The most perfect thing can seem flawed,
but this does not impair its usefulness.
The greatest abundance can seem inadequate,
but this does not limit its utility.
The greatest truth appears wrong,
the greatest intelligence appears stupid,
the greatest gain appears to be a loss.
Activity overcomes the feeling of being cold,
and keeping still conquers the feeling of being hot.
Peaceful tranquility – this is the right way in the world.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 45, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Your name or your health – which is closer to you?
Your health or your possessions – which is worth more?
To gain or to lose – which is more harmful?
Those with excessive desires incur great cost.
Those who guard wealth surely suffer great loss.
To avoid disappointment, know what is sufficient.
To avoid trouble, know when to stop.
If you are able to do this, you will last a long time.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 44, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The softest substances on earth overcome the hardest,
and that which has no form can penetrate the smallest of spaces.
Through this I know that not-acting has its advantage,
and that it is best to teach without words.
Rarely is this practiced or even understood.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 43, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao produced the one,
the one divided into the two,
the two became the three,
and the three are the source of the ten thousand things.
Each of the ten thousand things carry yin and and embrace yang,
their merging produces chi which creates balance.
People feel disdain towards the solitary, desolate, hapless –
yet leaders often refer to themselves by these terms.
Thus sometimes people gain when they are diminished,
and sometimes people suffer when they gain.
What others teach, so do I:
Those who are aggressive and violent never die in peace.
I take this in hand and make it the basis of my teaching.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 42, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
When hearing of the teaching of the Tao:
The wise person is diligent about putting it into practice,
the average person can only sometimes follow it,
the inferior person laughs at it –
but if they did not laugh, it would not be the teaching of the Tao.
There are these established sayings:
The enlightened path appears dark,
and advancing on this path may seem like retreating.
For the path that looks smooth is often rugged.
The greatest virtue appears empty,
and the greatest purity appears tarnished.
The most magnificent virtue seems insufficient,
and firmly established virtue seems frail.
Real virtue is fluid and changeable.
The perfect square has no boundaries.
The greatest talent is slow to mature.
The perfect sound is hard to discern.
The greatest form is without shape.
The Tao remains in the background, nameless.
Yet it is because of this that the Tao is able to nourish and bring success.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 41, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Turning back is the Tao’s motion,
yielding is the Tao’s method.
The world and the ten thousand things are born from the ‘what is’,
and the ‘what is’ is born from the ‘what is not’.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 40, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
In ancient times it was natural to be united with the Tao.
Because of this heaven became clear,
earth became tranquil,
spirits became energized,
valleys became full,
the ten thousand things became alive,
leaders ruled the earth with nobility.
What brings this about! Without it:
Heaven would not be clear but would split open,
earth would not be tranquil but would shake,
spirits would not be energized but would wither away,
valleys would not be full but would be exhausted,
the ten thousand things would not be alive but would perish,
leaders would rule with nobility but would be toppled.
Therefore value those rooted in humility,
since the superior person finds his foundation in lowliness.
For this reason leaders refer to themselves as solitary, desolate, hapless.
Is this not because they are rooted in humility?
Thus those who measure their honor have no honor.
Do not shine like jade, instead be humble like a rock.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 39, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The person of superior virtue does not practice virtue,
and this is why he has virtue.
The person of inferior virtue cannot forget about virtue,
and that is why he is without it.
The person of virtue does not think to act,
and does not try to control the outcome.
The person of compassion thinks to act,
and also does not try to control the outcome.
The person of righteousness thinks to act,
but tries to control the outcome.
The person of propriety thinks to act,
and if he cannot control the outcome will get involved and force it.
Therefore when the Tao is lost you resort to virtue,
when virtue is lost you resort to compassion,
when compassion is lost you resort to righteousness,
when righteousness is lost you resort to propriety.
Propriety has only a veneer of loyalty and sincerity,
and this is the beginning of discord.
A person who prematurely believes that they comprehend the Tao
sees only its external luster,
and this is the beginning of delusion.
Therefore the wise person prefers substance to the superficial,
dwells in the fruit and avoids the flower,
embraces the within and rejects the without.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 38, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao does not act, thus everything is done.
If a leader is in accord with it,
all things will naturally develop.
Afterwards, if old habits arise,
suppress them by remembering the uncarved block of wood.
The natural state of the nameless will truly free people from desire,
and the world will naturally right itself.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 37, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
If you want something reduced, first let it expand.
If you want something weakened, first let it become strong.
If you want something forgotten, first let it be exalted.
If you want something taken, first let it be valued.
This is a subtle insight:
the flexible overcomes the strong and unyielding.
Therefore, just as a fish should not leave its water,
a country should not show its weapons to the people.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 36, interpretation by Robert Brookes)