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  …

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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…

Tao Te Ching #10: “Carrying vitality and consciousness”

Carrying vitality and consciousness, embracing them as one, can you keep them from parting? Concentrating energy, making it supple, can you be like an infant? Purifying hidden perception, can you make it flawless? Loving the people, governing the nation, can you be uncontrived? As the gate of heaven opens and closes, can you be impassive?…

Tao Te Ching #9: “To keep on filling is not as good as stopping”

To keep on filling is not as good as stopping. Calculated sharpness cannot be kept for long. Though gold and jewels fill their houses, no one can keep them. When the rich upper classes are haughty, their legacy indicts them. When one’s work is accomplished honorably, to retire is the Way of heaven. – Thomas…

Tao Te Ching #8: “Higher good is like water”

Higher good is like water: the good in water benefits all, and does so without contention. It rests where people dislike to be, so it is close to the Way. Where it dwells becomes good ground; profound is the good in its heart, benevolent the good it bestows. Goodness in words is trustworthiness, goodness in…

Tao Te Ching #7: “Heaven is eternal, earth is everlasting”

Heaven is eternal, earth is everlasting. The reason they can be eternal and everlasting is that they do not foster themselves; that is why they can live forever. For this reason sages put themselves last, and they were first; they excluded themselves, and they survived. Was it not by their very selflessness that they managed…

Tao Te Ching #6: “The valley spirit not dying”

The valley spirit not dying is called the mysterious female. The opening of the mysterious female is called the root of heaven and earth. Continuous, on the brink of existence, to put it into practice, don’t try to force it. – Thomas Cleary   The valley spirit that doesn’t die we call the dark womb…

Tao Te Ching #5: “Heaven and earth are not humane”

Heaven and earth are not humane; they regard all beings as straw dogs. Sages are not humane; they see all people as straw dogs. The space between have and earth is like bellows and pipes, empty yet inexhaustible, producing more with movement. The talkative reach their wits’ end again and again; that is not as…

Tao Te Ching #4: “The Way is unimpeded harmony”

The Way is unimpeded harmony; its potential may never be fully exploited. It is as deep as the source of all things: it blunts the edges, resolves the complications, harmonizes the light, assimilates the world. Profoundly still, it seems to be there: I don’t know whose child it is, before the creation of images. –…

Tao Te Ching #3: “Not exalting cleverness”

Not exalting cleverness causes the people not to contend. Not putting high prices on hard-to-get goods causes the people not to steal. Not seeing anything to want causes the mind to be confused. Therefore the government of sages empties the mind and fills the middle, weakens the ambition and strengthens the bones, always keeping the…

Tao Te Ching #2: “When everyone knows beauty is beauty”

When everyone knows beauty is beauty, this is bad. When everyone knows good is good, this is not good. So being and nonbeing produce each other: difficulty and ease complement each other, long and short shape each other, high and low contrast with each other, voice and echoes conform to each other, before and after…

Tao Te Ching #1: “A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path”

A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path; names can be given, but not permanent labels. Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth; being is called the mother of all things. Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle; ever intent, thereby observe the apparent. These two come from the same source…