The way that can be told of is hardly an eternal, absolute, unvarying one;
The name that can be coded and given is no absolute name.
Heaven and earth sprang from something else: the bright nameless;
The named is but the said mother that rears the ten thousand creatures of heaven and earth, each after its kind.
He that rids himself of base desire can see the secret essences;
He that didn't and reached high being, he can see outcomes.
Still the two are the same; the secret and its manifestations came from the same ground, the same mould, but anyway sound different -
They are given different names where they appear.
They can both be called the cosmic mystery, awesome deep.
Or rather more secret than so-called mystery.
There is the deeper mystery: the gate and doorway all hidden essences issued from: all such subleties.
And the subtle, mysterial opening homewards.
Call it the door mystery or golden secret of all life.
When the people of the world see beauty as beauty,
The notion of ugliness pops up along with that.
And equally if every one recognize virtue as virtue, if they all know the good as good, the recognition of adjacent evil is wont to rise.
So: Being and not-yet-being interdepend in growth; grow out of another, they can produce each other.
And hard and easy interdepend in completion;
Long and short interdepend. They test each other in contrast.
High and low determine one another and interdepend or distinguish each other in position. So it seems.
Pitch and mode give harmony to one another; tones, sound and voice interdepend in basic, functional harmony;
Front and back give sequence to one another.
The couples follow each other - interdepend in company, so to speak.
From this the wise man relies on doing nothing in the open, it is wu-wei. And he spreads doctrines without true or false words, by a wordless influence.
All things appear, and he hardly turns away from the creatures worked on by him:
Some he gives solid, good life, he hardly disowns his chosen ones.
He hardly takes possession of anyone under fair conditions.
He rears his sons in earthly ways, but neither appropriates nor lays blatant claim to any one.
He acts, but does not rely on his outer, visible smartness or miracle-working ability. He very often claims no credit.
At times he controls them, but hardly leans on any of them.
Because he lays claim to no credit, the handy credit can hardly be taken away from him.
Yes, for the very reason that he hardly calls attention to what he does, he is far from ejected [at once].
Stop looking for rare, moral persons (hsien) to put in power.
There will be jealousies among people, jealousies and strife.
If we cease to set store by products that are hard to get, there will be less outright thieves.
If the people never see such things as excite desire, their hearts can remain placid and undisturbed.
Therefore the wise one rules by emptying their hearts. He fills their bellies, weakens their brightness and toughens their bones,
Ever striving to make the people without knowledge somehow, one way or other.
He sees to it that if there are any who are bright and clever, they dare not interfere.
Through his non-do actions all [such subjection] runs well [for some time].
Tao is like an empty vessel that yet can be drawn from
Without ever needing to be filled.
It is without bottom;
The very breeder of all things in the world.
In it all sharpness is blunted,
All tangles untied,
All glare tempered,
All turmoil smoothed.
It is like a deep pool that never dries.
Was it too the child of something else?
We can hardly tell.
A substanceless image of all things seemed to exist before the progenitor that we hardly know of.
The universe seems without mercy, quite ruthless;
In that wider perspective all things are but as ritual straw dogs.
The wise man too is hard as nail; to him the people are but as straw dogs to throw.
Yet heaven and earth and all that lies between is like a bellows;
Empty, yet yielding a supply that hardly fails.
Work it, and more comes out.
Whereas the force of words is soon spent.
It seems far better to keep what is in the heart.
So hold to the heart core and a regular mean.
The valley spirit never dies.
It is named the mystic woman.
And the gate of the profound woman is the root that heaven and earth sprang from.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will,
You can never wear it out.
Heaven is always, the earth, too.
How can it be?
Well, they do not live only for themselves;
That is why they live long.
So the wise man puts himself last, and finds himself in the foremost place,
Puts himself in the background; yet ever comes to the fore.
He keeps well fit; looks on his body almost as accidental, outer, something to be well taken care of;
Still, a body is always there, and always remains. He remains in the open by it, too.
He hardly strives for great personal ends;
His main ends get fulfilled.
The highest good is like that of water.
The goodness of water is that it benefits the ten thousand creatures; yet itself hardly ever scrambles -
It seems quite content with the places that all men disdain.
It is this that can make water so near to some Tao.
And if men think the ground the best place for building a house on,
If among thoughts they value those that are profound,
If in friendship they value gentleness;
In words, truth and sincere faithfulness,
In government, [bugbear] order;
In deeds: competence, ability, effectiveness;
In actions: timeliness and being properly timed -
In each case it is because they prefer things that hardly lead to strife, and therefore hardly go much astray or amiss.
Stretch a bow to the full, and you'll end up wishing you had stopped in time; to hold and fill to overflowing isn't quite as able as to stop in time.
Temper a sword-edge to its very sharpest, and you'll find it soon grows dull.
When gold and jade fills your hall, can it be well guarded any more?
To be proud with things and glory given, could bring ruin. Wealth and place breed insolence and could slowly harm and ruin:
If your work is done, withdraw!
That is heaven's way. It can be opposed to lots of ways of man.
Can you keep the unquiet physical-soul from straying, hold fast to the unity and middle, and never quit it?
Can you, when concentrating your breath, make it soft like that of an infant?
Strive after less tainted perfection, let it be aided by penetrating insight. So wipe and cleanse your vision of the mystery till all is without blur.
Can you love the people and rule the land, yet remain unknown?
Can you in opening and shutting the heavenly gates, ever play the feminine part?
Can your mind penetrate every corner of the land, but you yourself never interfere? Can you renounce the grosser mind for comprehending all inside knowledge?
Produce things and rear well,
But never lay claims to such things -
Control them, never lean on them.
Rely on some innate ability to act well.
Be a sort of master among others, just refrain from mismanaging.
Here is found the essential Tao prowess. Feats like these suggest what Tao power is at bottom, and its deep, mystic virtue.