Lao Tzu 604 B.C.
FROM THE TAO TEH KING
THE grandest forms of active force
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
He who knows the Tao does not care to speak about it; he who is ever ready to speak about it does not know it.
Those who know the Tao are not extensively Learned; the extensively learned do not know it.
The relation of Tao to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys.
The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name. Without a name, it is the beginning of Heaven and Earth; with a name, it is the Mother of all things.
Only one who is eternally free from earthly passions can apprehend its spiritual essence; he who is ever clogged by passions can see no more than its outer form.
THE SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL
THESE two things, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are one and the same. This sameness is a mystery, — the mystery of mysteries. It is the gate of all spirituality.
It eludes the sense of hearing and is therefore called soundless.
It eludes the sense of touch and is therefore called incorporeal.
These three qualities cannot be apprehended, and hence they may be blended into unity.
THE FORM OF TAO
ITS upper part is not bright, and its Lower part is not obscure.
Ceaseless in action, it cannot be named, but returns again to nothingness.
We may call it the form of the formless, the image of the imageless, the fleeting and the indeterminable:
Would you go before it, you cannot see its face; would you go behind it, you cannot see its back.
THE FORCE OF TAO
THE mightiest manifestations of active force flow solely from Tao.
Tao in itself is vague, impalpable, — how impalpable, how vague! Yet within it there is Sub-stance. How profound, how obscure! Yet within it there is a vital Principle. This Principle is the Quintessence of Reality, and out of it comes Truth.
From of old until now, its name has never passed away. It watches over the beginning of all things.
How do I know this about the beginning of things? Through Tao.
THERE is something, chaotic yet complete which existed before Heaven and Earth. Oh, how still it is and formless, standing alone without changing, reaching everywhere without suffering harm!
It must be regarded as the Mother of the Universe. Its name I know not.
To designate it I call it Tao. Endeavoring to describe it, I call it great.
THE GREATNESS OF TAO
THEREFORE Tao is great; Heaven is great; the Earth is great; and the Sovereign also is great.
In the Universe there are four powers, of which the Sovereign is one.
Man takes his Law from the Earth; the Earth takes its Law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from Tao; but the law of Tao is its own spontaneity.
THE UNCHANGING TAO
TAO in its unchanging aspect has no name. Small though it be in its primordial simplicity, mankind dare not claim its service. Could princes and kings hold and keep it, all creation would spontaneously pay homage. Heaven and Earth would unite in sending down sweet dew, and the people would be righteous unbidden and of their own accord.
All-pervading is the Great Tao. It can be at once on the right hand and on the Left. All things depend on it for life, and it rejects them not.
Its task accomplished, it takes no credit. It Loves and nourishes all things, but does not act as master. It is ever free from desire. We may call it small. All things return to it, yet it does not act as master.
We may call it great.
The whole world will flock to him who holds the mighty form of Tao. They will come and receive no hurt, but find rest, peace, and tranquility.
Tao is a great square with no angles, a great vessel which takes Long to complete, great sound which cannot be heard, a great image with no form.
HIGHEST AND LOWEST
THE highest goodness is like water, for water is excellent in benefiting all things, and it does not strive. It occupies the lowest place, which men abhor. And therefore it is near akin to Tao.
NATURAL LAW AND TAO
ALL things alike do their work, and then we see them subside. When they have reached their bloom, each returns to its origin. Returning to their origin means rest or fulfillment of destiny. This reversion is an eternal Law. To know that law is to be enlightened. Not to know it, is misery and calamity. He who knows the eternal Law is liberal minded. Being liberal minded, he is just. Being just, he is kingly. Being kingly, he is akin to Heaven. Being akin to Heaven, he possesses Tao. Possessed of Tao, he endures forever. Though his body perish, yet he suffers no harm.
THE FIRST CAUSE
THE world has a first cause, which may be regarded as the Mother of the World. When one has the Mother, one can know the Child. He who knows the Child and still keeps the Mother, though his body perish, shall run no risk of harm.
THE WAY OF HEAVEN
IT is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it knows how to overcome; not to speak, and yet it knows how to obtain a response; it calls not, and things come of themselves; it is slow to move, but excellent in its designs.
It is the way of Heaven to take from those who have too much and give to those who have too little. But the way of man is not so. He takes away from those who have too Little, to add to his own superabundance.
What man is there who can take of his own superabundance and give it to mankind? Only he who possesses Tao.
HE who is self-approving does not shine. He who boasts has no merit. He who exalts him-self does not rise high. Judged according to Tao, he is like remnants of food or a tumor on the body, — an object of universal disgust. Therefore one who has Tao will not consort with such.
ON PERFECT VIRTUE
PERFECT Virtue acquires nothing, therefore it obtains everything. Perfect Virtue does nothing, yet there is nothing which it does not effect.
Perfect Charity operates without the need of. anything to evoke it.
Perfect Duty to one's neighbor operates, but always needs to be evoked.
Perfect Ceremony operates and calls for no outward response, nevertheless it induces respect.
Knowledge is but a showy ornament of Tao, while ofttimes the beginning of imbecility.
THE SUPERIOR SCHOLAR
WHEN the superior scholar hears of Tao, he diligently practices it. When the average scholar hears of Tao, he sometimes retains it, sometimes Loses it, When the inferior scholar hears of Tao, he loudly Laughs at it. Were it not thus ridiculed, it would not be worthy of the name of Tao.
THE wearing of gay, embroidered robes, the carrying of sharp swords, fastidiousness in food and drink, superabundance of property and wealth, '— this I call flaunting robbery; most assuredly it is not Tao.
BEGIN HARMONY WITH YOUR AGE
TEMPER your sharpness, disentangle your ideas, moderate your brilliance, Live in harmony with your age. This is being in conformity with the principle of Tao. Such a man is impervious alike to favor and disgrace, to benefits and injuries, to honor and contempt. And therefore he is esteemed above all mankind.
MODERATION IN GOVERNMENT
IN governing men and serving Heaven there is nothing like moderation. For only by moderation can there be an early return to man's normal state. This early return is the same as a great storage of Virtue. With a great storage of Virtue there is naught that may not be achieved. If there is naught which may not be achieved, then no one will know to what extent this power reaches. And if no one knows to what extent a man's power reaches, that man is fit to be the ruler of a State. Having the secret of rule, his rule shall endure. Setting the taproot deep and making the spreading roots firm, this is the way to insure long life to the tree.
THE skillful philosophers of the olden time were subtle, spiritual, profound, and penetrating. They were so deep as to be incomprehensible. Because they are hard to comprehend, I will endeavor to describe them.
Shrinking were they, Like one fording a stream in winter. Cautions were they, like one who fears an attack from any quarter. Circumspect were they, like a stranger guest; self-effacing, like ice about to melt; simple, Like unpolished wood; vacant, Like a valley; opaque, like muddy water.
ON THE NATURE OF THINGS
AMONG mankind the recognition of beauty as such implies the idea of ugliness, and the recognition of good implies the idea of evil.
There is the same mutual relation between existence and non-existence in the matter of creation; between difficulty and ease in the matter of accomplishing; between long and short in the matter of form; between high and low in the matter of elevation ; between treble and bass in the matter of musical pitch; between fore and after in the matter of priority.
Nature is not benevolent; with ruthless indifference she makes all things serve their purposes, like the straw dogs we use at sacrifices. The sage is not benevolent; he utilizes the people with the like inexorability.
Heaven and Earth are long-lasting. The reason why Heaven and Earth can Last Long is that they live not for themselves, and thus they are able to endure.
Thirty spokes unite in one nave; the utility of the cart depends on the hollow center in which the axle turns. Clay is molded into a vessel; the utility of the vessel depends on its hollow interior. Doors and windows are cut out in order to make a house; the utility of the house depends on the empty spaces.
Thus, while the existence of things may be good, it is the non-existent in them which makes them serviceable.
Cast off your holiness, rid yourself of sagacity, and the people will benefit a hundredfold. Discard benevolence and abolish righteousness, and people will return to filial piety and paternal love. Renounce your scheming, and abandon gain, and thieves and robbers will disappear.
These three precepts mean that outward show is insufficient, and therefore they bid us be true to our proper nature, to show simplicity, to embrace plain dealing, to reduce selfishness to moderate desire.
He who knows others is clever, but he who knows himself is enlightened.
He who overcomes others is strong, but he who overcomes himself is mightier still.
He is rich who knows when he has enough. He who acts with energy has strength of purpose.
He who moves not from his proper place is long-Lasting.
He who dies, but perishes not, enjoys true longevity.
If you would contract, you must first expand. If you would weaken, you must first strengthen. If you would overthrow, you must first raise up.
If you would take, you must first give. This is called the dawn of intelligence.
He who is most perfect, seems to be Lacking; yet his resources are never outworn.
He who is most full seems vacant; yet his uses are inexhaustible.
Extreme straightness is as bad as crookedness. Extreme cleverness is as bad as folly. Extreme fluency is as bad as stammering.
Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
He who acts, destroys; he who grasps, loses. Therefore the Sage does not act, and so does not destroy ; he does not grasp, and so he does not lose.
The Sage does not care to hoard. The more he uses for the benefit of others, the more he possesses himself. The more he gives to his fellow-men, the more he has of his own.