Nearby you will find editions of Laozi's Daoist classic, the Dao de jing, These are the Dao de jing (道德經, The Classic of the Dao and of Virtue) by Laozi 老. Tao Te Ching. Chapter One. Tao (The Way) that can be spoken of is not the Constant Tao'. The name that can be named is not a Constant Name. Nameless, is. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg.
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let the world know that Daodejing is a practical, down-to-earth guide for any one proliferation of symbolism in the Daodejing is remarkable. The Daodejing—2. 2. Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Dao De Jing (道德經) - full text database, fully browsable and searchable on-line; discussion and list of publications related to Dao De Jing. In English and.
The Tao Te Ching does not specifically define what the Tao is. Laozi himself reportedly said, "My words are very easy to understand [ Tao is the core topic of the book, supplemented by related themes such as Te "virtue", or "power" , nothingness, return, detachment, and wu-wei "non-action".
The Tao can be seen as all being, before and beyond all distinctions between different forms or essences of things. Everything comes from Tao and returns to Tao. Perhaps, in the sense of the physicist David Bohm, Tao is 'that- which- is', perfect in being what it is, Being of all and nothing. Proper characteristics can never be truly attributed to the Tao, at least not in a form that can be expressed in words, because Tao represents the Highest form of Truth which transcends rationality or symbolic ideology, as no idea can capture 'truth', so Bohm says, in the sense of 'that which is'.
This did not prevent the ancient Chinese Taoists from feeling the Power of Tao, but it did prevent them from properly ascribing their experiences into words. It is there within us all the while; Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry. Chapter VI, Tr. Waley The Tao Te Ching can be seen as advocating mostly "feminine" or Yin values, emphasising the qualities of water — fluidity and softness instead of the solid and stable mountain , choosing the obscure and mysterious aspect of things, and controlling things without ruling them, in other words to 'have without possessing'.
In this respect, this book can be understood as challenging "male" or Yang values such as clarity, stability, positive action, and domination of nature; such values are often referred to as Confucian values. Yet a perfect balance between the Yin and Yang is still encouraged in Taoism. The Return "When he is born, man is soft and weak; in death he becomes stiff and hard Rigidity is the attribute of death, while weakness is the attribute of life. When things or beings are at their beginning, everything is possible.
When things have not yet developed, it is the right time to act on them with a better chance for good results. A kind of return to the beginning of things, or to one's own childhood, is required.
This focus on the importance of beginnings also has social ramifications. As in the theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Tao Te Ching assumes that ancient times were those of happiness, purity of intentions, and full communion with nature: "the times when anyone could look inside the nests of all the birds".
Problems arose when humanity "invented" culture and civilisation. The Tao Te Ching proposes a return to the more natural state, for example in chapter 80, where the text argues the people should "come back to the usage of knotted ropes" in place of any other form of writing. However, the "Return" shouldn't be understood as a simple or reactionary way back to the past, but as a "contraction," a "reduction," a "withdrawal" or even a "retreat" in oneself.
This is illustrated in the anti- Confucianist saying: Learning consists in adding to one's stock day by day; the practice of Tao consists in subtracting day by day ch. Letting the enemy take the first step thus reducing his range of possibilities is the way to gain the upper hand. Although this idea of a "Return" is close to some modern psychological practices such as introspection, what is to be reached through "Return" is not the self but nothingness, a return to that-which-is.
Downsides: the profanity used at times can be jarring; occasionally breaks the flow by interjecting a modern political issue; often doesn't even try to address the beautiful subtly in a passage and just takes a straightforward translation that leaves a lot on the table.
I recommend you start with his one, because you'll understand what's going on. This link [pdf] goes to a side-by-side comparison of six different older versions.
This lets you compare how different versions were interpreted. Compare the different first sentence of chapter "Welcome disgrace as a pleasant surprise. All on the same theme, but very different.
I recommend you read this translation simultaneous with the one linked above, the casual modern one. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.
What other men thus teach, I also teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death. I will make this the basis of my teaching. The universal use of the action in weakness of the Dao The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest; that which has no substantial existence enters where there is no crevice.
I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing with a purpose. There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words, and the advantage arising from non-action.
Cautions Or fame or life, Which do you hold more dear? Or life or wealth, To which would you adhere? Keep life and lose those other things; Keep them and lose your life: Thus we may see, Who cleaves to fame Rejects what is more great; Who loves large stores Gives up the richer state. Who is content Needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop Incurs no blame. From danger free Long live shall he. Great or overflowing virtue Who thinks his great achievements poor Shall find his vigour long endure. Of greatest fulness, deemed a void, Exhaustion never shall stem the tide. Do thou what's straight still crooked deem; Thy greatest art still stupid seem, And eloquence a stammering scream. Constant action overcomes cold; being still overcomes heat.
Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven. The moderating of desire or ambition When the Dao prevails in the world, they send back their swift horses to draw the dung- carts. When the Dao is disregarded in the world, the war-horses breed in the border lands. There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented with one's lot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
Surveying what is far-off Without going outside his door, one understands all that takes place under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Dao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out from himself , the less he knows. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling; gave their right names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
Forgetting knowledge He who devotes himself to learning seeks from day to day to increase his knowledge ; he who devotes himself to the Dao seeks from day to day to diminish his doing.
He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing on purpose. Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do. He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble with that end. If one take trouble with that end , he is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven. The quality of indulgence The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind. To those who are good to me , I am good; and to those who are not good to me , I am also good; - and thus all get to be good.
To those who are sincere with me , I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere with me , I am also sincere; - and thus all get to be sincere. The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him, and he deals with them all as his children. The value set on life Men come forth and live; they enter again and die. Of every ten three are ministers of life to themselves ; and three are ministers of death.
There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live, but whose movements tend to the land or place of death. And for what reason? Because of their excessive endeavours to perpetuate life. But I have heard that he who is skilful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger, and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon.
The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn, nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws, nor the weapon a place to admit its point. Because there is in him no place of death. The operation of the Dao in nourishing things All things are produced by the Dao, and nourished by its outflowing operation.
They receive their forms according to the nature of each, and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition.
Therefore all things without exception honour the Dao, and exalt its outflowing operation. This honouring of the Dao and exalting of its operation is not the result of any ordination, but always a spontaneous tribute.
Thus it is that the Dao produces all things , nourishes them, brings them to their full growth, nurses them, completes them, matures them, maintains them, and overspreads them. It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them; it carries them through their processes and does not vaunt its ability in doing so; it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over them; - this is called its mysterious operation.
Returning to the source The Dao which originated all under the sky is to be considered as the mother of them all. When the mother is found, we know what her children should be. When one knows that he is his mother's child, and proceeds to guard the qualities of the mother that belong to him, to the end of his life he will be free from all peril. Let him keep his mouth closed, and shut up the portals of his nostrils , and all his life he will be exempt from laborious exertion.
Let him keep his mouth open, and spend his breath in the promotion of his affairs, and all his life there will be no safety for him. The perception of what is small is the secret of clear- sightedness; the guarding of what is soft and tender is the secret of strength. Who uses well his light, Reverting to its source so bright, Will from his body ward all blight, And hides the unchanging from men's sight.
Increase of evidence If I were suddenly to become known, and put into a position to conduct a government according to the Great Dao, what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful display. The great Dao or way is very level and easy; but people love the by-ways. Their court -yards and buildings shall be well kept, but their fields shall be ill-cultivated, and their granaries very empty.
They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes, carry a sharp sword at their girdle, pamper themselves in eating and drinking, and have a superabundance of property and wealth; - such princes may be called robbers and boasters.
This is contrary to the Dao surely! The cultivation of the Dao , and the observation of its effects What Dao's skilful planter plants Can never be uptorn; What his skilful arms enfold, From him can never be borne. Sons shall bring in lengthening line, Sacrifices to his shrine. Dao when nursed within one's self, His vigour will make true; And where the family it rules What riches will accrue! The neighbourhood where it prevails In thriving will abound; And when 'tis seen throughout the state, Good fortune will be found.
Employ it the kingdom o'er, And men thrive all around. In this way the effect will be seen in the person, by the observation of different cases; in the family; in the neighbourhood; in the state; and in the kingdom.
How do I know that this effect is sure to hold thus all under the sky? By this method of observation. The mysterious charm He who has in himself abundantly the attributes of the Dao is like an infant.
Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him. The infant's bones are weak and its sinews soft, but yet its grasp is firm. It knows not yet the union of male and female, and yet its virile member may be excited; - showing the perfection of its physical essence.
All day long it will cry without its throat becoming hoarse; - showing the harmony in its constitution. To him by whom this harmony is known, The secret of the unchanging Dao is shown, And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne. All life-increasing arts to evil turn; Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn, False is the strength, and o'er it we should mourn.
When things have become strong, they then become old, which may be said to be contrary to the Dao. Whatever is contrary to the Dao soon ends.
The mysterious excellence He who knows the Dao does not care to speak about it ; he who is ever ready to speak about it does not know it. He who knows it will keep his mouth shut and close the portals of his nostrils.
He will blunt his sharp points and unravel the complications of things; he will attemper his brightness, and bring himself into agreement with the obscurity of others. This is called 'the Mysterious Agreement. The genuine influence A state may be ruled by measures of correction; weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity; but the kingdom is made one's own only by freedom from action and purpose.
How do I know that it is so? By these facts: Therefore a sage has said, 'I will do nothing of purpose , and the people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keeping still, and the people will of themselves become correct. I will take no trouble about it, and the people will of themselves become rich; I will manifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive simplicity.
Transformation according to circumstances The government that seems the most unwise, Oft goodness to the people best supplies; That which is meddling, touching everything, Will work but ill, and disappointment bring. Who knows what either will come to in the end?
Shall we then dispense with correction? The method of correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of the people on this point has indeed subsisted for a long time. Therefore the sage is like a square which cuts no one with its angles ; like a corner which injures no one with its sharpness.
He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but does not dazzle.
Guarding the Dao For regulating the human in our constitution and rendering the proper service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation.
It is only by this moderation that there is effected an early return to man's normal state. That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of the attributes of the Dao.
With that repeated accumulation of those attributes, there comes the subjugation of every obstacle to such return. Of this subjugation we know not what shall be the limit; and when one knows not what the limit shall be, he may be the ruler of a state.
He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long. His case is like that of the plant of which we say that its roots are deep and its flower stalks firm: Occupying the throne Governing a great state is like cooking small fish. Let the kingdom be governed according to the Dao, and the manes of the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy. It is not that those manes have not that spiritual energy, but it will not be employed to hurt men. It is not that it could not hurt men, but neither does the ruling sage hurt them.
When these two do not injuriously affect each other, their good influences converge in the virtue of the Dao. The attribute of humility What makes a great state is its being like a low-lying, down- flowing stream ; - it becomes the centre to which tend all the small states under heaven.
To illustrate from the case of all females: Stillness may be considered a sort of abasement. Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to a great state, win it over to them.
In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favour. The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself. Practising the Dao Dao has of all things the most honoured place. No treasures give good men so rich a grace; Bad men it guards, and doth their ill efface.
Its admirable words can download honour; its admirable deeds can raise their performer above others. Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it. Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of Heaven, and he has appointed his three ducal ministers, though a prince were to send in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill both the hands, and that as the precursor of the team of horses in the court-yard , such an offering would not be equal to a lesson of this Dao, which one might present on his knees.
Why was it that the ancients prized this Dao so much? Was it not because it could be got by seeking for it, and the guilty could escape from the stain of their guilt by it?
This is the reason why all under heaven consider it the most valuable thing.
Thinking in the beginning It is the way of the Dao to act without thinking of acting; to conduct affairs without feeling the trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great, and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
The master of it anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things. He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so never has any difficulties. Guarding the minute That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; that which is brittle is easily broken; that which is very small is easily dispersed.
Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance; order should be secured before disorder has begun. The tree which fills the arms grew from the tiniest sprout; the tower of nine storeys rose from a small heap of earth; the journey of a thousand li commenced with a single step. He who acts with an ulterior purpose does harm; he who takes hold of a thing in the same way loses his hold. The sage does not act so , and therefore does no harm; he does not lay hold so , and therefore does not lose his bold.
But people in their conduct of affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of success. If they were careful at the end, as they should be at the beginning, they would not so ruin them. Therefore the sage desires what other men do not desire, and does not prize things difficult to get; he learns what other men do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by. Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and does not dare to act with an ulterior purpose of his own.
Pure, unmixed excellence The ancients who showed their skill in practising the Dao did so, not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and ignorant. The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge. He who tries to govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it; while he who does not try to do so is a blessing.
He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule. Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence of a governor. Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him. Putting one's self last That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley streams, is their skill in being lower than they; - it is thus that they are the kings of them all.
So it is that the sage ruler , wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them, and, wishing to be before them, places his person behind them. In this way though he has his place above them, men do not feel his weight, nor though he has his place before them, do they feel it an injury to them.
Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of him. Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to strive with him. Three precious things All the world says that, while my Dao is great, it yet appears to be inferior to other systems of teaching. Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to be inferior.
If it were like any other system , for long would its smallness have been known! But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others.
With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honour.
Now-a-days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold; economy, and are all for being liberal; the hindmost place, and seek only to be foremost; - of all which the end is death.
Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle, and firmly to maintain its ground. Heaven will save its possessor, by his very gentleness protecting him. Matching heaven He who in Dao's wars has skill Assumes no martial port; He who fights with most good will To rage makes no resort. He who vanquishes yet still Keeps from his foes apart; He whose hests men most fulfil Yet humbly plies his art. Thus we say, 'He never contends, And therein is his might. The use of the mysterious Dao A master of the art of war has said, 'I do not dare to be the host to commence the war ; I prefer to be the guest to act on the defensive.
I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot. There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing the gentleness which is so precious. Thus it is that when opposing weapons are actually crossed, he who deplores the situation conquers. The difficulty of being rightly known My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practise; but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practise them. There is an originating and all-comprehending principle in my words, and an authoritative law for the things which I enforce.
It is because they do not know these, that men do not know me. They who know me are few, and I am on that account the more to be prized.
It is thus that the sage wears a poor garb of hair cloth, while he carries his signet of jade in his bosom. The disease of knowing To know and yet think we do not know is the highest attainment ; not to know and yet think we do know is a disease.
It is simply by being pained at the thought of having this disease that we are preserved from it.