Tao Te Ching, by Lau-Tzu (verses 71 - 81)
Translated by J. H. McDonald (1996)
Knowing you don't know is wholeness.
Thinking you know is a disease.
Only by recognizing that you have an illness
can you move to seek a cure.
The Master is whole because
she sees her illnesses and treats them,
and thus is able to remain whole.
When people become overly bold,
then disaster will soon arrive.
Do not meddle with people's livelihood;
by respecting them they will in turn respect you.
Therefore, the Master knows herself but is not arrogant.
She loves herself but also loves others.
This is how she is able to make appropriate choices.
Being overbold and confidant is deadly.
The wise use of caution will keep you alive.
One is the way to death,
and the other is the way to preserve your life.
Who can understand the workings of Heaven?
The Tao of the universe
does not compete, yet wins;
does not speak, yet responds;
does not command, yet is obeyed;
and does act, but is good at directing.
The nets of Heaven are wide,
but nothing escapes its grasp.
If you do not fear death,
then how can it intimidate you?
If you aren't afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can not do.
Those who harm others
are like inexperienced boys
trying to take the place of a great lumberjack. Trying to fill his shoes will only get them seriously hurt.
When people go hungry,
the government's taxes are too high.
When people become rebellious,
the government has become too intrusive.
When people begin to view death lightly,
wealthy people have too much
which causes others to starve.
Only those who do not cling to their life can save it.
The living are soft and yielding;
the dead are rigid and stiff.
Living plants are flexible and tender;
the dead are brittle and dry.
Those who are stiff and rigid
are the disciples of death.
Those who are soft and yielding
are the disciples of life.
The rigid and stiff will be broken.
The soft and yielding will overcome.
The Tao of Heaven works in the world
like the drawing of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
The excess is taken from,
and the deficient is given to.
The Tao works to use the excess,
and gives to that which is depleted.
The way of people is to take from the depleted,
and give to those who already have an excess.
Who is able to give to the needy from their excess?
Only someone who is following the way of the Tao.
This is why the Master gives
expecting nothing in return.
She does not dwell on her past accomplishments,
and does not glory in any praise.
Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.
Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.
Therefore the Master says:
"Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world."
True sayings seem contradictory.
Difficulties remain, even after solving a problem.
How then can we consider that as good?
Therefore the Master
does what she knows is right,
and makes no demands of others.
A virtuous person will do the right thing,
and persons with no virtue will take advantage of others.
The Tao does not choose sides,
the good person receives from the Tao
because she is on its side.
Small countries with few people are best.
Give them all of the things they want,
and they will see that they do not need them.
Teach them that death is a serious thing,
and to be content to never leave their homes.
Even though they have plenty
of horses, wagons and boats,
they won't feel that they need to use them.
Even if they have weapons and shields,
they will keep them out of sight.
Let people enjoy the simple technologies,
let them enjoy their food,
let them make their own clothes,
let them be content with their own homes,
and delight in the customs that they cherish.
Although the next country is close enough
that they can hear their roosters crowing and dogs barking,
they are content never to visit each other
all of the days of their life.
True words do not sound beautiful;
beautiful sounding words are not true.
Wise men don't need to debate;
men who need to debate are not wise.
Wise men are not scholars,
and scholars are not wise.
The Master desires no possessions.
Since the things she does is for the people,
she has more than she needs.
The more she gives to others,
the more she has for herself.
The Tao of Heaven nourishes by not forcing.
The Tao of the Wise person acts by not competing.
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