Tao Te Ching #78: “So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful”

Nothing in the world is more flexible
and yielding than water.
Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong,
none can withstand it,
because they have no way to change it.
So the flexible overcome the adamant,
the yielding overcome the forceful.
Everyone knows this,
but no one can do it.
This is why sages say
those who can take on the disgrace of nations
are leaders of lands;
those who can take on the misfortune of nations
are rulers of the world.
True sayings seem paradoxical.

– Thomas Cleary


Nothing in the world is weaker than water
but against the hard and the strong
nothing outdoes it
for nothing can change it
the soft overcomes the hard
the weak overcomes the strong
this is something everyone knows
but no one is able to practice
thus do sages declare
who accepts a country’s disgrace
we call the lord of soil and grain
who accepts a country’s misfortune
we call the ruler of all under Heaven
upright words sound upside down

– Red Pine


What more gentle in this world than water?
Yet nothing better conquers hard and strong.
What else could take its place?
Gentle conquers strong, and tender hard.
Well-known as this is to all the world,
Who has proven able to apply it?
Wise men accordingly have said,
“He who for the kingdom’s sake bears shame
Earns the name—master of the shrine.
He who for the kingdom bears ill-fortune
Earns the name of king of all the world.”
How untrue words of truth appear to be.

– Moss Roberts