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All-embracing power proceeds only through the Way.
What is called the Way is elusive and intangible.
Intangible and elusive, yet within it are thought-images.
Elusive and intangible, yet within it are objects.
Deep and obscure, yet within it is the life-force.
The life-force is very real, and within it is certainty.

From the ancient times till now
its manifestations have never ceased,
by which we may see the beginning of all things.
How do I know that the beginnings of all things are so?
Through this certainty.

To yield is to preserve unity.
To bend is to become straight.
To empty oneself is to become full.
To wear oneself out is to be renewed.
To have little is to be content.
To have abundance is to be troubled.

Therefore the wise embrace the One
and become examples for the world.
They do not display themselves and are therefore illumined.
They do not justify themselves and are distinguished.
They do not make claims and are therefore given credit.
They do not seek glory and therefore are leaders.

Because they do not compete,
the world cannot compete with them.
Is not the ancient saying true,
"To yield is to preserve unity?"
for true wholeness comes from turning within.

Nature says few words.
A whirlwind does not last all morning,
nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What causes them? Nature.

If even Nature's utterances do not last long,
how much less should human beings'?

Those who follow the Way are one with the Way.
Those who follow power are one with power.
Those who abandon it are one with abandonment.

Those one with the Way are welcomed by the Way.
Those one with power are welcomed by power.
Those one with abandonment are welcomed by abandonment.
Those who lack trust will not be trusted.

Those who stand on tiptoe are not steady.
Those who strain their strides cannot long keep up the pace.
Those who display themselves do not illuminate.
Those who justify themselves are not distinguished.
Those who make claims are not given credit.
Those who seek glory are not leaders.
According to the Way these are like extra food and waste,
which all creatures detest.
Therefore followers of the Way avoid them.

There is something mysterious and whole
which existed before heaven and earth,
silent, formless, complete, and never changing.
Living eternally everywhere in perfection,
it is the mother of all things.

I do not know its name; I call it the Way.
If forced to define it, I shall call it supreme.
Supreme means absolute.
Absolute means extending everywhere.
Extending everywhere means returning to itself.

Thus the Way is supreme.
Heaven is supreme.
Earth is supreme.
And the person is supreme.

There are four supremes in the universe,
and the person is one of them.
The person reflects the earth.
The earth reflects heaven.
Heaven reflects the Way.
And the Way reflects its own nature.

Gravity is the foundation of levity.
Serenity masters hastiness.
Therefore the wise travel all day
without leaving their baggage.
In the midst of honor and glory
they remain leisurely and calm,

How can a leader of a great country
behave lightheartedly and frivolously?
In frivolity, the foundation is lost.
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.

A good traveler leaves no trace.
A good speaker makes no slips.
A good accountant uses no devices.
A good door needs no bolts to remain shut.
A good fastener needs no rope to hold its bond.

Therefore the wise are good at helping people,
and consequently no one is rejected.
They are good at saving things,
and consequently nothing is wasted.
This is called using the Light.

Therefore the good teach the bad,
and the bad are lessons for the good.
Those who neither value the teacher nor care for the lesson
are greatly deluded, though they may be learned.
Such is the essential mystery.

Know the male and keep to the female.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the innocence of a baby.

Know the bright and keep to the obscure.
Become an example for the world.
Being an example for the world is eternal power
and returning to the infinite.

Know glory and keep to humility.
Become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world is eternal power
and returning to the natural.
Breaking up the natural makes instruments.
The wise use them and become leaders.
Therefore a leader does not break.

Those who take over the world and act upon it,
I notice, do not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel, not to be tampered with.
Those who tamper with it, spoil it.
Those who seize it, lose it.

Some lead, and some follow.
Some blow hot, and some blow cold.
Some are strong, and some are weak.
Some are up, and some are down.
Therefore the wise avoid excess, extravagance, and pride.

Whoever advises a leader according to the Way
opposes conquest by force of arms.
The use of force tends to rebound.
Where armies march, thorns and brambles grow.
Whenever a great army is formed, scarcity and famine follow.

The skillful achieve their purposes and stop.
They dare not rely on force.
They achieve their purposes, but do not glory in them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not celebrate them.
They achieve their purposes, but do not take pride in them.
They achieve their purposes, but without violence.

Things reach their prime and then decline.
Violence is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.