In this world there is nothing more yielding than water, yet attack it with strength and you cannot conquer it. In all the world there is no substitute.
The flexible surpasses the inflexible, the soft overcomes the hard. there is no one that does not know this, but there are few who can put it into practice.
Therefore the wise person says: He who can suffer his nation’s faults is to be known as its leader.He who can bear his nation’s disasters deserves to be leader of the world.
Do these words seem paradoxical?
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 78, translation by Robert Brookes)
The way of the Tao can be compared to stretching a bow. When the string is high it is pulled down, when the string is low it is raised up.
In this way excesses are diminished, and inadequacies restored. The Tao takes from abundance to balance scarcity.
The way of people is different. It takes from where there is already not enough to further provide for those with too much.
Who can have abundance and still offer it to the world? Only the wise person, the person of Tao.
Therefore he acts but does not exact gratitude. He accomplishes but does not claim credit. Why? Because he does not hold his virtue up for display.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 77, translation by Robert Brookes)
A person at birth is yielding and weak, but at death they are still and unyielding. The grass and trees when growing are tender and delicate, but when dying are brittle and dry.
The stiff and unyielding are the companions of death, while the yielding and tender are the companions of life.
Therefore we see that unbending armies cannot conquer, and the strongest tree feels the ax.
The mighty will fall down low, but the humble will rise up.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 76, translation by Robert Brookes)
Why do the people starve? It is because those at the top eat too much, and taxes are too high. This is why the people starve.
Why are the people difficult to lead? It is because those in authority are meddlesome in their affairs. This is why the people are difficult to lead.
Why are the people frivolous with their lives? It is because they are striving for a life that is too full. This is why the people are frivolous with their lives.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 75, translation by Robert Brookes)
If the people do not fear death, how can the threat of death frighten them?
Suppose that the people do fear death. Would a person break the law, knowing that he would be arrested and put to death? Would he put himself in that position?
There is one executioner. If a person were to take his place, it would be like taking the place of a master wood carver. There are few that would not injure themselves.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 74, translation by Robert Brookes)
Courageousness taken to fearlessness leads to death. Courageousness not taken to fearlessness leads to survival. Of these two things, one brings benefit, the other brings harm.
Who knows why nature rejects some and not others? Even the wise person is unsure of this.
The Tao does not contend, yet it is victorious.
It does not speak, yet it gives answers.
It does not ask for anything, yet it is naturally provided for.
It appears to be slow, yet its plans are always realized.
Its net is vast and wide, and nothing passes through.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 73, translation by Robert Brookes)
When the people do not fear consequences for their actions, then great disaster follows.
Do not interfere with their homes, and do not harass their livelihoods.
When the people are not oppressed they do not grow weary.
Therefore the wise person knows himself but does not parade himself, he takes care of himself but does not exalt himself. He rejects the without, while embracing the within.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 72, translation by Robert Brookes)
To know without thinking you know is best, to not know but think you know leads to disaster.
Truly, naming a condition as a disease is why you cannot be free of disease.
The wise person is free of disease, since he recognizes the disease of having disease, and therefore he is healthy.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 71, translation by Robert Brookes)
My teachings are easy to understand, and easy to put into practice. However the people do not understand them, and do not put them into practice.
My teachings have an ancient source, but the people are ruled by the affairs of the day.
Just as the people do not understand my teachings, they do not understand me. Those who understand them are rare. Those who follow the path are distinguished.
Therefore the wise person clothes himself in rags to hide the jewel he carries within.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 70, translation by Robert Brookes)
Experts in strategy have a saying: I dare not attack first but instead take the defense. I dare not advance an inch but instead retreat a foot.
This is called advancing without moving forward, grasping without showing one’s arms, confronting without attacking, taking up weapons with no soldiers.
The greatest misfortune comes from underestimating the opponent. Make light of your opponent and you risk losing everything of value.
When evenly matched opponents meet in battle, the one that yields is the one that wins.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 69, translation by Robert Brookes)