Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way
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Most translations have caught meanings in their net, but prosily, letting the beauty slip through. And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning. It is the truth. We have that on good authority.
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I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I
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It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.
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The way you can go isn’t the real way. The name you can say isn’t the real name. Heaven and earth begin in the unnamed: name’s the mother of the ten thousand things.
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So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.
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Two things, one origin, but different in name, whose identity is mystery. Mystery of all myster...
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A satisfactory translation of this chapter is, I believe, perfectly impossible. It contains the book. I think of it as the Aleph, in Borges’s story: if y...
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Everybody on earth knowing that beauty is beautiful makes ugliness.
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Everybody knowing that goodness is good makes wickedness.
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For being and nonbeing arise together; hard and easy complete each other; long and short shape each other; high and low depend on each other; note and voice make the musi...
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To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance. To let go of that belief is to find safety.
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When you do not-doing, nothing’s out of order.
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Blunting edge, loosing bond, dimming light, the way is the dust of the way.
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Altruism is the other side of egoism. Followers of the Way, like the forces of nature, act selflessly.
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The mystery, the Door of the Woman, is the root of earth and heaven.
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Call it the form of the unformed, the image of no image. Call it unthinkable thought. Face it: no face. Follow it: no end.
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Once upon a time people who knew the Way were subtle, spiritual, mysterious, penetrating, unfathomable.
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Cautious, oh yes, as if wading through a winter river. Alert, as if afraid of the neighbors. Polite and quiet, like houseguests. Elusive, like melting ice. Blank, like uncut wood. Empty, like valleys. Mysterious, oh yes, they were like troubled water.
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To follow the Way is not to need fulfillment. Unfulfilled, one may live on needing no renewal.
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The disordered society is full of loyal patriots.
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Stop being holy, forget being prudent, it’ll be a hundred times better for everyone.
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Need little, want less. Forget the rules. Be untroubled.
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Not showing themselves, they shine forth. Not justifying themselves, they’re self-evident. Not praising themselves, they’re accomplished. Not competing, they have in all the world no competitor.
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Nature doesn’t make long speeches.
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You can’t shine by showing off or get ahead by pushing. Self-satisfied people do no good, self-promoters never grow up.
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People follow earth, earth follows heaven, heaven follows the Way, the Way follows what is.
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Heavy is the root of light. Still is the master of moving.
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Having replaced instinct with language, society, and culture, we are the only species that depends on teaching and learning. We aren’t human without them. In them is true power. But are they the occupations of the rich and mighty?
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Anyone who has observed young animals learning through play and being taught by parents to hunt knows this to not be true.
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Knowing man and staying woman, be the riverbed of the world. Being the world’s riverbed of eternal unfailing power is to go back again to be newborn.
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Knowing light and staying dark, be a pattern to the world. Being the world’s pattern of eternal unerring power is to go back again to boundlessness.
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The riverbed in which power runs leads back, the patterns of power lead back, the valley where power is contained leads back—to the forever new, endless, straightforward way. Reversal, recurrence, are the movement, and yet the movement is onward.
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Those who think to win the world by doing something to it, I see them come to grief. For the world is a sacred object. Nothing is to be done to it. To do anything to it is to damage it. To seize it is to lose it.
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To lose the sense of the sacredness of the world is a mortal loss. To injure our world by excesses of greed and ingenuity is to endanger our own sacredness.
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Knowing other people is intelligence, knowing yourself is wisdom. Overcoming others takes strength, overcoming yourself takes greatness. Contentment is wealth.
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Jade is praised as precious, but its strength is being stone.
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It wouldn’t be the Way if there weren’t jokes about it.
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They mingle their life with the world, they mix their mind up with the world. Ordinary people look after them. Wise souls are children.
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To have without possessing, do without claiming, lead without controlling: this is mysterious power.
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The great way is low and plain, but people like shortcuts over the mountains. The palace is full of splendor and the fields are full of weeds and the granaries are full of nothing.
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People wearing ornaments and fancy clothes, carrying weapons, drinking a lot and eating a lot, having a lot of things, a lot of money: shameless thieves. Surely their way isn’t the way.
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Ignorant of the intercourse of man and woman, yet the baby penis is erect. True and perfect energy!
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The Way is more than the cycle of any individual life. We rise, flourish, fail. The Way never fails. We are waves. It is the sea.
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Who knows doesn’t talk. Who talks doesn’t know. Closing the openings, shutting doors, blunting edge, loosing bond, dimming light, be one with the dust of the way.
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Then you can’t be controlled by love or by rejection. You can’t be controlled by profit or by loss. You can’t be controlled by praise or by humiliation. Then you have honor under heaven.
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Run the country by doing what’s expected. Win the war by doing the unexpected. Control the world by doing nothing.
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And so the wise shape without cutting, square without sawing, true without forcing. They are the light that does not shine.
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Lie low to be on top, be on top by lying low.
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Fine words are for sale, fine deeds go cheap; even worthless people can get them.
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People get hard to manage when they know too much.
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All greatness is improbable. What’s probable is tedious and petty.
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