81 Chapter Translations & Interpretations
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Chapter 16 – Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet

Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet: as myriad things act in concert, I thereby observe the return. Things flourish, then each returns to its root. Returning to the root is called stillness; stillness is called return to Life, return to Life is called the constant; knowing the constant is called enlightenment. Acts at random, in ignorance of the constant, bode ill. Knowing the constant gives...

Chapter 11 – Thirty spokes join at a hub

  Thirty spokes join at a hub: their use for the cart is where they are not. When the potter’s wheel makes a pot, the use of the pot is precisely where there is nothing. When you open the doors and windows for a room, it is where there is nothing that they are useful to the room. Therefore being is for benefit, nonbeing is for usefulness. Support Author: Thomas Cleary Get your copy of this Translation...

Chapter 44 – Which is closer, your name or your body?

Which is closer, your name or your body? Which is more, your body or your possessions? Which is more destructive, gain or loss? Extreme fondness means great expense, and abundant possessions mean much loss. If you know when you have enough, you will not be disgraced. If you know when to stop, you will not be endangered. It is possible thereby to live long. Support Author: Thomas Cleary Get your copy of this...

Chapter 27 – Good works are trackless, good words are flawless, good planning isn’t calculating.

Good works are trackless, good words are flawless, good planning isn’t calculating. What is well closed has no bolt locking it, but cannot be opened. What is well bound has no rope confining it, but cannot be untied. Therefore sages always consider it good to save people, so that there are no wasted humans; they always consider it good to save beings, so that there are no wasted beings. So good people are...

Chapter 46 – When the world has the Way, running horses are retired to till the fields

When the world has the Way, running horses are retired to till the fields. When the world lacks the Way, war-horses are bred in the countryside. No crime is greater than discontent, no fault is greater than possessiveness. So the satisfaction of contentment is always enough. Support Author: Thomas Cleary Get your copy of this Translation here: The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the...

Chapter 52 – The world has a beginning that is the mother of the world

The world has a beginning that is the mother of the world. Once you have found the mother, thereby you know the child. Once you know the child, you return to keep the mother, not perishing though the body may die. Close your eyes, shut your doors, and you do not toil all your life. Open your eyes, carry out your affair, and you’re not saved all your life. Seeing the small is called clarity; keeping flexible is...

Chapter 62 – The Way is the pivot of all thing

The Way is the pivot of all things: the treasure of good people, the safeguard of those who are not good. Fine words can be sold, honored acts can oppress people; why should people who are not good abandon them. Therefore to establish an emperor and set up high officials, one may have a great jewel and drive a team of horses, but that is not as good as advancing callmly on this Way. Why did the ancients value this...

Chapter 66 – The reason why rivers and seas can be lords of the hundred valleys is that they lower themselves to them all

The reason why rivers and seas can be lords of the hundred valleys is that they lower themselves to them all; therefore they can be lords of the hundred valleys. So when sages wish to rise above people, they lower themselves to them in their speech. When they want to preceed people, they go after them in status. So when sages rule, people don’t take it gravely. And when sages are in the forefront, people...

Chapter 78 – Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water.

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcomes the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it. This is why the sages say those who can take on the disgrace of nations are leaders of lands; and those who can take on the...

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