40. Being and Not Being

The motion of nature
is cyclic and returning.
Its way is to yield,
for to yield is to become.
All things are born of being;
being is born of non-being.

41. Sameness and Difference

On hearing of the Tao,
the wise student's practice is with diligence;
the average student attends to his practice
when his memory reminds him so to do;
and the foolish student laughs.
But we do well to remember
that with no sudden laughter,
there would be no natural way.

Thus it is said,
"There are times when even brightness seems dim;
when progress seems like regression;
when the easy seems most difficult,
and virtue seems empty, inadequate and frail;
times when purity seems sullied;
when even reality seems unreal,
and when a square seems to have corners;
when even great talent is of no avail,
and the highest note cannot be heard;
when the formed seems formless,
and when the way of nature is out of sight".

Even in such times as these,
the natural way still nourishes,
that all things may be fulfilled.

42. The Transformations of the Tao

The Tao existed before its name,
and from its name, the opposites evolved,
giving rise to three divisions,
and then to names abundant.

These things embrace receptively,
achieving inner harmony,
and by their unity create
the inner world of man.

No man wishes to be seen
as worthless in another's eyes,
but the wise leader describes himself this way,
for he knows that one may gain by losing,
and lose by gaining,
and that a violent man
will not die a natural death.

43. At One with Tao

Only the soft overcomes the hard,
by yielding, bringing it to peace.
Even where there is no space,
that which has no substance enters in.

Through these things is shown
the value of the natural way.
The wise man understands full well,
that wordless teaching can take place,
and that actions should occur
without the wish for self-advancement.

44. Sufficiency

A contented man knows himself to be
more precious even than fame,
and so, obscure, remains.

He who is more attached to wealth
than to himself,
suffers more heavily from loss.

He who knows when to stop, might lose,
but in safety stays.

45. Changes

In retrospect, even those accomplishments
which seemed perfect when accomplished,
may seem imperfect and ill formed,
but this does not mean that such accomplishments
have outlived their usefulness.

That which once seemed full,
may later empty seem,
yet still be unexhausted.
That which once seemed straight
may seem twisted when seen once more;
intelligence can seem stupid,
and eloquence seem awkward;
movement may overcome the cold,
and stillness, heat,
but stillness in movement
is the way of the Tao.

46. Moderating Desire and Ambition

When the way of nature is observed,
all things serve their function;
horses drawing carts, and pulling at the plough.
But when the natural way is not observed,
horses are bred for battle and for war.

Desire and wanting cause discontent,
whilst he who knows sufficiency
more easily has what he requires.

47. Discovering the Distant

The Tao may be known and observed
without the need of travel;
the way of the heavens might be well seen
without looking through a window.

The further one travels,
the less one knows.
So, without looking, the sage sees all,
and by working without self-advancing thought,
he discovers the wholeness of the Tao.

48. Forgetting Knowledge

When pursuing knowledge,
something new is acquired each day.
But when pursuing the way of the Tao,
something is subtracted;
less striving occurs,
until there is no striving.

When effort is uncontrived,
nothing is left undone;
the way of nature rules
by allowing things to take their course,
not by contriving to change.

49. The Virtue of Receptivity

The sage is not mindful for himself,
but is receptive to others' needs.
Knowing that virtue requires great faith,
he has that faith, and is good to all;
irrespective of others' deeds,
he treats them according to their needs.

He has humility and is shy,
thus confusing other men.
They see him as they might a child,
and sometimes listen to his words.

50. The Value Set on Life

In looking at the people, we might see
that in the space twixt birth and death,
one third follow life, and one third death,
and those who merely pass from birth to death,
are also one third of those we see.

He who lives by the way of the Tao,
travels without fear of ferocious beasts,
and will not be pierced in an affray,
for he offers no resistance.
The universe is the centre of his world,
so in the inner world
of he who lives within the Tao,
there is no place
where death can enter in.

51. The Nourishment of the Tao

All physical things arise
from the principle which is absolute;
the principle which is the natural way.

All living things are formed by being,
and shaped by their environment,
growing if nourished well by virtue;
the being from non-being.

All natural things respect the Tao,
giving honor to its virtue,
although the Tao does not expect,
nor look for honor or respect.

The virtue of the natural way
is that all things are born of it;
it nourishes and comforts them;
develops, shelters and cares for them,
protecting them from harm.

The Tao creates, not claiming credit,
and guides without interfering.

52. Returning to the Source

The virtue of Tao governs its natural way.
Thus, he who is at one with it,
is one with everything which lives,
having freedom from the fear of death.

Boasting, and hurrying hither and thither,
destroy the enjoyment of a peace filled life.

Life is more fulfilled by far,
for he who does not have desire,
for he does not have desire,
has no need of boasting.

Learn to see the insignificant and small,
grow in wisdom and develop insight,
that which is irrevocable,
do not try to fight,
and so be saved from harm.

53. Evidence

When temptation arises to leave the Tao,
banish temptation, stay with the Tao.

When the court has adornments in profusion,
the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are bare.

It is not the way of nature to carry a sword,
nor to over-adorn oneself,
nor to have more than a sufficiency
of fine food and drink.

He who has more possessions than he can use,
deprives someone who could use them well.

54. Cultivating Insight

That which is firmly rooted,
is not easily torn from the ground;
just as that which is firmly grasped,
does not slip easily from the hand.

The virtue of the Tao is real,
if cultivated in oneself;
when loved in the family, it abounds;
when throughout the village, it will grow;
and in the nation, be abundant.
When it is real universally,
virtue is in all people.

All things are microcosms of the Tao;
the world a microcosmic universe,
the nation a microcosm of the world,
the village a microcosmic nation;
the family a village in microcosmic view,
and the body a microcosm of one's own family;
from single cell to galaxy.

55. Mysterious Virtue

He who has virtue is like a newborn child,
free from attack by those who dwell
in the way of nature, the way of the Tao.

The bones of the newborn child are soft,
his muscles supple, but his grip is firm;
he is whole, though not knowing he was born
of the creative and receptive way.
The way of nature is in the child,
so even when he shouts all day,
his throat does not grow hoarse or dry.

From constancy, there develops harmony,
and from harmony, enlightenment.

It is unwise to rush from here to there.
To hold one's breath causes the body strain;
exhaustion follows
when too much energy is used,
for this is not the natural way.

He who is in opposition to the Tao
does not live his natural years.

56. Virtuous Passivity

Those who know the natural way
have no need of boasting,
whilst those who know but little,
may be heard most frequently;
thus, the sage says little,
if anything at all.

Not demanding stimuli,
he tempers his sharpness well,
reduces the complex to simplicity,
hiding his brilliance, seemingly dull;
he settles the dust,
whilst in union with all natural things.

He who has attained enlightenment
(without contriving so to do)
is not concerned with making friends,
nor with making enemies;
with good or harm, with praise or blame.
Such detachment is the highest state of man.

57. Simplification

With natural justice, people must be ruled,
and if war be waged, strategy and tactics used.
To master one's self,
one must act without cunning.

The greater the number of laws and restrictions,
the poorer the people who inhabit the land.
The sharper the weapons of battle and war,
the greater the troubles besetting the land.
The greater the cunning with which people are ruled,
the stranger the things which occur in the land.
The harder the rules and regulations,
the greater the number of those who will steal.

The sage therefore does not contrive,
in order to bring about reform,
but teaches the people peace of mind,
in order that they might enjoy their lives.
Having no desires, all he does is natural.
Since he teaches self-sufficiency,
the people who follow him return
to a good, uncomplicated life.

58. Transformations According to Circumstances

When the hand of the ruler is light,
the people do not contrive,
but when the country is severely ruled,
the people grow in cunning.

The actions of the sage are sharp,
but they are never cutting,
they are pointed, though never piercing,
they are straightforward, not contrived,
and not without restraint,
brilliant but not blinding.
This is the action of the sage,
because he is aware
that where happiness exists,
there is also misery and strife;
that where honesty may be found,
there is occasion for dishonesty,
and that men may be beguiled.

The sage knows that no-one can foretell
just what the future holds.

59. Guarding the Tao

By acting with no thought of self-advancement,
but with self-restraint,
it is possible to lead,
and genuinely care for others.
This happens by acting virtuously,
and leaving nothing to be done.

A foundation virtuous and firm,
rooted in receptivity,
is a prerequisite of good leadership,
and for a life both long and strong.
He whose virtue knows no limit,
is most fitting to lead.
His roots are deep,
and his life protected
by his meditative practice,
as the bark protects the tree.