In leading the people or attending to nature, there is nothing better than moderation.
Only through practicing moderation can you quickly yield. To quickly yield depends upon your abundance of virtue, your abundance of virtue means nothing cannot be overcome, nothing that cannot be overcome means you know no limits, knowing no limits, you can thereby lead the state. To lead the state, be its mother, and you will last a long time.
This is called having deep roots, a solid trunk. Long life, enduring insight. It is the path.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 59, translation by Robert Brookes)
When the government is unobtrusive, the people live simply. When the government is interfering, the people are contentious.
Misfortune is the place that happiness calls home, just as happiness is the hiding place for misfortune.
Can you perceive when your limit is reached? Is there not one correct way?
The just will return to the perverse. The good will return to the sinister. The people will be lead astray for a long time.
Therefore the wise person is sharp and yet does not injure, is pointed but does not penetrate, is true to the path but does not bully, is bright but does not blind.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 58, translation by Robert Brookes)
Use justice when leading the people, employ cunning when conducting a war. But it is through non-action that the world is won over.
How do I know this is so? Where there are more restrictions and prohibitions, there is also more poverty. Where there are many sharp weapons, there is also more chaos. Where the people are full of clever schemes, there are also strange outcomes. Where there are many laws and edicts, there is also an abundance of criminals.
Therefore, the wise person: Practices non-action so that the people are naturally transformed. Welcomes quietude so that the people will naturally be civilized. Does not interfere so that the people will naturally be prosperous. Avoids desires so that the people will naturally choose to live simply.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 57, translation by Robert Brookes)
Those who understand the way do not talk about it, and those who talk about the way do not understand it.
Therefore the wise person; Closes his mouth, locks his gates, tempers his sharpness, simplifies his problems, softens his glare.
Unite yourself with the low — this is the profound harmony.
Where there is no attachment, there is liberation from aversion. Where there is no profit, there is liberation from loss. Where there is no honor, there is liberation from disgrace.
Therefore this is the most cherished way on earth.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 56, translation by Robert Brookes)
One who possesses virtue in its fullness resembles a newborn child.
Poisonous insects will not sting him, fierce animals will not attack him, predatory birds will not seize him.
His bones are weak, his muscles are soft, yet his grasp is strong. He has not yet experienced the union of man and woman, yet his genitalia will be erect. Indeed, his life force is at its peak! All day he cries but does not become hoarse. Indeed, his inner harmony is at its height!
To have inner harmony is to be in accord with the eternal, and to be in accord with the eternal is to be enlightened.
To force the growth of your vitality is ill fated. To direct the life force with the mind will make your strong, but creatures that are strong in this way soon are exhausted. This is not in accord with the Tao, and that which is not in accord with the Tao soon comes to an end.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 55, translation by Robert Brookes)
One who is well planted in the Tao cannot be uprooted, one who has a firm grasp of the Tao will not let it slip away. Your descendants will not cease in their honor of you.
Cultivate the Tao in your person and virtue becomes genuine, cultivate the Tao in your family and virtue will overflow, cultivate the Tao in your nation and virtue will be in abundance, cultivate the Tao throughout the world and virtue will be pervasive.
Thus the person must be considered as a person, the family must be considered as a family, the community must be considered as a community, the nation must be considered as a nation, the world must be considered as a world.
How do I know this is so? By means of the cultivation of virtue.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 54, translation by Robert Brookes)
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)