In ancient times it was natural to be united with the Tao. Because of this heaven became clear, earth became tranquil, spirits became energized, valleys became full, the ten thousand things became alive, leaders ruled the earth with nobility.
What brings this about! Without it: Heaven would not be clear but would split open, earth would not be tranquil but would shake, spirits would not be energized but would wither away, valleys would not be full but would be exhausted, the ten thousand things would not be alive but would perish, leaders would rule with nobility but would be toppled.
Therefore value those rooted in humility, since the superior person finds his foundation in lowliness. For this reason leaders refer to themselves as solitary, desolate, hapless. Is this not because they are rooted in humility?
Thus those who measure their honor have no honor. Do not shine like jade, instead be humble like a rock.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 39, translation by Robert Brookes)
The person of superior virtue does not practice virtue, and this is why he has virtue. The person of inferior virtue cannot forget about virtue, and that is why he is without it.
The person of virtue does not think to act, and does not try to control the outcome. The person of compassion thinks to act, and also does not try to control the outcome. The person of righteousness thinks to act, but tries to control the outcome. The person of propriety thinks to act, and if he cannot control the outcome will get involved and force it.
Therefore when the Tao is lost you resort to virtue, when virtue is lost you resort to compassion, when compassion is lost your resort to righteousness, when righteousness is lost you resort to propriety.
Propriety has only a veneer of loyalty and sincerity, and this is the beginning of discord. A person who prematurely believes that they comprehend the Tao sees only its external luster, and this is the beginning of delusion.
Therefore the wise person prefers substance to the superficial, dwells in the fruit and avoids the flower, embraces the within and rejects the without.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 38, translation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao does not act, thus everything is done. If a leader is in accord with it, all things will naturally develop.
Afterwards, if old habits arise, suppress them by remembering the uncarved block of wood. The natural state of the nameless will truly free people from desire, and the world will naturally right itself.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 31, translation by Robert Brookes)
If you want something reduced, first let it expand. If you want something weakened, first let it become strong. If you want something forgotten, first let it be exalted. If you want something taken, first let it be valued.
This is a subtle insight: the flexible overcomes the strong and unyielding.
Therefore, just as a fish should not leave its water, a country should not show its weapons to the people.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 36, translation by Robert Brookes)
Hold to the Tao and all things follow. They follow and do not come to harm, but will enjoy harmony and good good health.
Music and fine food might cause passing strangers to stop, but the words spoken about the Tao fall flat, they are tasteless — looking at it is insufficient, listening to it is insufficient, but use it, and it is inexhaustible.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 35, translation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao flows everywhere, in all directions. All things depend upon it, but it turns nothing away. It is successful in its purpose, but it does not claim credit; it nourishes all things, but it does not claim ownership.
Always without desire it is home to even the most insignificant, and still it is not their ruler.
Therefore the wise person does not act out of the desire for personal success, yet he always achieves his goal.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 34, translation by Robert Brookes)
Those who know others have wisdom, but those who know themselves have enlightenment.
Those who conquer others have power, but those who conquer themselves are powerful.
Be content where you are, and you will always be wealthy. Act with perseverance and you will meet with success.
Do not lose your center and you will endure. He who dies is not forgotten and in this way lives on.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 33, translation by Robert Brookes)
The Tao is nameless and as pure as uncarved wood. Although the Tao seems insignificant, no one can command it. The leader that can act in accordance with it will find that everything is naturally in accord with him.
When heaven and earth in their symmetry combine, the world is benefited by rainfall. People will also naturally follow their course in harmony, without need of regulation.
When people first had regulation, it became necessary to label things as ‘this’ or ‘that’. This naming could go on and on, but it is best to know when to stop. Knowing when to stop is the basis of avoiding troubles.
To picture the Tao’s presence in the world, think of streams turning into great rivers, and great rivers turning into seas.
(from Tao Te Ching, verse 32, translation by Robert Brookes)