The reason why rivers and seas
can be lords of the hundred valleys
is that they lower themselves to them well;
therefore they can be lords
of the hundred valleys.
So when sages wishes to rise above people,
they lower themselves to them in their speech.
When they want to precede people,
they go after them in status.
So when sages rule,
people don’t take it gravely.
And when sages are in the forefront,
people don’t attack them.
Therefore the world happily backs them
and does not tire of them.
Because they do not contend,
no one in the world can contend with them.

– Thomas Cleary


The reason the sea can govern a hundred rivers
is because it has mastered being lower
thus it can govern a hundred rivers
hence if sages would be above the people
they should speak as if they were below them
if they would be in front
they should act as if they were behind them
thus when sages are above
the people aren’t burdened
when they are in front
the people aren’t obstructed
the world never wearies
of pushing sages forward
and because they don’t struggle
no one can struggle against them

– Red Pine


Why is it the rivers and the ocean,
Like kings, can lead the many valley streams?
Knowing how to stay below, they
Draw to them the many higher streams.
For this reason wise and worldly rulers,
Wishing to remain above their people,
Need to stay below by what they say;
Or if they wish to go before their people,
They need to take their place behind.
Beneath such rule the people feel no weight;
Such leadership the people feel no threat.
All the world rejoices and supports them
And never tries to cast such rulers off.
Is it not because they will not strive
That no one in this world can strive with them?

– Moss Roberts


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