,
and All will be delivered unto you.


Searching, we cannot see it.
We call it ephemeral.
Straining, we cannot hear it.
We call it ethereal.
Reaching, we cannot grasp it.
We call it intangible.

These three are often confused
because they are the same.

The One is not bright above and dark below.
Transparent, it moves in and out of nothing.

Its form has no shape.
Its image has no substance.
It is indistinct, elusive.

Nothing to face, nothing to follow.

Hold to the timeless Tao.
Abide in the present.
Now is the ancient beginning.


The old masters were deep, unfathomable,
profound beyond understanding.
Because they were unfathomable,
we can only describe their demeanor.

Cautious, as if crossing an icy stream.
Alert, as if sensing danger.
Respectful, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like melting ice.
Simple, like uncarved wood.
Open, like beckoning valleys.
Mysterious, like opaque pools.

Still the mind, and the mud settles.
Do nothing, and action comes of itself.

One who embraces the Tao has no desire for fulfillment.
Not desiring fulfillment,
he is finished with birth and death.


Be completely empty.
Be completely still.

Witness the ten thousand things
appear and vanish in one motion.
Watch as they arise, linger,
and return to the source – stillness.

This is the way it is.
It is called everlasting life.
To witness the everlasting is to be awake.

Not seeing the everlasting, one engages in blind action.
Blind action leads to misfortune.

Seeing the everlasting, one encompasses it all.
Encompassing all, one is impartial.
Being impartial, one acts nobly.
Acting nobly, one enters heaven.

Entering heaven is to be one with Tao.
Being one with Tao is to be everlasting.

Though the body dies, nothing is disturbed.


When a sage governs, people barely notice.

Lesser rulers are praised and loved.
Lesser still are feared and obeyed.
The least are ridiculed and despised.

Trust is earned by trusting.

The sage uses words sparingly.
His work is done without fanfare.
People say: “It happened by itself.”


When Tao is forgotten,
charity and righteousness are born.

When intelligence and knowledge are valued,
duplicity and pretense soon follow.

When the family is discordant,
love and duty are preached.

When the country is in chaos, loyal patriots appear.


Abandon holiness, renounce wisdom.
It will be a hundred times better for everyone.

Eliminate morality and benevolence.
Love and empathy will naturally return.

Give up cleverness and profit.
Thieves and bandits will disappear.

But these are outward lessons, not the core.
Be simple.
Be true.
Cast off selfhood and desire.


Between yes and no, is there really much difference?
Good and bad, are they so far apart?
Must I think as others think?
Alas, there would be no end to fear.

The multitudes are busy with feasts and celebrations.
In spring they climb towers and enjoy the view.
I alone am unmoved, like an infant too young to smile.

Others have more than enough.
I alone have nothing.
My mind is that of a fool – empty.

Others are clear and bright.
I alone am nebulous and dim.
Others are alert and clever.
I alone am withdrawn, adrift in the ocean,
directionless as swirling wind.

Everyone else has purpose.
I alone am stubborn and untamed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the Dark Mother.


Supreme virtue is to abide in Tao alone.

Tao is elusive and empty –
oh yes, utterly empty and elusive –
yet within it, dreamlike images arise.

Oh yes, it is indistinct and nebulous,
but within it, shadows take form.

Oh yes, it is mysterious and dark,
but within it, appearances originate.

The origin of Creation is the Real.
Its manifestations are unceasing.
This can be witnessed.

How do I witness the origin of Creation?
By looking!


Surrender, and become whole.
Bend low, and be straightened.
Become empty, and be filled.
Burn out, and be renewed.

Having nothing, beauty is revealed.
Having much, the way is hidden.
The sage abides in One,
and thus is master of heaven and earth.

Not being self-absorbed, his vision is clear.
Not asserting himself, his light shines forth.
Not showing off, his merit is obvious.
Not praising himself, praise is showered upon him.
Not contending, nothing under heaven stands in his way.

This ancient saying, “Surrender and become whole,”
is it empty words?

Being whole means all things have returned to you.


To last a short time is the way of nature.
High winds blow out before morning.
Hard rain subsides in a day.

What issues these?
The realm of heaven and earth.
If the realm of heaven and earth cannot maintain duration,
what chance has man?
This is why one aligns with Tao.

One who aligns with Tao is embraced by Tao.
One who lives a virtuous life attains Virtue.
One who loses his way feels lost.

He who is embraced by Tao becomes one with Tao.
He who attains Virtue finds heaven.
He who feels lost is never far from home.

Faith comes to the faithful.


One who stands on tiptoe is unsteady.
One who strides too hard cannot go far.

He who shines a light on himself is not enlightened.
He who asserts himself is not distinguished.
He who praises himself has no merit.
He who brags of his success will not last long.

Observers of Tao see these as spoiled food,
and pointless action – shunned even by the myriad creatures.

One who knows Tao does not abide them.


Formless no-thing.
Precedent of heaven and earth.
Timeless, unchanging, solitary, silent.
It is the mother of the ten thousand things.

I do not know its name.
I call it Tao.
If forced to describe it,
I call it great.

Great implies vast reaches.
Vast reaches implies far away.
Far away implies return.

Tao is great.
Heaven is great.
Earth is great.
Man, too, is great.
In the realm there are four greats,
and a noble man is one.

Man follows the way of earth.
Earth follows the way of heaven.
Heaven follows the way of Tao.

Tao is the great Way.


Gravity is the ground of lightness.
Stillness is the master of unrest.

The sage can travel all day,
yet never wander far from the baggage wagon.
Though splendor and spectacle may beckon,
he remains unmoved, indifferent.

Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots act lightly?
One who acts lightly is not grounded.
One who is restless is not his own master.


A good walker leaves no tracks.
A good speaker does not slip up.
A good accountant needs no counter.

A good doorsmith uses no bolts or locks,
yet none can open what he closes.
A good binder uses no knots,
yet what he binds cannot be unraveled.

The sage is good at saving souls and rejects no one.
He takes care of all things, and abandons nothing.
This is called “the way of awareness.”

The good man is the ignorant man’s teacher.
The ignorant man is the good man’s lesson.
To not honor the teacher and value the lesson –
no matter how much wisdom one acquires –
is to miss the mark.

This is an essential secret.


Know the strength of the male,
but keep to the role of the female.
Be the river of the world.

Being the river of the world, supreme virtue flows without end.
Flowing without end, you are the timeless infant.

Know the purity of the light, but maintain darkness.
Be the model of the world.
Being the model of the world, supreme virtue is constant.
Maintaining constant virtue, you are the boundless realm.

Be worthy of high honors, but keep to the role of the lowly.
Be the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world, supreme virtue is fulfilled.
Being fulfilled, you are the uncarved block.

The uncarved block appears as separate things.
The sage sees things as they are, and rules the world.

Great power does not divide.


There are those who want to control the realm,
and make it more to their liking.
They will never succeed.
The realm of heaven and earth is perfect, a sacred vessel.
It cannot be improved.
He who tries to change it, destroys it for himself.
He who tries to hold it, loses all contact.

It is natural for beings to sometimes lead, sometimes follow,
sometimes breathe hot, sometimes blow cold,
sometimes expand, sometimes decay,
sometimes overcome, sometimes collapse.

The sage, therefore, abandons pleasure, judgment, and pride.


When counseling rulers, observers of Tao do not advise force.
This is certain to bring consequences.
Where great armies have passed, thorn bushes thrive.
Famine follows in the wake of war.
A good ruler does only what is necessary to achieve results.
He does not abuse position.

Achieve results, but do not glory in them.
Achieve results, but do not boast.
Achieve results, but be not proud.

Achieve results, because there is no choice.
Achieve results, but do not overpower.
Doing more than necessary brings exhaustion.
This is not in harmony with Tao.

What is not in harmony with Tao soon perishes.


Even the finest weapons are instruments of ill omen,
hated and feared by all creatures.
Observers of Tao have no use for them.

At home, a man of virtue gives precedence to the left.
At war, he gives precedence to the right.

Weapons are not the tools of a man of virtue.
Weapons are instruments of fear,
to be employed as a last resort.
Do not relish their use, or admire their excellence.

To see weapons as excellent is to relish killing.
If you relish killing, you will never find the Way.

On joyful occasions, precedence is give to the left.
On sad occasions, precedence is given to the right.

When an army is arrayed, the general is placed on the left.
The commander-in-chief is placed on the right.
Thus, war is conducted as a funeral right.

When multitudes are being killed,
hold in your heart only sorrow.
When victory is achieved,
mark it with mourning.


Tao is the uncarved block.
Timeless, undefined, infinitesimally subtle.
None is its master.

If lords and princes observed it,
the ten thousand things would arrive as guests to the table.
Heaven and earth would rejoice,
and sweet nectar would fall,
though none under heaven had decreed it.

When the whole is divided, the parts are named.
There are already too many names.
It is time to stop.
Knowing when to stop avoids exhaustion.

Tao in the world is like
stream flowing to river flowing to sea.


One who knows others is wise.
One who knows self is enlightened.
One who masters others is strong.
One who masters self is powerful.

Knowing you have enough is fulfillment.
Exerting strong effort brings exhaustion.

He who abides where he is, lasts long.
He who dies without ceasing,
is timelessly present.


Great Tao flows everywhere,
left and right, all directions.

The ten thousand things depend on it,
and it does not turn away.
Its purpose is fulfilled, but it lays no claim.

It clothes and nourishes the ten thousand things,
but is not their lord.
It desires nothing.
It is smaller than small.

The ten thousand things return to it,
but it is not their master.
It is indeed great.
Because it knows nothing of greatness,
it is greater than great.


Extol the great illusion, and the men of the world will gather.

Talk of success, security, happiness,
and the multitudes will flock.
Offer music and tasty food,
and travelers will stop in.

Talk of Tao has no flavor.

Look for it – there is nothing to see.
Listen for it – there is nothing to hear.
Merge with it – there is no boundary or end.


If you want it to contract, let it expand.
If you want it to weaken, let it gain strength.
To bring a thing down, let it be raised high.
To bring a thing to you, let go.

This is called “perceiving the subtle workings.”

Soft and weak overcome hard and strong.
A fish should not leave deep water.
A country should not show off its power.


Tao does nothing, yet nothing remains undone.

When a noble man observes this,
the ten thousand things are transformed.
When the desire to act re-emerges,
it is stilled by the nameless no-thing.

Without things, there is no desire.
Without desire, there is stillness.
In stillness, the realm of heaven and earth is perfect.


The man of high virtue is not aware of himself,
and thus attains supreme virtue.
The man of low virtue self-consciously strives,
and thus is without virtue.

The wise man does nothing,
yet leaves nothing undone.
The ignorant man is consumed by doing,
yet little is accomplished.

The compassionate man acts without motive.
The righteous man acts to gain merit.
The moral man acts to impose order.
If no one responds,
he bares his arms and becomes an enforcer.

When Tao is lost, there is virtue.
When virtue is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, rules of conduct are imposed.

Rules are the remnants of trust,
and the beginning of chaos.
Knowledge is an ornamental blossom of Tao,
and the beginning of misunderstanding.

The sage dwells in the depths, not the surface,
in the root, not the flower.
He abides in one, and lets go of the other.


Before time, these ancestors arise from One:

Heaven arises from One, and becomes clear.
Earth arises from One, and becomes firm.
Spirit arises from One, and becomes divine.

Emptiness arises from One, and becomes Creation.
The ten thousand things arise from One, and become manifest.
Kings and princes arise from One, and become exalted.

One is the source of All.

Separated from the Source:
the clearness of heaven would vanish,
the firmament of earth would dissolve,
the divinity of spirit would dissipate,
and Creation would become desolation.
The ten thousand things would perish,
and kingdoms would disappear.

Humility is the root of honor.
Lowliness is the foundation of esteem.
Thus, a noble man considers himself orphaned,
bereft, unworthy.

This is knowing the humble source, is it not?

To seek praise is not praiseworthy.
Do not jangle like jewelry.
Be still as stone.


Tao moves by returning, and acts by yielding.
Thus, the ten thousand things arise into being.

Being arises from non-being.
Things arise from no-thing.


When the wise student hears of Tao,
he practices diligently.
When the average student hears of Tao,
he practices off and on.
When the foolish student hears of Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If the foolish do not laugh, it is not Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path of light is through darkness.
The road ahead leads back.
The easy way is most difficult.
The highest fulfillment is emptiness.

True purity seems sullied.
True abundance seems bereft.
True power seems weak.
True substance seems hollow.

The greatest region has no boundaries.
The best tools are fashioned slowly.
The highest sounds are hard to hear.
The perfect form has no shape.

Tao is unseen, undefined.
Yet Tao alone nourishes,
and brings all things to fulfillment.


From Tao, One arises.
From One, two.
From two, three.
Three becomes the ten thousand things.

The ten thousand things carry yin on their backs,
and hold yang in their arms.
Existence depends on the two.

Men hate to be orphaned, bereft, unworthy,
yet this is how the noble man describes himself.
Loss is gain, gain is loss.

I teach what has always been taught:
“A fervent man is surprised by death.”
I see this as the foundation of my teaching.


Under heaven, the soft and yielding
overcomes the hard and strong.
That without substance
permeates the impenetrable.

Thus, I embrace non-action,
teach without words,
work without doing.

Few under heaven understand this.


Name or body, which is more precious?
Person or possessions, which is more dear?
Gain or loss, which is more harmful?

Excessive desire incurs great expense.
One who hoards treasure suffers loss.

One who knows enough is enough,
will always have enough.
One who knows when to stop, avoids exhaustion.
Thus, he will endure.


Perfection appears imperfect,
but has no flaw.
Fulfillment appears as emptiness,
but has no limit.

Great truth is a paradox.
Great wisdom is self-evident.
Great eloquence is unpractical.

Movement overcomes cold.
Tranquility overcomes heat.
Stillness and simplicity
put all things right under heaven.


When Tao is embraced in the realm,
race horses haul their own manure.
When Tao is unknown in the realm,
war horse are bread at the borders.

There is no greater curse than desire,
no greater misfortune than greed.

He who knows enough is enough,
will always have enough.


Without leaving home, you can know the whole world.
By not looking without, you can know heaven.

Seeking afar does not find what is near.

Thus, the sage knows without learning,
sees without seeking,
acts without doing.


For students of knowledge,
every day something is acquired.
For observers of the Tao,
every day something falls away.

Less and less is done,
until not-doing is achieved.
When there is no doer,
nothing remains to be done.

The realm of heaven and earth
is ruled by timeless principles.
He who tries to interfere is not ready to receive it.


The sage has no heart or mind of his own.
Thus, he knows the heart and mind of all.

I am good to the good,
and good to the not-so-good.
This is the goodness of Virtue.

I trust the trustworthy,
and have faith in those who should not be trusted.
This is the faith of Virtue.

The sage is in harmony with the realm of heaven and earth.
His mind is merged with the world.
People turn to him and listen.
He treats them as his children.


In the passage from womb to grave,
one in three are disciples of living.
One in three are disciples of death.
On in three are just passing though.

All believe they have life.

He who know the truth of existence
does not fear wild bulls or tigers.
He wears no armor in battle.

Bulls have no place to thrust their horns.
Tiger have no place to sink their claws.
Weapons have no place to enter.

Why is this?
Because death is for the living.


Tao gives them life.
Virtue gives them nourishment.
The manifest world gives them form.
The tendencies of each make them what they are.

Therefore, the ten thousand things honor Tao and esteem Virtue.
This honor and esteem are not commanded.
It is just the nature of things.

And so, all things arise from Tao.
By Virtue they are nourished, developed, clothed,
sheltered, soothed, aged, and buried.

To create without possessing,
to act without making claims,
to lead without taking command –
this is timeless virtue.


Where the realm of heaven and earth begins
could be called the mother of creation.

Knowing the mother, become the child.
Being the child, stay close to the mother.
Death will not bother you.

Stay quiet, keep inside,
and you will never want for anything.
Open your mouth, meddle in affairs,
and you are beyond rescue.

Perceiving the subtle is insight.
To yield requires strength.
Use the light of Creation to become illuminated
and thus be saved.

The is called “entering the Absolute.”