Article Index


11
Thirty spokes are united around the hub of a wheel,
but the usefulness of the wheel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Clay is molded into a vessel,
but the usefulness of the vessel
depends on the space where nothing exists.
Doors and windows are cut out of the walls of a house,
and the usefulness of the house
depends on the space where nothing exists.

Therefore take advantage of what exists,
and use what does not exist.

12
The five colors blind the eyes;
the five musical tones deafen the ears;
the five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious goods keep their owners on guard.

Therefore the wise satisfy the inner self
rather than external senses.
They accept the one and reject the other.

13
Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension.
Regard great trouble as you regard your self.

What is meant by
"Good fortune and misfortune cause apprehension?"
Those with good fortune are apprehensive of their gain.
Those with misfortune are apprehensive of their loss.

What is meant by
"Regard great trouble as you regard your self?"
Great trouble comes from being selfish.
Being selfless, what trouble is there?

Therefore those who value the world as themselves
may be entrusted to govern the world.
Those who love the world as themselves
may be entrusted to care for the world.

14
We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.

15
The wise have ancient mystic wisdom
and profound understanding, too deep to comprehend.
Because they can not be comprehended,
they can only be described by analogy:
cautious, like crossing a stream in winter;
alert, like one aware of danger on all sides;
courteous, like a visiting guest;
self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt;
genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood;
open and receptive, like a valley;
freely mixing, like muddy water.

Who can make sense of a muddy world?
Let it be still, and it becomes clear.
Who can remain calm,
and through activity come back to life?
Those who embrace this Way do not over-extend themselves.
Because they do not over-extend themselves,
they do not wear out and are not replaced.

16
Empty yourself of everything.
Maintain a steady serenity.
All things take shape and become active,
but I see them return to their source,
like vegetation that grows and flourishes,
but returns to the root from which it springs.

Returning to the source is serenity;
it is to realize one's destiny.
To realize one's destiny is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
Not to know the eternal
is to act blindly and court disaster.

Whoever knows the eternal is open to everything.
Whoever is open to everything is impartial.
To be impartial is to be universal.
To be universal is to be in accord with heaven.
To be in accord with heaven is to be in accord with the Way.
To be in accord with the Way is to be eternal
and to live free from harm even though the body dies.

17
The best leaders the people barely know.
The next best they love and praise.
The next they fear.
And the next they hate.

Those who lack trust will not be trusted.
Then they resort to promises.
But when they accomplish their task and complete their work,
the people say, "We did it ourselves."

18
When the great Way is forgotten,
the doctrines of humanity and morality arise.
When knowledge and cleverness appear,
there emerges great hypocrisy.
When family relationships are not in harmony,
filial piety and parental love are advocated.
When a country falls into chaos and disorder,
there is praise of loyal patriots.

19
Abandon wisdom and discard cleverness,
and people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abandon humanity and discard morality,
and people will rediscover love and duty.
Abandon skill and discard profit,
and there will be no thieves or robbers.
These three things relate to externals and are inadequate.

People need what they can depend on:
reveal simplicity; embrace the natural;
control selfishness; reduce desires.

20
Abandon memorizing, and vexations end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
Is what people fear really to be feared?
How very remote the actual occurrence!

The people of the world make merry
as though at a holiday feast or a spring carnival.
I alone am inactive and desireless,
like a new-born baby who cannot yet smile,
unattached, as though homeless.

The people of the world possess more than enough.
I alone seem to have lost all.
I must be a fool, so indiscriminate and nebulous.

Most people seem knowledgeable and bright.
I alone am simple and dull.

Most people see differences and are sharp.
I alone make no distinctions,
seeming aimless, drifting as the sea,
like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.

People of the world all have a purpose.
I alone seem impractical and out of place.
I am different from others,
and value drawing sustenance from the Mother.