Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
The highest perfection is like imperfection,
And its use is never impaired.
The greatest abundance seems meager,
And its use will never fail.
What most straight appears devious,
The greatest skill appears clumsiness;
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.
Movement overcomes cold,
(But) keeping still overcomes the heat.
Who is calm and quiet becomes the guide for the universe.
( Translation by Lin Yutang )
Lao Tzu said, “something that is complete or perfect is like a defect, but its function is still there, and it will not disappear.”
Things that are full are like they are empty, but their function is not exhausted.
In the same way: the big straight thing seems bent; great coordination seems to be clumsy; and great eloquence seems to be dull.
So he says clearly: peace is better than agitation, cold is better than heat, and quiet and calm can be used as a model for the world.
Fame or one’s own self, which does one love more?
One’s own self or material goods, which has more worth?
Loss (of self) or possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?
Therefore: he who loves most spends most,
He who hoards much loses much.
The contented man meets no disgrace;
Who knows when to stop, runs into no danger –
He can long endure.
( Translation by Lin Yutang )
This chapter emphasizes the importance of self. Lao Tzu began by asking:
Self and fame, which one is closer to you?
Self and the goods, which is more important to you?
If you gain fame and good but cause harm to yourself, which one makes you lose more?
He added: If you love fame too much, you need to spend a great deal and if you try to store too much, you will end up suffering a severe loss.
So Lao Tzu said: If people can be content enough, they will not be subject to humiliation. If they know when they should stop, they will not be in danger.
The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.
(From a translation by S. Mitchell)
Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
Lao Tzu told us why he knows the benefits of “inaction” because he watched “nothing go into the gaps of the things.”
Lao Tzu said: the softest thing in the world can destroy the hardest thing. The things that have no fixed shape or fixed form (such as wind and water), can enter the gaps of all things.
And “nothing” is instead a soft thing without a fixed shape and fixed form, which can enter hard things and things without gaps.
Therefore, inaction is not for the sake of purpose but with no purpose. It is what the Buddhists say: “without the heart’s desire.”
On the contrary, a lot of people do things with purpose and want compensation. There are seldom people who can apply inaction and ask for nothing in return.
Lao Tzu also realized that only a few would be able to teach without words or work without actions, which he reminds us of again and again in his book.
Out of Tao, One is born;
Out of One, Two;
Out of Two, Three;
Out of Three, the created universe.
The created universe carries the yin at its back
and the yang in front;
Through the union of the pervading principles it
To be “orphaned,” “lonely,” and “unworthy” is what men hate most.
Yet the princes and dukes call themselves by such names.
For sometimes things are benefited by being taken away from,
And suffer by being added to.
Others have taught this maxim,
Which I shall teach also:
“The violent man shall die a violent death.”
This I shall regard as my spiritual teacher.
(Translation by Translation by Lin Yu-tang )
Where do people come from? Where did all the other things come from? All this, Lao Tzu very clearly said: from “Tao”.
It’s gradual and step by step. It is:
Tao is none, it gives birth to 1, and one gives birth to 2 which is the yin and yang, and they give birth to 3 (a child), a child gives birth to children and multiplies to the tens and thousands.
All things are yin and yang since the beginning, so yin and yang can be reconciled to achieve harmony.
Everything has its own fixed number and will balance out. Therefore, it is quite understandable that if we gain, we must face the loss and vice versa.
In the end, he taught us what he was taught- “A violent man will die a violent death!” He also uses the phrase to teach people to be gentle, not just violent to reflect on himself and his personality.
The wise student hears of the Tao and practices it diligently.
The average student hears of the Tao and gives it thought now and again.
The foolish student hears of the Tao and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter, the Tao would not be what it is.
Therefore there is the established saying:
“Those who understand Tao seem dull of comprehension;
Those who advance in Tao seem to slip backward;
Those who move on the smooth Tao (Path) seem bumpy.”
The highest Te is like a valley (able to accept all and humble).
It is so pure but seems tarnished.
It is vast but seems not enough.
It is strong but seems frail.
It is real but seems unreal.
About the great
It is a great square with no corners
It is great talents that ripen late;
It is great notes that are hard to hear;
It is great form that has no shape;
The Tao is hidden and without name.
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.
Tao Te Ching-translation by S. Mitchell
The Tao Te Ching -translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English
Tao Te Ching-translation by Yu Tang Lin