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To know that you do not know is the best.
To think you know when you do not is a disease.
Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.
The wise are free of disease,
because they recognize the disease as a disease.
Therefore they are free of disease.

When people lack a sense of awe,
then something awful will happen.
Do not constrict people's living space.
Do not suppress their livelihoods.
If you do not harass them, they will not harass you.

Therefore the wise know themselves
but do not display themselves.
They love themselves but do not exalt themselves.
They let go of one and accept the other.

Those brave in killing will be killed.
Those brave in not killing will live.
Of these two, one is beneficial, and one is harmful.
Some are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the wise consider it a difficult question.

The Way of heaven does not strive; yet it wins easily.
It does not speak; yet it gets a good response.
It does not demand; yet all needs are met.
It is not anxious; yet it plans well.
The net of heaven is vast;
its meshes are wide, but nothing slips through.

If people are not afraid to die,
then why threaten them with death?
If people were afraid of death,
and lawbreakers could be caught and put to death,
who would dare to do so?
There is the Lord of Death who executes.
Trying to do his job
is like trying to cut wood for the Master Carpenter.
Those who try to cut wood for the Master Carpenter
rarely escape injuring their own hands.

People are hungry,
because rulers eat too much tax-grain.
That is why people are starving.

People are hard to govern,
because rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are hard to govern.

People do not care about death,
because rulers demand too much of life.
That is why they do not care about death.
Only those who do not interfere with living
are best at valuing life.

When people are born, they are tender and supple.
At death they are stiff and hard.
All things, like plants and trees,
are tender and pliant while alive.
At death they are dried and withered.
Therefore the stiff and hard are companions of death.
The tender and supple are companions of life.
Thus strong arms do not win.
A stiff tree will break.
The hard and strong will fall.
The tender and supple will rise.

The Way of heaven is like bending a bow.
The high is lowered; the low is raised.
The excessive is reduced; the deficient is increased.
The Way of heaven takes from those who have too much
and gives to those who do not have enough.

The human way is different.
It takes from those who do not have enough
and gives to those who have too much.

Who has more than enough to give to the world?
Only the person of the Way.
Therefore the wise act but do not rely on their own ability.
They accomplish the task but claim no credit.
They have no desire to seem superior.

Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet nothing is better at attacking the hard and strong.
There is no substitute for it.
The weak overcomes the strong; the soft overcomes the hard.
Everyone knows this, but no one puts it into practice.

Therefore the wise say,
"Those who bear the humiliation of the people
are able to minister to them.
Those who take upon themselves the sins of the society
are able to lead the world."
Words of truth seem paradoxical.

Compromising with great hatred surely leaves some hatred.
How can this be considered good?
Therefore the wise keep their part of an agreement
and do not blame the other party.
The good fulfill their obligations;
the bad exact obligations from others.
The Way of heaven is impartial.
It always stays with the good.

In a small country with few people
machines that can work ten or a hundred times faster
are not needed.
People who care about death do not travel far.
Even if there are ships and carriages, no one takes them.
Even if there are armor and weapons, no one displays them.
People return to knotted rope for records.
Food is tasty; clothes are beautiful;
home is comfortable; customs are delightful.
Though neighboring communities see each other
and hear each other's cocks crowing and dogs barking,
they may grow old and die without going there.

True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
The good do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not scholarly.
The scholarly do not know.

The wise do not hoard.
The more they give to others, the more they have.
The Way of heaven benefits and does not harm.
The Way of the wise accomplishes without striving.