60. Ruling

To rule a country,
one must act with care,
as when frying the smallest fish.

If actions are approached,
and carried out in the natural way,
the power of evil is reduced,
and so the ruler and the ruled
are equally protected.
They will not contrive to harm each other,
for the virtue of one refreshes the other.

61. Humility

A great country remains receptive and still,
as does a rich and fertile land.
The gentle overcomes the strong
with stillness and receptivity.

By giving way to the other,
one country may conquer another;
a small country may submit to a large,
and conquer it, though having no arms.

Those who conquer must be willing to yield;
to yield may be to overcome.

A fertile nation may require a greater population,
to use its resources to the full,
whilst the country without such natural wealth
may require them to meet its people's needs.
By acting in unity, each may achieve
that which it requires.

62. Sharing the Treasure

The source of all things is in the Tao.
It is a treasure for the good,
and a refuge for all in need.

Whilst praise can buy titles,
good deeds gain respect.

No man should be abandoned
because he has not found the Tao.

On auspicious occasions, when gifts are sent,
rather than sending horses or jade,
send the teaching of Tao.

When we first discover the natural way,
we are happy to know that our misdeeds
are in the past, where they belong,
and so are happy to realize
that we have found a treasure.

63. Beginning and Completing

Act without contriving;
work naturally, and taste the tasteless;
magnify the small; increase the few,
and reward bitterness with care.
Seek the simple in the complex,
and achieve greatness in small things.

It is the way of nature
that even difficult things are done with ease,
and great acts made up of smaller deeds.
The sage achieves greatness by small deeds multiplied.

Promises easily made are most easily broken,
and acting with insufficient care
causes subsequent trouble.
The sage confronts problems as they arise,
so that they do not trouble him.

64. Staying with the Mystery

If problems are accepted,
and dealt with before they arise,
they might even be prevented before confusion begins,
In this way peace may be maintained.

The brittle is easily shattered,
and the small is easily scattered.
Great trees grow from the smallest shoots;
a terraced garden, from a pile of earth,
and a journey of a thousand miles
begins by taking the initial step.

He who contrives, defeats his purpose;
and he who is grasping, loses.
The sage does not contrive to win,
and therefore is not defeated;
he is not grasping, so does not lose.

It is easy to fail when nearing completion,
therefore, take care right to the end,
not only in the beginning.

The sage seeks freedom from desire,
not grasping at ideas.
He brings men back when they are lost,
and helps them find the Tao.

65. Virtuous Government

Knowing it is against the Tao
to try to enforce learning,
the early sages did not contrive
to teach the way of the Tao.

There are two ways of government.
One is to be cunning, to act with guile,
and to contrive to cheat the people.
When this way is used to rule,
the people grow in cunning,
and contrive to cheat the ruler.

The second way to govern the land,
is to do so without contriving.
People so governed are truly blessed,
for they are governed with virtue,
and virtuous government is fair to all,
thus leading to unity.

66. Leading from Behind

The sea is the ruler of river and stream,
because it rules from well beneath.

The teacher guides his students best,
by allowing them to lead.

When the ruler is a sage,
the people do not feel oppressed;
they support the one who rules them well,
and never tire of him.

He who is non-competitive
invites no competition.

67. The Three Precious Attributes

Those who follow the natural way
are different from others in three respects.
They have great mercy and economy,
and the courage not to compete.
From mercy there comes courage;
from economy, generosity;
and from humility, willingness to lead from behind.

It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful,
and to acclaim only heroic deeds,
to abandon economy, and to be selfish.

They are sick, who are not humble,
but try always to be first.

Only he who is compassionate
can show true bravery,
and in defending, show great strength.
Compassion is the means by which
mankind may be guarded and saved,
for heaven arms with compassion,
those whom it would not see destroyed.

68. Without Desire

An effective warrior acts
not from nihilistic anger,
nor from desire to kill.

He who wins should not be vengeful.

An employer should have humility.

If we wish for peace and unity,
our dealings with our fellow man
must be without desire for self-advantage,
and carried out without contention.

69. The Use of the Mysterious Tao

Arguments may be won by waiting,
rather than making an aggressive move;
by withdrawing rather than advancing.

By moving without appearing to move,
by not making a show of strength,
but by conserving it well;
by capturing without attacking,
by being armed, but with no weapons,
great battles may be won.

Do not underestimate
those you enjoin in battle,
for this can result in losing
what is of greatest value.
When a battle is enjoined,
by remembering this,
the weaker may still win.

70. Hidden Identity

Though the words of the sage are simple,
and his actions easily performed,
they are few among many,
who can speak or act as a sage.

For the ordinary man it is difficult
to know the way of a sage,
perhaps because his words
are from the distant past,
and his actions naturally disposed.

Those who know the way of the sage
are few and far between,
but those who treat him with honesty,
will be honored by him and the Tao.

He knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.

71. Without Sickness

To acknowledge one's ignorance
shows strength of personality,
but to ignore wisdom is a sign of weakness.

To be sick of sickness is a sign of good health,
therefore the wise man grows sick of sickness,
and sick of being sick of sickness,
'til he is sick no more.

72. Loving the Self

The sage retains a sense of awe, and of propriety.
He does not intrude into others' homes;
does not harass them,
nor interfere without request,
unless they damage others.
So it is that they return to him.

'Though the sage knows himself
he makes no show of it;
he has self-respect, but is not arrogant,
for he develops the ability to let go of that
which he no longer needs.

73. Acting with a Sufficiency

A brave man who is passionate
will either kill or be killed,
but a man who is both brave and still
might preserve his own and others' lives.
No one can say with certainty,
why it is better to preserve a life.

The virtuous way is a way to act
without contriving effort,
yet, without contriving it overcomes.
It seldom speaks, and never asks,
but is answered without a question.
It is supplied with all its needs
and is constantly at ease
because it follows its own plan
which cannot be understood by man.
It casts its net both deep and wide,
and 'though coarse meshed, it misses nothing in the tide.

74. Usurping the Tao

If the people are not afraid of death,
they have no fear of threats of death.

If early death is common in the land,
and if death is meted out as punishment,
the people do not fear to break the law.

To be the executioner in such a land as this,
is to be as an unskilled carpenter
who cuts his hand
when trying to cut wood.

75. Injuring through Greed

When taxes are too heavy,
hunger lays the people low.
When those who govern interfere too much,
the people become rebellious.

When those who govern demand too much
of people's lives, death is taken lightly.
When the people are starving in the land,
life is of little value,
and so is more easily sacrificed by them
in overthrowing government.

76. Against Trusting in Strength

Man is born gentle and supple.
At death, his body is brittle and hard.
Living plants are tender,
and filled with life-giving sap,
but at their death they are withered and dry.

The stiff, the hard, and brittle
are harbingers of death,
and gentleness and yielding
are the signs of that which lives.
The warrior who is inflexible
condemns himself to death,
and the tree is easily broken,
which ever refuses to yield.
Thus the hard and brittle will surely fall,
and the soft and supple will overcome.

77. The Way of the Tao

The Tao is as supple as a bow;
the high made lower, and the lowly raised.
It shortens the string which has been stretched,
and lengthens that which has become too short.

It is the way of the Tao to take from those
who have a surplus to what they need,
providing for those without enough.
The way of the ordinary person,
is not the way of the Tao,
for such people take from those who are poor
and give to those who are rich.

The sage knows that his possessions are none,
therefore he gives to the world;
without recognition, doing his work.
In this way he accomplishes
that which is required of him;
without dwelling upon it in any way,
he gives of his wisdom without display.

78. Sincerity

There is nothing more yielding than water,
yet when acting on the solid and strong,
its gentleness and fluidity
have no equal in any thing.

The weak can overcome the strong,
and the supple overcome the hard.
Although this is known far and wide,
few put it into practice in their lives.

Although seemingly paradoxical,
the person who takes upon himself,
the people's humiliation,
is fit to rule;
and he is fit to lead,
who takes the country's disasters upon himself.

79. Fulfilling One's Obligations

When covenants and bonds are drawn
between the people of the land,
that they might know their obligations,
it is commonplace for many
to fail to meet their dues.

The sage ensures his dues are met,
'though not expecting others to do the same;
in this way he is virtuous.

He is without virtue of his own,
who asks of others that they fulfill
his obligations on his behalf.

The way of nature does not impose
on matters such as these
but stays with the good for ever,
and acts as their reward.

80. Standing Alone

A small country may have many machines,
but the people will have no use for them;
they will have boats and carriages
which they do not use;
their armor and weapons
are not displayed,
for they are serious when regarding death.

They do not travel far from home,
and make knots in ropes,
rather than do much writing.

The food they eat is plain and good,
and their clothes are simple;
their homes are secure,
without the need of bolts and bars,
and they are happy in their ways.

'Though the cockerels and dogs
of their neighbors
can be heard not far away,
the people of the villages
grow old and die in peace.

81. Manifesting Simplicity

The truth is not always beautiful,
nor beautiful words the truth.

Those who have virtue,
have no need of argument for its own sake,
for they know that argument is of no avail.

Those who have knowledge of the natural way
do not train themselves in cunning,
whilst those who use cunning to rule their lives,
and the lives of others,
are not knowledgeable of the Tao,
nor of natural happiness.

The sage seeks not to have a store
of things or knowledge, for he knows,
the less of these he has, the more he has,
and that the more he gives,
the greater his abundance.

The way of the sage is pointed
but does not harm.

The way of the sage
is to work without cunning.

Back to First Page