Selections from the Tao Te Ching
Selections from the Tao Te Ching
I read the book earlier this year. I can kinda understand why Catholic convert John Wu began his translation of the Book of John with, “In the beginning was the Tao.”
Therefore the sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved.
The highest excellence is like water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving (to the contrary), the low place which all men dislike. Hence is near to the Tao.
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.
Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.
The sage is free from self-display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness, the ruler of movement.
The kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.
The sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.
He who is satisfied with his lot is rich.
He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty.
The sage is able to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
Who is content needs fear no shame.
Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented with one’s lot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
The farther that one goes out, the less he knows. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without traveling; gave their names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble.
The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all.
He who knows does not speak; he who speaks about it does not know it.
For regulating the human and rendering the service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation.
The sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.
The sage desires what (other men) do not desire, and does not prize things difficult to get; he learns what (other men) do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by. Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and does not dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honor.
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. Those who are skilled do not dispute; the disputatious are not skilled in it. Those who know are not extensively learned; the extensively learned do not know it.
The sage does not accumulate. The more that he expends for others, the more does he possess of his own; the more that he gives to others, the more does he have himself.