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Lao Tzu - Wu-Wei

Do nothing by self-will, but rather conform to the Infinite Will, and everything will be done for you.

Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will become clear of itself. Who is there that can secure a state of absolute repose? But let time go on, and the state of repose will gradually arise.

Tao is eternally inactive, and yet it leaves nothing undone. If the princes and kings could but hold fast to this principle, all things would work out their own reformation. If, having reformed, they still desire to act, I would have them restrained by the simplicity of the Nameless Tao.

The simplicity of the Nameless Tao brings about an absence of desire. The absence of desire gives tranquility. And thus the empire will rectify itself.

The softest things in the world override the hardest. That which has no substance enters where there is no crevice. Hence I know the advantage of inaction.

Without going out of doors, one may know the whole world; without Looking out of the window, one may see the Way of Heaven. The further one travels, the less one may know. Thus it is that without moving you shall know, without looking you shall see, without doing you shall achieve.

The pursuit of book learning brings about daily increase. The practice of Tao brings about daily loss. Repeat this loss again and again, and you arrive at inaction. Practice inaction, and there is nothing which cannot be done.

Desire not to desire, and you will not value things difficult to obtain. Learn not to learn, and you will revert to a condition which man. kind in general has Lost.

Leave all things to take their natural course, and do not interfere.


ALL things in nature work silently. They come into being and possess nothing. They fulfill their functions and make no claim.

When merit has been achieved, do not take it to yourself; for if you do not take it to yourself, it shall never be taken from you.

Keep behind, and you shall be put in front; keep out, and you shall be kept in.

Goodness strives not, and therefore it is not rebuked.

He that humbles himself shall be preserved entire. He that bends shall be made straight.

He that is empty shall be filled. He that is worn out shall be renewed. He who has little shall succeed. He who has much shall go astray.

He who, conscious of being strong, is content to be weak, he shall be the paragon of mankind.

Being the paragon of mankind, Virtue will never desert him. He returns to the state of a little child.

He who, conscious of his own light, is content to be obscure, he shall be the whole world's model; his Virtue will never fail. He reverts to the Absolute.

He who is great, must make humility his base. He who is high, must make lowliness his foundation. Thus princes and kings in speaking of themselves use the terms "lonely," "friendless," "of small account." Is not this making humility their base?

Thus it is said that "Some things are increased by being diminished, others are diminished by being increased." What others have taught, I also teach; verily, I will make it the root of my teaching.

Therefore the Sage, wishing to be above the people, must by his words put himself below them; wishing to be before the people, he must put himself behind them. In this way, though he has his place above them, people do not feel his weight; though he has his place before them, they do not feel it an injury. Therefore all mankind delight to exalt him, and weary of him not.

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle, and you can be bold; be frugal, and you can be Liberal; avoid putting yourself before others, and you can become a leader among men.

Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences round with gentleness.

The best soldiers are not warlike; the best fighters do not lose their temper. The greatest conquerors are those who overcome their enemies without strife. The greatest directors of men are those who yield place to others. This is called the Virtue of not striving, the capacity for directing mankind; this is being the compeer of Heaven. It was the highest goal of the ancients.


NOT exalting worth keeps the people from rivalry. Not prizing what is hard to procure keeps the people from theft. Not to show them what they may covet is the way to keep their minds from disorder.

He who respects the State as his own person is fit to govern it. He who Loves the State as his own body is fit to be in trusted with it.

In the highest antiquity, the people did not know that they had rulers. In the next age, they loved and praised them. In the next, they feared them. In the next, they despised them.

As restrictions and prohibitions are multiplied in the empire, the people grow poorer and poorer, When the people are subjected to overmuch government, the Land is thrown into confusion. When the people are skilled in many cunning arts, strange are the objects of luxury that appear.

The greater the number of Laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be. Therefore the Sage says: "So Long as I do nothing, the people will work out their own reformation. So Long as I love calm, the people will right themselves. If only I keep from meddling, the people will grow rich. If only I am free from desire, the people will come naturally back to desire."

Do not confine the people within too narrow bounds; do not make their Lives too weary. For if you do not weary them of Life, they will not then grow weary of you.

Were I ruler of a Little State with a small population, with only ten or a hundred men available as soldiers, I would not use them. I would have the people Look on death as a grievous thing, and they should not travel to distant countries. Though they might possess boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them. Though they might own weapons and armor, they should have no need to use them. I would make people return to the use of knotted cords. They should find their plain food sweet, their rough garments fine. They should be content with their simple homes, and happy in their simple ways. If a neighboring State was within sight of mine nay, if we were close enough to hear the crowing of each other's cocks and the barking of each other's dogs the two peoples should grow old and die without there ever having been any mutual intercourse.

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