Dao De Jing (Translated by E. C. Chang)
Dao De Jing
tr. E. C. Chang
The Dao that can be expressed in words is not the lasting Dao.
The name that can be identified or written is not the lasting Name.
Through wu (invisibility; emptiness), the universe begins.
Through you (observability; measurability), identification of all things begins.
Thus, with “wu,” one can intuitively sense Dao’s subtleties.
With “you,” one can observe or measure its limitations or attributes.
These two are from the same source with two different names.
Wu and you are referred to as the profundities or mysterious. They are the most profound of the profundities, the gateway to all subtleties.
Dao De Jing
tr. E. C. Chang
If the whole world all agree that the same thing is beautiful, it is no longer beautiful; if the whole world all agree that the same behavior is virtuous, it is no longer virtuous.
The following concepts are contrary but complementary to each other. Without one, the other cannot exist. For example, the following antonyms are used to indicate the degree of continuity, difficulty, lengthiness, tallness, harmony, and sequence.
Being and non-being;
Hard and easy;
Long and short;
High and low;
Voice and sound;
After and before.
Therefore, the sage practice “wuwei” () by letting things take their own course. He does not teach by verbal instruction.
He let myriad things follow their own course, but does not give up on them.
He lets all things initiate their own action, but does not take possession of them.
He provides guidance, but does not try to influence them.
He does not take credit for his success.
By not taking credit for his success, his accomplishments will prevail.
Wuwei, literally means non-action, refers to the philosophy of letting things follow a natural course with minimum guidance and interference.
By not glorifying the clever individuals, people will not fight for recognition.
By not overvaluing rare goods, people will not be tempted to steal.
By not displaying treasured items, people will not have covetous thoughts.
Therefore, the sage governs by
emptying people’s minds,
filling their bellies,
weakening their (selfish) ambitions,
and strengthening their bones.
People will not seek knowledge in order to outsmart others, nor will they be preoccupied with personal needs.
Clever people will not dare to disrupt the society.
By applying the principle of wuwei,* social order can thus be maintained.
*wuwei also refers to the behaviors or attitudes that follow a natural course that includes: noninterference, nonresistance, non-compulsory, acceptance, and selflessness.
The Dao is like a shapeless hollow, it can never be filled up.
It is bottomless, looking like the origin of all things.
It is fathomless, yet appearing real.
I don’t know its creator, but I think it exists before all of our ancestors.
To be impartial, the universe treats all things like straw dogs.
To be impartial, the sage treats all people like straw dogs.
The universe is like a vacuum tube: empty but can never be exhausted
When it is acted upon with force, air comes out.
Verbosity leads to rejection. Finding a point of balance is preferred.
The spirit of hollowness will never die.
It is called the profound “Maternal nature.”
The gate of the profound maternal nature is the root of the universe.
It lasts forever and its use is inexhaustible.
Heaven and earth are everlasting.
The reason that it lasts forever is that it does not perpetuate for its own sake.
By not engaging in self-perpetuation, it thus becomes long lasting.
Thus, the sage ends up the leader because he stands behind his followers.
By being unconcerned for his own interest, he thus prevails.
Isn’t it true that his unselfishness is the reason for his success?
Most benevolent actions resemble water in character.
Water benefits all things but does not compete with them.
It puts itself in (low) places where most people don’t like.
As such, it comes close to the nature of Dao.
The sages model water in that they will
Find the most suitable place to live;
Empty and deepen their minds;
Offer beneficial help;
Let their words be trustworthy;
Manage social affairs efficiently;
Handle matters competently;
Do the right thing at the right time.
Because the sages do not fight for recognition, so there will be little animosity.
Filling a bowl to its brim is not as good as leaving some space unfilled.
Sharpen something beyond necessity cannot be long lasted.
Having a house full of gold and jade cannot be safeguarded.
Being wealthy and arrogant will lead to self- destruction.
Retiring after achieving success is consistent with the nature of Dao.
Can the body and mind be united without being separated?
Can the breadth through passive concentration be as tender as that of an infant?
Can the mental images be cleaned without leaving blemishes?
Can the people-loving ruler govern without using schemes?
Can the gate to external stimuli be open and closed with tenderness?
Can full comprehension be attained without knowledge?
Rear and raise it; grow it but don’t lay claim to it;
Be helpful to it but do not control it;
Be the leader but do not invade them.
This is called profound virtue.
Thirty spokes together connect
to one hub.
It is the empty space (wu) that causes the wheel to turn.
An earthenware vessel is made by molding the clay.
What makes the vessel usable is its empty space (wu).
A room is completed by installing a window and door.
What makes the room usable is its empty space (wu).
Thus, with you, both vessel and room are useable. It is wu that makes utilization possible.
The five colors can blind our eyes.
The five musical notes can deafen our ears.
The five flavors can dull our taste.
Hunting on a horseback swiftly can agitate our mind.
Rare goods can elicit bad behaviors.
That’s why a sage comforts the bellies, not the eyes.
To him, the people’s livelihood is more important
than having a fun time.