Tao Te Ching #41: “If they didn’t laugh at it, it wouldn’t be the Way”

When superior people hear of the Way, they carry it out with diligence. When middling people hear of the Way, it sometimes seems to be there, sometimes not. When lesser people hear of the Way, they ridicule it greatly. If they didn’t laugh at it, it wouldn’t be the Way. So there are constructive sayings…

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Tao Te Ching #40: “The Tao moves the other way, the Tao works through weakness”

Return is the movement of the Way; yielding is the function of the Way. All things in the world are born of being; being is born of nonbeing. – Thomas Cleary   The Tao moves the other way, the Tao works through weakness the things of this world come from something something comes from nothing…

Tao Te Ching #39: “Attaining unity”

When unity was attained of old, heaven became clear by attaining unity, earth became steady by attaining unity, spirit was quickened by attaining unity, valley streams quickened by attaining unity, all beings were born filled by attaining unity; and by attaining unity lords acted rightly for the sake of the world. What brought this about…

Tao Te Ching #38: “By not wanting, there is calm, and the world will straighten itself”

The Way is always uncontrived, yet there’s nothing it doesn’t do. If lords and monarchs could keep to it, all being would evolve spontaneously. When they have evolved and want to act, I would stabilize them with nameless simplicity. Even nameless simplicity would not be wanted. By not wanting, there is calm, and the world…

Tao Te Ching #36: “Flexibility and yielding overcome adamant coerciveness”

Should you want to contain something, you must deliberately let it expand. Should you want to weaken something, you must deliberately let it grow strong. Should you want to eliminate something, you must deliberately allow it to flourish. Should you want to take something away, you must deliberately grant it. This is called subtle illumination.…

Tao Te Ching #35: “the Tao speaks plain words that make no sense … yet we use it without end”

When holding the Great Image, the world goes on and on without harm, peaceful, even tranquil. Where there is music and dining, passing travelers stop; but the issue of the Way is so plain as to be flavorless. When you look at it, it is invisible; when you listen to it, it is inaudible; when…

Tao Te Ching #34: “Therefore sages never contrive greatness; that is why they can become so great.”

The Great Way is universal; it can apply to the left or the right. All beings depend on it for life, and it does not refuse. Its accomplishments fulfilled, it does not dwell on them. It lovingly nurtures all beings, but does not act as their ruler. As it has no desire, it can be…

Tao Te Ching #33: “Those who know others are wise; those who know themselves are enlightened.”

Those who know others are wise; those who know themselves are enlightened. Those who overcome others are powerful; those who overcome themselves are strong. Those who are contented are rich; those who act strongly have will. Those who do not lose their place endure; those who die without perishing live long. – Thomas Cleary  …

Tao Te Ching #32: “The Way is essentially nameless”

The Way is essentially nameless. Though simplicity is small, the world cannot subordinate it. If lords and monarchs can keep to it, all beings will naturally resort to them. Heaven and earth combine, thus showering sweet dew. No humans command it; it is even by nature. Start fashioning, and there are names; once names also…

Tao Te Ching #31: “Weapons are the tools of violence; all decent men detest them”

Fine weapons are implements of ill omen: people may despise them, so those with the Way do not dwell with them. Therefore the place of honor for the cultured is on the left, while the honored place for the martialist is on the right. Weapons, being instruments of ill omen, are not the tools of…

Tao Te Ching #30: “do not coerce the world with weapons”

Those who assist human leadership with the Way do not coerce the world with weapons, for these things are apt to backfire. Brambles grow where an army has been; there are always bad years after a war. Therefore the good are effective, that is all; they do not presume to grab power thereby: they are…

Tao Te Ching #29: “Should you want to take this world”

Should you want to take this world, and contrive to do so, I see you won’t manage to finish. The most sublime instrument in the world cannot be contrived. Those who contrive spoil it; those who cling lose it. So creatures sometimes go and sometimes follow, sometimes puff and sometimes blow, are sometimes strong and…

Tao Te Ching #28: “Know the male, keep the female”

Know the male, keep the female; be humble toward the world. But humble to the world, and eternal power never leaves, returning again to innocence. Knowing the white, keep the black; be an exemplar for the world. Be an exemplar for the world, and eternal power never goes awry, returning again to infinity. Knowing the…

Tao Te Ching #27: “Good works are trackless”

“Good works are trackless” Good works are trackless, good words are flawless, good planning isn’t calculating. What is well closed has no bolt locking it, but cannot be opened. What is well bound has no rope confining it, but cannot be untied. Therefore sages always consider it good to save people, so that there are…

Tao Te Ching #26: “Gravity is the root of lightness”

Gravity is the root of lightness; calm is the master of excitement. Thereby do exemplary people travel all day without leaving their equipment. Though they have a look of prosperity, their resting place is transcendent. What can be done about heads of state who take the world lightly in their own self-interest? Lack of gravity…

Tao Te Ching #25: “Something undifferentiated was born before heaven and earth”

Something undifferentiated was born before heaven and earth; still and silent, standing alone and unchanging, going through cycles unending, able to be mother to the world. I do not know its name; I label it the Way. Imposing on it a great name, I call it Great. Greatness means it goes; going means reaching afar;…

Tao Te Ching #24: “Those on tiptoe don’t stand up”

Those on tiptoe don’t stand up, those who take long strides don’t walk; those who see themselves are not perceptive, those who assert themselves are not illustrious; those who glorify themselves have no merit, those who are proud of themselves do not last. On the Way, these are called overconsumption and excess activity. Some people…

Tao Te Ching #22: “Be tactful and you remain whole”

Be tactful and you remain whole; bend and you remain straight. The hollow is filled, the old is renewed. Economy is gain, excess is confusion. Therefore sages embrace unity as a model for the world. Not seeing themselves, they are therefore clear. Not asserting themselves, they are therefore meritorious. Not taking pride in themselves, they…

Tao Te Ching #21: “For the countenance of great virtue”

For the countenance of great virtue, only the Way is to be followed. As a thing, the Way is abstract and elusive: elusive and abstract, there are images in it; abstract and elusive, there is something there. Recondite, hidden, it has vitality therein: that vitality is very real; it has truth therein. From ancient times…

Tao Te Ching #20: “Detach from learning and you have no worries”

Detach from learning and you have no worries. How far apart are yes and yeah? How far apart are good and bad? The things people fear cannot but be feared. Wild indeed the uncentered! Most people celebrate as if they were barbequing a slaughtered cow, or taking in the springtime vistas; I alone am aloof,…

Tao Te Ching #19: “Eliminate sagacity, abandon knowledge”

Eliminate sagacity, abandon knowledge, and the people benefit a hundredfold. Eliminate humanitarianism, abandon duty, and the people return to familial love. Eliminate craft, abandon profit, and theft will no longer exist. These three become insufficient when used for embellishment causing there to be attachments. See the basic, embrace the unspoiled, lessen selfishness, diminish desire. –…

Tao Te Ching #18: “When the Great Way is deserted”

When the Great Way is deserted, then there is humanitarian duty. When intelligence comes forth, there is great fabrication. When relations are discordant, then there is family love. When the national polity is benighted and confused, then there are loyal ministers. – Thomas Cleary   When the Great Way disappears we meet kindness and justice…

Tao Te Ching #17: “Very great leaders in their domains”

Very great leaders in their domains are only known to exist. Those next best are beloved and praised. The lesser are feared and despised. Therefore when faith is insufficient and there is disbelief, it is from the high value placed on words. Works are accomplished, tasks are completed, and ordinary folk all say they are…

Tao Te Ching #16: “Attain the climax of emptiness”

Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet: as myriad things act in concert, I thereby observe the return. Things flourish, then each returns to its root. Returning to the root is called stillness: stillness is called return to Life, return to Life is called the constant; knowing the constant is called enlightenment. Acts…

Tao Te Ching #15: “Skilled warriors of old were subtle”

Skilled warriors of old were subtle, mysteriously powerful, so deep they were unknowable. Just because they are unknowable, I will try to describe them. Their wariness was as that of one crossing a river in winter, their caution was as that of one in fear of all around; their gravity was as that of a…

Tao Te Ching #14: “What you don’t see when you look”

What you don’t see when you look is called the unobtrusive. What you don’t hear when you listen is called the rarefied. What you don’t get when you grasp is called the subtle. These three cannot be completely fathomed, so they merge into one; above is not bright, below is not dark. Continuous, unnamable, it…

Tao Te Ching #13: “Favor and disgrace seem alarming”

Favor and disgrace seem alarming; high status greatly afflicts your person. What are favor and disgrace? Favor is the lower: get it and you’re surprised, lose it and you’re startled. This means favor and disgrace are alarming. Why does high status greatly affect your person? The reason we have a lot of trouble is that…

Tao Te Ching #12: “Colors blind people’s eyes”

Colors blind people’s eyes, sounds deafen their ears; flavors spoil people’s palates, the chase and the hunt craze people’s minds; goods hard to obtain make people’s actions harmful. Therefore sages work for the middle and not the eyes, leaving the latter and taking the former. – Thomas Cleary   The five colors make our eyes…