Weapons are never the implements of good fortune, and they are to be detested. Therefore, the wise leader avoids them.
Normally the wise leader values patience, but when at war he values action. Since he is opposed to the use of weapons, he uses them only when it is unavoidable, and even then with great restraint.
To praise victory in war is to rejoice in the slaughter of men. The slaughter of men causes grief and sorrow to the people, therefore he who rejoices in this will not be successful.
Fortune follows the restrained, misfortune follows the ambitious.
Therefore victory in war should not be celebrated, but instead should be met with mourning.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 31, translation by Robert Brookes)
Those who are in accord with the Tao do not desire to use force when leading the people. Those who choose to use force on others can expect others to use force on them.
The good leader achieves his goals, but stops before going any further. To go further than necessary is to force success.
Achieve your purpose, but do not be boastful. Achieve your purpose, but do not show off. Achieve your purpose, but do not be arrogant. Achieve your purpose, but do not possess it.
When things become overgrown, they start to decay and will come to an early end.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 30, translation by Robert Brookes)
Those who attempt to lead by force will find that this never ends with success.
People are mysterious entities — try to take hold of them and you will only lose them. Thus sometimes it is better to show the way, and sometimes it is better to follow.
Some people blow hot, while others blow cold; some people are strong, while others are weak; some people can overcome adversity, while others give in.
Therefore, the wise person avoids extremes, withdraws from extravagance, and discards arrogance.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 29, translation by Robert Brookes)
Know the male, but hold to the female. Imagine a river flowing through a valley, never departing from its original path. Do this and you will return to a state of innocence.
Perceive the bright, but hold to the dark. Like a river, let yourself flow with virtue, and set a faultless example for the world. Do this and you will return to a state of perfection.
Be aware of honor, but hold to humility. Like a valley, let virtue fill you, sufficient yet everlasting. Do this and you will return to the state of the uncarved block.
Just as when the uncarved block is shaped it loses its simplicity, when the wise person loses his simplicity he is no longer wise. Therefore it is best to stay on the original path.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 28, translation by Robert Brookes)
The adept traveler leaves no tracks, the adept speaker reveals no opportunity for reproach, the adept accountant needs no calculator.
The skilled locksmith opens doors that are locked to others, the experienced sailor ties knots that others cannot untie.
The wise person is excellent at helping others, and does not reject any of them. Indeed, the wise person is excellent at taking care of all things, and therefore does not reject the physical world. This is called practicing enlightenment.
The good person is the bad person’s teacher, and the bad person is the good person’s lesson. To honor the teacher you must also cherish the lesson. Even though this wisdom may seem perplexing, it is one of the Tao’s crucial mysteries.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 27, translation by Robert Brookes)
Heavy is the origin of lightness,and tranquility is the ruler of acting rashly.
Therefore when the wise person travels in the world he never loses sight of his heavy load, even when he sees magnificent sights. He dwells in peace, unattached.
How can you be said to be a wise person, if you behave frivolously in front of everyone? To be frivolous is to be separated from the source, just as acting rashly means you have lost control of yourself.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 26, translation by Robert Brookes)
Before the birth of all things, there existed an undifferentiated whole. A solitary void: unchanging, yet operating everywhere, without exhaustion. It is therefore considered the source of everything.
I do not know its true name, although some call it the Tao.
If compelled to characterize it, I would simply call it great. For to be great implies that it is far-reaching, to be far-reaching implies distance, and to be distant implies returning to the source.
Thus the Tao is great, Heaven is great, Earth is great, the wise person is also great.
In the universe there are four great ones, and the wise person is one of them. The wise person follows the laws of Earth, Earth follows the laws of Heaven, and Heaven follows the law of Tao.
The Tao, with nothing to follow, is natural unto itself.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 25, translation by Robert Brookes)
When on tiptoe you cannot stand firm, when running you cannot go far, make a display of yourself and you will not be illustrious. Be righteous and you will not be distinguished, boast of your abilities and you will not have merit, be conceited and you will not endure.
People who act in such ways are likely to be detested, and their path will be burdensome.
However to those who follow the Tao, these things are like having too much to eat, and are avoided.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 24, translation by Robert Brookes)
To speak few words is the natural way.
The strong wind cannot last the whole morning, the torrential rain cannot last all day. It is nature that causes these things, but even nature cannot cause them to go on forever. If nature cannot do this, then certainly man cannot do so.
Therefore in whatever you do, let it be done through the Tao. Follow the Tao and act with virtue. If you do not follow the Tao then loss and failure will follow you.
The Tao happily accepts all followers, but so do loss and failure.
Faith in oneself is not enough. Indeed, the wise person is not worthy of such faith from others.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 23, translation by Robert Brookes)
That which is incomplete will be made complete, that which is crooked will straighten, that which is empty will be filled, that which is worn out will be renewed.
He who has little can only gain, but gain too much and the way will be lost.
Therefore the wise person holds to the Tao, and he is the example for all people.
Because he does not show himself, he shines brightly. Because he is not righteous, he is distinguished. Because he does not boast, he is successful. Because he is not proud, he endures. Because he is not contentious, no one contends with him.
The ancients said: That which can bend will remain whole. Is this not true? To be humble is to remain in the Tao.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 22, translation by Robert Brookes)