Little Note

1.

道可道,非恆道;
名可名,非恆名。
無名天地之始;
有名萬物之母。
故,
恆無,欲也,以觀其妙;
恆有,欲也,以觀其徼。
此兩者同出而異名,
同謂之玄。
玄之又玄,眾妙之門。

The tao that can be told

is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named

is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real. 

Naming is the origin

of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations

arise from the same source.

This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gateway to all understanding.

3.

不尙賢,
使民不爭。
不貴難得之貨,
使民不爲盜。
不見可欲,
使民心不亂。
是以聖人之治,
虛其心,
實其腹,
弱其志,
強其骨。
常使民無知無欲,
使夫智者不敢為也。
為無為,
則無不治。

If you over esteem great men,

people become powerless.

If you overvalue possessions,

people begin to steal.

The Master leads by emptying people's minds

and filling their cores,

by weakening their ambition

and toughening their resolve.

He helps people lose everything

they know, everything they desire,

and creates confusion

in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,

and everything will fall into place.

​​

TAO TE CHING • Lao Tzu

道德經   老子

                                           

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

New English Version (1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2.

天下皆知美之爲美,
斯惡已;
皆知善之爲善,
斯不善已。

有無相生,
難易相成,
長短相形,
高下相傾,
音聲相和,
前後相隨。
是以
聖人處無爲之事,
行不言之敎,
萬物作焉而不辭,
生而不有,
爲而不恃,
功成而弗居。
夫唯弗居,是以不去。

When people see some things as beautiful,

other things become ugly.

When people see some things as good,

other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.

Difficult and easy support each other.

Long and short define each other.

High and low depend on each other.

Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn't possess,

acts but doesn't expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it. 

That is why it lasts forever.

4.

The Tao is like a well:

used but never used up.

It is like the eternal void:

filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.

I don't know who gave birth to it.

It is older than God.

道沖,
而用之或不盈。
淵兮,似萬物之宗。
挫其銳,
解其紛,
和其光,
同其塵。
湛兮,似或存。
吾不知誰之子,
象帝之先。

5.

天地不仁,
以萬物為芻狗;
聖人不仁,
以百姓為芻狗。
天地之閒其猶橐籥乎?
虛而不屈,
動而愈出。
多言數窮,
不如守中。

The Tao doesn't take sides;

it gives birth to both good and evil.

The Master doesn't take sides;

she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:

it is empty yet infinitely capable.

The more you use it, the more it produces;

the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold onto the centre.

6.

谷神不死,是謂玄牝。
玄牝之門,是謂天地根。
綿綿若存,用之不勤。

The Tao is called the Great Mother:

empty yet inexhaustible,

it gives birth to infinite worlds.

It is always present within you.

You can use it any way you want.

7.

The Tao is infinite, eternal.

Why is it eternal?

It was never born;

thus it can never die.

Why is it infinite?

It has no desires for itself;

thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind;

that is why she is ahead.

She is detached from all things;

that is why she is one with them.

Because she has let go of herself,

she is perfectly fulfilled.

天長地久。
天地所以能長且久者,
以其不自生,
故能長生。
是以聖人後其身
而身先,
外其身
而身存。
非以其無私邪?
故能成其私。

8.

The supreme good is like water,

which nourishes all things without trying to.

It is content with the low places that people disdain.

Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In thinking, keep to the simple.

In conflict, be fair and generous.

In governing, don't try to control.

In work, do what you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself

and don't compare or compete,

everybody will respect you.

上善若水。
水善利萬物而不爭,
處眾人之所惡,
故幾於道。
居善地,
心善淵,
與善仁,
言善信,
正善治,
事善能,
動善時。
夫唯不爭,
故無尤。

9.

Fill your bowl to the brim

and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife

and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security

and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people's approval

and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.

The only path to serenity.

持而盈之,不如其已。
揣而銳之,不可常保。
金玉滿堂,莫之能守。
富貴而驕,自遺其咎。
功遂身退,天之道。

10.

Can you coax your mind from its wandering

and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child's?

Can you cleanse your inner vision

until you see nothing but the light?

Can you love people and lead them

without imposing your will?

Can you deal with the most vital matters

by letting events take their course?

Can you step back from your own mind

and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,

having without possessing,

acting with no expectations,

leading and not trying to control:

this is the supreme virtue.

載營魄抱一,
能無離乎?
專氣致柔,
能嬰兒乎?
滌除玄覽,
能無疵乎?
愛民治國,
能無知乎?
天門開闔,
能為雌乎?
明白四達,
能無爲乎?
生之畜之,
生而不有, 
為而不恃,
長而不宰, 
是謂玄德 。

11.

We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the centre hole

that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space 

that makes it livable.

We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.

三十輻共一轂,
當其無,有車之用。
埏埴以為器,
當其無,有器之用。
鑿戶牖以為室,
當其無,有室之用。
故有之以為利,
無之以為用。

12.

Colours blind the eye.

Sounds deafen the ear.

Flavours numb the taste.

Thoughts weaken the mind.

Desires wither the heart.

The Master observes the world

but trusts his inner vision.

He allows things to come and go.

His heart is open as the sky.

五色令人目盲,
五音令人耳聾,
五味令人口爽,
馳騁畋獵令人心發狂,
難得之貨令人行妨。
是以聖人為腹不為目,
故去彼取此。

13.

寵辱若驚,
貴大患若身。
何謂寵辱若驚?
寵為下。
得之若驚,失之若驚,
是謂寵辱若驚。
何謂貴大患若身?
吾所以有大患者,為吾有身;
及吾無身,吾有何患?
故貴以身為天下,
若可寄天下。
愛以身為天下,
若可託天下。

Success is as dangerous as failure.

Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?

Whether you go up the ladder or down it,

your position is shaky.

When you stand with your two feet on the ground,

you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?

Hope and fear are both phantoms

that arise from thinking of the self.

When we don't see the self as self,

what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.

Have faith in the way things are.

Love the world as your self;

then you can care for all things.

14.

視之不見,名曰夷;
聽之不聞,名曰希;
摶之不得,名曰微。
此三者不可致詰,故混而為一。
其上不皦,其下不昧,
繩繩不可名,復歸於無物,
是謂無狀之狀,無物之象,
是謂惚恍。
迎之不見其首,隨之不見其後。
執今之道以御今之有,能知古始,
是謂道紀。

Look, and it can't be seen.

Listen, and it can't be heard.

Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Above, it isn't bright.

Below, it isn't dark.

Seamless, unnamable,

it returns to the realm of nothing.

Form that includes all forms,

image without an image,

subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning;

follow it and there is no end.

You can't know it, but you can be it,

at ease in your own life.

Just realize where you come from:

this is the essence of wisdom.

15.

古之善為道者,微妙
玄達,深不可識。
夫唯不可識,故強為之容。
豫兮,若冬涉川;
猶兮,若畏四鄰;
儼兮,其若客;
渙兮,若冰之將釋;
敦兮,其若樸;
曠兮,其若谷;
渾兮,其若濁。
孰能濁以靜之徐清。
孰能安以動之徐生。
保此道不欲盈。
夫唯不盈,故能蔽而新成。

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.

Their wisdom was unfathomable.

There is no way to describe it;

all we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful

as someone crossing an iced-over stream.

Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.

Courteous as a guest.

Fluid as melting ice.

Shapable as a block of wood.

Receptive as a valley.

Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait

till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

til the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfilment.

Not seeking, not expecting,

she is present, and can welcome all things.

16.

Empty your mind of all thoughts.

Let your heart be at peace.

Watch the turmoil of beings,

but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe

returns to the common source.

Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,

you stumble in confusion and sorrow.

When you realize where you come from,

you naturally become tolerant,

disinterested, amused,

kind-hearted as a grandmother,

dignified as a king.

Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,

you can deal with whatever life brings you,

and when death comes, you are ready.

致虛極;守靜篤。
萬物並作,
吾以觀復。
夫物芸芸,各復歸其根,
歸根曰靜,
是謂復命;
復命曰常,
知常曰明。
不知常妄作,凶。
知常容。
容乃公,
公乃王,
王乃天,
天乃道,
道乃久,
沒身不殆。

17.

When the Master governs, the people

are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,

you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, "Amazing:

we did it, all by ourselves!"

太上,下知有之;
其次,親而譽之;
其次畏之;
其次侮之。
信不足焉,有不信焉。
悠兮,其貴言,
功成事遂,
百姓皆謂我自然。

18.

When the great Tao is forgotten,

goodness and piety appear.

When the body's intelligence declines,

cleverness and knowledge step forth.

When there is no peace in the family,

filial piety begins.

When the country falls into chaos,

patriotism is born.

大道廢,有仁義;
智慧出,有大偽;
六親不和有孝慈,
國家昏亂有忠臣

20.

19.

Throw away holiness and wisdom,

and people will be a hundred times happier.

Throw away morality and justice,

and people will do the right thing.

Throw away industry and profit,

and there won't be any thieves.

If these three aren't enough,

just stay at the centre of the circle

and let all things take their course.

絕聖棄智,民利百倍;
絕仁棄義,民復孝慈;
絕巧棄利,盜賊無有;
此三者,以為文不足,
故令有所屬:
見素抱樸,
少私寡欲。

絕學無憂。
唯之與阿,相去幾何?
善之與惡,相去何若?
人之所畏,不可不畏?
荒兮其未央哉!
眾人熙熙,
如享太牢,
如登春臺。
我獨泊兮其未兆,
若嬰兒之未孩,
乘乘兮若無所歸。
眾人皆有餘,
而我獨若遺。
我愚人之心也哉!沌沌兮!
俗人昭昭,我獨昏昏;
俗人察察,我獨悶悶。
忽兮其若晦,
寂兮似無所止。
眾人皆有以,我獨頑且鄙。
我獨異於人,
而貴求食於母。

Stop thinking and end your problems.

What difference between yes and no?

What difference between success and failure?

Must you value what others value,

avoid what others avoid?

How ridiculous!

Other people are excited

as though they were at a parade.

I alone don't care,

I alone am expressionless,

like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;

I alone possess nothing.

I alone drift about,

like someone without a home.

I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;

I alone am dark.

Other people are sharp;

I alone am dull.

Other people have a purpose;

I alone don't know.

I drift like a wave on the ocean,

I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.

I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.

21.

22.

The Master keeps her mind

always at one with the Tao;

that is what gives her her radiance.

The Tao is ungraspable.

How can her mind be at one with it?

Because she doesn't cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.

How can it make her radiant?

Because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,

the Tao is.

It is beyond is and is not.

How do I know this is true?

I look inside myself and see.

孔德之容,
唯道是從。
道之為物,
惟恍惟惚。
惚兮恍其中有象;
恍兮惚其中有物。
窈兮冥兮,
其中有精;
其精甚真,其中有信。
自古及今,
其名不去,
以閱眾甫。
吾何以知眾甫之然哉?
以此。

23.

Express yourself completely,

then keep quiet.

Be like the forces of nature:

when it blows, there is only wind;

when it rains, there is only rain;

when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.

If you open yourself to the Tao,

you are at one with the Tao

and you can embody it completely.

If you open yourself to insight,

you are at one with insight

and you can use it completely.

If you open yourself to the loss,

you are at one with loss

and you can accept it completely.

Open yourself to the Tao,

then trust your natural responses;

and everything will fall into place.

希言自然。
故飄風不終朝,
驟雨不終日。
孰為此者?
天地尚不能久,
而況於人乎?
故從事於道者,
道者同於道,
德者同於德,
失者同於失。
同於道者,道亦樂得之;
同於德者,德亦樂得之;
同於失者,失亦樂得之。
信不足焉,
有不信焉。

If you want to become whole,

let yourself be partial.

If you want to become straight,

let yourself be crooked.

If you want to become full,

let yourself be empty.

If you want to be reborn,

let yourself die.

If you want to be given everything,

give everything up.

The Master, by residing in the Tao,

sets an example for all beings.

Because he doesn't display himself,

people can see his light.

Because he has nothing to prove,

people can trust his words.

Because he doesn't know who he is,

people recognize themselves in him.

Because he has no goal in mind,

everything he does succeeds.

When the ancient Masters said,

"If you want to be given everything,

give everything up,"

they weren't using empty phrases.

Only in being lived by the Tao

can you be truly yourself.

曲則全,
枉則直,
窪則盈,
弊則新,
少則得,
多則惑,
是以聖人抱一,
為天下式。
不自見故明,
不自伐故彰,
不自是故有功,
不自矜故長。
夫惟不爭,
故天下莫能與之爭。
古之所謂曲則全者,
豈虛言哉!
誠全而歸之。

24.

He who stands on tiptoe

doesn't stand fir.

He who rushes ahead

doesn't go far.

He who tries to shine

dims his own light.

He who defines himself

can't know who he really is.

He who has power over others

can't empower himself.

He who clings to his work

will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,

just do your job, then let go.

跂者不立,
跨者不行,
自見者不明,
自是者不彰。
自伐者無功,
自矜者不長。
其在道也,
曰餘食贅行。
物或惡之,
故有道者不處也

25.

There was something formless and perfect

before the universe was born.

It is serene. Empty.

Solitary. Unchanging.

Infinite. Eternally present.

It is the mother of the universe.

For lack of better name,

I call it the Tao.

It flows through all things,

inside and outside, and returns

to the origin of all things.

The Tao is great.

The universe is great.

Earth is great.

Man is great.

These are the four great powers.

Man follows the earth.

Earth follows the universe.

The universe follows the Tao.

The Tao follows only itself.

有物混成,
先天地生,
寂兮寥兮,
獨立而不改,
周行而不殆,
可以為天下母。
吾不知其名,
字之曰道,
強為之名曰大。
大曰逝,
逝曰遠。
遠曰反。
故道大,
天大,
地大,
王亦大。
域中有四大,
而王處一焉。
人法地,
地法天,
天法道,
道法自然。

26.

The heavy is the root of the light.

The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master travels all day

without leaving home.

However splendid the views,

she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country

flit about like a fool?

If you let yourself be blown to and fro,

you lose touch with your root.

If you let restlessness move you,

you lose touch with who you are.

重為輕根,
靜為躁君,
是以君子終日行不離輜重;
雖有榮觀,
燕處超然。
奈何以萬乘之主,
而身輕天下?
輕則失臣,
躁則失君。

27.

A good traveler has no fixed plans

and is not intent upon arriving.

A good artist lets his intuition

lead him wherever it wants.

A good scientist has freed himself of concepts

and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people

and doesn't reject anyone.

He is ready to use all situations

and doesn't waste anything.

This is called embodying light.

What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?

What is a bad man but a good man's job?

If you don't understand this, you will get lost,

however intelligent you are.

It is the great secret.

善行,無轍跡;
善言,無瑕謫;
善計,不用籌策;
善閉,無關鍵而不可開;
善結,無繩約而不可解。
是以聖人常善救人,
故無棄人;
善救物,
故無棄物,
是謂襲明。
故善人,不善人之師;
不善人,善人之資。
不貴其師,
不愛其資,
雖智大迷。
是謂要妙。

38.

The Master doesn't try to be powerful;

thus he is truly powerful.

The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;

thus he never has enough.

The Master does nothing,

yet he leaves nothing undone.

The ordinary man is always doing things,

yet many more are yet to be done.

The kind man does something,

yet something remains undone.

The just man does something,

and leaves many things to be done.

The moral man does something,

and when no one responds

he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.

When goodness is lost, there is morality.

When morality is lost, there is ritual.

Ritual is the husk of true faith,

the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself 

with the depths and not the surface,

with the fruit and not the flower.

He has no will of his own.

He dwells in reality,

and lets all illusion go.

71.

Not-knowing is true knowledge.

Presuming to know is a disease.

First realize that you are sick;

then you can move toward health.

The Master is her own physician.

She has healed herself of all knowing.

Thus she is truly whole.

72. 

When they lose their sense of awe,

people turn to religion.

When they no longer trust themselves,

they begin to depend on authority.

Therefore the Master steps back

so that people won't be confused.

He teaches without teaching,

so that people will have nothing to learn.

73.

The Tao is always at ease.

It overcomes without competing,

answers without speaking a word,

arrives without being summoned,

accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the entire universe.

And though its meshes are wide,

it doesn't let a thing slip through.

74. 

If you realize that all things change,

there is nothing you will try to hold on to.

If you aren't afraid of dying,

there is nothing you can't achieve.

Trying to control the future

is like trying to take the master carpenter's place.

When you handle the master carpenter's tools,

chances are that you'll cut your hand.

78.

Nothing in the world

is as soft and yielding as water.

Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,

nothing can surpass it.

 

The soft overcomes the hard;

the gentle overcomes the rigid.

Everyone knows this is true,

but few can put it into practice.

Therefore the Master remains

serene in the midst of sorrow.

Evil cannot enter his heart.

Because he has given up helping,

he is people's greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

79.

Failure is an opportunity.

If you blame someone else,

there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations

and corrects her own mistakes.

She does what she needs to do

and demands nothing of others.

39.

In harmony with the Tao,

the sky is clear and spacious,

the earth is solid and full,

all creatures flourish together,

content with the way they are,

endlessly repeating themselves,

endlessly renewed.

When man interferes with Tao,

the sky becomes filthy,

the earth becomes depleted,

the equilibrium crumbles,

creatures become extinct.

The Master views the parts with compassion,

because he understands the whole.

His constant practice is humility.

He doesn't glitter like a jewel

but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,

as rugged and common as a stone.

40.

Return is the movement of the Tao.

Yielding is the way of the Tao.

All things are born of being.

Being is born of non-being.

41.

When a superior man hears of the Tao,

he immediately begins to embody it.

When an average man hears of the Tao,

he half believes it, half doubts it.

When a foolish man hears of the Tao,

he laughs out loud.

If he didn't laugh,

it wouldn't be the Tao.

Thus it is said:

The path into the light seems dark,

the path forward seems to go back,

the direct path seems long,

true power seems weak,

true purity seems tarnished,

true steadfastness seems changeable,

true clarity seems obscure,

the greatest art seems unsophisticated,

the greatest love seems indifferent,

the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.

Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

42.

The Tao gives birth to One.

One gives birth to Two.

Two gives birth to Three.

Three gives birth to all things.

All things have their backs to the female

and stand facing the male.

When male and female combine,

all things achieve harmony.

Ordinary men hate solitude.

But the Master makes use of it,

embracing his aloneness, realising

he is one with the whole universe.

76.

Men are born soft and supple;

dead, they are stiff and hard.

Plants are born tender and pliant;

dead, they are brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible

is a disciple of death.

Whoever is soft and yielding

is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.

The soft and supple will prevail.

80.

If a country is governed wisely,

its inhabitants will be content.

They enjoy the labour of their hands

and don't waste time inventing

labour-saving machines.

Since they dearly love their homes,

they aren't interested in travel.

There may be a few wagons and boats,

but these don't go anywhere.

There may be an arsenal of weapons,

but nobody ever uses them.

People enjoy their food,

take pleasure in being with their families,

spend weekends working in their gardens,

delight in the doings of the neighborhood.

And even though the next country is so close

that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,

they are content to die of old age

without ever having gone to see it.

77.

As it acts in the world, the Tao

is like bending a bow.

The top is bent downward;

the bottom is bent up.

It adjusts excess and deficiency

so that there is perfect balance.

It takes from what is too much

and gives to what isn't enough.

Those who try to control,

who use force to protect their power,

go against the direction of the Tao.

They take from those who don't have enough

and give to those who have far too much,

The Master can keep giving

because there is no end to her wealth.

She acts without expectation,

succeeds without taking credit,

and doesn't think that she is better

than anyone else.

81.

True words aren't eloquent;

eloquent words aren't true.

Wise men don't need to prove their point;

men who need to prove their point aren't wise.

The Master has no possessions.

The more he does for others,

the happier he is.

The more he gives to others,

the wealthier he is.

The Tao nourishes by not forcing.

By not dominating, the Master leads.

75.

 

 

 

 

Thank you to a dear friend who gifted me a copy of this beautiful translation. London, December 2014. You know who you are. I am so grateful. ♥︎

 

May these words find you when you need them.

May you enjoy the blissful state of being centered and rooted in the Eternal.

Whenever your mind becomes disturbed or too enmeshed in the transient; whenever your ego becomes reactive, clingy or feisty; whenever you feel like you don't belong - slow down, take a deep breath, drink some water, disconnect and read any of the 81 chapters. You will find solace and your path will become clearer.

Copy these words into your journal. The sheer act of writing them down will bring you back to your centre. It is a lovely meditative practice which I do often. 

I was very tempted to bolden certain sections but thankfully resisted. I created this page with great sense of calm, love and joy and I sincerely hope that you will feel this energy. Know that you are already home. You have already found. You have arrived. There is no outside.

 

Wishing you all plenty of heart-soothing moments and epiphanies. For many of you these will be grounding confirmations.

With much love and peace ( + soothing music).

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Love wins. I am loved, so are you. May there be peace.

May there be abundance, joy and prosperity.