If I possessed the smallest amount of sense, I would follow the path of the Tao. For this reason I fear to stray.
The path of the Tao is very straight, yet others prefer to be sidetracked.
When the palaces are full of excessive splendor, the fields are full of weeds and the granaries are empty.
To dress in elegant clothing, carrying fine weapons, gorging in food with wealth and possessions in abundance — this is called boasting of thievery.
Indeed, this is not the way of the Tao.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 53, translation by Robert Brookes)
The world was given a beginning by that which could be called the world’s mother. To know the mother is to know the son, and in understanding the son you in turn keep close to the mother. Until the end, you will be free from danger.
Block your senses, close the gates of desire, and throughout your life you will have no trouble.
Open your mouth, meddle in the affairs of others, and to the end there will be no saving you.
Perceiving the insignificant is called enlightenment, abiding to the yielding is called strength, employing brightness restores your insight, without surrendering your life to misfortune.
This is called cultivating the eternal Tao.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 52, translation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao gives life to all things, then the Te* nourishes them. The Tao and the Te form all things in this world, and then the environment matures them.
Therefore all things in this world honor Tao and treasure Te. This happens without any demand, it happens naturally.
The Tao gives life to them and the Te nourishes them. The Te grows them and develops them, protects them and prepares them, supports them and shelters them.
The Tao gives birth but does not take possession of them. The Te helps them but does not require gratitude, it develops them but does not subordinate them.
This is the root of the mysterious Te.
*Te: Virtue, or the Tao in action. Te is normally translated as ‘virtue’ through the Tao Te Ching.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 51, translation by Robert Brookes)
You originate in life, but always return to death.
Three in ten people focus too much on extending life. Three in ten people focus too much on fearing death. Three in ten people focus on living life to the fullest and thus find an early death. Why is this so? Because such people live to excess.
It is said of the one in ten who successfully preserve their life: When traveling they do not fear the wild buffalo or the tiger. When in the battlefield they avoid armor and weapons.
The wild buffalo can find no place to pitch its horns, the tiger can find no place to sink its claws, the soldier can find no place to thrust his sword.
Why is this so? Because he has no place for death in his life.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 50, translation by Robert Brookes)
The wise person is without a decided mind, thus his actions are based on the minds of the people.
The wise person treats the good person with goodness, he also treats the bad person with goodness — this is how you become good.
The wise person gives the truthful person his trust, he also gives the untruthful his trust — this is how you become trustworthy.
The wise person lives in the world with united and harmonious activity, his heart and mind mixing with the people as water mixes in the ocean, seeing all people as his innocent children.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 49, translation by Robert Brookes)
He who pursues knowledge desires to accumulate more each day.
He who pursues the Tao desires to diminish more each day. He continues to decrease until attaining the realization of non-action — not acting, but leaving nothing undone.
Thus you lead by not interfering, since striving to lead will never be enough.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 48, translation by Robert Brookes)
You do not need to step out of your door to understand the ways of the world. You do not even need to look out of your window to perceive the way of the Tao.
The greater the distance you travel, the greater your understanding is diminished.
Therefore, the wise person: does not need to go out and yet he knows, does not need to see and yet he understands, does not strive and yet he succeeds.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 47, translation by Robert Brookes)
When the Tao prevails in the world, fast horses do slow work in the field. When the world is without Tao, horses are bred for war.
There is no greater misfortune than not knowing what is enough. There is no greater fault than the desire to possess.
Therefore, if you are satisfied that what you have is enough, you will always be content!
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 46, translation by Robert Brookes)
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.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 45, translation 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.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 44, translation by Robert Brookes)