Heaven and earth are not humane;
they regard all beings as straw dogs.
Sages are not humane;
they see all people as straw dogs.
The space between have and earth
is like bellows and pipes,
empty yet inexhaustible,
producing more with movement.
The talkative reach their wits’ end
again and again;
that is not as good as keeping centered.

– Thomas Cleary

 

Heaven and Earth are heartless
treating creatures like straw dogs
sages are heartless too
they treat people like straw dogs
between Heave and Earth
how like a bellows
empty but inexhaustible
each stroke produces more
talking only wastes it
better to protect what’s inside

– Red Pine

 

Heaven and earth refuse kind-kindness:
Treating all things as dogs of straw.
Wise rulers too refuse kin-kindness:
Taking gentlefolk as dogs of straw.

The space that heaven and earth frame
Works like a kiln-bellows and airpipes,
Which though emptying is not exhausted,
And activated, pours more forth.
A ruler’s swiftly spent who speaks too much;
Better for him to guard his inner state.

– Moss Roberts

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2 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching #5: “Heaven and earth are not humane”

  1. I read an online translation of the Tao Te Ching many years ago and found it remarkably lucid. Subsequently, I was unable to find it and read other probably more learned translations, yet all the explanation seemed to cloud over the meaning and the clarity I remembered from my first reading.
    I experienced the same while reading the Bhagvad Gita (ISKON translation). The translation was clear, the subsequent explanation made it difficult and esoteric.

  2. This is why I think comparing translations is sometimes better than one translation & a commentary. Commentaries are sometimes a brick wall, while other translations usually open out. …That said, if you can find a copy of Red Pine’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, each chapter has a page or two of excerpts from translations from the past 2,000 years, many of them only a line or two. It’s the best edition I’ve found.

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