The great masters of antiquity who were adept in the Dao,
Were subtle, clever, mysterious, and perceptive;
Their thoughts were too profound to be understood.
Because they could not be understood,
The best I can do is describe their appearance:
Cautious as if crossing a river in winter,
Alert as if aware of danger from all sides;
Dignified like a guest;
Yielding like a melting block of ice;
Simple like an uncarved block of wood;
Open-minded like a valley;
Opaque like muddy water.
Who can remain calm until the mud settles?
Who can remain tranquil until the right time to act arrives?
Those who embrace the Dao never seek fulfillment;
Precisely because they never seek fulfillment,
They can always renew themselves.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 15: the great masters of antiquity
What you look at but cannot see is called the invisible;
What you listen to but cannot hear is called the inaudible;
What you touch but cannot hold is called the intangible.
These three are undefinable.
Thus, they are joined as one.
From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark;
It is so vague as to defy description;
It reverts to a state of nothingness.
This is called the form that has no form,
The image that has no substance;
This is called the indistinct and indistinguishable.
Facing it, you cannot see its front;
Following it, you cannot see its rear.
Hold fast to the ancient Dao to master the here and now.
The ability to know the beginnings of antiquity,
This is called the essence of the Dao.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 14: the unbroken thread of the way
Favor and disgrace are equally stressful.
High rank is a source of great trouble just like your body.
What does it mean that favor and disgrace are equally stressful?
Favor can lead to your downfall;
Gaining it is as stressful as losing it;
That is why favor and disgrace are equally stressful.
What does it mean that high rank is a source of great trouble like your body?
The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body.
If I didn’t have a body, what trouble would I have?
If you value the world as much as you value your body,
You can be trusted to govern it.
If you love the world as much as you love your body,
You can be trusted to take care of it.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 13: caring about disaster
The five colors blind your eyes;
The five sounds deafen your ears;
The five flavors dull your taste buds.
Chasing and hunting make you lose your mind.
Pursuing rare objects leads you astray.
That is why the sage heeds his stomach and not his eyes,
Thus, he rejects the latter and adopts the former.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 12: sensory overload
Thirty spokes share a wheel hub;
But it’s the empty space at the center of it that makes the cart useful.
Clay is shaped into a pot;
But it’s the empty space inside it that makes the pot useful.
Doorways and window bays are cut for a room;
But it’s the empty space in these openings that makes the room useful.
To enjoy the full benefit of something,
Harness the usefulness of nothing.
Continue reading Daodejing chapter 11: the power of emptiness
Can you nurture your spirit and embrace oneness,
Without letting it go?
Can you concentrate your vital energy and reach a state of suppleness,
Like a new-born baby?
Can you polish and clean your mystery mirror,
So that you leave it untainted?
Can you love your country and care for your people,
With effortless action?
Can you play the role of the female,
Opening and closing the gates of Heaven?
Can you understand everything instinctively,
Without employing knowledge?
Bearing and nurturing;
Bearing without possessing;
Acting without taking credit;
Leading without dominating.
This is called mysterious virtue.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 10: Laozi throws down the gauntlet
Holding a cup until it is filled to the brim,
Is not as good as stopping in time;
Hammering a blade until it is sharp,
Will not preserve its edge for long.
When your hall is stuffed with gold and jade,
Nobody will be able to protect it.
When riches and honors lead to arrogance;
Disaster will inevitably follow.
When you retire accomplishing your goal;
This is the Dao of Heaven.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 9: reaching your natural limit
The highest good is like water;
Water brings good to all things without contending with them;
It settles in places that people disdain;
Thus, it’s close to the Dao.
In choosing your home, it’s the location that counts;
In cultivating your mind, it’s depth that counts;
In dealing with others, it’s goodness that counts;
In speaking, it’s good faith that counts;
In governing, it’s order that counts;
In handling affairs, it’s ability that counts;
In action, it’s timing that counts.
By not contending with others,
You won’t be singled out for reproach.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 8: like water
Heaven is infinite and Earth is eternal;
The reason why they last so long,
Is because they do not exist for themselves;
Thus, they can continue to endure.
That is why the sage:
Places himself at the back,
But finds himself at the front;
Has no consideration for himself,
But stays safe and secure.
Because he is selfless;
He is perfectly fulfilled.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 7: selfishness and selflessness
The spirit of the valley never dies;
It is called the mysterious female.
The gateway of the mysterious female,
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Like a fine slender thread,
It appears to go on forever;
No matter how much it’s used,
It’s never exhausted.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 6: the mysterious female