81 Chapter Translations & Interpretations
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Chapter 31 – Weapons are the tools of violence

Weapons are the tools of violence; all decent men detest them. Weapons are the tools of fear; a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint. Peace is his highest value. If the peace has been shattered, how can he be content? His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself. He doesn’t wish them personal harm. Nor does he...

Chapter 29 – Do you want to improve the world?

Do you want to improve the world? I don’t think it can be done. The world is sacred. It can’t be improved. If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it. There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, a time for...

Chapter 26 – heavy is the root of the light.

The heavy is the root of the light. The unmoved is the source of all movement. Thus the Master travels all day without leaving home. However splendid the views, she stays serenely in herself. Why should the lord of the country flit about like a fool? If you let yourself be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root. If you let restlessness move you, you lose touch with who you are. Support Author: Stephen...

Chapter 25 – formless and perfect before the universe was born

There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao. It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the origin of all things. The Tao is great. The universe is great. Earth is great. Man is great. These are the four great...

Chapter 20 – Stop thinking, and end your problems.

Stop thinking, and end your problems. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous! Other people are excited, as though they were at a parade. I alone don’t care, I alone am expressionless, like an infant before it can smile. Other people have what they need; I alone possess nothing. I alone drift...

Chapter 18 – When the great Tao is forgotten

When the great Tao is forgotten, goodness and piety appear. When the body’s intelligence declines, cleverness and knowledge step forth. When there is no peace in the family, filial piety begins. When the country falls into chaos, patriotism is born.   Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey by...

Chapter 15 – The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Their wisdom was unfathomable. There is no way to describe it; all we can describe is their appearance. They were careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. Courteous as a guest. Fluid as melting ice. Shapable as a block of wood. Receptive as a valley. Clear as a glass of water. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud...

Chapter 06- Tao is called the Great Mother

The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of here: Tao Te Ching...

Chapter 04 – Tao is like a well

The Tao is like a well used but never used up. It is like the eternal void: filled with infinite possibilities. It is hidden but always present. I don’t know who gave birth to it. It is older than God.   Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial...

Chapter 02 – Being and non-being

When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow each other. Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she...

Chapter 01 – The Tao That Can Be Told

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all...

Chapter 80 – If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content.

If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content. They enjoy the labor of their hands and don’t waste time inventing labor-saving machines. Since they dearly love their homes, they aren’t interested in travel. There may be a few wagons and boats, but these don’t go anywhere. There may be an arsenal of weapons, but nobody ever uses them. People enjoy their food, take pleasure in...

Chapter 73 – The Tao is always at ease.

The Tao is always at ease. It overcomes without competing, answers without speaking a word, arrives without being summoned, accomplishes without a plan. Its net covers the whole universe. And though its meshes are wide, it doesn’t let a thing slip through. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey by...

Chapter 72 – When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion.

When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion. When they no longer trust themselves, they begin to depend upon authority. Therefore the Master steps back so that people won’t be confused. He teaches without a teaching, so that people will have nothing to learn. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial...

Chapter 68 – The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.

The best athlete wants his opponent at his best. The best general enters the mind of his enemy. The best businessman serves the communal good. The best leader follows the will of the people. All of the embody the virtue of non-competition. Not that they don’t love to compete, but they do it in the spirit of play. In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get...

Chapter 60 – Governing a large country is like frying a small fish.

Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking. Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power. Not that it isn’t there, but you’ll be able to step out of its way. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey by...

Chapter 53 – The great Way is easy

The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths. Be aware when things are out of balance. Stay centered within the Tao. When rich speculators prosper While farmers lose their land; when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures; when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible while the poor have nowhere to turn- all this is robbery and chaos. It is not in keeping with the...

Chapter 36 – If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand

If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand. If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish. If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given. This is called the subtle perception of the way things are. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results. Support Author: Stephen...

Chapter 35 – She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger

She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. Music or the smell of good cooking may make people stop and enjoy. But words that point to the Tao seem monotonous and without flavor. When you look for it, there is nothing to see. When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear. When you use...

Chapter 09 – Better stop short than fill to the brim.

Better stop short than fill to the brim. Over sharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt. Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it. Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow. Retire when the work is done. This is the way of heaven. Support Author: Stephen Mitchell Get your copy of this Translation here: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial...

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