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 was unity:
without means of clarity, heaven may burst;
without means of steadiness, earth may erupt;
without means of quickening, spirit may be exhausted;
without means of filling, valley streams may dry up;
without means of birth, all beings may perish;
without means of acting rightly, lords may stumble.
Therefore nobility is rooted in humility,
loftiness is based on lowliness.
This is why noble people refer to themselves
as alone, lacking, and unworthy.
Is this not being rooted in humility?
So there is no praised in repeated praise;
they don’t want to be like jewels or like stones.

– Thomas Cleary


Of those that became one in the past
Heaven became one and was clear
Earth became one and was still
spirits became one and were active
valleys became one and were full
kings became one and ruled the world
but from this we can infer
Heaven would crack if it were always clear
Earth would crumble if it were always still
spirits would dissipate if they were always active
valleys would dry up if they were always full
kings would fall if they were always high and noble
for the noble is based on the humble
and the high is founded on the low
thus do kings refer to themselves
as orphaned widowed and destitute
but this isn’t the basis of humility
counting a carriage as no carriage at all
not wanting to clink like jade
they clunk like rocks

– Red Pine


From ancient times the foremost number
Has kept heaven clear and pure,
The earth below firm and secure,
And made its spirits animate,
And its vales exuberant,
Enabled beings to procreate,
And kings and lords to tell their fate.
Without that one prime integer
Heaven would crack, since not kept pure,
And earth would split, since not secure.
Spirits would fade, since not vital,
And valleys fail, since not fruitful.
All things would die, not procreating,
And kings would fall, their fate mistaking.

The noble by the lowly are sustained;
Those above must have support below.
Hence lords and kings themselves proclaim
“Bereft,” “bereaved,” or “humble slave,”
Relying on a lowly name.
Is it not so?
Thus “frequent praising brings no fame.”
“Prefer not jade’s gentle chime
To dull stone’s harsher tang.”

– Moss Roberts