Tao Te Ching #38: “Virtue comes after loss of the Way”

Higher virtue is not ingratiating;
that is why it has virtue.
Lower virtue does not forget about reward;
that is why is it virtueless.
Higher virtue is uncontrived,
and there is no way to contrive it.
Lower virtue is created,
and there is a way to do it.
Higher humanity is created,
but there is no way to contrive it.
Higher duty is done,
and there is a way to do it.
Higher courtesy is done,
but no one responds to it;
so there is forceful repetition.
Therefore virtue comes after loss of the Way;
humanity comes after loss of virtue,
duty comes after loss of humanity,
courtesy comes after loss of duty.
Manners mean loyalty and trust are thin,
and disarray’s beginning.
Foresight is a flower of the Way,
and the beginning of ignorance too.
Therefore great people dwell in the thick,
not the thin.
They abide in the substance,
not the flower.
So they leave the latter and take the former.

– Thomas Cleary


Higher Virtue isn’t virtuous
thus it possesses virtue
Lower Virtue isn’t without virtue
thus is possesses no virtue
Higher Virtue involves no effort
or the thought of effort
Higher Kindness involves effort
but not the thought of effort
Higher Justice involves effort
and the thought of effort
Higher Ritual involves effort
and should it meet with no response
then it threatens and compels
virtue appears when the Way is lost
kindness appears when virtue is lost
justice appears when kindness is lost
ritual appears when justice is lost
ritual marks the waning of belief
and the onset of confusion
augury is the flower of the Way
and beginning of delusion
thus the great choose thick over thin
the fruit over the flower
thus they pick this over that

– Red Pine


High virtue by obliging not
Acquires moral force.
Low virtue obliges always
And thus lacks moral force.
High virtue neither strives
Nor acts for its own ends.
Low virtue does not strive
But acts for its own ends.
High kindness does strive
But not for its own ends.
High service also strives
And do for its own ends.
High ritual not only strives
But, compliance failing, stops at nothing
To compel conformance.
Thus the loss of the Way
Meant the advent of virtue,
The loss of virtue
The advent of kindness,
The loss of kindness
The advent of service,
The loss of service
The advent of ritual rule.
Ritual rule turned loyal trust to deceit,
Leading to disorder.
All that has been learned adorns the Way
And engenders delusion.
Hence those strong and true keep commitment,
Shun deceit,
Stay with the kernel that’s real,
And shun flowery adornment,
Choosing the first, refusing the last.

– Moss Roberts