How great is the difference between approval and disapproval?
How much alike are good and evil?
Must you fear what others fear?
Desolate! This is without end.
Most people desire to be joyful and merry,
as if celebrating at a great feast in the spring.
But the wise person remains placid,
showing no desire,
like an infant who has not yet learned to smile.
And weary, like a homeless wanderer.
Most people desire to possess too much.
But the wise person appears wanting and foolish of mind.
Most people value brilliance and cleverness.
But the wise person seems confused and obtuse,
as if drifting upon windy seas, without direction.
Most people desire to have a useful purpose.
But the wise person appears obstinate, unrefined.
The wise person alone is different from most people,
in that he prefers to draw sustenance only from the Tao.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 20 , interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Abandon holiness, discard cleverness
and the people will benefit greatly.
Eliminate philanthropy, put away morality
and the people will regain compassion.
Forsake academic knowledge, relinquish propriety
and the people will lose their anxieties.
Disavow cunning, renounce greed
and there will be no theft.
These lessons are superficial, and could go on forever.
Even then they would still not be sufficient.
One need only rely upon this:
Manifest simplicity, like an undyed silk.
Hold to your natural state, like uncarved wood.
Cast off your ego, and curtail your desires.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 19, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Only when the Tao is forgotten
is there a need for morality and righteousness.
Only when intelligence and cleverness appear
is there a need for pretense.
Only when families are not in harmony
is there a need for filial piety.
Only when the state is in disorder
is there a need for patriotism.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 18, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The greatest leader is unknown to the people,
a good leader is known and beloved,
an adequate leader is treated with respect,
a poor leader is treated with disdain.
Trust in oneself is not sufficient.
Indeed, the leader is not worthy of such trust from others.
Self-effacing, the leader is careful with words.
Fulfilling duties and accomplishing works for all people,
who then will say that they did it all themselves.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 17, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Reach toward the utmost emptiness,
keep hold of stillness
Together – the ten thousand things take form.
We recognize that all things return –
now the flowers may be in bloom,
but each will return to the soil from which it sprang.
This returning to the source, in search of stillness,
is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
To learn to understand this will provide great insight,
but not knowing this leads to error, resulting in misfortune.
Knowing about the way of nature provides the right perspective,
and the right perspective leads to being just.
Being just leads one to noble behavior,
noble behavior leads one towards nature,
and nature is the gateway to the Tao.
Being in accord with the Tao leads to the eternal,
freedom from peril,
until the time comes to return.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 16, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
The ancient masters cultivated the mysterious essence.
They were profound, subtle –
beyond our ability to comprehend.
For this reason we cannot know them,
but we can describe their existence:
Cautious, as if crossing an icy river in winter.
Vigilant, as if surrounded by unseen dangers.
Reverent, as if receiving honored guests.
As malleable as ice when it begins to melt,
as unspoiled as an uncarved block,
as receptive as a vast open valley.
Obscure as muddied water.
But with stillness, muddy waters clear.
Can you also act while remaining still?
Keeping to the Tao, one does not approach extremes,
one becomes an empty vessel.
It is enough to surrender, without beginning anew.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 15, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
That which is not seen is called the invisible.
That which is not heard is called the silent.
That which is not felt is called the formless.
Together, these things elude inquiry.
They are confused, and considered to be inseparable:
What is seen is not bright,
what is hidden is not dark.
Stretched to infinity,
it cannot be named.
It returns to nothingness:
shape without shape,
substance without substance.
Encountering it you do not see its beginning.
Following it you do not see its end.
Hold fast to the ancient path of the Tao
in order to master the present.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 14, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
As yang bends toward yin
honor turns into dishonor.
Be wary of becoming bound up in yourself.
What does it mean that honor turns into dishonor?
The need to maintain honor makes one dependent on praise,
so the wise person avoids honor to begin with.
What does it mean to be wary of becoming bound up in yourself?
You become focused on a limited sense of yourself.
But if you are selfless, what misfortune can occur?
Therefore those whose actions accord with the Tao
can be trusted with the greatest responsibility.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 13, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
Too much brightness blinds the eyes.
Too much sound deafens the ears.
Too much flavor ruins the tongue.
Chasing desires to excess turns your mind towards madness,
and valuing precious things impairs good judgment.
The wise are guided by inner needs,
and are not concerned with the senses.
Therefore the wise person rejects the without,
while embracing the within.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 12, interpretation by Robert Brookes)
A wheel is useful because it has emptiness at its center,
through which an axle might pass.
A bowl is useful because it is molded around emptiness,
waiting to be filled.
A house is useful because of its doors and windows,
that allow people to enter and live happily.
Therefore, the ‘what is’ is benefited by the ‘what is not’.
Each is served by the other.
-Lao-tzu- (Tao Te Ching, verse 11, interpretation by Robert Brookes)