LAO ZI: A PRACTICAL AND COMPREHENSIVE TRANSLATION

...explained through a contemporary and somewhat buddhist perspective

FOREWORD

It was spring, 2020. The first lockdown of the first wave of the pandemic in Europe was in place, which at the time basically meant avoiding too much human contact, wearing face masks, going home after work and obviously not hanging out in restaurants and pubs. Hence it was becoming more than apparent, that the social nuttiness was about to graduate. There was a new virus, the effects of which no one at the time really understood, confusion was all around, politicians were just being politicians and conspiracy theorists were being conspiracy theorists - but on powerful steroids called social media. I am not suggesting in any way that those times were not hard on all of us, quite the opposite - imagine an unknown tricky virus spreading, and then some people come with the idea, that wearing face masks is a violation of human rights... After spending some time in Japan, that particularly looked quite fascinating.

So anyway, I was stuck at home, deciding what to do, which lead me to the idea of brushing up on old Chinese, wanting to take some time off from the screen. There I remembered that I had a czech translation of Laozi, which also contained the full original text. I had bought this book when I was fifteen or so and then tried to copy the original chapters using a round nib - I had no brush for calligraphy and no knowledge of Chinese whatsoever, but thinking back, this perhaps was the initial spark which kindled my passion.

Long story short, during the following years, I’ve had put most of my effort into studying Zen and Tibetan buddhism, not really forgetting about Laozi (its content is fully compatible and assimilated into the teachings of Zen), but not really coming back to the original text itself for almost twenty years.

So when I opened it after such a long time, first I was struck by its significant simpleness and eloquence for which we, perhaps, can thank to the fact that the text itself is written in the so called pre-classical Chinese from the times of the Zhou dynasty, when writing system was being assembled based on logographic inscriptions invented by the previous Shang dynasty. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. And what more, it was so on point. I was (and still am) thinking to myself: “Damn, this could help so many people exactly through this crisis...”

Watching so many people around panic not so much because of the virus itself but often because of the fact that for some three months, they had to stare at their phones at home, instead of a pub, restaurant or coffee shop. Furthermore, they were being deprived of spending days in shopping plazas, all of which seemed as though being understood by many as a breach of basic human rights. I have to emphasize, that going out for a walk and spending time in nature was perfectly ok.

The second point of the first chapter approximately reads: “Therefore, always having no desires, thereby [one truly] sees its hidden perfection. Always having desires, thereby [one truly] sees [merely] its limits (outer shape).” I remember the the words of the great Trungpa rinpoche, the first tibetan master to systematically teach Tibetan buddhism in the West: “When you are cornered, everything becomes clear.” The Chinese term that corresponds to the word “crisis” is 危機, where the first character means “danger” and the second “chance, opportunity”. Basically one thing this crisis did already in the very beginning, was highlighting the immense amount of insecurities, which have infested our sub/consciousness in the modern hyper materialistic way of living. Human mind is incapable of ridding itself of systems of values based on contextual ontologies, products of which are religions. In other words, shunning one religion we only embrace another. Nowadays, we seem to worship among others materialism and effectivity, but the ultimate endgame is control.

There are opinions that money itself has become a religion, although that doesn’t seem to be particularly accurate, given that money is by nature a tool, which we use to buy things, which we use to ameliorate our lifestyle, because we think it’ll grant us control over causes and conditions, which we think will ensure our freedom, for which we yearn for one simple reason. To avoid suffering. If only it worked that way... Generally speaking, we do it in such way, because we are sub/consciously being educated/massaged right from the beginning, that having lots of shiny things will make us popular, which initially through the dopamine fix or lack thereof often sets us on this particular path. Then, if we live in civilization with TV, radio and/or internet connection, we are continuously massaged from almost every angle that we always need to buy something new, that we need this or that in order to be happy (at least until some new tweak comes out)... This is neither a conspiracy nor any intentional evil of the system, it seems to be merely a serious design flaw in the architecture of capitalism. One which perhaps no one really thought through. Namely, it is the fact that capitalism is all based on buying and selling things, which of course is not necessarily wrong on its own, and would perhaps work perfectly, if everyone were content just with what they really need. However the problem begins when we need to convince others to buy stuff they don’t really need just because we need to sell it. This is where morality starts to collapse and the whole thing becomes poison, be it with a varying degree of toxicity. After the gold rush there came “the american dream”: a family house with white fence, but later Hollywood appeared with it the creeping illusion of 'normal’ people becoming famous and living like royalty and along with them the ever-present promise that “this can be you if you work hard enough”. If you make enough money, you can have a hacienda in Malibu full of servants etc, etc. As if... as if so many people could fit there... As if the core attraction of it didn’t lie in the simple fact that almost no one can do that. Just imagine that everyone achieved this dream and became a multimillionaire - what prestige would a million have a month later? This vision works only because 90% of us can never be like that but perpetually work our ass off under the delusion that we can, so we are subdued into a workhorse by the rein of greed, the most shortsighted of all emotions.

Well, the simplest evidence for this theory became outstandingly apparent during the course of the pandemic, when due to the lockdowns suddenly people started to spend money only on what they really needed, which directly led to destabilizing whole economies... I remember the headlines quoting politicians, saying that “the economy cannot recuperate until people start wasting money again”... It’s a simple pyramid game and its not a conspiracy by some evil government overlords, just because they are on the same drugs as we are - it’s truly a combined effort of all of us, so imagine what would happen if people suddenly stopped buying things they don’t really need. Well, in all empirical sarcasm, based on this current dataset it would probably seriously help this planet as well as gradually obliterate the already dissipating ghost of so called “western values” and who know what then - perhaps a nice juicy Mad Max scenario? Yep, all we want is life beyond the Thunderdome... Seriously, google the lyrics of that song!

Then why don’t we just abolish the system which apparently doesn’t work and try something else instead? A perhaps noble equalitarian regime based on firm values and cooperation of all? We already, tried that and you might have heard of it under the catchy name of “communism”, although I wonder why it didn’t really work out... Correct me if I’m wrong, but it didn’t work out because a few greedy people had used those ideas to get on the top of the food chain and then using tyranny held their whole nation hostage in order to stay there. It starts to seriously look like until we get rid of greed, we won’t get anywhere. Does it though? Does it really just start to look that way? I wonder when did we first hear of that idea. Oh, wait: Therefore, always having no desires, thereby [one truly] sees its hidden perfection. If only the Old Master had some useful ways how to accomplish that. Wait, maybe: Do not exalt the worthy and people will not fight. Do not praise goods that are difficult to obtain and people will not steal. Do not show [off] the desirable and hearts will not be in chaos. . Spoiler Alert in chapter 3...

When I was young, even before reading Laozi, I had started reading the Core Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism series by HH the Dalai lama. I remember reading over and over again that everything every single sentient being does is to avoid suffering. So how is it that we all still suffer so much? It is simply because due to our ignorance, we are oblivious to the true causes of suffering. There are two main types of suffering: 1) suffering of suffering, 2) suffering of change. The first one is very simple: you put your hand into fire, you get burnt. The second one is usually camouflaged as its opposite. You watch TV and at first, it brings you pleasure and enjoyment. However, if you go on and on, without a break, at some point you’ll get bored, start to have a headache, your eyes will burn, etc. If you don’t change your activity, it’ll bring you suffering. Hence, it’s called suffering of change. Similarly, ignorance can be also divided into two types: 1) simple, 2) distorted. The first one is the completely natural “not knowing”. The second is the notorious “not knowing, yet still forming an opinion.” Exactly this one is the main culprit behind so much suffering to both ourselves and others... This is frankly no religion at all but simple physics, and more importantly irrefutable. If only we learnt this from kindergarten on...

    CHAPTER 1

「道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。無名天地之始;有名萬物之母。故常無欲,以觀其妙;常有欲,以觀其徼。此兩者,同出而異名,同謂之玄。玄之又玄,衆妙之門。」

「道[way, road, path, method] 可[can] 道[way],非[is not] 常[permanent, always, normal] 道[way]。名 [name, concept, designation] 可[can] 名[name, concept, designation],非[is not] 常[permanent] 名[name, concept, designation]。無[be not, have not] 名[name] 天[heaven] 地[earth] 之[this, that, ’s (genitive particle)] 始[beginning, start];有[be, have] 名[name] 萬[ten thousand] 物[thing] 之[’s] 母[mother]。故[therefore] 常[permanent, always, normal] 無[have not] 欲[desire, want],以[thus, thereby] 觀[see in detail] 其[its, his, hers] 妙[mysterious, subtle, exquisite];常[permanent, always, normal] 有[be, have]欲[desire, want],以[thus, thereby] 觀[see in detail] 其[its, his, hers] 徼[border, limit]。此[this, these; in this case, then] 兩[both] 者[that which/who is~(the preceeding)],同[same] 出[exit, origin] 而[and, but] 異[different] 名[name, concept, designation],同[same] 謂[say, tell; call, be called]之[this, that, ’s] 玄[deep, profound]。玄[deep, profound] 之[this, that, ’s] 又[again] 玄[deep, profound],衆[all] 妙[mysterious, subtle, exquisite] 之[this, that, ’s] 門[door, gate]。」

Way can way, is not permanent way. Name can name, is not permanent name. Not having name [-] Heaven [and] Earth's beginning; having name [-] ten thousand things' mother. Therefore permanently have no desire thereby see [in detail] its subtle[ness]. Permanently have desire[s], thereby see [in detail] its limit. These both, same origin but different name, same says its profound[ness]. Profound it again profound, All subtle's gate.

"A way [which] can [act as a] way, is not a permanent (absolute) way. A name [which] can [act as a] name, is not an permanent name. That which has no name (which is not perceived) is the beginning (origin) of Heavens and Earth (the whole universe). That which has names is the mother of ten thousand things (all particular things).
Therefore, always having no desires, [one] thereby sees (understands) one’s subtleness (hidden perfection). Always having desires, [one] thereby [merely] sees one’s [outer] limits. These both are of the same origin but of different names. [Their] sameness tells of [their] profoundness. Profoundly profound, a door to all the mystery (hidden perfection).”

A GLIMPSE OF THE ABSOLUTE

道:Way, road, path, system, method, which although itself is fixed, unchanging, it facilitates movement, change. This applies to outer (physical) roads as well as to inner (spiritual) paths. Both allow us to move somewhere but the main requirement for a path to be useful is be to fixed and unchanging (at least within its realm). When we cook a specific meal of a specific taste, we won’t get it unless we stick to a specific set of ingredients and a specific method of using them.

名:Name, label, description is a tool we use for describing things, concepts, phenomena. Nevertheless, any names or concepts are made by us and us alone. When such a name or label is agreed upon by many people, we tend to mistakenly absolutize it (consider it an intrinsic part of the object itself). Names, labels, concepts are not a problem themselves for they are the only method of formulating and communicating anything to someone else. The biggest sets of collectively agreed upon names and concepts are called “languages”. A problem arises when we forget that our descriptions don’t belong to the things themselves but merely to our perception of them. (more in chapter 2).

This first chapter explains terms and the goal of the whole text. If something is truly absolute, it has to be itself outside the influence of conditions, outside causality, therefore it has to lack any perceivable/describable qualities or properties (more in chapter 2), in addition to being nonlocal (being everywhere at once; more in chapter 4).

Because one spreads themselves too thin by attempting to describe the indescribable, the best way to do so efficiently is perhaps through negation. It is a very simple and effective means vastly used in Indian logic for describing abstract phenomena such as Awakening in Buddhism, etc. For example, if you need someone to bring you a specific tool from your shed with which they aren’t familiar, instead of overwhelming them with the tool’s difficult features or names, you can say “it’s the one which has no holes and isn’t blue”, or something like that. Similarly, in our case the text suggests that if we are to find the Way which is absolute and permanent, it must not be capable of bearing any labels (or describable properties), therefore even calling it “the Way” is basically a necessary evil and would be misleading on its own without the consequent explanation in the very first sentence of the whole text.

This analysis implies that such a thing exists and continues by suggesting how to “get closer” to it. Considering that if something which is truly absolute/permanent is there, it is definitely worthy of our interest and investigation, because due to its absoluteness anyone can fully lean on it and it never yields, never lets us down. However, since our lives are fully immersed in our own worlds of subjective perceptions, qualities and properties, our way of living is governed by the almighty “I want”. And since these perceptions are indeed purely subjective, by chasing after them we’ll glimpse only the outer edge of their true essence (not to mention our own) and not its “heart” which is well hidden beyond shapes and forms. Therefore, one might call it “mysterious”.

Hence if we are to glimpse such a mystery, we have to let go of our preoccupation with attachments to superficial forms and glitter.

What is it then? The key may lie exactly in its absoluteness. If something is truly absolute and hence everywhere, then necessarily it must be part of everything, including us and all our perceptions. The “profoundness” then perhaps points at this fact that even though we cannot directly perceive it (for it has nothing to be perceived), it is the intrinsic part of us and therefore we are not different from it. That sameness is indeed profoundly profound and by realizing it we may perhaps come to glimpse its true perfection which is thusly hidden from perception.

    CHAPTER 2

「天下皆知美之為美,斯惡已。皆知善之為善,斯不善已。故有無相生,難易相成,長短相較,高下相傾,音聲相和,前後相隨。是以聖人處無為之事,行不言之教;萬物作焉而不辭,生而不有。為而不恃,功成而弗居。夫唯弗居,是以不去。」

Heaven below all know beauty it act/make beauty, then ugly {particle of new realization}. All know good it act/make good, then not good {particle of new realization}. Therefore, be not be mutually birth, difficult easy mutually complete, long short mutually compare, high below mutually lean, tone sound mutually balance, before after mutually follow, indeed thereby sage person place no act it affair[s], goes do not proclaim's teaching; ten thousand things created here and do not refuse. Births and does not have. Acts and does not rely on, work completes and no dwells. Their just no dwelling, indeed thereby does not go.

"Under Heavens (in the world) all learn “the beautiful" as beautiful and thereby [learn] the ugly as well. All learn “the good” as good and thereby [learn] the bad as well. Therefore being and nonbeing produce each other, difficulty and simpleness complete each other, length and shortness compare each other, height and lowness lean to each other, tones and sounds balance each other, before and after follow each other. Thus it is not the wisest ones’ place to act on [mundane] affairs; they act but do not proclaim their teachings. Ten thousand things [already] created, they of course do not reject; they produce but do not possess, act but do not cling, complete their work, but do not dwell. For what does not dwell, does not leave.”

UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIVE

In the first chapter, the text by explaining about the universal, ever-present and indescribable, lays grounds for us to understand the relativity of the describable, so we won’t fall victim to the sneaky ghosts of our own perception. The second chapter explains how properties and qualities come to existence, which itself since they bear names must be purely relative (dependently arisen). The main key to how we perceive anything is purely by comparison. If everything in the universe were red, we’d have no idea, because we’d have no concept of color. Theoretically, if you ever meet someone who’s always lived on an island with no caves and houses, ask them about “outside”. Now you may have concluded that the text concludes that there is no universal “good” and “bad” and your temper might be already shortening. On the absolute level, you are right, since truly absolute can be only ‘cause and effect’ itself and everything is part of the ever-spreading tree of causality. HOWEVER, exactly because any quality, property and perception exists solely on the relative level, its relativity is therefore ABSOLUTE. And since everything we know, we know through perception, there are innate concepts for “good” and “bad” for everyone, since we all know what is suffering, same as every other sentient being, but this innateness doesn’t extend beyond that. As for what’s good or bad considering anything else, it’s purely conceptual.

The next item on the second chapter’s menu is the text’s archetype, which it describes as 聖人 [sage person] and I translate as “the wisest one”, as opposed to for example the confucian archetype 君子 [ruler’s child] “the one of character”. The difference between these two is perhaps the key to understanding the main message of the whole Laozi. In 君子 [ruler’s child], the first logogram consisting of 尹 [to govern, oversee, director] and 口 [mouth], points at someone who is a living exhibit of qualities that a ruler is supposed to have (in an ideal world), such as honor, character, benevolence, etc. This choice of terms is very precise and based on the confucian predicament that human nature seems to be inherently faulty and problematic and it’s therefore necessary to correct our nature and hold it in shape by a complex and binding system of hierarchy and rituals, otherwise there is no possibility for virtue to arise. Anything of that sort appears to be vastly nonsensical within the context of Laozi, when all of nature is built on “the Way” which is absolute and therefore lacks any concept, including faultiness. In other words, nature is never wrong, therefore there is no need to fix it and thus no attempt to do so may lead to happiness or benefit (more in chapter 5). In the Laozi’s archetype 聖人 [sage person] the first logogram is built from 耳 [ear], 口 [mouth] and 王 [king] - which may depict someone who has control over what they listen to and say. I.e. they don’t fall victim to false perceptions such as lies and gossips, or selfish politics for that matter. One becomes such a person by realizing the true way of all things and thus understanding the impermanence and trickiness of taking perceptions as objective and identical for all. Therefore they choose not to “act” (the word 爲 means “to act in order to secure a specific result”), for they know that every action is but a single branch of the all pervasive tree of cause and effect, thus the final result of anything isn’t for them to decide, so they act through non-action (doing the best one can but not dwelling on any specific “acceptable” outcome; more in chapter 3).

On the other hand, they profoundly understand that who does not realize it is lost in their own convoluted web of objectified superficial perceptions, which make us suffer and even hurt others in our mistaken attempts to ease our own suffering. Therefore if the wisest ones wish to truly help others, it might be better to do things that bring benefit but without explaining too deeply why, which due to difference of perceptions could lead to even deeper misunderstandings and adverse effects. So they naturally tend to stay away from fame and glitter, as well as machinations and intrigues, they do what they can but don’t dwell on impermanent things and thus they don’t have to leave anything behind.

    CHAPTER 3

「不尚賢,使民不爭;不貴難得之貨,使民不為盜;不見可欲,使心不亂。是以聖人之治,虛其心,實其腹,弱其志,強其骨。常使民無知無欲。使天知者不敢為也。為無為,則無不治。」

Do not nobilify worthy; causing populace not contend. Do not praise difficult get it product; causing populace not steal. Do not [make] visible can desire; causing heart not chaos. Indeed thereby sage person's governance, empty its heart, enrich its stomach, weaken its will, strengthen its bones. Always causing populace not know not desire. Causing heaven knowing ones not take act {copula}. Act not act, and then no not governance.

Do not exalt the worthy and people will not fight. Do not praise goods that are difficult to obtain and people will not steal. Do not show [off] the desirable and hearts will not be in chaos. Hence the wisest ones’ rule: empties their heart (desires), enriches their belly (spirit); weakens their will [to fight], strengthens their bones (endurance). Always care that people have no (excessive) smart[ass]ness and no (excessive) desires. Care that those “smart” people are not action-takers. [When] acting through non-action, nothing is ever without rule.

HARMONIOUS SOCIETY

The third chapter again builds on that which has been explained in the two previous ones, where the main topic was how to live meaningfully as individuals, and hence moves to the case of the whole society of people. Even though the wisest ones tend to choose to stay away from politics and worldly ambitions, their teaching is nothing but useful when it comes to managing states and societies, given the goal is to have a peaceful, harmonious and content society. If their main goal is exploitation for power and luxury, then not so much. It is truly no wonder why the first part of this chapter describes the exact opposite to our modern society’s drive. It is April 2021 and we can safely say that something that we are and have been doing seems to be working not as efficiently as one may have thought... Ironically, our status quo might serve as kind of an insight-enhancer into the Laozi’s words.

The next part brings sets of opposites - as a method of specifying nuances. Heart as opposed to belly points to desires, because in Traditional Chinese medicine, heart is associated with emotions and belly with consciousness. But in the same time it also suggests satisfying their needs and filling their stomachs. Will or determination (though usually a good thing) is here opposed to bones, which points to the will for exertion and strife against bone strength for resilience and endurance. It is indeed much better to be conscious, peaceful and strong than blinded, vengeful and weak (more in almost every chapter).

Next, to ensure keeping a harmonious symbiosis, the wisest ruler must take care of the ever present smart-alecks, who are lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to exploit any way that leads to power. It is indeed and uneasy task to manage a state and one must sacrifice a lot of themselves - apart from their wisdom and moral principles - which are on contrary often the first ones to go in our world... Again, no wonder why.

However, preventing those from taking action doesn’t necessarily mean their physical elimination - again and again the utter uselessness of violence and its validity only as the very last of last resorts is being emphasized tirelessly throughout the whole text (explicitly in chapter 31). Since the unhappier people are, the easier are they to be manipulated, the best way to protect them from potential dictators is perhaps doing everything one can for their happiness (as opposed to personal profit); if they sincerely keep acting through non-action - helping, supporting and caring with no desire to push their personal interests, the people will naturally recognize that and protect them back. In that care, no one shall be ever in chaos... If only we had this text some thousands of years ago... Oh, wait - we did. Nevermind.

    Chapter 4

「道沖而用之或不盈。淵兮似萬物之宗。挫其銳,解其紛,和其光,同其塵。湛兮似或存。吾不知誰之子,象帝之先。」

Way pour and use it {expressive particle} do not overflow. Deep ah! similar ten thousand things' ancestor. Pushes down its sharp[ness], separates its disorder, balance its light, same/equalize its mud. Clear/profound/tranquil ah! similar {expressive particle} exist/survive/remain. I do not know whose child, imagine the supreme [ruler]'s previous.

"Pour [anything] in The Way and it does not overflow. How deep it is! - as though it were the ancestor of ten thousand things.[It] softens its sharpness, unravels its disorder, dims its brightness, is equal with its mud. How profoundly tranquil! - as though it is to remain. I do not know whose child it is, it seems to predate the supreme one.”

THE ALL-ENCOMPASSING VASE

After a necessary introduction into the basic principles, the text moves back (forward) on The Way. When you set out on a journey, you begin by defining a starting point and a destination. But when these two are identical in space and time, there is nowhere to go to, for you are already there and always have been. When you wish to fill a vase, you take something from outside the vase and put it in perhaps until it’s full. However, if the vase already contains everything there is, how could it ever overflow? If the vase creates everything there is (and perhaps vice versa), there is nothing whatsoever which is separate from it to be put in, so the vase appears to be eternally deep. In another context, if something is absolute, it is also perfect (it has no attributes to be perceived, let alone imperfect), this is sometimes called “spontaneous perfection” or “suchness”. Suchness means that a thing itself is its own point of reference, hence it is perceived as “such”. Perfection means that there is no way to perfect it any further, for it already is everything there is, so in a Way, it creates itself, therefore it may be called spontaneous (not that it cares either way though). This exactly is the reason why it takes the wisest ones to figure it out on their own, and why those old sages fully deserve such a title (not that they’d care either way though; more in Chapter 15).

As for the Way, every phenomena, every law and principle of nature is an expression of it, so there is nothing with which to truly contend, therefore no reason to show off or to impose, and thus attempting so would be futile. Since every exertion leads to exhaustion - directly proportional to its intensity and duration, if a sword is sharpened too hard or many times, its material is exhausted along with its qualities. Especially inner disorder or chaos requires a lot of extra energy and effort to be managed as compared to order and peacefulness. We all know those sayings: “live hard, die young”, etc. Similarly, the Way is everywhere so it needs not to shine too brightly for there’s no danger of losing the way, neither it needs to attract attention - it really doesn’t matter whether people praise it with gold or smear it with mud, for it already is the gold, the same way it already is the mud. When there’s no preference, there’s no exertion, hence no exhaustion, therefore no reason not to remain forever. The wisest ones know this and although they exist within their relative, conceptual reality and composite bodies, by following its example as closely as they can, they live in accordance with nature, therefore may utilize much more of their existence’s potential and live perhaps much longer and fuller than those who exert themselves over everything (“Therefore, to be always without desires, is to see one’s mystery” Chapter 1).

As for further details of the physics of the absolute, Laozi isn’t too much concerned with that, for the purpose of this text, is not strife for academical disputation, but a practical manual to a meaningful life. On the other hand, The university of Nalanda of the buddhist Mahayana tradition had long sparked a systematical analytical research effort into this very topic, which then spread all over its domains. Its based on the teachings of The Prajnya Paramita (transcendental insight) and formulated into many systems, such as Cittamatra, Yogachara and Madhyamaka.

Nevertheless, we are all part of The Way whether we realize it or not, therefore to become one with it we don’t need to exert any power - we already are. Hence by realizing the spontaneous perfection of all things, every reason not to rejoice spontaneously dissolves and we can live as one, we can live as such.

    Chapter 5

「天地不仁,以萬物為芻狗;聖人不仁,以百姓為芻狗。天地之間,其猶橐籥乎?虛而不屈,動而愈出。多言數窮,不如守中。」

Heaven earth not benevolent, thereby ten thousand things make straw dog; sage person not benevolent, thereby hundred household names makes straw dog. Heaven earth's space, its likeness bellows{interrogative particle}? Empty and do not crouch, moves and more and more exits. Numerous words number deplete, not like protect center/inside.

Heavens and Earth do not [act] benevolently, acting on ten thousand things [as though they were] straw-dogs. The wisest ones do not [act] benevolently, acting on hundreds of household names [as though they were] straw-dogs. The space of Heavens and Earth, does it not resemble bellows? Empty and [still] not crooked, [but] when it moves - it gives out more and more. Many words [spoken aloud lead to] exhaustion, which is not like protecting the center (balance).

THE WAY OF NATURE

In the commentary to chapter 3, we’ve touched the topic of the difference between Laozi and Confucian teachings, considering the approach to what’s natural and what’s not. Confucians presume that without artificial restrains such as social (especially patriarchal family) hierarchy, loyalty, respect for titles and ranks, benevolence, and so on, would society be necessarily in chaos. Against this attitude is being systematically argued in Laozi, which appears to be also the point of this chapter. The Way of all things doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t hold grudges or sympathies based on perceptual merits. Doesn’t matter how wealthy or noble you are, gravity pulls you down the same way as it does everyone else. Rain, snow or hale avoid falling on neither those with resounding aristocratic names, nor billionaires, politicians or influencers. Dogs don’t hold their pee until they come across the nicest car in the neighborhood. For the nature, every thing has the same value, as though it were a dog-shaped figurine made from straw, which in Zhou times were used as a humble offering. Meaning it of course had its purpose in the context of everything else, but as for the object itself, it was far from irreplaceable, hence after serving their purpose, no one would cry over loosing them, nor would anyone build statues and compose poems to venerate their memory, apart from texts like this one, apparently... and thus from a different perspective, even those low-grade utilitarian straw-dogs can get a special suiting place as one of the key tool thanks to which one can deepen their insight into comprehension of the Way and by which they can find peace and harmony in being an equal part of the whole existence. Therefore when looking superficially (perhaps out of desire) we find in them no special value over everything else, for this way we cannot glimpse more than the outer limits of their true existence. On the other hand, when we look at them through a sincere observation that goes beyond these outer limits (not considering our preference for particular desirable properties), we can truly see them in detail as a product of the Way in which causes and conditions come together as the very building blocks of everything there is.

However, one should by all means not come to a conclusion that there was a social or political rivalry between these two schools of thought. Naturally, anyone who follows Laozi’s teachings and engages in such schemes, does so as the greatest display of hypocrisy. As for Confucians, they were sincere in their conviction that without a manmade perceptional virtue, the society would collapse in chaos, for they perhaps simply could not imagine that “lowly people” could ever truly grasp such a profound wisdom. That nevertheless didn’t prevent them from appreciating the depth of Laozi’s teaching. One of my favorite examples of this is master Kongzi (Confucius) himself saying: “To understand The Way in the morning and to die in the evening would be acceptable.” showing thusly his sincerity of conviction that true understanding of everything is the main goal of [his] life. He makes a similar point when asked by his disciple Ji Lu about death. Kongzi replies: “I have yet to know Life, how could I know death...”

To be fair, Laozi doesn’t try to hide the awareness that freeing one’s self from the shackles of desire which leads to realizing one’s oneness with the Way of all things and hence living in the spontaneous and effortless virtue, though fully feasible and perhaps even unbelievably simple for an individual, seems vastly unrealistic for the great mob of society as a whole, which is constantly self-steering their hearts as described in chapter 3. This is perhaps the main reason why not only Laozi himself after serving a carrier in a high position decided to recluse himself from the turmoil in the center of society into the peaceful harmony of solitude. But even though Laozi openly displays his doubts, for example in chapter 70: “My words are so simple to comprehend, it is so simple to act by them. Under heavens no one can comprehend them, no one can act by them” and again in chapter 78: “That the weak wins over the strong, the soft wins over the hard, under heavens there is no one who doesn’t know. No one can act by it.”, neither he nor other have given up on trying to spread the teachings among those interested for those are nature the ones to benefit the most from them.

Zhuangzi (who became famous for his way of using humor and seeming contradictions as tools to break through others’ icy rigid perceptional stereotypes) made a strong point that because understanding The Way is the key to a universally harmonious happy life, it must not require one to live in seclusion. He is said to have lived in a big city, having a divination stand at a market place, which he used as a pretense to make people listen to his teachings... Once he had enough for the day, he would close the curtains and continued by directly teaching about The Way to anyone interested.

A good example of the very point of this chapter might be when master Zhuangzi is asked by master Dongguo about where does the thing called “The way” exist. He responds by saying “there is no place where it does not exist”. Master Dongguo is surprised and asks for specification, to which master Zhuangzi says “It is in the ant...” making master Dongguo display even greater surprise that something (which he considers) as noble as The Way can exist in such a lowly thing. But master Zhuangzi is far from finished and continues by gradually naming many examples which are generally considered to be lower and lower still, culminating by saying “It is in the piss and shit”.

The space between Heavens and Earth (the whole world or the whole universe), does in indeed not resemble giant all-encompassing bellows which neither ever discriminate nor complain about their content and always give out exactly that which they took in? Although they might seem empty and uninteresting in a very superficial point of view of someone who perhaps out of desire for what they prefer can see merely the outer limits of content of their true existence, however they somehow (“mysteriously”) continue to give out more and more without exhaustion, as long as causes and conditions exist. Why is that? Because it’s all-encompassing, therefore it neither takes “in” nor gives “out” and that’s the key to its inability to tire, which may seem “mysterious” if we see only what we “want” to see and not its whole context. Again, we come to a similar point as was mentioned in the previous chapters - that exhaustion arises from imbalance. If something tries to give out more than it takes in, it becomes depleted, it cannot support its own action anymore. The same principle applies to speech itself. In this case the author literally says: 多[many, much] 言[public words/speech] 數[number, amount] 窮[poor, destitute]. The most interesting part in this is (in my opinion) the character for destitution (窮). It consists of 穴[hole], 身[body] and 弓[bow] and literally depicts someone trapped in a hole (perhaps of one’s own making) being shot at with a bow (perhaps even their own). After the events of January 2021 and what had led to them, I don’t think that neither this nor the rest of the chapter requires anymore explanation. Instead I leave it to master Laozi repeating himself: “My words are so simple to comprehend, it is so simple to act by them. Under heavens no one can comprehend them, no one can act by them”...

    Chapter 6

「谷神不死,是謂玄牝。玄牝之門,是謂天地根。綿綿若存,用之不勤。」

Valley spirit/magical power not die, indeed says profound/mysterious female. Profound female's gate, indeed says heaven earth root. Soft soft like exist/remain, use it not labor.

The valley spirit does not die - that is called the profound female. The profound female’s gate - that is called the Heavens’ and Earth’s root. On and on [they] seem to remain [together], without toil.

THE GREAT CONNECTION

There is always a lot of discussion about the interpretation of this chapter. Unfortunately, one simply cannot interpret, let alone translate preclassical Chinese without making assumptions. However there are some things which seems pretty safe to assume (although when it comes to perception, one can only speak for themselves, right...) Therefore I’m making the assumption that (for example) “the text fully works only as a whole”. Next one is that “the key information is present already in the first chapter and the rest serves as specification, explanation and commentary. That being said, it makes perfect sense that every chapter and every sentence and metaphor must be understood within the context of everything else (which, by the way, itself is the main theme on the whole text).

There are not many who wouldn’t have heard of the two aspects, potentials or roles of all things - 陰[Yin] and 陽[Yang]. The way they work is that Yang gives and impulse or energy to Yin, which uses it as fuel to a product. For example, the sun gives radiation to the earth which then creates Life. A male gives semen to a woman who creates an offspring. A teacher gives instructions to a student who uses it to create other things, etc. Basically every thing, every particle has both potentials within itself and each time things interact, they ideally do so by each assuming one of these two roles, whichever is most suitable at the moment. Interaction itself is then the key part of all, for without it, nothing could exist. The valley's spirit (神 can mean “spirit” “magical force” or “divinity”) which doesn’t die seems to be a truly elegant metaphor for gravity, because gravity facilitates interactions, thus indeed can be viewed as the profound (mysterious, beyond mundane) female who is the mother ten thousand things. The profound female’s door is the place where both the energy of Yang enters her womb and the child exits - therefore it represents the very connection of Yin and Yang which is the base of existence - how it couldn’t be called the foundation of Heaven and Earth? (根 [root, foundation] can also represent phallus, which is the means of the connection itself, therefore I choose the original meaning because it represents everything together.) When each subject taking part in the interaction assumes a role which benefits their nature the most, then the purpose of the connection can be fulfilled smoothly and gently and the product can arise effortlessly (in a theoretical, ideal case). The main point is that each time there’s conflict which always leads to friction/aversion the only product is exhaustion. This applies to every interaction whatsoever, including every fight or altercating, every dominant-dominant encounter. This text never ceases to point out that Yin is the basis of all things, the aspect to which everything inclines, the one which is the true leader if you will, for it is the facilitator and the factory altogether. Yang is the one who provides charge, but Yin is the one in charge. A bulb without electricity still exists together with its full potential to create light and heat, merely waiting for its energy. Therefore when Yin and Yin interact, they easily become one, and when Yang and Yang interact, they easily deplete each other. About the implication of this, we will learn throughout the whole text.

Given the nature of the times when this commentary is being assembled, I feel more than obliged to address the sexual problematics in order to at least try to prevent misconceptions (pun not fully unintended). This text in any of it’s possible interpretation does not imply that same-sex affairs are against nature. The only thing it warns is that it cannot produce an offspring (in case you disagree, you are welcome to try to disprove it by experiment). However the last part of the chapter exactly implies that if subjects in the same roles(Yin+Yin or Yang+Yang) attempt to create a product (offspring), it will only result in toil which must lead to either recognition of failure or complete exhaustion, whichever comes first. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Chapter 7

「天長地久。天地所以能長且久者,以其不自生,故能長生。是以聖人後其身而身先;外其身而身存。非以其無私耶?故能成其私。」

Heaven long earth last[ing]. Heaven earth place thereby [cap]able long {connective particle} last[ing] ~that which, thereby its not own/self live, therefore capable long live. Indeed thereby sage person after/behind their body/self and previous; outside their body/self and body/self remain/exist. Is not thereby their not having personal {particle indicating question tone}? Therefore capable complete their personal.

Heavens [last very] long and Earth prevails. That which can [last] long and prevail as Heavens and Earth [do], does so by not living off itself, therefore it can live long. Thus the wisest ones [leave] their body behind as well as their previous [ties] ; [get] out of their body and [thus their] body survives. Isn’t it because [they] do not have personal (private) [interests]? Therefore [they] can [truly] complete their personal [interests].

SELFLESSNESS, COMPASSION, ALTRUISM

This topic seems to be almost inexhaustible, although at the first look it might seem strange why the wisest ones should shed their bodies and cut ties with their families, etc. That seems like something very sad and not very considerate towards both themselves and their close ones, right? Why they should get rid of their belongings and how that can even conserve their bodies and their existence... How could they then live and bring any benefit, right? Despite the seemingly strange phrasing and wording the chapter itself makes perfect sense once the relations are clarified a little bit.

The first sentence is somewhat challenging to translate because of its comparative nuance. 長 [long] also can be used for “seniority”, “the eldest” (son, daughter etc...), as well as a designation suffix of a leader in some cases. 久[to last a long time] although means something very similar in this case, when used after 長 [long], it makes it superior, therefore it suggests that Heavens are perhaps very close to eternal (at least from our perspective) and Earth (despite its physical nature) is in such a harmony that it may truly last and prevail. Again, this chapter builds on everything that has been said before. If something is to last, it must not exhaust itself by friction which arises from being dominant where its not suitable or needed and therefore in conflict. This chapter then specifies how exactly one avoids getting into conflict which leads to exhaustion culminating in demise. Therefore those who wish to last as long as Heaven and Earth, should thus adopt their Way[s] and by (truly) doing so they can be sure that even though they might not fully succeed, they may accomplish much more than they could ever dream of otherwise.

How does one “not live off themselves”? By going or getting past their bodies and dependences. The exact word is 後[behind, rear, after] which here serves as the verb of the sentence, therefore “to make something be behind or past (us)”. It obviously doesn’t mean that one should physically get rid of their body, but rather to accept them and move on, for the opposite of that is to keep obsessing with it. Once we start getting ensnared into the cyclic obsession with our selves, our bodies and our future, we immediately start to drain our life energy. Imagine an electric circuit where everything which is plugged into it shares the energy from the same power source, which is indeed so strong it can support energizing every part of it. Believe it or not, our lives, our minds are made to be part of everything else, so our “power source is indeed so powerful to support our mental connectedness to the whole world.

However, once we get attached to something in the future as well as the present which we want, the more we want it, the more we become focused on that one thing, and in case we indeed allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by this sneaky fellow called “want”, we wind up putting most of our energy output into the object of our desire, somehow being sub/consciously convinced that this way we can will it in our grasp more easily. Thanks to this ignorance of ours, we totally forget to mitigate our power output, putting more and more, which leads to over-pressuring our circuits thus experience anxiety. The more we engage in this unnecessary dominant conduct, the more we deplete ourselves which can lead to breakdown until we stop draining ourselves of life-force and let it recharge again. Once we get attached to something in the past, over which we are fully aware that we have no control whatsoever, we short-circuit again, becoming fully concentrated on our ego and its misfortune.

Our thoughts are racing either just regretting the past in which case we become depressed or worrying about the consequences of the past, in which case we are also attached to the future, so we add anxiety to the depression hence creating a truly delightful tournament. Among the contestants, we have many famous champions - just to name a few: “Why did that had to happen to me?”, “Why is everything against me?” “What’s gonna happen if I do/n’t...” and in the lead, the all-time champion - “Am I a bad person?”... As our attention is fully drawn to this thought-racing arena what has become of our mind, our thoughts are circling around an around in a race that has no defined end, therefore no winner and the only way it can ever end is by being forgotten. Sometimes we get bored with it, sometimes some fortunate circumstances startle us with a dose of endorphins other times we deplete our source and breakdown again. In that case, we should stop fighting ourselves at once, which will allow us to quickly recharge again.

All of the above has one common denominator, which is focusing on our ego, our thoughts endlessly racing in circles. Despite everything the modern society teaches us, our nature is inclusive, not exclusive. The only problem arises when we start worrying about our selves, therefore creating aversions. Thereby we might come to the conclusion that someone or something bothers us or blocks our happiness so we assume an adversarial stance, trying to dominate it, which is exactly the origin of aversion. Hence it all goes down as described in the previous chapters.

If we are to examine what is indeed the factor which separates us from other animals, it is our (sometimes) high IQ, our (sometimes totally suspended) compassion, our superior capabilities to solve (and create even more) complex problems. And where does this lead? Surely, we have evolved. We don’t fight just to stay alive, we don’t kill just for food, we fight and kill for money, and if you think about it, pretty much for anything. And eventhough we may not be overagressive ourselves, we at least revel in watching in on TV, etc. When we are overwhelmed, we get angry and jealous, terrified and depressed.

That being said, we the human species are (believe it or not) creatures of compassion, and the capability of universal compassion is the one thing that sets us aside the rest of species whose minds can be seen as purely instinctual. Our capacity for calculated decisions and controlling our instinctive emotional behavior is something truly remarkable and perhaps even worthy of our supremacy over the animal kingdom. Unfortunately we oftentimes strive for the royal seat of the king of beasts, instead of effortlessly assuming our proper place as the kind protector of the natural wisdom, caring for the weaker, unfortunate ones, instead of boasting and bragging over some imaginary fame based on acting exactly like that to which we consider ourselves so superior, hence falling victim to our own maze of subjective perceptional delusion which we may or may not share with a number of others, yet collective delusion is delusion nonetheless. All of which leads us only to attachment to our egos and bodies, which is the foundation, the actual arena where our thought-races take place. Therefore this attitude leads to exhaustion as described earlier and therefore is not in harmony with The Way of all things. Just a quick note: animals kill each other out of hunger or immediate danger, not out of sport or spite. And “Homo homini lupus” we should not take as a fixed rule which governs us no matter what, but merely as a warning not to forget what does our superiority over animals really mean.

If we live off our selves, we become fearful of our existence, which is the opposite of happiness, for happiness is not an essence but merely the absence of self-worrying, same as darkness is the absence of light, silence is the absence of sound and cleanness is the absence of dirt. When we wish to sleep at night, we don’t have to run to a store and buy us a fresh box of darkness and silence, we just turn off the light and noise-makers. Therefore happiness cannot be found, bought, or acquired in any other way, nor its necessary to keep it in the fridge, for it can never spoil. The only reason we disregard this fact is because we confuse happiness with enjoyment. Happiness by its nature the constant and ever-present foundation of our mind, whereas enjoyment are fluctuating spikes based on very limited range of temporary conditions.

As the text explains, by concentration and worrying about our selves, we effectively exhaust them. Therefore by not being attached to our selves, we will effectively protect them from exhaustion and thus preserve them. And how do we do it? By not keeping a selfish agenda - in other words: by being altruistic, compassionate. If we make caring for others our personal agenda, we avoid our own exhaustion by wrestling with our own ego which is perhaps not much different to standing in front of a mirror and hitting ourselves, or masturbating... As much as one can enjoy both temporarily, neither makes us truly happy and both require exertion and thus lead to exhaustion.

    Chapter 8

「上善若水。水善利萬物而不爭,處衆人之所惡,故幾於道。居善地,心善淵,與善仁,言善信,正善治,事善能,動善時。夫唯不爭,故無尤。」

Above good like water. Water good benefit ten thousand things and not contend, place all people's place ugly, therefore how much from/to/just as way. dwelling good land, heart/mind good depth/clarity, association/ally good benevolence, words good sincerity, correctness good governance, affairs good capability, move good time. That just not contend, therefore no special/fault.

The supreme Good is like water. Water does good and benefits ten thousand things without contending, [it accepts even] places which everyone loaths, therefore it is almost [like] The Way. The Good (benefit) of dwelling is its place, The Good of heart is in its (all-encompassing) depth, The Good of gift is in its kindness, The Good of speech is in its truthfulness, The Good of righteousness is in its administration, The Good of [inter]action is in its capability, The Good of movement is in its timing. [All] that [comes from] just not contending, therefore there is nothing particular (faulty) to it.

THE SUPREME GOOD

This chapter seems pretty much self-explanatory because again, everything which was said before was slowly building to it. Water is itself a very good example of non-discriminating benefit to every living thing everywhere and anywhere. I guess Laozi wouldn’t be surprised at all by our modern findings that water most probably was the solvent in which Life itself arose, therefore even though it may not be the mother of all things, it definitely seems to be the mother of all living things. Water itself never strives for recognition, has no personal agenda and every harm it has ever done was due to other causes and condition. Water has no intention to drown anyone, it has no intention to save anyone for it doesn’t contend, it doesn’t strive either way, on contrary, it indiscriminately offers itself anything that can benefit from it. This is because benefit is its innate quality within its realm. Therefore the true good or benefit always comes from the innate quality of a thing within its realm. When you’re choosing an apartment or house, you do so by its location, because of that innate quality of a dwelling. If you a house by something else, for example if you have two options, one is closer to your work and one is much farther but you choose it because in style its more to your liking (i.e. has a nicer view than the other one), it might bring you some limited pleasure, but ultimately it’ll cost you much time and gas, as well as perhaps sleep, because you may need to get up much earlier and travel farther to make it to work on time. Therefore when deciding the main purpose of anything, one should always take into account what real benefit does that thing bring them innately - just by the way it is. Everything else is forced, therefore creates friction, therefore leads to exhaustion, therefore isn’t sustainable... - we know the drill by now. The same goes for the innate qualities of everything else - if you appreciate someone for their shallow and ever-changing heart, opulent but ultimately self-serving gifts and untruthful speech, preaching morality with no intention of implementing it, screwing most of what they touch as well as untimely actions, it’s a clear sign that something is very very wrong and you should really think twice which way you vote next time.

Therefore, the wisest ones dwell on places where they can naturally be of most benefit, Their heart is deep enough to encompass everyone and everything without discrimination, they are always kind and acting in the way which truly benefits the others most, if they choose to talk openly, their speech is never divisive thus hurtful, they always do what is in true accordance The Way of all things, they choose to deal or otherwise interact with others only if it’s within their capability and skill, and they are never impatient and wait with every action and movement for the right time. How does one determine the innate benefit, “the supreme good” of anything? By finding what it does naturally without (or with the least) strife or friction. All of existence is based on the principle of the least action - there is indeed nothing more to it, nothing special, no necessary divine intervention, no magic, or anything like that.

    Chapter 9

持而盈之,不如其已;揣而銳之,不可長保。金玉滿堂,莫之能守;富貴而驕,自遺其咎。功遂身退天之道。

Hold and overflow it, not like it[s] stop; cover with clothes and sharpen it, not can long long remain. Gold jewel full hall, [do/can] not it capable protect. abundant expensive and haughty, oneself cause/invite its fault/error. good result succeed body/self retreat heavens's way.

Grasp it and it overflows, [for] it doesn’t seem like stopping . Cover and sharpen it, it will not be able to hold for a long time. A chamber full of gold and gems, no one can protect ; [who has] abundance of riches and is haughty, brings fault on themselves. To accomplish one’s work and retreat one’s self is The Way of Heavens.

AVOIDING EXTREMES

This chapter again recapitulates the previous points, putting emphasis on attachment to the excellencies of life. The river of time and causality keeps flowing no matter what, therefore there is no point in trying to stand in its way or stopping it, it will flow right over you, possibly even dragging you along the way which you may not enjoy... If you have a precious valuable sword no matter if you keep safe covered in cloth, once you keep sharpening it, it’ll wear off eventually, there’s no point in convincing one’s self that it can last forever, even much less so to be attached to it the way it’ll hurt after loosing it.

Accumulating unnecessary wealth might be a way to temporarily distract our focus from the imminence of death, making us subconsciously hope that either we have a higher chance to escape it, or we at least have something substantial to pass on to our heirs (as if some thing were more valuable than a stable environment full of love and compassion, which we often sacrifice to get “something more”) but the only thing what it really does is attract the desire of others, which will necessarily bring you much much trouble, if you care to keep it. Friends you make using your wealth are more often friends of your wealth than yours.

On the other hand, if we have wealth and it makes us arrogant, selfish and dominant - the word 驕 literally consists of 馬[horse] and 喬[tall] therefore showing a horse standing on its hind limbs, we again act against the ever-repeating from the previous chapters, for such actions necessarily create conflict, therefore lead to exhaustion and fall.

Once our work is finished, to what more should we be attached still? What purpose is in keeping the lighter burning after the fire has already been kindled, other than wastefully exhausting its fuel or perhaps causing an unnecessary and undesired accident? What purpose is in rigidly holding on to a knife after the dinner has already been prepared? We always pay attention not leave the lights on when leaving the house simply out of care. Even the most thoughtful way of using anything including our bodies causes wear and therefore shortens its/our lifespan. When we are so fearful and unsure about death, why do we sometimes seem to be exponentially more considerate of the wellbeing of our phones, houses and cars, and in the meantime we are living in the way that is so exhausting to both our minds and bodies that we are quite literally draining ourselves of life-force. Not to mention causing in/voluntary suffering to others around us. Why?...

    Chapter 10

載營魄抱一,能無離乎?專氣致柔,能嬰兒乎?滌除玄覽,能無疵乎?愛民治國,能無知乎?天門開闔,能為雌乎?明白四達,能無知乎?生之、畜之,生而不有,為而不恃,長而不宰,是謂玄德。

Load/carry manage spirit embrace one, capable no depart/separate {interrogative particle}? Take sole possession air/energy cause gentle, capable infant child {interrogative particle}? Love populace govern state, capable no know[ledge] {interrogative particle}? Heaven gate open close, capable act/make female {interrogative particle} Bright white four arrive at/reach, capable no know[ledge] {interrogative particle}? Birth it, cultivate it, birth but do not have, act but do not rely on, long but do not dominate, indeed says profound virtue.

Managing the spirit to embrace one [thing], can one [stay] unscattered? Concentrating one’s life-force to cause gentleness, can one [stay pure as] a newborn baby? Cleaning one’s profound perception, can one [stay] flawless? (Truly) loving the people and ruling the state, can one [stay] without knowledge? [While] Heavens’ door opens or closes, can one stay femininely calm? [Spreading one’s] bright and clear [awareness over] four directions, can one [stay] without knowledge? To give life, to cultivate; to give life but not possess, to act but not cling, to be in charge but not misuse it - this is called the profound virtue.

ONE-POINTEDNESS AND INTENTION

One of the ways I contemplate the message of Laozi’s text is to ask two simple questions at every point: 1) Do ‘we' do it this way? 2) Does the way we do it bring us harmony? Usually, the answers are: 1) We do quite the opposite. 2) Not even close...

We always tend to at least try to do everything at once, thinking that we can “accomplish” more that way. We are taught by society that the more control we have over everything, the more successful we are. Yet, our minds are perpetually distracted, our attention span severely limited, and our discursive thoughts run in a nearly constant stampede. Similarly, we have grown up being inspired directly or indirectly through sports and so on that “winning” brings merit and hence establish us as “better”. Even though we understand that we are not “really fighting” against each other, as well as are often taught not to be too adversarial while playing a friendly match, everyone of us intimately knows the satisfaction of winning and dissatisfaction of losing regardless of the nature of the match. This thirst for winning is so deeply rooted in our mentality that if nurtured well, it can easily become an obsession. Violence is no stranger among sports fans, who often look up to physically dominant archetypes who show off their arrogant, crude, sometimes merciless behavior and thus remind them of old warriors, looking down on the weaker ones who are demotivated, sulking and sometimes fall into depression. Being arrogant and rude indeed makes us cynical, unhappy and deeply frightened in our hearts (which is the reason the constant need for showing strength). Such a behavior can hardly bring us the qualities traditionally associated with a newborn baby, namely the absence of cynicism, prejudice, anguish, etc.

Profound perception is one that perceives the profound nature/meaning of things within their context of causes and conditions, therefore may act in accordance with the Way of all things, as opposed to that which perceives everything merely superficially. Such a perception prevents us from understanding the true depth of anything, hence is the reason for making one mistake after another.

Therefore, if a ruler doesn’t understand the Way of all things and acts merely in their own selfish interest, they always need to come up with new and new smart ways to keep the populous from revolting...

Who doesn’t understand the unbreakable law of impermanence and hence live constantly full of irrational attachment and aversion to transient objects, and mourns deeply every inevitable loss, the fear of death must necessarily rule their lives, and by living this way it’s impossible for them to stay undistracted, like a bird mother protecting her babies.

Who spreads around ignorance and anger, same as the aforementioned ruler, obviously always needs more and better ways to try to get away with it, becoming selfish and cynical, hardly ever experiencing true harmony.

In the light of the previous chapters, the last part of this one seems pretty self explanatory, yet it we look on our “successful modern society”, we try so hard to always do it the other way around. Perhaps, if we tried less hard, our suffering might subside at least a little bit.

    Chapter 11

三十輻,共一轂,當其無,有車之用。埏埴以為器,當其無,有器之用。鑿戶牖以為室,當其無,有室之用。故有之以為利,無之以為用。

Thirty spoke, tohether one nave, give its non[being], being vagon {gen. p.} use/utility.

Thirty spokes unite in one nave, [yet] its non-being [part] gives the being chariot usability. Mixing clay for bowls, [yet] its non-being [part] gives the being bowl usability. (Building a house,) cutting out doors and windows for a room, [yet] its non-being [part] gives the being room usability. Therefore, its being [part] makes for its benefit; its non-being [part] makes for it’s usability.

THE EMPTINESS WITHIN

Obvious it may seem, yet disregarded and forgotten it often becomes. Here again, a parallel with chapter I can be drawn. Every thing has its shape and its purpose. That which is, Its exterior part usually makes for the eye candy, to which we get attached and for which we yearn, although no matter how big and strong the wheel, without the part which isn’t (the empty hole in the nave where the axel fits), it’d be a mere decoration, useless for its purpose to help our lives. No matter how decorated and exquisite the bowl, how many precious stones are imbedded in its body, if there is no empty space in the middle, it’s useless for holding food. No matter how fancy the house, if there are no rooms, good luck enjoying fancy living on the porch...

Let me paraphrase the Master from chapter I: Those who desire mainly for its outer eye candy, often fall for a useless crap and/or an expensive burden, which we either throw away on a dumpsite, or put somewhere safe behind a vitrine to protect it from wear and thieves. There we drool over its fancy outer shapes, yet its “inner usefulness” totally eludes us.

Because both parts, both aspects make the object itself, there’s no point in shunning one or the other. Nevertheless, caring merely about the first one, will only result in seeing the outer limits, blind its the ‘hidden usefulness'. This is just one of the many ways, how superficial greed and desire lead to suffering.

    Chapter 12

五色令人目盲;五音令人耳聾;五味令人口爽;馳騁田獵,令人心發狂;難得之貨,令人行妨。是以聖人為腹不為目,故去彼取此。

Five colors make human eyes blind; five tones make human ears deaf; five tastes, makes a human mouth cheerful; galloping for a field hunt makes human heart full of craze; goods difficult to obtain make human movement obstructed. That’s why the wisest ones act for the belly, not for the eye, therefore choose this over that.

OVERWHELMING SENSES

Let’s try to appreciate how old this text is. Human mind and behavioral tendencies quite obviously work the same way now as they did then. It has always worked the same way, only gradually getting worse and worse... We all know it very well. Especially nowadays, with all the radio, tv, internet, social media, so often we are massaged so many sensory stimuli almost every waking minute, which makes us dull and bored, depressed and agitated... Always running after accomplishments, things to consume... Wishing for expensive things, yet worrying about losing them. Again and again, unlike the wisest ones, we care more for shiny trinkets then for a practical sustenance and work our ass off yearning for a fancy and utopic ’that’, instead of enjoying the normal and practical ’this’. How come we ignore the connection? It’s not like we don’t see it. We know stress is bad and we do appreciate massages, relaxing in spa ashrams, singing bowls, mindfulness... And so rather than avoiding overdosing on sensory stimuli, which makes them into poison, we make a lifestyle out of its antidotes... No wonder so many of us take antidepressants and sedatives like candies. It shall be interesting when the true virtual reality age comes...

    Chapter 13

寵辱若驚,貴大患若身。何謂寵辱若驚?寵為下,得之若驚,失之若驚,是謂寵辱若驚。何謂貴大患若身?吾所以有大患者,為吾有身,及吾無身,吾有何患?故貴以身為天下,若可寄天下;愛以身為天下,若可託天下。

Favor and disgrace seem [equally] frightening. Value and great suffering seem [equally part of] the body. What does it mean that favor and disgrace seem [equally] frightening? Favor pulls down - getting it seems frightening, losing it seems frightening. That’s why favor and disgrace seem [equally] frightening. What does it mean that value and great suffering seem [equally part of] the body? My place is the one which has great suffering, for I have the body. Had I no body, [would] I have great suffering? Therefore, [who] values [their] body, acting [the same on the whole world] under heavens, seem as though can rely on [the whole world] under heavens. Who loves [their] body, acting [the same on] the whole world, seem as though can be entrusted with the whole world.

EMOTIONS

There’s a point which we perhaps don’t appreciate on daily basis, when dealing with problems, some perhaps don’t appreciate it at all. As I have pointed out earlier, due to the ever increasing load of psychological stress and ever decreasing load of physical activity in our daily lives, along with systematical replacement of abstract (spiritual) values with pure materialism, which is the exact opposite of how we are constructed to live, our overall ability to function properly in these conditions have started to collapse already decades in the past. It turned out relatively quickly, that we just cannot live off pure materialism, which is the reason why the culture of psychotherapy, later due to all the political correctness renamed counseling, coaching, etc., became a somewhat mainstream necessity, effectively replacing the role of previously shunned religious guidance. Nowadays, however, this once shunned spirituality is finding its way back into fashion, among others in the form of yoga, mindfulness and all kinds of quasi-esoterism, which promotes the theory that spiritual growth is necessarily connected with “good emotions”.

However, among the many problems with this theory is one sneaky little detail, that emotions, aren’t really part of the mind. This fact, again, is nothing new for us, we subconsciously perfectly understand and operate with it, having naturally associated parts of our body with different emotions. For example love with heart, aversion with stomach, etc. We know very well that when experiencing great fear our body gets paralyzed. Try to use introspection and observe what actually happens when you feel an emotion - love, anger, fear... Try to investigate, what kinds of processes are actually taking place and where. Imagine you see a coiled snake on a darkened road. You know, that if you don’t make any sudden moves to provoke it, it will most probably leave you alone. Now observe what your body does. First it gets flooded with cortisol so it freezes in tension of fear, depriving you of the decisive control of your body. Then adrenaline makes your heart rate and blood pressure spike, mindlessly preparing your body for “fight or flight”, an autonomous subroutine, which all sentient beings have deeply embedded within our nervous system. For us humans, this perhaps used to be useful in the times we had been living in a pleistocene savanna and a tiger or rhino startled us. Then our body really did a good job taking over our sluggish and indecisive mind and just kicked us to action. Then, after a day of hunting and hard physical activity, our endocrine system again flooded us with endorphins, which forced us to ‘feel so good’ that we lied down and rested.

In a way, emotions are part of the mechanism through which genetic routines control each individual. This used to work pretty well in old times, before we decided to massively upgrade that strange thing inside our heads, which basically enabled us to overcome the monopoly of our genetically programmed behavior. At least partially. Nowadays, even though we think that nearly every bit of our lives is constructed intellectually, our bodies are still governed by the same endocrine chemistry as before, on which we base most of our personal choices. Namely, it is the magical phrase: “How does it make you feel”...

Let’s come back to the coiled snaked on a darkened road and the point when you are observing your body being paralyzed by cortisol, which is wrestling with your mind, trying to limit your intellect in decision making. In the meantime, your thoughts might be saying something like: “Keep calm, don’t panic.” when your emotions are screaming: “aaaaaaaaaaggh”. Now try to imagine how the whole situation would unfold, if your body didn’t react this way, which means disregard any input coming from it: no muscle tension, no high blood pressure, no racing heart. In other words, no fear, no impatience. Perhaps, you’d have no reason not to listen to your intellect, keeping stone cold calm, silently walking around the snake. Our chances for a peaceful outcome will most definitely be way higher than if we do the same more rattled than it (pun fully intended). Now imagine the same scenario, with just one difference. As you approach the snake, you realize that it’s not a snake, but merely a coil of rope, which your cognition in the darkness misidentified as a snake, meaning there was no real danger but your body triggered by ignorance reacted as though there truly were a snake nonetheless.

It indeed is the body which gives us great suffering. In the times of Laozi, perhaps not much was known of the workings of our autonomic nervous and endocrine systems, nor they used the same terminology for describing phenomena as we do nowadays, but without a doubt they had sometimes much greater insight.

The morale of this chapter is very simple: When we attain favorable position, we immediately become worried about losing it. Once we lose it, and fall into disgrace, we again worry about what’s gonna happen to us, thus both examples here are the source of basically the same anxiety. Simply said, politics and intrigues are impermanent, therefore inherently unstable, which means relying on them is futile. As for the anxiety and emotions themselves, our body is like a knife - very dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced and untamed mind, yet an indispensable resource for building a civilization. Therefore if we truly understand our body and mind’s workings and potential, realizing that everyone and everything under heavens works in the same principles, then we’ll have no problem relying on its resources, without damaging its harmony. Furthermore, if we do the same with the utmost single-pointed affection, then we could safely the highest ruler of all.

    Chapter 14

視之不見,名曰夷;聽之不聞,名曰希;搏之不得,名曰微。此三者不可致詰,故混而為一。其上不皦,其下不昧。繩繩不可名,復歸於無物。是謂無狀之狀,無物之象,是謂惚恍。迎之不見其首,隨之不見其後。執古之道,以御今之有。能知古始,是謂道紀。

Watch it, and won’t see [it, thus] name it “equable”. Listen to it, and won’t hear [it, thus] name it “rare". Grasp it and won’t get [it, thus] name it “minute” These three cannot be questioned [any further], therefore [they] blend and act as one. Its upper [part] isn’t bright, its lower [part] isn’t dark. [It’s] ceaseless and cannot be named (indescribable), and again, returns to being nothing, so it’s called “formless form”, “appearance of nothing”, it is called “fleeting”, “unclear”. Turn towards it, [yet] won’t see its head; follow it, [yet] won’t its back. Wield the Way of old, and [you’ll] manage the presently existing. Being able to know the old’s beginning, means [having the full] account of the Way.

ISOLATING THE INTANGIBLE

One of the biggest challenges in comprehension of the nature of the Way of all things always has been our mind’s inflexibility when it comes to understanding absoluteness, alocality and featurelessness, which is well evident not only from this text, but also from the accounts of master Zhuang, and thus it’s explained right in the very beginning, and then again and again, from many different angles, because let’s be honest, effortlessly ignoring details which we don’t (fully) understand has always been one of humanity’s talents. The Way is the base element for literally everything, therefore is alocal and changeless, therefore completely lacking perceivable features - because the only way a thing can be perceived is through change. Thus, as it has been explained in the commentary to the first chapter, there are only two ways to describe the indescribable, and that is through inference and negation. Another aspect of something absolute is that exactly because of its unchanging nature, it must have had been always there, hence even before anything relative (describable) came to existence (as mentioned in chapter IV). Therefore, in order to isolate it, we must back to the very condition which allow anything to exist - in other words, to the causality itself which is truly absolute, never changing, thus allows all the relative to exist. There we seem to have our culprit.

    Chapter 15

古之善為士者,微妙玄通,深不可識。夫唯不可識,故強為之容。豫兮若冬涉川;猶兮若畏四鄰;儼兮其若容;渙兮若冰之將釋;敦兮其若樸;曠兮其若谷;混兮其若濁;孰能濁以靜之徐清?孰能安以久動之徐生?保此道者,不欲盈。夫唯不盈,故能蔽不新成。

Those who were the well acting scholars of old, [had such a] subtle and profound penetration, [that its] depth couldn’t be understood. [As] it/they just couldn’t be understood, therefore [I’ll] make an effort to describe [them]. How relaxed [they were] - like a winter wade across the river; how alert - like those who fear [their] four neighbors; how solemn - like their appearance; How fleeing - like ice which is about to melt; how honest - like their rough [look]; how extensive - like a [broad] valley; How blending like a muddy [pond]. Who can by being still make muddiness calm and clear? Who can in peace by gradual motion reanimate the still? Who upholds this Way, do not desire to overflow (be excessive). Those never overflow, therefore can cover [their] non-up-to-date-ness.

THE GOOD OLD TIMES

Yep, the old times were so much better... appears to be another universally applicable rule throughout the whole history. I wonder whether the very first multi-celled organisms billions of years ago felt the same way too... But I digress. Although, as master Zhuang would certainly agree, humor is a wonderful tool for navigating our human society.

It’s hard to say, whether this chapter is part of the original text, or a later added commentary expounding on the previous one. Nevertheless, if it’s not the case, this chapter indicates that the teachings of Laozi didn’t, perhaps, explain a brand new revolutionary ontology at the time, but had already existed in the past, when the greatest sages had been even more adherent to the Way and even less distracted by transient phenomena. They had no wind of desire, no need to show off their skills, no need to keep high profile, or perhaps any profile at all. From what we know about history, the times were probably less than stable, lots of fighting, lots of feuds and turmoil. Such times are known throughout history to also create incredible sages, because during wars and upheaval, the impermanence and vanity of material riches, and social structures as well as the immense damage which untamed destructive emotions inflict to everything is well apparent for a bright mind who then chooses silently withdraw from the pot of boiling desire, fear and hatred, well motivated to seek that which is stable and doesn’t create conflict. They knew the dangers of self-absorption and complaisance, therefore saw through the veil of disguise of destructive emotions and ego, thus couldn’t be swayed to fall for the trap of pleasure and pride, becoming their slave, which made them strong and unchanging like a mountain.

Swirling emotions can be compared to swirling mud inside a pond, making its water seem completely saturated and opaque. When our thoughts start to stir the pond and emotions appear, the first instinctive move we do is (of course) to fight, so we try to push them back down, which stirs them even more... Basically, the more we concentrate on them, the more inertia we give them, and if we continue doing that on and on, we then with time gradually become so preoccupied with the mud that we forget about the innate stillness and clarity of the water itself. On the top of that, we fall for the misconception that the mud is polluting the water on its own and we cannot stop it. However, the nature of the mud is heavy, therefore as soon as we stop twirling our legs and hands the mud will quickly loose its inertia and descend to the bed, making the pond still and its water pristine once again, because in reality the mud cannot stain the water in any way, same as the sky cannot be stained by clouds, no matter how thick and heavy they look.

That’s the legacy of the wisest ones of old times, which never loses its relevance, therefore adhering to it one will always know the difference between a gentle pollen spreading zephyr and a tornado. Understanding the Way of all things, one can live fully even without gadgets and shiny garments, as well as their wisdom and advices are timeless and therefore independent on the knowledge of modern trends.

    Chapter 16

致虛極,守靜篤。萬物並作,吾以觀復。夫物芸芸,各復歸其根。歸根曰靜,是謂復命。復命曰常,知常曰明。不知常,妄作凶。知常容,容乃公,公乃王,王乃天,天乃道,道乃久,沒身不殆。

Making [one’s] emptiness ultimate conserves stillness and genuineness. Ten thousand things equally created, I thereby observe, come back to. These things perform [their] art and return to the root. Returning to the root says being quiet, it indeed says returning to base. Returning to base says permanence, to know permanence says brightness. Not knowing permanence, [our] foolishness creates detriment. To know permanence [means] encompassment; encompassment leads to impartiality; impartiality leads to the ruler; the ruler leads to Heavens; Heavens lead to the Way; the Way leads to lasting, [then] not having body isn’t a threat.

EMPTYING THE EGO

“Always having no desires, thereby [one truly] sees their hidden perfection...” If one wanted to learn just one point, one wisdom to live by, which ultimately leads to harmonious life, this sentence would be more than worthy of such an honor. The fact that Its message is tirelessly repeated throughout the whole text only shows its sheer importance. Once we empty our egos, the mighty “I want”, which always forces us to create strategies put on masks, hiding our genuine face, and eating away our peace of mind, we will find out that both worlds outside and inside are one, not different from each other, that every sentient being’s nature the same, and every perceived phenomena is created by the mind. That is the root, thus point of return of everything. Everything plays its role, performs its art, although in the end of the day, both the art and the artist are made of the very same clay, of causes and effects, which means that everything compounded of smaller parts, must come apart at some point, everything movement must cease, every excitation must become peaceful again. That is the natural way of things, the very root, where lies all the potential of everything, if we are to understand the true nature of Life, we must return first to it, which means calming down every excitation, every distortion. Returning to Life itself means to that which is permanent and knowing that which is permanent means brightness which sheds every obscuration, which means omniscience coming from seeing every effect of every cause and vice versa. On the other hand, not seeing all that necessarily means not understanding the real repercussions of actions, thus making mistakes leading to unfortunate outcomes of suffering. Knowing that which is permanent therefore means that which encompasses everything there is, like a giant container. Only that which encompasses all is truly impartial and true impartiality is the quintessential aspect of a true ruler, whose rule then naturally becomes equal to the rule of Heavens, which is determined by the Way itself and therefore by definition without conflict, thus may last a very very longtime.

In buddhist psychology, the mind is often likened to a vast and immense lake. When the wind of desires and fears blows on its surface, it creates distortions making it practically opaque, hiding anything in its depth. Once there is no such wind of disturbing emotions and the surfaces completely motionless, one becomes, for the first time fully aware of what lies beneath, the so called “container consciousness” (skrt: ālayavijñāna; tib: kunṣhi namṡhē), which contains imprints of all the cumulative memories and knowledge of our subtle mind continuum. This level of consciousness can be accessed by a relatively straightforward yet meticulous method of concentration based of the combination of calm-abiding and analytical introspection which can be achieved by anyone. The difficulty depends on the individual’s capacity and talent, but usually requires years of constant and undistracted practice, therefore one can very well imagine that it used to pose much less of an obstacle in the old times than it does nowadays...

Although the absolute nature of container consciousness is long refuted by, among others, the great scholar Nāgārjuna of Nālanda university, for itself being also a compounded phenomenon, in a simplified manner, it is taught to be the part of our subtle consciousness which after death again becomes a basis for a new coarse sub/consciousness which then abides in a new body and therefore creates what is perhaps somewhat misleadingly called reincarnation. That which we normally call “mind”, the coarse/outer consciousness along with the freudian subconsciousness and ego arise with the physical body and perish with it, which is the reason we each time get a seemingly “clean slate”, yet a universal record “travels” this way on and on independently on the physical body. One can imagine that penetrating into such deep levels of consciousness, not only makes the individual look omniscient and clairvoyant, but also quite obviously unconcerned by the inevitable loss of something as fragile and fleeting as our temporary physical body.

    Chapter 17

太上,下知有之;其次,親而譽之;其次,畏之;其次,侮之。信不足,焉有不信焉。悠兮,其貴言。功成事遂,百姓皆謂我自然。

In primordial times, the down bellow (the people) [barely] knew there was the Great above (rulers). Held the later ones held dear and praised them; feared the next; insulted next. [Where] Truthfulness doesn’t suffice, there is untruthfulness. How lasting, are these valuable words. When the work was complete and done, People all said we are as we are.

LIVING AS NATURE

This chapter again appears to be contextually somewhat expounding on the previous one, same as the next. There is a bit of a linguistic rebus right in the beginning, where it says 太[very, too, much; big; extreme] 上 [up, above, high], which together was used to describe notions like: the very first; firstly; above all; the highest, etc. The sentence then continues 下[down, below, low] 知[know] 有[is, have] 之[it]. The term 太上 [the great above] is used in literature signifying “the ancient/primordial times” as well as the rulers. The content of the whole chapter clearly indicates the distinction between the high and the low, as well as the passage of time, suggesting that here this term stands for both meanings at once, which is nothing unusual in old Chinese literature. Furthermore, the last two characters signify 自[one’s self, one’s own; certainly, of course; personally; from since] and 然 [but; so, thus, like (this); to regard as correct; to agree]. When together they are also used or “Nature”, because Nature is what “agrees with itself”; “what [lives] from itself, similarly as the word “natural” means “something unaltered artificially”. Therefore, the last part can also be interpreted as: “...we are nature”, or “we [are] of ourselves”.

Reading it this way, the chapter suggests that at the very beginning the rulers were fully adherent to the Way of all things and therefore acted through non-action as mentioned in chapter 3, which resulted in such a harmonious state that the common people just barely knew of their government’s existence. But as the second law of thermodynamics dictates, the chaos always tend to increase, and so their later generation perhaps wished to benefit their people less anonymously, so they were praised, and in time, the whole situation deteriorated to the point that being truthful and doing one’s job didn't seem enough anymore, but obviously being untruthful and deceptive cannot be better. - These words are indeed valuable and lasting. There’s evidence for that anywhere we look. Just imagine if whole nations of people all did just the work that needs to be done and were fully content with what they need and what they are. Perhaps we wouldn’t have any use neither spaceships, nor high speed internet; neither climate crisis, nor chemical pollution; neither overpopulation, nor wars or hunger... Who knows, perhaps we’d have happiness...

    Chapter 18

大道廢,有仁義;智慧出,有大偽;六親不和,有孝慈;國家昏亂,有忠臣。

[Where understanding of] the great Way collapses, there is benevolence and justice. [Where] wisdom leaves, there is great pretense. [Where the] six [kinds of] family [relationship] aren’t balanced, there is duty and affection. [Where] the nation is dim and chaotic, there is loyalty and officialness.

THE BROKEN NATURAL ORDER

There’s a thing to be told about one common denominator regarding very little children, even before their ego starts to develop even before their natural curiousness is killed by their parents’ impatience and later by rigid education (more in the next chapter, the one after that, etc). All children naturally show initiative to be part of the process and help out, at least until they get used to being praised and drooled over.

One of the necessary implications of the Way being absolute is that everything naturally tries to balance itself out, and therefore if left alone, everything is in harmony. This applies to people as well. Everyone naturally knows what happiness is, because no one wants to suffer. Therefore cooperation and kindness naturally presents much better strategy for both survival and prosperity than competition. In other words, altruisms is more natural than selfishness. If the ruler knows this and carefully avoid causing imbalance, there won’t be any use for artificially vertical benevolence and justice, simply because everyone is already kind to one another. When this very awareness is present, what need is there to play charades? The six relations stand for: father, mother, elder siblings, younger siblings, wife and children. Understanding the obvious benefit of family values is again something quite natural, so until it’s damaged it’s overruled by selfishness, there’s no point in teaching it as a convention. The same thing obviously applies to the nation as a whole.

    Chapter 19

絕聖棄智,民利百倍;絕仁棄義,民復孝慈;絕巧棄利,盜賊無有。此三者以為文不足。故令有所屬:見素抱樸,少私寡欲。

Cut the holiness, reject knowledge and people will benefit hundredfold; cut the benevolence, reject justice and people will return to duty and affection. Cut the cleverness, reject profit and there won’t be steal and harm. Of these three can be made that letters (education) [themselves] don’t suffice. Therefore, [all] shall be where it belongs: appear plainly and embrace honesty. [Keep only] little selfishness, [only a] few desires.

SHEDDING ARTIFICIAL ELABORATIONS

Frankly, After all that’s been said earlier, I’m a little clueless about what to add here (pun unintended)... What comes to mind when studying this chapter, may be a metaphor about stepping bare feet on a piece of shredded glass, cutting our foot open. If we just cut ourselves, it’s in the nature of our body to gradually repair the damage and close up the wound, either on its own or with help of antiseptics, antibiotics, etc. However, if a piece of glass stays inside, the wound simply cannot really heal. The antiseptics and antibiotics will still work for a time, but it’ll merely keep it from getting worse, until it gradually stops working. What our society is and apparently has always been doing is working its ass off trying to come up with better and better medicine, for treating the wound while ignoring the glass. Coming back to the point from chapter 12, after so many generations of eating poison, we got so much used to its taste, that we don’t want to give it up, and the society and governments won’t help us either because they make immense profits off the antidotes. Exactly because of this, education itself, if it teaches us to adopt and repeat policies, is obviously inefficient in the matter of recognizing this kind of poison. As you might have guessed the culprit is greed, which comes directly and inevitably from self-centered attitude. Trying to be happy while holding on to self-centered attitude is exactly the same as trying to be healthy while holding on to disease.

    Chapter 20

絕學無憂,唯之與阿,相去幾何?善之與惡,相去若何?人之所畏,不可不畏。荒兮其未央哉!衆人熙熙,如享太牢,如春登臺。我獨怕兮其未兆;如嬰兒之未孩;儽儽兮若無所歸。衆人皆有餘,而我獨若遺。我愚人之心也哉!沌沌兮,俗人昭昭,我獨若昏。俗人察察,我獨悶悶。澹兮其若海,飂兮若無止,衆人皆有以,而我獨頑似鄙。我獨異於人,而貴食母。

Cut the schooling, you won’t have worry. Agreeing and a “yea” - how do they differ? [Doing] good and bad, what do they have in common? [However,] what people fear cannot be not feared. What a bleakness! - it’s so limitless... All people full of cheer, as though enjoying the[ir] great prison, as though climbing the terraces in spring. How alone and indifferent I [stay], the trillion [things] un[manifested]. Like a baby yet to be born - [its] smiles not yet arrived. Everyone have all excess, but I am alone and omitted. Oh I am foolish and so is my heart. How confused! Normal people [seem so] full of brightness, Only I resemble dusk. Normal people [look so] sharp, I alone [look so] gloomy, depressed. How rippling - resembling the ocean; how drifting - seems like without rest. All people have purpose, but I alone am rude, resembling the lowly. I alone differ from [other] people, but value the nursing mother.

THE UGLY DUCKLING

Directly expounding on the previous chapter. When you think of it, worrying is one thing what the school system, build on reward and punishment, teaches us best. Whether we really comprehend something, or just go with it for the sake of avoiding obstacles (a.k.a. laziness), or getting something in return - do we really see the difference? Or have we long stopped even caring? Oh, this is perhaps so close to home, especially for us spiritual path followers... Then, how do we understand good and bad actions? Do we really analyze the relative nature of qualities as explained in chapter 2? Or do we just go with the flock, repeating what the “cool” sheeple say for the fear of being ostracized? It indeed is so easy to romanticize about returning to roots, following the Way, becoming one with nature and giving up greed, while tucked in a comfy sofa, drinking sweet coffee. Somehow we persistently keep interpreting “being with one’s self” as the new-agey “enjoying one’s self”... Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what it’s meant by following the Way, for one simple reason. We normally always get attached to everything that we “emotionally” enjoy, which means as soon as we get used to the “feel good” mode, we immediately start subconsciously seek out and also get attached to causes and conditions which bring us this feeling while instinctively trying to avoid those which don’t. The more we consider these externally induced feel good modes part of a spiritual experience, the worse will our anxiety get when we they’re not there... Therefore, you end up attached to the external conditions and worried of losing them, Then our so called spiritual / positive experience works as mere a drug. Therefore, because it’s well known that one cannot heal under the same conditions they got sick in the first place, and that we are used to being social animals and social recognition gives us the dopamine fix, it’s very hard to get free from it, while keeping the same lifestyle and poisons as before. Paraphrasing Dzongsar Khyentse rinpoche’s words: “It’s totally possible to attain the highest realization on a beach mat with a margarita in your hand, but the chance of you not getting distracted is minuscule...” For some reason, we know that depression is bad, but think that euphoria is good. But when it comes to the Way of all things, the only difference between a shiny Gucci suit and old worn jeans is that you treat them differently. Why? Because the others do... For how many things we desire simply because if we don’t, we’ll get judged What a limitless bleakness indeed. We live to show off our dreams of golden cages of desires, and fleeting accomplishments and ambitions.

How would Laozi be regarded by the current age of worshipping virtual influencers? He surely didn’t have the wish to look shiny in the eyes of others - How boring and indifferent would he look, compared to us who on contrary pride over our hurry to move away from the natural simplicity and unconvolutedness connected with the unborn child, to live under the weight of the ten trillion of intricate moods, thoughts and occupations... From the superficial point of view, he would probably look even more unfortunate, homeless, weird, crazy, dim, and dull in contrast to the looks of “our modern (so called) successful society”, even more so than he obviously did during his time period, when he surely was dismissed by the “high class” the same way. Living as a voluntary outcast, especially after having had a position at the royal court (as it seems to be his case), must me immensely hard, if one’s still holding on to even tiny fragments of their attachment to a life of material comfort. Laozi chose the way of renunciation, hidden far away from people, for the freedom from the prison of precepts and convolution, which pushes us away from living in harmony with Nature, the nursing mother of all things.

    Chapter 21

孔德之容,唯道是從。道之為物,唯恍唯惚。忽兮恍兮,其中有象;恍兮忽兮,其中有物。窈兮冥兮,其中有精;其精甚真,其中有信。自古及今,其名不去,以閱衆甫。吾何以知衆甫之狀哉?以此。

The great virtue’s character: it truly follows the Way. The Way’s actions are just indistinct and neglected. So neglected, so indistinct! - within there are appearances; so indistinct, so neglected! - within there are things. So obscure, so dark! - within there is essence. Its essence has a considerable reality, within there is truthfulness. From old times until now, its name doesn’t leave, thus [it] watches over the beginning of all [things]. How do I know about the beginning of all? Through this.

THE INVISIBLE VIRTUE

There’s a rule to the way we think in our daily lives, which basically says that the more reliable and faultless something is, the less we care about it and understand how it works. We study mechanisms and workings of things in order to be able to fix them when they break, otherwise we simply tend to ignore it. If it weren’t the case, why would we ever need to be even reminded of the Way of all things? Let alone in such a persistent and detailed manner? Why would we ever fight, compete, or even seek distinction from others? Why would we get attached to compounded things and phenomena as though they could last forever? Knowing that their very existence consists of nearly countless causes and conditions, why would we ever think we can ever have any real control over them?

Things break when unbalanced. The more imbalance there is within their structure the higher is the number of ways in which they “break” and the broader and deeper must our education be in order to fix them. The reason why they are unbalanced is because they don’t exist off themselves, therefore they have to take from somewhere else. Nevertheless, the Nature as a whole exists off itself, therefore when imbalance is created at one place, all the rest naturally compensates for it without asking fees, or recognition. No law of Nature seeks merit for its function, you never hear about gravity taking a break, or interdependence going on strike for being under-appreciated. Everything which acts as part of the whole, makes the whole and therefore is never without support of the whole. Exactly that is how all things, even Existence itself spontaneously arise from the Way, in which case it must have been there at the very beginning. It is the simplest logic. Thinking in this manner, doesn’t such a thing, as well as anything which acts from the same motivation, truly deserve to be called “the great virtue”?

PS: Adding to the point of the last two chapters: if we really understood all that, how much of different schooling would we really need to live a harmonious life?

    Chapter 22

曲則全,枉則直,窪則盈,弊則新,少則得,多則惑。是以聖人抱一為天下式。不自見,故明;不自是,故彰;不自伐,故有功;不自矜,故長。夫唯不爭,故天下莫能與之爭。古之所謂曲則全者,豈虛言哉!誠全而歸之。

[What’s] partial will be[come] whole, [what’s] crooked will be[come] straight; [what’s] empty will be[come] filled; [what’s] defect will be[come] renewed; [what has] little will get [more]; [what has] much, will be[come] deluded. That’s why the wisest ones embrace one and act in the example of [the whole world] under heavens. Don’t show [off] themselves, therefore [they] shine. Don’t assert themselves, therefore are distinguished. Don’t strike themselves, therefore have achievements. Don’t pity themselves, therefore last long[time]. These never compete, therefore under heavens cannot have competition (challenge). When in old times it was said: “[What’s] partial will be[come] whole”, how [much] it wasn’t [just] empty words! Truly, [becoming] whole [we] return to [the root].

IMPERMANENCE

Usually, when we think of impermanence, we think of it in the direction from existence to nonexistence, from new to old, from construction to destruction. Considering, however, that the law of impermanence applies to everything, it must apply to nonexistence the same way it does to existence. Everything is impermanent, which includes also imperfection and decay. This is perhaps the best cure for impatience. Everything changes in time, going around in repeating cycles and things pop in and out of existence all the time. Therefore if is in accordance with the Way of all things, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen, it’s usually enough to wait for the suitable time and place, in other words, for the right causes to come to fruition and ripen into effects. If it isn’t in accordance with the Way, pushing it would only create exertion, drag and wear, so why would one wish for it? We all know that the highest beauty and perfection are effortless, and the highest wisdom means abandoning the causes of suffering. These two mean truthfulness, therefore always give rise to admiration. Given that all composites are impermanent and therefore imperfect, why would one try punish themselves for something natural? Why would they short-circuit and drain their life energy concentrating on their ego (as explained in chapter 7)? Where’s no egotism, there’s no competition, therefore no way to lose or fail (more in chapter 50).

    Chapter 23

希言自然,故飄風不終朝,驟雨不終日。孰為此者?天地。天地尚不能久,而況於人乎?故從事於道者,道者,同於道;德者,同於德;失者,同於失。同於道者,道亦樂得之;同於德者,德亦樂得之;同於失者,失亦樂得之。信不足,焉有不信焉。

Scarcity of words is natural, therefore fluttering wind do not end the morning; heavy rain does not end the day. Who controls these two? Heaven and Earth. Heaven and Earth’s exceedance cannot last a long time, so why should people’s do? Therefore [regarding] those who follow and serve the Way: those who [follow] the Way, the Way follows them as well; those who follow virtue, virtue follows them as well; those who follow loss, loss follows them as well. Who associate [themselves] with the Way, the Way also gladly accepts them; Who associate [themselves] with virtue, virtue also gladly accepts them; Who associate [themselves] with loss, loss also gladly accepts them. [Where] truthfulness doesn’t suffice, there is untruthfulness.

MODERATENESS OF NATURE

I’m choosing to keep close to the original phrasing in my translations as long as it’s not on the expense of the meaning. Though I should clarify that “fluttering wind do not end the morning” works the same as “fluttering wind do not last the whole morning”, which is perhaps more natural for the English language.

One of our most destructive habits is long lasting aversion which we call “grudges”, accompanied by the constant irritation, all of which simply comes from the immense attachment to our egos and arises once we feel it might be threaten. This is never a natural sign of strength and righteousness, quite the opposite. In nature, even apex predators don’t exhaust themselves by roar and fighting all the time. The fastest sprinters are able to produce incredible velocities for a short time but then rest as much as they need to gain strength again. The strong animals use their strength to get necessary food and fence off imminent threats to them and their company, just because that’s the only way, which their skills and capabilities allow them to ensure their survival, not more, not less. They hunt and kill only when hungry (thus to avoid suffering), otherwise they simply have no reason to, which means they live in harmony with their environment, therefore in accordance with the Way of all things.

On the other hand, the weaker one is, the bigger is their need for audacity and the deeper is their neurosis rooted in constant fear of what might be coming. The fear for one’s self is the core obstacle for living a stable and happy life. Therefore, if we realize that everything, existing in this world, including the world itself moves in their natural rhythms, which are flexible and adaptable, we might be getting on to the reason why ‘Heaven and Earth’ are indeed so great and powerful (as explained in chapter 5).

To put it in simple terms, the world around us never takes sides, therefore we get what we sow. The nature of every action lies within its motivation - in other words - within the mind which initiates it. If we always wish to act according to the Way of all things, then whatever happens, we won’t take as punishment, but as a necessary result of a previously accumulated chain of causes and conditions. If we always wish to act virtuously, then whatever happens, we’ll take as an opportunity to transform it to something beneficial. If our actions are motivated by the fear of loss and failure, then whatever happens, we’ll never be happy and every time we don’t “achieve our goal”, we’ll use it as an affirmation of our worry and perhaps gradually come to the conclusion that everything out there is after us...

What is the latter part of this chapter trying to say is that we should always be aware of our confirmation bias. There’s no way to interact with the world other than through our personal perspective, which consists of sensory input flavored by memories, experiences, neuroses, prejudices, all blended together in a product which we call “reality”, the subjective nature of which is therefore obvious. Given the profound ability of human brain to seek out patterns, it is hence natural for us to tend to interpret everything primarily in connection to our selves, which then might create the impression, that the world around us looks and/or behaves differently according to our mood or actions. The last sentence truly cannot be overemphasized - each time we want more than the natural, we create something artificial, which creates conflict and therefore brings suffering.

    Chapter 24

企者不立;跨者不行;自見者不明;自是者不彰;自伐者無功;自矜者不長。其在道也,曰:餘食贅行。物或惡之,故有道者不處。

Who stands on tiptoes, does not stand [firmly]; who [walks] astride, does not go [a long way]; Who looks [up to] themselves, does not shine; who assert themselves, does not [clearly] manifest; who strike themselves, does not [have] achievements; who pity themselves, does not grow. [For those] whose place is the Way, it is said: Excessive food are burden for movement [forward]. [Such] things are partially bad, therefore those who have [understanding of] the Way do not get along [with them].

PRAGMATISM

Again and again, the text keeps emphasizing that the more natural something is, the less conflict, drag and wear it produces thus the longer it can last. The more we concentrate on our selves, the less we concentrate on the task at hand; the more unnecessary acrobatics and comedy we show [off], the more obstacles we have to face. Paradoxically we often do those things with the intention to secure favorable causes and conditions for our journey through life. Therefore if we intent to go a long way and/or last a longtime, we perhaps should not bear the weight of “everything that could go wrong”, because even though it might help us prevent some thing which can perhaps be interpreted as difficult obstacles, the chance of keeping us blindfolded with the veil of worry, etc.

    Chapter 25

有物混成,先天地生。寂兮寥兮,獨立不改,周行而不殆,可以為天下母。吾不知其名,字之曰道,強為之名曰大。大曰逝,逝曰遠,遠曰反。故道大,天大,地大,王亦大。域中有四大,而王居其一焉。人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。

There is [some]thing blending (undistinguished) [yet] complete, [it] pre[dates] Heaven and Earth’s birth. How still, how empty, alone [it] stands [and] does not change. Surrounds [all] movement but does not [pose] danger, [so it] can thereby act as the mother of [all] under heavens. I do not know its name, [but] call it “the Way”, forced to give it a name [I] call it “great”. Great says passing on (continuing), passing on says far [reaching]. far [reaching] says returning back [to the root]. Therefore, the Way is great, Heavens are great, Earth is great, [the true] ruler is also great. Within the realm there are four greatnesses and [within] the ruler dwells one of them. People are governed by Earth, Earth is governed by Heavens, Heavens are governed by the Way, the Way is governed by itself.

BEYOND CONCEPTS

As the lyrics of one of Leonard Cohen’s song called “Different sides” goes: “ We find ourselves on different sides of the line nobody drew. Though it only be one in the higher eye, down here where we live, it is two.” Then paraphrasing the words of his Teacher, the Japanese zen master Sasaki Jōshu: “You cannot abide all the time in non duality, because there are no restaurants or toilets...”

Hence as already explained in the commentary to chapter 1, from the point of view of the absolute, everything is ultimately an expression of the Way of all things which itself is beyond expression, it is therefore at the same time the building block of every expression, thus creating the point of view of the relative, to which is all our perception as well as description limited. Therefore, if we wanna talk about something in an effective manner, we have no choice but to give it a name. Yet, we must also be acutely aware that this name is but an artificial label, similar to a finger pointing at the moon and thus avoid mistaking the finger for the moon itself. The same also applies for any and every other term or label we ever use. Therefore we have to first be clear about the intention behind using them.

It is thus obvious that Laozi had no need for the audacity of overusing praise or slender. In our world of fleeting houses of cards, something which is lasting and ever-present truly deserves the title “great”, for one simple reason: anyone can lean on it and it never lets down. When a ruler is of the same nature, their rule is as great as the other three: Earth, Heavens and the Way.

    Chapter 26

重為輕根,靜為躁君。是以聖人終日行不離輜重。雖有榮觀,燕處超然。奈何萬乘之主,而以身輕天下?輕則失本,躁則失君。

Heaviness makes the root of lightness, stillness makes the excitement [for] the noble. Hence the wisest ones, at the end of the day of movement, do not separate from [their] baggage’s heaviness. Although there are glorious [things to] look at, [they] stay content with [their] detachment. How could the head of ten thousand chariots [carry them]selves lightly under heavens? Lightness leads to losing the basis, excitement leads to losing the nobility.

RESPONSIBILITY

The ending of chapter 63 says: 「聖人猶難之,故終無難矣。」 “The wisest ones plan on the difficult, therefore in the end have no difficulty”. And If our recent history has shown us something, it is that especially in the time of crisis when everyone is torn by fear, hopes and anger, nothing is more precious than a steadfast, mentally, emotionally and morally stable leader on whom anyone can count to do their best to protect them - be it in times of a pandemic, or war. We all know how it goes when governments are filled with opportunists wishing for a nice cushy and ego-empowering office with caviar and champaign, not to mention the golden rain falling into their pockets. Such instances rarely turn out well in the times of peace and illusions of “normalcy”, and quickly turn into a nightmare when a ‘worldful of wtf’ knocks on their door and they instantly become those to whom everyone looks up to calm the chaos... After what has happened in the world only during the last hundred years, one would think that we might start reconsidering to periodically choose leaders by the “who appears to be the closest to my opinions” criteria, and instead perhaps look for those who, when we are thrown into a group toilet, shun their personal comfort, roll up their sleeves and prevent anyone from flushing it. In plain terms, it is truly in the best interest of even (and especially) the most selfish and inconsiderate of us to choose the most altruistic and morally sound leaders who, as Laozi puts it: make peace and harmony their biggest delight. A truly great leader must therefore always be aware of the weight of the responsibility with which they are entrusted and it is exactly this awareness which, by preventing them to act selfishly, makes everyone’s job much easier in the end, so they are can genuinely be worthy of their title.

    Chapter 27

善行無轍迹,善言無瑕讁;善數不用籌策;善閉無關楗而不可開,善結無繩約而不可解。是以聖人常善救人,故無棄人;常善救物,故無棄物。是謂襲明。故善人者,不善人之師;不善人者,善人之資。不貴其師,不愛其資,雖智大迷,是謂要妙。

Good (skillful) move [leaves] no traces, good speech has no defects [and] faults; good count needs no tallies; good shut [needs] no closing bars [for what it shuts] cannot be opened, good tie [needs] no strings [or] binds, [for what it ties] cannot be separated. That is why the wisest ones always skillfully save (help) people, therefore abandon no one; always skillfully save [other living] things, therefore abandon no [living] thing. That is called “advancing light”. Therefore, those who [treat] people well, are teachers for those who do not; those who do not [treat] people well are valuable [wealth] for those who do. [Who] do not value their teacher, [who] do not live their wealth, even if intelligent, [has] great confusion, that is called the need for subtleness.

SKILLFUL ACTION

The beginning of this chapter demonstrates on several sets of examples the principle of its message. If someone is to do something well, they have to do it skillfully, single-pointedly, wholeheartedly, giving it all their knowledge, wisdom, effort and time. Nowadays we are used to using countless gadgets to help us divide our attention and resources to do many things at once. It is not that we are naturally built that way, but it is rather the pressure from the outside world which forces us to think that happiness is directly proportional to how ambitious we are - in other words: to the number of things we “want”. This is the core mechanism of how we are persistently manipulated into believing that “effectiveness” is measured by the number of “accomplished tasks”. When our primary motivation is no longer to do “better” but to do “more”, it’s quite obvious that either our performance plummets due to lack of attention or we gradually succumb to the pressure and break down. We all know the notorious rant of our industrial world that “the day has only twenty-four hours (!)”...

It is exactly this scatteredness which makes us rush to conclusions and flood our bodies with cortisol and adrenalin all the time. When something or someone stands in the way to what we “want” and we immediately designate it/them as “obstruction” or “enemy” and blame it/them for slowing us down or impeding our “happiness”.

Therefore, sincere altruism is really the only way to happiness, because that’s the only way to avoid the notoriously aforementioned pitfalls. Only by recognizing that every living thing wishes to avoid suffering (=happiness) can one fully abandon the slightest adversarial tendencies which must necessarily result in piling up virtue on every step. In the sentence ‘That is called “advancing light” ’ the word 襲 [to advance, to attack, to strike], is also used in the meaning “to pile up” something - in other words “to accumulate”. 明 means “light”, “brightness”, therefore “wisdom”, “insight” - which are the greatest virtues. With this approach, when we meet someone more virtuous or skilled, we never become jealous, but try as hard as we can to adopt what we can. When we meet someone suffering of ill will, which comes from attachment, aversion, delusion, jealousy and pride, we won’t feel enmity towards them but instead, we’ll realize the depth of their own suffering which will also serve us both as a warning not to follow the same path of poison they had. That’s the reason why one should never turn away from the ill willed and ill fated, no matter how much they wish us harm, because if we do, our intentions will nurture the five poisons to grow, therefore our actions will definitely stray from the Way of all things. Understanding this indeed seems to qualify to be called the great mystery, or subtleness, which in no way can be realized, if we are overcome with desires.

    Chapter 27

知其雄,守其雌,為天下谿。為天下谿,常德不離,復歸於嬰兒。知其白,守其黑,為天下式。為天下式,常德不忒,復歸於無極。知其榮,守其辱,為天下谷。為天下谷,常德乃足,復歸於樸。樸散則為器,聖人用之,則為官長,故大制不割。

[Who] knows their masculineness [and] protects their feminineness, makes the stream [of all] under heavens. [Who] makes the stream [of all] under heavens, the permanent Virtue does not separate [from them, so they can] return back to [being like a] newborn child. [Who] knows their whiteness [and] protects their blackness, sets the example [of all] under heavens. [Who] sets the example [of all] under heavens, the permanent Virtue does not [do them] wrong, [so they can] return back to having no utmost point (limitation). [Who] knows their glory [and] protects their humility, makes the [fertile] valley [of all] under heavens. [Who] makes the [fertile] valley [of all] under heavens, the permanent Virtue [is] just enough [for them, so they can] return back to plainness. Plain and disperse make [a useful] instrument, the wisest ones use it, which leads to good heads of official [posts], therefore the great establishment does not [break] apart.

RATIONALITY

The first point seems to be in the grammatical structure which precisely says: “Know its/his/her male/masculine, protect its/his/her female/feminine, act/do/for heaven-under valley/gorge/mountain stream.” A perhaps more natural interpretation may be: “Beware of your masculinity, protect your femininity and you’ll nourish the whole world.” In other words: “Control your physical strength and self-centeredness, embrace your gentleness and altruism, and your natural virtue will spread around everyone.” The point is in the usage of the words “to know” and “to protect”. The second sentence then continues with exactly the same structure, implying that “who is aware of their positive side and protects their negative side will set the example for the whole world.” This, in the context of the previous statement, as well as the previous (and the following) chapters point the interpretation to: “Don’t become righteous; don’t try to shun that which is considered ‘bad’ “ , etc. It is a clear warning against a dangerous imbalance, which nowadays may be called “toxic positivity”. When it comes to buddhism, many people often complain that its so negativistic, that it always keeps talking about suffering... This logic is exactly equal to saying that medicine is negativistic because it considers itself only with diseases. In our everyday ignorance, we recognize the danger of depression, but not that of euphoria, which makes it therefore even bigger, because when euphoric, we enjoy the mere appearance of things, making us endowed with delusion - which then becomes the cause of much suffering. When one, on the other hand, understands suffering and its causes in great depth, not only can they prevent it from arising or transform it within themselves, but also can effectively and skillfully help others. If we keep pursuing “happy thoughts only” we’ll necessarily become limited by our fear of “unhappy thoughts”, which in itself already means suffering. Those who understand and live by this, do not have to worry about what will happen in the future, because they know that what falls from the sky is out of their control, but what they do with it, isn’t. Therefore they I’ve in accordance with the Way of all things, which is the greatest virtue, hence don’t need complex gadgets, extravagant looks and colorful speech to live happily. Their affinity to simplicity and naturalness also protects them from selfish conduct, as well as corruption, which are indispensable qualities when it comes to good government officials. The end of the chapter, I believe, therefore needs no further explanation.

    Chapter 29

將欲取天下而為之,吾見其不得已。天下神器,不可為也,為者敗之,執者失之。故物或行或隨;或歔或吹;或強或羸;或挫或隳。是以聖人去甚,去奢,去泰。

[Who] have desired to take [all] under heavens and [tried to] handle it, as I have seen, did not succeed. [The world] under heavens is a sacred vessel, cannot be handled. Those who handle it, fail. Those who hold it, lose it. Therefore [among living] things, some move [ahead], some follow, [the wind of] some blows gently, [of] others’ blows hard, some are strong, some weak, some are resilient, some break apart. Hence the wisest ones run [from the] extensiveness, run [from] extravagance, run [from] exaltation.

STAYING HUMBLE

The term “sacred vessel” perhaps presents the closest illustration to the words 神 [(natural) spirit] and 器 [vessel, dish, tool], because they together clearly signify “something precious”. As explained in the commentary to chapter 2, 為 means “to act in order to secure a specific result”, therefore in this context “to handle” seems fitting. Since this chapter is merely expounding on what has already been explained in detail, it seems to be pretty self-explanatory. All dictators and conquerors either already have or will face pretty much the same fate - they might seem to succeed for a while but their invasiveness bring much suffering to living beings.

    Chapter 30

以道佐人主者,不以兵強天下。其事好還。師之所處,荊棘生焉。大軍之後,必有凶年。善有果而已,不敢以取強。果而勿矜,果而勿伐,果而勿驕。果而不得已,果而勿強。物壯則老,是謂不道,不道早已。

[Who] assists the head of the people by the means of the Way, does not use weapons to force [the realm] under heavens. Their service [produce] goodness [and same it receives] in return. Where there stayed a platoon, [come to] life [just] thorny brambles. After a big army [passing], there necessarily are years of detriment. The good have [their] results and stop, do not dare to take force. [Have] results without pitying, [have] results without striking, [have] results without haughtiness. [Have their] results for [they] did not get [to do otherwise], [got their] results and without force. Things [too] robust/strong will be[come] old, which means [they] do not [accord with] the Way. [What] does not [accord with] the Way, [meets an] early end.

NONVIOLENCE

To my awe, I later found out that I had been translating this chapter in the very first hour of the Russian attack on Ukraine... Not much to add here indeed. For the wisest ones, any violence, let alone military action is always the very last of last resorts, therefore is always regarded as a necessary evil, when there is truly no other way and one wouldn’t dare to go an inch further. More in the following chapter.

    Chapter 31

夫佳兵者,不祥之器,物或惡之,故有道者不處。君子居則貴左,用兵則貴右。兵者不祥之器,非君子之器,不得已而用之,恬淡為上。勝而不美,而美之者,是樂殺人。夫樂殺人者,則不可以得志於天下矣。吉事尚左,凶事尚右。偏將軍居左,上將軍居右,言以喪禮處之。殺人之衆,以哀悲泣之,戰勝以喪禮處之。

That, which is an excellent weapon, does not [make a] fortunate tool, [living] things loath it, therefore with those who have the Way, it does not [have a] place. Those of character, [in their] residence thus value [the place on the] left, [when] weapons (in battle) value [the place on the] right. That, which is a weapon, does not [make] a fortunate tool, it is not a tool of those of character,[they] use it only [when they] do not get [to do otherwise], [however they] make peaceful tranquility above [all]. Winning does not [bring] beauty and those who [treat] it [as] beautiful indeed [must] enjoy killing people. Those who enjoy killing people thus cannot achieve [their] goals under heavens. [For] auspicious matters the left [side] is valued, [for] inauspicious matters, the right [side] is valued. The assistant to the commander resides on the left, the supreme commander resides on the right - [which] states the [same] places [as at a] funeral ritual. [When it is] killed a lot of people, it thereby [means] mourning, sadness and crying, war-winners are thus placed [as at a] funeral ritual.

THE VERY LAST OF RESORTS

Throughout the disciplines of the old contemplative and other sciences there is a notion of distinction between left and right side, left being associated with female and wisdom aspect, whereas right with male and method aspect. On the perhaps most basic level, this apparently maybe connected with the predominant right-handedness of humankind together with agressivity being a predominantly male staple - meaning that most of physical roughness and violence in this world has been caused by a male right hand.
Nevertheless, since the causation of this phenomenon isn't exactly the topic of this text, we, perhaps, don't need to digress too much. This chapter uses it to point out the global concensus regarding the distinction between benefit and detriment.
Even the most beautiful, most excelently crafted weapon is made in such way to excelently harm sentient beings, which is something the wisest ones can hardly overlook not to mention never accept - and salivating over its design, etc would mean exactly that.
Building on the the previous chapter, the message appears very clear: There's no virtue in military honors. A necessary evil is not to be glorified, unless one revels in bloodshed. Who revels in bloodshed can never peacefully exist in the world under heavens.
Of course and most unfortunately, in this world of ours, there are times when a military confrontation is occasionally inevitable. However, given its core nature, no military conflict can ever not be a huge tragedy for all of its participants - and that can never change, despite any kind of propaganda, despite any amount of golden medals on the soldiers' uniforms. All that glorious theatre anyway serves merely as a motivation for those poor masses to throw away common sense and volunteer to kill and be killed by most plaussibly someone exatly like them, who has nothing to do with the conflict itself, but are mere puppets whose strings are being pulled by a very few delusional perpetrators on each side who are themselves slaves to their own greed and thus bring detriment on themselves, as well as all those around them.
Perhaps, if we were to stop putting golden trinkets on those who bring detriment to fellow sentient beings and stop calling it "service", perhaps young good-hearted and enthusiastict people wouldn't be so easily and vastly brainwashed into such a business. One would imagine that the readiness and effectivity of the army would plummet, significantly lowering the odds of winning. If that were a global trend, then, perhaps, it would mean a serious incentive for the world leaders to find other solutions to conflicts. You know, one can dream...

    Chapter 32

道常無名。樸雖小,天下莫能臣也。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以降甘露,民莫之令而自均。始制有名,名亦既有,夫亦將知止,知止所以不殆。譬道之在天下,猶川谷之與江海。

The Way [is] permanent [and] has no name. Rough (simple) However small (minute), [to] none under heavens [it] can be a subject. If the nobility and kings [were] capable of protecting (respecting) it, ten thousand [living] things would submit themselves [to them]. Heaven and Earth come together and thereby rain sweet dew, [and] the people [were under] no [pressure of] orders and [lived in] balance. [In the] beginning [of a] system there is naming. [When] naming is already there, it also presses the knowing [when to] stop; by knowing [when to] stop [one] does not [cause] peril. [As an] analogy, the Way is to all under heavens what are streams and ravines to rivers and oceans.

KNOWING WHEN TO STOP

The first sentence could be also translated as "The Way permanently has no name." However, the fact that the Way is itself permanent and hence cannot have a name appears to be well established, thus I chose the first interpretation instead, since it covers the second one as well.
This chapter is another example how the text recapitulates again (and again, and again...) the importance of moderateness when it comes to anything and everything, but especially governing a state. The Way of all things is permanent, in other words, stable beyond mundane comprehension, is basis of everything, therefore can neither struggle with, nor yield to anything, since it already is everything.
Therefore, when a ruler wants their state to be longterm stable and peaceful, what better example shall one follow? What better qualities shall one emulate? Of course, in our mundane world under heavens, we can never fully emulate the conceptlessness of the Way itself, so obviously, we can never be exactly like it. But of course, we don't have to. We live in a world that consists of forms and concepts, therefore can never be permanent, can never last forever. Without names, we'd have no perception. However, even though we can never fully emulate the Way, it, in no way (pun intended), means that doing so is futile and we should give up and do the exact opposite (which we are in fact doing). The reason is very simple and perhaps at this moment, to the readers, very clear. Anything which goes against the Way, goes against its nature, thus creates conflict within, which leads to exhaustion. That includes flooding one's self with concepts (names), The fewer of those are there, the less confusion and strife troubles the hearts. This include complicated state ranks, hierarchy, legislation, etc. We need all those things, but how many of each do we need? As few as possible. For all that we know and make has its ultimate source in the Way.

    Chapter 33

知人者智,自知者明。勝人者有力,自勝者強。知足者富。強行者有志。不失其所者久。死而不亡者壽。

Who knows [other] people [is] wise, who knows themselves [is] bright. Who wins over [other] people has strength, who wins over themselves [is] strong. Who knows 'enough' is rich. Who is of strong action has will[power]. Who does not lose their place lasts [a long time]. Who dies but does not cease to be has longevity.

THE PERVADING WISDOM

There is, perhaps, not much to add to this chapter. Its individual parts are well known life wisdoms, often passed on by grandparents, etc. Simple and eloquent, useful and ignored by most.
Another thing that comes to mind when looking at this chapter is a parallel with the text of Sunzi, mostly known by its nickname "The art of war", which I'd rather translate as "Military principles". 「故曰:知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必敗。」(孫子・謀攻篇) "Therefore says: Knowing other [and] knowing self, [a] hundred battles [present] no peril; not knowing other but knowing self, one victory, one defeat (50/50 chance of winning); not knowing other, not knowing self, every battle must lose." (Sunzi: Planning attacks)

    Chapter 34

大道汎兮,其可左右。萬物恃之而生而不辭,功成不名有。衣養萬物而不為主,常無欲,可名於小;萬物歸焉,而不為主,可名為大。以其終不自為大,故能成其大。

The great Way spreads [all around]! It can [be both] left and right. Ten thousand things rely on it, and [come to] birth not rejected, [it] completes the work without proclaiming to have [done so]. [It] supports ten thousand things and does not act [as their] owner. [For it has] always no desires [it] can me called “little”; Then thousand things return to it, and it does not acts [as their] owner, [therefore it] can be called “great”. Thus [one] never themselves acts [as] “great”, therefore can complete their greatness.

ULTIMATE HUMILITY

The expression 「左右」 "[to be both on the] left [and] right [side]" is also a metaphor for "to be always of service". The next sentence is a parrallel to chapter 2. Those who boast about their humility in any way, can hardly be regarded as humble. Those who place themselves above others create division, which is the basis for contend, therefore it is an obstacle to harmonious society. True greatness lies in never seeing itself as great.

    Chapter 35

執大象,天下往。往而不害,安平大。樂與餌,過客止。道之出口,淡乎其無味,視之不足見,聽之不足聞,用之不足既。

[Who] holds the great[est] symbol, [all] under heavens come [to them]. Come and does not harm, [and finds] calmness, peace, greatness. Music and food [entice] a passerby to stop. [When] the Way comes out of the mouth, [it is] insipid [due to] its tastelessness. Watch it and [it will] not be seen; listen to it [it will] not be heard; use it [it will] not be used up.

THE GREATEST SYMBOL

To put it in a very straightforward old Chinese way - "humans gonna human." Some point out that people will follow those with a bigger stick and others just take it at a face value. Just because no sentient being wants to suffer, we are brought up in the dogma that violence always works best, so why bother with something else. Exactly because no sentient being wants to suffer, peace and safety is always greater a symbol than war and fear. However, after eons of imprisonment by the compulsions arising from self-centered attitude, we have become fully dull and oblivious to its restrictive nature. Simply because we've learnt to believe that there's no other way.

As pointed out throughout the whole text, those ruled by desires tend to seek more and more massive stimuli [of dopamine] - like food and music, etc. When they don't have enough of those, they become agitated and show other symptoms of withdrawal. When overcome with craving, once can hardly appreciate the subtle details and perfection of the Way of all things. Thus the Way might seem tasteless and dull, for it doesn’t promise a dopamine fix. It doesn't overscream our wild thoughts, but it's always there for us and it never runs out. It that not enough?

    Chapter 36

將欲歙之,必固張之;將欲弱之,必固強之;將欲廢之,必固興之;將欲奪之,必固與之。是謂微明。柔弱勝剛強。魚不可脫於淵,國之利器不可以示人。

Should [you] want to contract it, it must [have been] stretched; Should [you] want to weaken it, it must [have been] strong; Should [you] want to discard it, it must [have been] flourishing; Should [you] want to snatch it, it must [have been] given. This tells of trifling brightness. The soft and weak wins over the firm and strong. Fish cannot be deprived of their depths, the country’s tools of benefit cannot be shown to [the] people.

TRIFFLING BRIGHTNESS

This chapter again expounds on the aforementioned main principles, perhaps, especially from chapters two and three. Every position is intrinsically dependent on its counterpart; everything comes from the Way. Yet, same as fish need a suitable environment to thrive, there's little benefit in creating chaos in people's hearts by the means of temptation.

    Chapter 37

道常無為而無不為。侯王若能守之,萬物將自化。化而欲作,吾將鎮之以無名之樸。無名之樸,夫亦將無欲。不欲以靜,天下將自定。

The way always [stays] without action and [also] without non-action. [If] the lords and rulers could protect (act by) it, ten thousand things would (trans)form itself. [However, if it] formed and desired to [re]create, I would suppress [that wish] by the plain [power] of the nameless. The plain [power] of the nameless holds no desires. Does not desire and thereby is still, [therefore all] under heavens settles itself.

APPLYING THE WAY

If only someone ever tried to rule by something else than perpetual struggle. If only there always weren't someone to misuse and exploit its potential for their own selfish benefit and thus create the matrix for subsequent unspeakable atrocities. How wise was George Orwell. The problem with societal orders established on an "equalitarian" base is that it always gets out of hands for they never trully are equalitarian. There's always someone wishing to be worshipped, in other words, to have more resounding name - therefore is necessarily threatened by the chance that they won't be. This simple fear makes them try to implement failsafes against such a scenario, which is in direct contradiction with the Way and therefore cannot result in harmony.

    Chapter 38

上德不德,是以有德;下德不失德,是以無德。上德無為而無以為;下德為之而有以為。上仁為之而無以為;上義為之而有以為。上禮為之而莫之應,則攘臂而扔之。故失道而後德,失德而後仁,失仁而後義,失義而後禮。夫禮者,忠信之薄,而亂之首。前識者,道之華,而愚之始。是以大丈夫處其厚,不居其薄;處其實,不居其華。故去彼取此。

The highest virtue does not [act as] virtue, because of being virtue. The low virtue does not lose [the face of] virtue, because of not being virtue. The highest virtue does not act and does not assume action. The low virtue acts on things and assumes action. The highest benevolence acts on things but do not assume action. The highest justice acts on things and assumes action. The highest ritual acts on things and [if] none agrees, it pushes elbows and throws away. Therefore [who] loses the Way follows virtue; [who] loses virtue, follows benevolence; [who] loses justice, follows ritual. Those who [follow] ritual, [their] loyalty and truthfulness is thin and [that means] the head of chaos. Those who [try to] foreknow [everything are like] the flower of the Way, and [that means] the beginning of stupidity. Thus a great gentleman keeps to his substantial [core], does not dwell on his thin [outer crust]; keeps to his real [fruit], does not dwell on his [transient] flower. Therefore runs [from] that [and] takes this.

THE VIRTUE

Welcome to the second part of the text. We all know the priciple, which is lately called "imposter syndrome". We are all human and we need very little to convince others to recognize us as such - for that's what we are, end of story. Furthermore, if someone see us as something else than human, we hardly feel our humanness threaten, but automatically and with no struggle come to the conclusion that their perception must be impaired. However, when it comes to other things, which we want our selves to be - and which are not truly part of our human nature (at least in this life), our resolve is much less firm and we need proofs, which means we sometimes try unnaturally hard to convince others. Then it usually shows and they are right to then suspect that there's soomething fishy about our motivation.
If we are always truthful and have pure motivation, we don't have to concern ourselves with the perception of others. Even if they don't trust us that we mean them no harm, their suspition is baseless and the harm will simply never come, doesn't matter how big is their fear. In that case, the only harm for them will arise from their own fear and subsequent actions based on it. In other words: what is defensive, never has a pure (non-selfish) motivation.
If we all followed the Way of all things, all would have been spontaneously truthful, there would be no reason for any pretense whatsoever. No reason to call for justice, police or politics, for there would no nothing which could produce injustice or chaos. We wouldn't need uniforms or jewels, for we would all know our spontaneously pure innate nature. Once we have understood the law of causation and interdependence, which is the very core of everythings, why would we every fear or worry about anything? When we comprehend that everything has its reason (which has its reason, which has its reason), we'll realize that because of the shear vastness of dependent origination, each single event simply can never be fully grasped individually by the limited computing power of our brains. If we are truthful and do everything we can, then worry about what might happen? Because, how can we know in advance that whatever happens cannot be transformed into a benefit? How do we know that whatevery tries to cut our head off, won't only make us stronger? In this context, it trully seems not very wise to worry. Thus the wisest ones indeed have truthfulness and pure motivation in their core and don't worry about appearances of anything and keep to the real nature and benefit of things. Because guess what - everything already is spontaneously pure and perfect, whether we realize it or not. That's why they are content with what they have and do not yearn for what they don't.

    Chapter 39

昔之得一者:天得一以清;地得一以寧;神得一以靈;谷得一以盈;萬物得一以生;侯王得一以為天下貞。其致之,天無以清,將恐裂;地無以寧,將恐發;神無以靈,將恐歇;谷無以盈,將恐竭;萬物無以生,將恐滅;侯王無以貴高將恐蹶。故貴以賤為本,高以下為基。是以侯王自稱孤、寡、不穀。此非以賤為本耶?非乎?故致數譽無譽。不欲琭琭如玉,珞珞如石。

Those who in ancient times achieved one[ness]: Heavens achieved one[ness] to be clear; Earth achieved one[ness] to be serene; the Nature[’s spirit] achieved one[ness] to [have] soul; the valley achieved one[ness] to be [ful]filled; ten thousand things achieved one[ness] to [give] life; lords and rulers achieved one[ness] to act under Heavens virtuously. Because of that, were heavens not clear, there would be fear of splitting; were Earth not serene, there would be fear of bursting [open]; had the Nature no soul [spirit], there would be fear of ceasing; were the valley not [ful]filled, there would be fear of drying out; had ten thousand things not given life, there would be fear of perishing. Were lords and rulers not exalted, there would be fear of falling down (being overthrown). Therefore the exalted in the cheap makes [its] root, the high in the low makes [its] base. Thus lords and rulers matched themselves with the orphaned, the lonely, the dim. Is this not making the cheap [one’s] base? Is it not [so]? Therefore, because [of this,] many [who seek] fame, have no fame. Do not desire jade like precious gems, [wear a] necklace [of simple] stones.

ONENESS

For anything to exist and give life, its innate nature must necessarily be in harmony, in other words one with itself. Same applies for us. We are naturally one with ourselves, however, the more we try superimpose some manufactured image on our selves, the more we are trying to break this oneness... As it is said, the beautiful lotus grows from the dirty mud at the bottom of the pond. Another, much harsher, although not any less true metaphor would be that our most expensive and luxurious gadgets and jewels are made by very poor people in often alarming conditions. Still, we see them as precious and different from everything else - a status measured by the amount of money we have payed for them. We decorate everything with expensive trinkets, thinking that it would distance ourselves from the world of poor and unfortunate. Yet if it weren't for them, who would make those billions of overpriced iphones, etc, which we sooner or later discard anyway?
Therefore those who truly understand the Way of all things do not strive to exalt their appearance to [merely] look noble, but associate themselves with those so called unfortunate, on whose effort is build the so called fortune.

    Chapter 40

反者道之動;弱者道之用。天下萬物生於有,有生於無。

That which returns is the movement of the Way; that which is [seen as] weak is the utility of the Way. Under heavens, ten thousand things are born from the being, the being is born from the nonbeing.

CYCLIC MOVEMENT

Everything natural moves in circles (cycles), always returning to its source. That which does not struggle and exert itself acts in accordance with the Way - it might not be a stretch to say the Way may appear to act through them? We are born and die, born and die... But where 'something that is' itself originally came into being? Some suggest that from "something that isn't".

    Chapter 41

上士聞道,勤而行之;中士聞道,若存若亡;下士聞道,大笑之。不笑不足以為道。故建言有之:明道若昧;進道若退;夷道若纇;上德若谷;太白若辱;廣德若不足;建德若偷; 質真若渝;大方無隅;大器晚成;大音希聲;大象無形;道隱無名。夫唯道,善貸且成。

[When] the highest scholars hear of the Way, [they] act by it with diligence; [when] a middling scholar hears of the Way, [sometimes they] hold on to it, [other times] lose it; when a low scholar hears of the Way [they] laugh at it greatly. Without [being] laughed [at, it would] not suffice to make the [true] Way. Therefore, in a saying, there is: The brightness of the Way seems dim; the advance of the Way seems retreating; the smoothness of the Way seems knotted; the highest Virtue seems like a valley; the greatest beauty seems humiliating; the vast Virtue seems insufficient; the firmest Virtue seems insecure; the solid truth seems changeable; the biggest square [seems to] have no corners; the biggest bowl [seems to be] completed the last; the loudest sound [seems to] rarely [contain] voice (information); the biggest image [seems to have] no shape; The Way is hidden and has no name. Just by that the Way well provides as well as completes [all].

LAUGHING AT THE WAY

This chapter again recapitulates what the same main points in different metaphors. To understand the Way, to grasp the ungraspable, to imagine the unimaginable - all that depends on the level of our mental faculties. Some of us, probably very few, might hear about it and instantly realize the whole point, which would surely result in living a very happy life without being swept by desires. Others might be charmed by its elegance, but still generally unsatisfied and looking for something else to keep feeding to our hungry senses. Some, perhaps most of us the people (as history has shown) wouldn't even take it seriously a perhaps laugh it away. But why would that matter for the Way or the teaching itself? As it has been mentioned already plenty of times, the Way doesn't take sides or have independent consciousness to feel pleased or upset. Yet, from another point of view, the author suggests that if the Way were only revered, it would be quite unnatural. Perhaps not only because of the universal balance, but frankly, we all know that exclusive reverence without skepticism leads to dogma, therefore it can hardly lead to true unconceptual comprehension, let alone to strifeless universal harmony. Therefore even those who laught at and bash it, do it a great service, in a way (pun half-intended).
As hinted before, our mundane conceptual perception is often twisted by prejudice which comes from our deeply rooted in absolutistic/nihilistic ontologies. That renders us to perpetually try to superimpose expectation on reality, which then poses a serious difficulty for seeing things as they really are. The last part of this chapter again recapitulates how our prejudice distorts our perception of reality. The shape of Earth or the Cosmos comes to mind as very good examples of these metaphors. Just because, due to its limitless vastness, we can never trully see its full picture, it doesn't mean it hasn't been there all along. Imagine an ant in the middle of the Sahara desert.It perceives the desert every single moment, yet....

    Chapter 42

道生一,一生二,二生三,三生萬物。萬物負陰而抱陽,沖氣以為和。人之所惡,唯孤、寡、不穀,而王公以為稱。故物或損之而益,或益之而損。人之所教,我亦教之。強梁者不得其死,吾將以為教父。

The Way births one, one births two, two births three, three births ten thousand things. Ten thousand things carry on their backs the dark (yin) and embrace the light (yang). [Their] infusing breath thereby makes harmony. The rulers and the noble thereby made people’s bad [omens] [- like being] “orphaned”, “widowed” and “dim” suitable [titles for themselves]. Therefore loss some[times] [leads to] gain, gain some[times leads to] loss. What [other] people [have] taught, I also teach: the strong and violent ones do not reach their [natural] death - this I make the “father” of my teaching.

GENEALOGY OF THE COSMOS

According to the commentary of 河上公 (He Shan Gong), from the Way comes Oneness; Oneness produces yin and yang, which further produce harmony, pureness and impureness, which then constitute all things. Another interpretation might point to the genesis of the trigrams in 易經 (The Book of Changes) - which are said to describe the relations of all things.
Next, the author repeats from chapter 39, ilustrating the natural harmony aspect of it, emphasizing the true meaning of the so-called weak and small, which is said to the progenitor, from which everything else is derived.
The wisest rulers and lords of the ancient times understood this, therefore, as an example to all under heavens, didn't look down on the unfortunate, but took upon themselves the that which the confused would resent, in order to ensure harmony.
The last part corresponds with the explanation of basic relativity from chapter 2: Nothing is onesided, every quality has a seed of its opposite. It depends of causes and conditions (mostly within ourselves) which one is nurtured and nursed to grow. But in the end, the gentle one always gets the upper hand, no matter what.

    Chapter 43

天下之至柔,馳騁天下之至堅。無有入無間,吾是以知無為之有益。不言之教,無為之益,天下希及之。

The softest [things] under heavens hasten [and overcome] the hardest. The non substantial penetrates the gapless. That is how I know the non-action’s substantial profit. To teach without proclamation, to profit without action - under heavens [it is] rare to reach [this level].

THE SUBTLE PERVADES ALL

Directly continuing from last chapter, It's simple and eloquent, It is indeed very rare to reach this level.

    Chapter 44

名與身孰親?身與貨孰多?得與亡孰病?是故甚愛必大費;多藏必厚亡。知足不辱,知止不殆,可以長久。

Name or [your true] self - which is [more] dear? [Your true] self or commodities (riches) - which [means] more [to you]? Gain or loss - which [causes more] illness? Therefore indeed, extensive love (lust) necessitates great cost. Great hoarding necessitates huge loss. To know “enough” [means] no humiliation, to know [when] to stop [means] no danger, [that is how one] can last [a] long [time].

CAUSALITY

What you sow is what you reap. Therefore, we should choose carefully after what we spend our lives chasing. This chapter again elaborates one of the main points from chapter 1. The greedier we are, the more suffering we create. There's a saying that it's much easier to extuinguish a spark than a forest fire. Therefore to always observe oneself and once disturbing thoughts arise, to know when to stop and retreat means not to let the cascade effect take off and thus avoid much much suffering.
During a Mind and Life conference with HH the Dalailama, B. Alan Wallace made beautiful poind that self control actually means freedom. Paraphrasing his explanation: Most people think that 'freedom' means 'doing whatever comes to mind'. However, in this logic, such a person would actually be a slave to their every thought. That can hardly be classified as freedom, but its exact opposite. Following this thought, the real freedom has to mean being free from compulsion to do whatever comes to mind. I think that it's also a perfect interpretation of the main point of Laozi's work. In other words, to have the freedom not to react, not to allow ourselves to be chained to and be dragged behind a stampeding bull. To be continued in chapter 46.

    Chapter 45

大成若缺,其用不弊。大盈若沖,其用不窮。大直若屈,大巧若拙,大辯若訥。躁勝寒靜勝熱。清靜為天下正。

The greatest perfection seems imperfect, [but] its effect do not falter. The greatest fullness seems empty, [but] its effect do not [get] exhausted. The greatest straightness seems crooked, the greatest skillfulness seems clumsy, the greatest argument seems ineloquent. Rash wins [over] cold, stillness wins [over] heat. [Only] the pure and still makes the proper[ness] under heavens.

THE SEEMING ILLUSION

In buddhist psychology, psychosis is defined as 'believing that everything is exactly the way it seems, and one is not cured until they reach full awakening'(which means comprehending the true meaning of all things). Until we reach that level, we fall victim to perception which can never be trully objective. Therefore we tend to believe our prejudices about how thing should be according to prejudices of someone else.

    Chapter 46

天下有道,卻走馬以糞。天下無道,戎馬生於郊。禍莫大於不知足;咎莫大於欲得。故知足之足,常足矣。

[When all] under heavens have [understanding of] the Way, running (race) horses are [kept] for dung. [When all] under heavens have no [understanding of] the Way, battle horses bread in the open spaces. [There is] no greater disaster than not knowing “enough”; no greater blame than the wish to “get”. Therefore to sufficiently know “enough”, [means] to always [have] enough.

TO KEEP ORDER

As mentioned in chapter 3, in order to keep the society in harmony, one must not long for the shallow perception of material value, must not let attachment and lust go wild - which is exactly the case of our modern society. When living in harmony and equanimity, one's heart is experiencing a deep and fulfilling sense of peace and satisfaction, much much deeper than any of the dopamine spikes after which we keep chasing. The problem is that not many of us have truly experienced this. But those who have, even for a short while, know it's immensely better. Those do not long for horse races, but dedicate all the resources to create universal sustennace, so we don't have to strive on daily basis. Imagine how easy life would be, if everyone wished for only what they truly need. This is a point which is truly hard to miss, yet we seem to work hard to do so.

    Chapter 47

不出戶知天下;不闚牖見天道。其出彌遠,其知彌少。是以聖人不行而知,不見而名,不為而成。

Not [to] leave the door [and still] know [the world] under heavens; not [to] look out of the window [and still] see the Way of heavens. The further [one] travels, the less [they] know. Thus the wisest ones do not travel but [still] know, do not see but [still] name [corectly], do not act but [still] complete.

KNOWING THE ONE ROOT OF ALL THINGS

Especially nowadays, to travel, to see nice [/] new things ultimately serves as a distraction which is supposed to make us forget our mundane fixations, at least a little bit or for a little while. Other times we strive to see new things in order to deepen our knowledge and subsequently understanding. However, once we outgrow (for the lack of a better term) the mundane conceptual perception (distinguished by names), we arrive to the comprehension that every phenomena arise internally, from the mind. In other words, that which names is the mind, that which completes is the mind, regardless whether we actively observe something outside or not. Therefore given the objective to know the nature of all phenomena, it's always the mind.

    Chapter 48

為學日益,為道日損。損之又損,以至於無為。無為而無不為。取天下常以無事,及其有事,不足以取天下。

[Who] act on studies gains by the day, [who] acts on the Way, loses by the day. Loses and loses again, up until [only] non action [remains]. To take [the world] under heavens by not [meddling into] affairs. Pushing [meddling into] its affairs, [it] does not suffice (allow) to take [the world] under heavens.

HEADING TOWARDS SIMPLICITY

To begin from the material point of view, our society wholeheartedly focused and is built around accumulation, regardless whether it concerns knowledge or toxic waste - we just can't help ourselves to not gain and/or create more. Of course, I'm sure that we (or at least the vast majority of us) don't wish to accumulate waste, yet it is the necessary fruit of our accumulating everything else.
On the other hand, when turn our attention towards the inner world (in the jargon of later taoist text: 回光 "turn the light [around]"), we'll find that with each step we shed one layer of artificial elaborations after another, simply because we'll recognize that we don't need them anymore, that being one with our selves and with the Way of all things makes us richer than any amount of gold, diplomas or political power. There has not been one ruler who could bring true harmony to the world by force. I personally doubt, (perhaps same as the author), that this statement will ever be refuted. To be honest, given the actual state of things, I very much doubt that such a thing is achievable the unforceful method either. Although, as I have already mentioned, despite my deepest admiration of the insightful wisdom of Laozi and alike, I myself lack any of the qualities of the plentifully mentioned 'wisest ones', therefore my perception can under no circumstance be considered clear or capable of making unbiased predictions.

    Chapter 49

聖人無常心,以百姓心為心。善者,吾善之;不善者,吾亦善之;德善。信者,吾信之;不信者,吾亦信之;德信。聖人在天下,歙歙為天下渾其心,百姓皆注其耳目,聖人皆孩之。

The wisest ones have (hold on to) no permanent heart, thereby a hundred household names [they] make [their] hearts. The good ones I treat well; the not good ones, I treat also well; [thus comes] the virtuous goodness. [To] the truthful ones, I am truthful; [to] the untruthful ones, I am also truthful, [thus comes] the virtuous truthfulness. The wisest ones [when in the world] under heavens, [are] cautious not to [let it] muddy their hearts, [nevertheless] on all the hundred household names focuses their ears and eyes, the wisest ones [make] all [their] children.

LOVE FOR AN EYE, KINDNESS FOR A TOOTH

Since the fact that nothing, including us, is permanent, therefore holding on to and protection an illusion of an inherent and separately existing self (not arising from the Way), would be truly futile and only create further suffering. Therefore the wisest ones don't distinguish between their own happiness and someone else's. Therefore they never retaliate against someone else's ignorance, eather show them wisdom. Therefore it is an imperative that they do not fall for shallow delusions themselves - such as self-centered attitude. Instead they, spread infinite compassion, as though everyone around were their child.

    Chapter 50

出生入死。生之徒,十有三;死之徒,十有三;人之生,動之死地,十有三。夫何故?以其生,生之厚。蓋聞善攝生者,陸行不遇兕虎,入軍不被甲兵;兕無所投其角,虎無所措其爪,兵無所容其刃。夫何故?以其無死地。

[We come] out [of] birth, [we] enter death. [Those who] walk [towards] birth [are] three out of ten. [Those who] walk [towards] death [are] three out of ten. [Those who] live [but] move [around the] place of death are three out of ten. Why is that [so]? Because of their [way of] living, its thickness (rigidness). But [I] hear [that those] who manage well [their] life, travel [through] lands [but] do not run into [any] rhino [or] tiger, enter battle[fields but] do not [wear any] armor [or] helmet[, nor wield] blades. [For a] rhino [there] is nowhere to stab its horn, [for a] tiger [there] is nowhere [/nothing] to tear [with] its claws, [for] weapons, [there] is nowhere to pierce [with] their blades. Why is it [so?] Because [there] is no place of death [for/in them].

THE SUBTLEMOST OF SUBTLE

The character 生 can be understood both as `birth` and `life`. Therefore, "We walk [towards] life" might be even more accurate. So, given the way the chapter continues, it suggests that the first part talks about our mental fixation and how much effort we put into often destructive [mental] patterns. The lately ever so inscreasing strife to control conditions over which we have no power, known as "perfectionism" is becoming a true civilization disease of the 21st century. I truly believe that the best way to prove the accuracy of Laozi is to compare it against our present state of things. In our times of seemingly unlimited communication, when quite logically quality of information get proportionally devaluated, everything must be stronger, bigger, grosser, crazier, etc. I often wonder how long will it take for the social media bubble to reach its schwarzschild radius (google it)...
So, what if we managed our lives the other way around? If a big or biting insect crawls up your neck, you'll probably notice and try to get rid of it, these instances often ends badly for the insect, but not too rarely for us as well. So, what if cherry petal lands of our cheek? Will we find it imposing and smash it off? It's quite funny how are we constantly on the lookout for anything imposing and when we can't see anything, we dn't feel threaten. However, had we a microscope to look what constantly lives on our skin, in our beds, etc... Most of us knows about them, but we can't normally see them, hence we dont find them imposing hence we don't feel threaten, hence we leave them to exist naturally. Well mostly. But, you get the gist.
Therefore, by stricty adhering to the principles of the Way, the wisest ones never impose, never attack, never provoke by showing showing avoidance. They do not dwell on their lives, therefore have no fear. The more subtle they become, the less drag they produce, the less wear have.

    Chapter 51

道生之,德畜之,物形之,勢成之。是以萬物莫不尊道而貴德。道之尊,德之貴,夫莫之命常自然。故道生之,德畜之;長之育之;亭之毒之;養之覆之。生而不有,為而不恃,長而不宰,是謂玄德。

The Way births, the Virtue raises, things shape, potential completes. Thus ten thousand things [are] empty [and] do not venerate the Way, do not exalt the Virtue, That life of emptiness [is] permanently natural. Therefore the Way births, the Virtue raises; [is] ‘in charge' and educates; cultivates and poisons; nourishes and ruins. Births but does not have, acts but does not cling, [is] in charge but does not rule - that is called the profound Virtue.

NATURALLY SEEMLESS

Through the Way one learns about life, through the Virtue gets cultivation. [Living and other] things teach us shape. Through energy/power/potential we can complete [our work]. All of that is the natural Way of things, or in other words - it's simply how things are. Therefore to act as though it were something special would be artificial and thus it would create problems. In Madhyamaka terminology: all things are dependently arisen and are empty of any inherent existence (do not exist independently, on their own). Therefore whatever happens does not happen out of favor or grudge, but it happens as a part of the their chain of causes and conditions - of which are even their names and purposes part.

    Chapter 52

天下有始,以為天下母。既得其母,以知其子,既知其子,復守其母,沒身不殆。塞其兌,閉其門,終身不勤。開其兌,濟其事,終身不救。見小曰明,守柔曰強。用其光,復歸其明,無遺身殃;是為習常。

There is a beginning to [the world] under heavens, [which is] regarded as its mother. Once [we have] known its mother, [one] knows back her child. Once [one has] known her child, [they] cherish back its mother, [then] not having body is not a threat. [Who] block their exchange [with the outside world], close one’s gates [of the senses], [until the] end, [their] body [will] not toil. [Who] opens their exchange [with the outside world], multiply their affairs, [until the] end, [their] body [will be] unsafe. To see the little says “brightness”, to protect the feeble says strength. [Who] uses their light, returns back (to) their brightness, will not bring disaster [upon them]selves.

THE UNIVERSAL FAMILY

This chapter, again, feels like an elaboration of the previous one. The overall premise here is that everything which exists must have began as a result of its cause (a child of its mother). To be always aware of its position in the chain causes and effects means to know/hold one's natural place. Who can thusly hold their natural place doesn't have to worry about transient phenomena, like their physical shells. Therefore, who doesn't let themselves fall under the allure of those transient phenomena, will not exhaust themselves by clinging to illusions. Who doesn't do that and instead focuses on the subtle is bright; who protects that which really matter is strong; who uses this insight, returns bact to their bright natural state. Again, this is a direct corelate with the first chapter. But again, what in this text isn't...

    Chapter 53

使我介然有知,行於大道,唯施是畏。大道甚夷,而民好徑。朝甚除,田甚蕪,倉甚虛;服文綵,帶利劍,厭飲食,財貨有餘;是謂盜夸。非道也哉!

If I were to [receive] recognition. [I would] act by the great Way, [my] only fear [would be of boastful] conduct. The great Way is so flat [and simple], but people like [their specific] pathways. Courts so exclusive, fields so [overgrown with] weeds, Granaries so empty; [their] clothes decorated with varicolored silk, belts [holding] sharp swords, pampering [themselves over] drinks and food, of valuable commodities [they] have excess; that is called stealing [and] extravagance. Oh, [that] is not the Way!

THE DANGER OF PRIDE

The sneaky ego is known to lurk in the darkness awaiting the moment we let our guard down and creep in without us noticing. Slowly it then builds our subconscious attachment and pride. We all know it very well from basically everywhere around, and let's face it, especially religions and philosophical schools. Pride is thus the biggest enemy of the wisest ones and any attempt to rationalize cultivating pride would be as futile as wanting to taste cyanide, because of its wonderful smell of almonds. However, arogance is in a way very far from the metaphor of cyanide because it doesn't destroy us right away. Its creepy mechanics make us feel strong and good in our resolve, tripping on adrenaline and dopamine, which, however, fully prevents us from trully seeing the subtle perfection. Thread lightly.

    Chapter 54

善建不拔,善抱者不脫,子孫以祭祀不輟。修之於身,其德乃真;修之於家,其德乃餘;修之於鄉,其德乃長;修之於國,其德乃豐;修之於天下,其德乃普。故以身觀身,以家觀家,以鄉觀鄉,以國觀國,以天下觀天下。吾何以知天下然哉?以此。

[What is] well planted, [can]not be uprooted. That, which is well embraced, [can]not escape, [then] offerings brought by children and grandchildren [become] ceaseless. Cultivate this [with]in yourselves - its virtue will be real. Cultivate this in the household - its virtue will be it abundant. Cultivate it in the town - its virtue will be long [lasting]. Cultivate it in the state - its virtue will be plentiful. Cultivate it in [the world] under heavens - its virtue will be universal. Therefore, through [one’s] self [one] views selves, through [one’s] household [one] views households, through [one’s] town [one] views towns, through [one’s] state [one] views states. Through [the world] under heavens [one] views [the world] under heavens. How do I know about [the world] under heavens? Through this.

UNVAWERING ADHERENCE

The beginning repeats the point from chapter 27. In other words, a true resolve doesn't waver; a true vow doesn't brake. All in all, if your adherence to Virtue is true - which effectively means top priority, it can never be shaken, no matter what. If it is indeed shaken, it merely means that it ceassed to be your top priority, perhaps for the reasons described in the previous chapter.
If one's adherence to Virtue is indeed always top priority, then, poetically speaking, sky is the limit. The more of us make it truly top priority, the more overall happiness rises. And it really applies universally, because when it comes to the basics, every being is really the same. We all want to avoid suffering, therefore be happy. We and everything in our lives is a manifestation of the Way. This is exactly why one can know the true nature of everyone and everything else.

    Chapter 55

含德之厚,比於赤子。蜂蠆虺蛇不螫,猛獸不據,攫鳥不搏。骨弱筋柔而握固。未知牝牡之合而全作,精之至也。終日號而不嗄,和之至也。知和曰常,知常曰明,益生曰祥。心使氣曰強。物壯則老,謂之不道,不道早已。

[Who] cherishes the Virtue greatly, [can be] compared to a newborn baby. Wasps, scorpions, [or] venomous snakes will not sting [or bite them], Savage beasts will not take [them], birds of prey will not seize [them]. [They may have] weak bones and soft muscles, but [their] grasp is firm. [They may have] yet to know of the female and male’s union, but [they] create all - [for they] are the [fully] reached vitality. [They may] howl [until] the end of the day, but [their throat] will not [become] hoarse - [for they] are the [fully] reached harmony. To know harmony says permanence, to know permanence says brightness; to [strive to] increase life says [bad] omen. The heart serving the breath (/energy) says strength. Things’ robustness leads to withering - that is to say: [it] does not [agree with] the Way, [and what] does not [agree with] the Way [comes to an] early end.

A BUMPLESS RIDE THROUGH LIFE

To truly cherish the Virtue, means always to act according to the Way, which means to create no (or minimal) friction, therefore no toil and exhaustion. Such a being is then completely free from worry and neuroses, therefore the metaphor of a newborn child, because there are thusly free from causes which create obstacles and suffering. The metaphors here corelate with chapter 50 - where, in the commentary, I was putting more emphasis on the aspect of outer enemies (or circumstances), but we shall never forget that the only ever enemy is within, namely our ignorance through which we create friction and hence exhaust ourselves - which is against the Way of all things. On the other hand, it'd be easy to box these statements as clear pointer to only inner enemies, however it's far from unheard of, that people with no (or very few) inner enemies ten not to be affected negatively by obstacles. The of his holiness the Dalailama may be an example of that.
Therefore, inner strength does not come from the outer one; the ability to overcome mountains of obstacles does not come from the ability to overcome mountains. Nevertheless, this inner strength does permeate outside. In other words, the ability to overcome mountains of obstacles is indeed known to at least contribute to the ability to overcome mountains. We can literally observe that on for example the tibetan refugees escaping across the himalaya region.
When one thinks about that, the math looks pretty straight forward. From the point of view of buddhist psychology, we suffer because of ignorance, which makes us understand reality in a wrong way. Namely grasp at things and phenomena as though they were independently or absolutely existent. That by definition creates friction or suffering, because we create unrealistic ontologies (which technically means expectations) that cannot correspond with how things truly are and behave. This is what creates the inner fight and obstacles. Another example from computers might be the difference between specifically built drivers for a component (i.e. graphics card, etc) coming from its maker, and some generic or perhaps only similar ones. If we use genereric drivers, not only the overall performance tends to be much lower, but in many cases it may glitch and even overheat under workloads which are otherwise totally fine when using the correct drivers, not to mention the bunch of other capabilities they provide. Well, in a way, our minds, bodies, the world and reality itself also behave according to this analogy. Some may find it spooky, I personally find it poetic, but it's also neither illogical, nor irrational, because even machines exist in the same set of laws of nature as everything else does. In this aspect, our stereotypical distinctions are just that, nothing more, nothing less... But I digress - although, not entirely.
Those who have reached this realization, naturally lack the inner obstacles which would otherwise be added to the outer ones, therefore must in the result overcome much lesser a mountain then others - which may from their perspective may look as some mysterious ability. Just because they don't even realize the inner obstacles, not to mention their cause: a dissonance with reality itself.
Therefore to comprehend the Way and to adhere to Virtue means not to fight with causes and conditions, which itself means avoiding exhaustion of the life force. Nevertheless, it certainly does not mean trying forcibly to evade death, etc - such a strife naturally wouldn't bring much good. When the heart/mind doesn't swirl around discursive thoughts and emotions but fully serves the life force - that brings out the true natural strength. That which toils for outer strength creates unnecessary wear, therefore dissolves early. Not because of someone/something's will, but because it, under such conditions, cannot do otherwise.

    Chapter 56

知者不言,言者不知。塞其兑,閉其門,挫其銳,解其分,和其光,同其塵,是謂玄同。故不可得而親,不可得而踈;不可得而利,不可得而害;不可得而貴,不可得而賤。故為天下貴。

Who knows does not proclaim, who proclaims does not know. [Who] blocks their exchange [with the external], closes their gates, softens their sharpness, unravels their disorder, dims their shine, is equal with their mud. That says [of] profound sameness [/equanimity]. Therefore [one] cannot attain [their goal] and [stay] attentive; cannot attain [it] and [stay] careless; cannot attain [it] and [stay] profiting; cannot attain [it] and [stay] harmful; cannot attain [it] and [stay] exalted, cannot attain [it] and [stay] basic. Therefore [they] make the [most] exalted under heavens.

THE UNGRASPABLE NON-ACTION

The first sentence might also be translated as "Who know does not say..." The letter 言 does mean [to say/speak] or [word] nowadays, however in ancient chinese it seems to have been used as [to say/speak publicly] hence my choice to translate it as "proclaim". Not to mention that the former translation could be understood as a direct negation of the whole thing, which would be pretty illogical. At least to me, it's evident that the statement points at not trying to force one's views on others, no matter how true they are. If for no other reason, than because when forcing anything on anyone, the ego is always involved, which directly contradics the Way, let alone Virtue. The author then continues by a passage from chapter 4, ending the sentence with what seems to be a pointer at the ending of chapter 1. There I added the meaning of "equanimity", because that's what the second half of this chapter seems to be explaining. When one becomes one with oneself - by softening their sharpness, unraveling their disorder, dimming their shine, equalizing with their mud - the result is necessarily absence of concetual dualism, which means equanimity. The second half shows that when this equanimity is reached, dualistic attitude simply cannot be sustained. What comes to mind is a line from the famous "Ten pictures of cow (or ox)" from the zen tradition, where the verse of the 8th picture says: 「鞭索人牛盡属空, 碧天遼闊信難通, 紅爐焔上爭容雪, 到此方能合祖宗」. "The whip, rope [and] person [have] depleted [their separate] being (dissolved) [into] emptiness; the blue sky's vastness [is] difficult to pass through (/communicate); the red furnace's blazing top struggles to hold a snow[flake]; arriving here [one is] able to connect [with] the ancestral purpose (meaning)."
The whip and rope symbolize the practical means to catch and tame the ox (the mind) in the dualistic world. In the previous picture, the notion of a separate ox has already dissolved, because the herder had recognized the lack of its independent existence. Now, the herder realizes the one nature of every phenomena, which naturally results in the spontaneous dissolution of all dualistic views, as though they were but a snowflake on a burning furnace (which represents the brightness of true insight).
To return back to the end of the chapter, when one wishes to realize the oneness of everything, it is simply impossible to hold on to past dualistic attitudes and desires, similarly to being impossible to turn left and right in the same time. In fact, since oneness already contains both left and right, one can argue that by chosing one, we, in a way, lose the other. Therefore by if we truly are so greedy, there's a way to be and have everything at once... hehe.

    Chapter 57

以正治國,以奇用兵,以無事取天下。吾何以知其然哉?以此:天下多忌諱,而民彌貧;民多利器,國家滋昏;人多伎巧,奇物滋起;法令滋彰,盜賊多有。故聖人云:我無為,而民自化;我好靜,而民自正;我無事,而民自富;我無欲,而民自樸。

[Who] correctly governs the state, [and only] rarely uses weapons, thereby, without incident, [may] take [all] under heavens. How do I know that it is so? Through this: The more intimidation and taboo (legislation) under heavens, the poorer the populace; the more beneficial instrument [for] the populace, the dimmer the nation; the more talents and skills [in] the people, the stranger the things appearing; the clearer [and precise] the laws and decrees, the more thieves and crime there is. Therefore the wisest ones say: I do not act and the populace reforms itself; I like stillness and the populace corrects itself; I do not handle and the populace enriches itself; I do not desire and the populace simplifies itself.

SAFE TO RULE UNDER HEAVENS

This chapter offers no new insight indeed. Same As the author, we know very well that it is so, through the same markers, yet over the ages exponentially more obvious and painfully acute. Especially nowadays - in late 2022, when the global infatuation with information technology, etc really shows the signs of wearing off. We all know very well that quantity and quality of information are anything but directly proportional. In retrospect it does make sense, that information acts like every other commodity when treated as such. But since we've touched on this particular latent snakepit already a few times, we don't need, perhaps, such a deep analysis again. A bit sad part is, that this clearly was meant as a warning, but it turned out to be a fully proven prophecy.
However, without being so doomy and gloomy, how can we reverse it? That's the whole point of this text and it is entirely possible, at least on personal level. Despite thinking that the global social trends can't be swayed off their destructive path seems pretty natural, let's not forget that everything is constantly evolving according to its environment. Lately, atleast partially thanks to the effort of H.H. the Dalailama, there's been more and more talk about introducing universal secular moral ethics into the education system. Which, not to surprisingly, we've never cared about, because of being so comfortable in our global religion of profit...
This is a good start and if we don't do it and then just complain about the decadence of everything, we'll be like that farmer who was too lazy to plant the seeds and now is realizing they'll have no harvest.

    Chapter 58

其政悶悶,其民淳淳;其政察察,其民缺缺。禍兮福之所倚,福兮禍之所伏。孰知其極?其無正。正復為奇,善復為妖。人之迷,其日固久。是以聖人方而不割,廉而不劌,直而不肆,光而不燿。

[When] the government is distant and apathetic, its populace is honest and simple; [when] the government is curious and inquisitive, its populace is destitute and lacking. What a misery, [which] leans on the place of fortune! What a fortune, [which] is concealed in the place of misery! Who knows its ultimate point? Its absence of correct[ness]. The correct turns to [being] made the rare, The good turns to [being] made the strange. [As for] people’s confusion - its days are firm and lasting. Thus the wisest ones [take a] direction but do not divide, are blunt but do not injure, are straight[forward] but do not indulge, shine but do not dazzle.

THE NON-INTRUSIVE GOVERNMENT

A commentary or continuation of the previous chapter. Not much to add. When everything gets twisted, craziness rules the world.

    Chapter 59

治人事天莫若嗇。夫唯嗇,是謂早服;早服謂之重積德;重積德則無不克;無不克則莫知其極;莫知其極,可以有國;有國之母,可以長久;是謂深根固柢,長生久視之道。

[When] governing people [and] serving the heavens, [there is] nothing like [affection and] nurture. Only this nurture indeed means swift obedience (order). Swift obedience means heavy accumulation of virtue; heavy accumulation of virtue leads to no not-overcoming [obstacles]; no not-overcoming [obstacles] leads to never knowing (meeting) [one’s] limit; by never knowing (meeting) [one’s] limit, [one] can possess the state. By possessing the state’s mother, [one/it/all] can [achieve] long lasting; that means deep roots and firm base [- this is called] The way of lasting seeing of long life.

VIRTUE AND OBSTACLES

The character 嗇 means "to treat with affection", "tenderness", "nurture", "to protect". How nice it would be, if we'd connect these attributes to our governments, right? If both the government and the people wholeheartedly wished to live in harmony, there would be no space for distrust, no space for upheaval. It would be futile for the people not to follow instructions from the government, same as it would be futile for a ship's crew not to follow the instructions from the pilot, since doing so is meant to ensure a safe passage into the port.
By 'heavy accumulation of Virtue' the author clearly points at 'not creating drag/chaos', which leads to being able to overcome every obstacle on the way. The further leads to never getting stuck (meeting the limit). She who never gets stuck can indeed take a harmonious state's helm. Who can comprehend and thus live by that which makes a harmonious state, does indeed have no reason to not last a long time, for she stands firmly and isn't swayed by gusts of desire and fear. That's how one can not just glimpse, but clearly see the way things can last.

    Chapter 60

治大國若烹小鮮。以道蒞天下,其鬼不神;非其鬼不神,其神不傷人;非其神不傷人,聖人亦不傷人。夫兩不相傷,故德交歸焉。

Governing a big state is like boiling a little fish. Thereby [when] the Way reaches [all] under heavens, its ghosts [of the dead will] not [manifest their] spirit; not [because they] are ghosts [of] no spirit, but their spirit do not wound people. Not [only] their spirit do not wound people, neither do the wisest ones wound people. That [means] both mutually do not wound people, therefore the Virtue [spontaneously] intermingles [and] returns back [to its origin].

BOILING A LITTLE FISH

There's a saying about holding a little bird. Hold it too softly and she'll fly away. Hold it too hard and she'll die.
When governing a state, one must act to a certain level, otherwise it'll fall apart. However one must never cross the line, so their actions hurt the people. If they do, then by trying to conceal it and/or excuse their way out of it they'll create skeletons in the closet. Therefore by never boiling the fish (or holding the bird) too hard, one doesn't inflict harm which creates skeletons that would haunt their future. Then the Virtue needs no effort, because it moves naturally like the sun, clouds and rain.

    Chapter 61

大國者下流,天下之交,天下之牝。牝常以靜勝牡,以靜為下。故大國以下小國,則取小國;小國以下大國,則取大國。故或下以取,或下而取。大國不過欲兼畜人,小國不過欲入事人。夫兩者各得其所欲,大者宜為下。

[When] those of a great state [stay with the] lowly, [they are the] intersection of [all] under heavens, the [protecting] female [force] of [all] under heavens. The female [force] by her stillness always wins over the [conquering] male [force], by the stillness makes the low [her abode]. Therefore [when] the great state thereby lowers [itself towards] the little state, [it] then takes the little state; [when] the little state lowers [itself towards] the great state, [it] then takes the great state. Therefore some lower [themselves and] thereby take, some lower [themselves] and [are] taken. The great state does not exceed (stray from) the desire [for] modesty and cultivating people, the little state does not exceed (stray from) the desire to enter into service [of] people. These both get what each desires, [but] the great ones shall lower [themselves].

THE STRENGTH OF THE MEEK

When a big state gives the warmest and selfless treatment to its most unfortunate ones as well as its richest elite, then it truly can be greatest protecting mother of all under heavens, the central point of harmony. Every single sentient beings' drive is to avoid suffering, therefore that which causes it can never truly prevail, for sooner or later it breaks down from exhaustion.
If one wishes to have a huge harvest of barley, one must sow a huge amount of barley seeds and continuously care about the quality of soil, irrigation, etc. It's never enough merely boast around about how wonderful and magnificent your harvest will eventually be, while totally ignoring barren, famen-ridden lands, and intimidating anyone who points out the reality of the situation. Therefore if one truly wishes to prevail and be the central point of all under heavens, they must truly act in the way which creates specific causes and conditions, and not only force their propaganda. - Close to home, isn't it...
If a big state universally acts in a truly selfless way, and shows it to other states, then they will naturally wish to follow it, because the prosperity will be more then obvious. Under these conditions, no one will feel threatened and all may coexist in peace. There will even be no harm in merging into one. If a small state universally acts in a truly selfless way, then its prosperity is also obvious and again, no one will be threatened by it therefore all can coexist in peace.
Then, the big state's only concern is to sow the true seeds of harmony and to nurture the people. The small state's only concern is to serve and help the people. However, even if this works and all prosper, The big one must not forget its modesty and (female) nurturing and protecting role to everyone else.

    Chapter 62

道者萬物之奧。善人之寶,不善人之所保。美言可以市,尊行可以加人。人之不善,何棄之有?故立天子,置三公,雖有拱璧以先駟馬,不如坐進此道。古之所以貴此道者何?不曰:以求得,有罪以免耶?故為天下貴。

That which [acts in accordance with] the Way [is deep] within (in the core of) ten thousand things. The [ultimate] treasure of good [doing] people [is] to safeguard (care for) not good [doing] people. Beautiful speech can [succeed on the] market, [although] superior actions can augment people[’s morale]. The not good [in] people - what [for] is to abandon it? Therefore [when] placing (enthroning) a child of heaven (prince) and setting up the [main] three ministers, even [when] fold hands on the chest bowing [with] jade donuts [symbolizing rank and to put] forward (offer) teams of four horses [can]not compare to sitting and advancing this Way. Why the ancients valued that which is this Way [so much]? [Did they] not say: [those who] seek [will] attain [it], [those] with guilt [will] avoid [punishment]? Therefore it makes [all] under heaven[’s most] valuable [thing].

TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE

After everything said, the reason why those who fully adheres to the principles of the Way of all things is like the mother of all things, in the very heart, nurturing everyone as her children. They do understand the nature of all things, hence are called the wisest ones. How could they not understand ignorance, which is the root of self-centered attitude, which is the stem of every hurtful action? It is well known that when we raise children, they much more mimic our behavior, rather follow our instructions. Furthermore, when a child is overcome by a disease (ignorance) the the true mother does not forsake but with all her heart cherishes her child and works to cure the disease itself.
Therefore, if we wish to place a new young ruler and chose her top government executives, we ought to protect them from cheap gestures of vanity, which would sow the seeds of future decline of virtue. Instead of praisinng the difficult to obtain, we should teach them to cherish the tresures of the so called mundane things, so their hearts won't be in chaos (as explained in chapter 2). That way, The disease of greedy confusion will not spread and therefore no blame can come upon anyone.

    Chapter 63

為無為,事無事,味無味。大小多少,報怨以德。圖難於其易,為大於其細;天下難事,必作於易,天下大事,必作於細。是以聖人終不為大,故能成其大。夫輕諾必寡信,多易必多難。是以聖人猶難之,故終無難矣。

Act [through] non-action, serve [through] non-service, taste through non-tasting. [See] big [as] little, repay enmity by Virtue. Picture (expect) difficulty from the easy, make great from the tiny; [all of] under heaven's difficult [tasks one] must make from the easy. The great service [one] must make from the tiny. Thus the wisest ones never act [for] greatness, therefore can complete their greatness. The[ir] light [gesture of] agreement must [bring them] lack of trust[worthiness], [making] a lot [out of] few must [bring] a lot of difficulties. Thus the wises ones regard [all] as difficult, therefore never have difficulties.

TO ELIMINATE ADVERSITY

In Sunzi, there's a line: 「故善用兵者,屈人之兵,而非戰也。」(孫子・謀攻篇)"Therefore what [it means to] use weapons[/troops] well, [is to] bend (subdue) people's weapons[/troops], but [it] is not fighting." (Sunzi: Planning attacks). In other words, in order to have a good outcome, one must find a way to subdue the causes and means of destruction, rather than to fight ([with] them) the adversaries.
This, of course, applies both to both the outer as well as the inner adversaries. In buddhist terminology, this refers to the three poisons - attachment (desire, greed), aversion (anger, hatred) and ignorance (delusion), the last one being the supreme mother, the very progenitor of all suffering. Or as the great Dilgo Khyentse rinpoche has said: "A beautiful country is a dream-like illusion - it is senseless to cling to it. Unless the destructive forces of negative emotions are conquered, strife with outer enemies will never end."
When carefully planning our steps through any endeavor, even more so when that endeavor is to have a wide impact, we should never slam things with a big hammer or stomp the ground when walking. In order to succeed, our hearts shouldn't swell with strong emotions. Outer obstacles are never our enemies, fightin with them itself is. Therefore, the only way to truly win is to stop fighting, however terrifying the obstacles are. Perhaps to become meek and weak in the eyes of others, who might even lose faith in us, but at this point we know very well why that is and that this way presents much better odds to prevail in the end. We should always start our work from its easiest part, work with what we have and always cherish the most trifling pieces, which upon which others look with disdain, or overlook altogether. When we always keep our patience and always be prepared for any difficulty, then there'll be no surprises and everything will be much easier at the end.

    Chapter 64

其安易持,其未兆易謀。其脆易泮,其微易散。為之於未有,治之於未亂。合抱之木,生於毫末;九層之臺,起於累土;千里之行,始於足下。為者敗之,執者失之。是以聖人無為故無敗;無執故無失。民之從事,常於幾成而敗之。慎終如始,則無敗事,是以聖人欲不欲,不貴難得之貨;學不學,復衆人之所過,以輔萬物之自然,而不敢為。

What is steady is easy to keep, [with] what is not yet manifested is easy to plot. What is fragile easily falls apart, what is trifling easily [gets] dispersed. Act on that [which has] yet to be, govern that [which has] yet to [fall in] chaos. A tree embraced [with both hands is] born from a tiniest sprout; a nine-storey tower rises from a [little] heap of earth; a thousand-mile journey begins [with the first] step. Who acts ruins it, who holds (handles) loses it. Thus the wisest ones have nothing to act [on], therefore do not ruin, have nothing to hold (handle), therefore do not lose. The populace [in their] pursuit of affairs, how much [they almost] accomplish but [then] ruin it[... Were they] careful at the end like [they are] in the beginning, then [there would be] no ruined matters, thus the wisest ones desire non-desiring, do not exalt [things] difficult to obtain; learn non-learning, go back to where everyone [have] passed by, help ten thousand things [in being] natural, but do not dare to act.

FIRM GROUND

This chapter, again, may be a commentary. There's a saying: "It's much easier to put out a spark than a forest fire." Unfortunately, thanks to the whole history of our society being built on dominance and conquest, we are brought up in a global culture which romantically celebrates heroism above all. Other parallels, we can find all over our culture. In old times, when we didn’t have the perks of modern technology and pharmaceuticals, the most important part of medicine dwelled in prevention.

But when we get too complaisant, too sure about our invincibility, that prevention tends to be the first to go down the toilet. Then we get reckless and give in to the reins of the three poisons. Every action is like a flower. It first comes from a seed and given the right conditions and time, the seed gradually grow and ripen into a flower, tree, etc. Then they produce more seeds and the cycle continues. Even the most collosal tree was once a tiny seed, of which we could put several in our pocket. Such a seed already contains the full potential to become the whole tree, but until its sown, nurtured and grown, it nothing more than a seed. The same applies for all our actions. Everything we think and do is like a little seed. If we, due to ignorance, carelessly sow an unfortunate seed and give it fitting conditions, perhaps a poisonous plant will grow out of it. If we sow too many seeds in a small garden (hoping they'll grow faster or worrying that some might not survive), most of them may not survive due to lack of space and/or ridding the soil of most of its nutrients. How much of suffering is self-fulfilling prophecy; how many tragedies and pains could have been avoided by simply not impatiently sowing unwanted seeds...

    Chapter 65

古之善為道者,非以明民,將以愚之。民之難治,以其智多。故以智治國,國之賊;不以智治國,國之福。知此兩者亦𥡴式。常知𥡴式,是謂玄德。玄德深矣,遠矣,與物反矣,然後乃至大順。

Those of old [times] who well acted [by the principles of] the Way, were not enlighteners of the populace, [rather] wanted to dumb it [down]. Difficulties [in] governing the populace [arise] through [too] much (excessive) knowledge. Therefore to govern the state through [chasing] knowledge, [is to be] the state's thief. Not to govern the state through [chasing] knowledge, [is to be] the state's [good] fortune. Who knows these both reaches (comprehends) the formula [for governance]. Always knowing [how] to reach the formula, indeed says [of] profound Virtue. Profound Virtue [is] deep! Far [reaching]! [It] gives things [way to] return [to the root]! - then, [all can] reach the great peaceful harmony.

DUMBING IT DOWN

However odiosyncratic for us this chapter may seem, let's look around us. we live in a time surrounded by technology helping us on practically every step and with a practically unlimited access to information. If we told just this to someone, say a hundred years ago, they come to the conclusion that such a society ought to be the happiest of all.

This chapter appears to build on chapter 3, part of which was cited/repeated in the previous one.

    Chapter 66

江海所以能為百谷王者,以其善下之,故能為百谷王。是以聖人欲上民,必以言下之;欲先民,必以身後之。是以聖人處上而民不重,處前而民不害。是以天下樂推而不厭。以其不爭,故天下莫能與之爭。

[That,] whereby rivers and seas can make [that] which is a hudred valleys' ruler, [is in] their goodness (strength) in lowering themselves, therefore can make a hundred valleys' ruler. Thus [should] the wisest ones want to [be] above the people, [they] must thereby [in] speech lower [themselves]. [Should they] want to [be] before the people, [they] must thereby [put] themselves behind [the people]. Thus the wisest ones reside up [above] and [still] the people do not [feel their] weight; reside in front, and [still] the people do not [suffer any] harm. Thus [all] under heavens enjoy [their] support and do not dislike [it]. Because they do not contend, none [in all] under heavens can engage in contention [with them] (overcome them).

    Chapter 67

天下皆謂我道大,似不肖。夫唯大,故似不肖。若肖久矣。其細也夫!我有三寶,持而保之。一曰慈,二曰儉,三曰不敢為天下先。慈故能勇;儉故能廣;不敢為天下先,故能成器長。今舍慈且勇;舍儉且廣;舍後且先;死矣!夫慈以戰則勝,以守則固。天將救之,以慈衛之。

Under heavens all say [that] my Way [is] great, [although it] seems unresembling [anything worthy]. Exactly because [it is] great, [it] seems unresembling [anything worthy]. As [if] the resembling (worthy) [ever] lasted [a long time..]. That tininess (fleetingness)! I have three jewels [which I] keep and safeguard. The first [is] called gentleness (kindness), the second [is] called temperateness (moderateness), the third [is] called not daring to act ahead [of all] under heavens. [I have] gentleness, therefore [I] can be brave [/bold]; [I have] temperateness, therefore [I] can be wide[spreading]; [I do] not dare to act ahead [of all] under heavens, therefore [I] can complete (become) the vessel of length (excellence). Now[adays people] abandon gentleness for bravery [/boldness]; abandon temperateness for wide[spreadedness]; abandon the rear for the front - [that means certain] death! This gentleness, [when used in] battle, leads to winning, [when used in] guarding [/protecting], leads to firmness. Heavens choose to aid, [and] through [this] gentleness protect [us].

    Chapter 68

善為士者,不武;善戰者,不怒;善勝敵者,不與;善用人者,為之下。是謂不爭之德,是謂用人之力,是謂配天古之極。

[Those] who [make] well acting scholars do not fight; who [are] good [in] warring do not [use] anger[, passion]; who [are] good [in] winning [over] enemies do not engage; who [are] good [in] using [/employing] people lower themselves. That means the Virtue of not contending; that means the power of [/in] using (employing) people; that means to match the ancient utmost [point] of heavens.

    Chapter 69

用兵有言:吾不敢為主,而為客;不敢進寸,而退尺。是謂行無行;攘無臂;扔無敵;執無兵。禍莫大於輕敵,輕敵幾喪吾寶。故抗兵相加,哀者勝矣。

[About] employing weapons [/soldiers], there is a saying: "I do not dare to make the chief, but [rather a] guest; do not dare to advance an inch, but [rather] retreat a cubit." That means to go without going; to seize no arms; to hurl [towards] no enemy; to hold no weapon, There is no greater missfortune than to underestimate the enemy. Underestimating the enemy, how many of my gems [have I] lost.[..] Therefore [when] opposing weapons [/soldiers] encounter, the pitiful one wins.

    Chapter 70

吾言甚易知,甚易行。天下莫能知,莫能行。言有宗,事有君。夫唯無知,是以不我知。知我者希,則我者貴。是以聖人被褐懷玉。

My words are so easy to comprehend, so easy to actuate. Under heavens [there is] no one capable [of] comprehending [them], no one capable [of] actuating [them]. Words have [ancestral] linneage, Matters [/service] have [character of the] ruler. [There is] simply no comprehension [of] that, thus [others] do not [possess] comprehension [of] my [standpoint]. [Those] who comprehend my [standpoint are] rare, hence my [standpoint is] valuable. Thus the wisest ones wear a coarse woolen cloth [while carrying in their] chest [a piece] jade.

    Chapter 71

知不知上;不知知病。夫唯病病,是以不病。聖人不病,以其病病,是以不病。

To comprehend [what is] not comprehended is the superior; to not compredend [what is] comprehended is sickness. [By] mere [getting] sick [over] that sickness, [one] thus does not [become] sick. The wisest ones do not [become] sick, thereby they [get] sick [over] sickness, that is [why they] do not [become] sick.

    Chapter 72

民不畏威,則大威至。無狎其所居,無厭其所生。夫唯不厭,是以不厭。是以聖人自知不自見;自愛不自貴。故去彼取此。

The people not fearing the power[ful] leads to a great power arriving. [When one] has no familiarity (attachment) to their place of dwelling, [they] have no detest for their place of living. [By] that mere non detesting, [one] thus does not detest. Thus the wisest ones know [their] selves [but do not let their] self be seen. Love [their] selves, [but do not let their] self [be] exalted. Therefore [they] run [from] that and take this.

    Chapter 73

勇於敢則殺,勇於不敢則活。此兩者,或利或害。天之所惡,孰知其故?是以聖人猶難之。天之道,不爭而善勝,不言而善應,不召而自來,繟然而善謀。天網恢恢,踈而不失。

Bravery [that comes] from daring leads to dying [unnaturaly], bravery [that comes] from not daring leads to surviving. These both [have] some benefit, some detriment. [What is] bad on heavens, who knows its cause? Thus the wises ones plan for the difficult. The Way of heavens - does not contend and [thus is] good [in] winning, does not declare and [thus is] good [in] responding, does not call, and [this is] good [in] coming [by] itself. [Is of] relaxed nature and [thus] good [in] strategy. The heavenly web [is] so immense, [although] lax, [it] does not lose [anything].

    Chapter 74

民不畏死,奈何以死懼之?若使民常畏死,而為奇者,吾得執而殺之,孰敢?常有司殺者殺。夫司殺者,是大匠斲;夫代大匠斲者,希有不傷其手矣。

[When] the people do not fear death, what for [is to] scare them with death? If the people permanently fear death, [then those] who act strangely, I detain and kill them [as punishment]. [But,] who [would] dare to? [The one], who is always in charge of killing, kills. That, who is in charge of killing, [is] indeed a great artisan [in] choping; those, who [have lifted the axe] instead of a great artisan [in] choping, rarely have not injured their hands!

    Chapter 75

民之饑,以其上食稅之多,是以飢。民之難治,以其上之有為,是以難治。民之輕死,以其求生之厚,是以輕死。夫唯無以生為者,是賢於貴生。

The populace is hungry ,due to the Above['s] (the government's) amount of food taxes - that is why [it is] hungry. The populace is difficult to govern, due to the Above's 'haves' [and] 'dos' (achievements and ambitions), that is why [it is] difficult to govern. The populace dies easily, due to [its] pressure in pursuing life - that is why [it] dies easily. Those who just act [as though] life [were] nothing [end up] better/wiser than [those who] exalt life.

    Chapter 76

人之生也柔弱,其死也堅強。萬物草木之生也柔脆,其死也枯槁。故堅強者死之徒,柔弱者生之徒。是以兵強則不勝,木強則共。強大處下,柔弱處上。

People at the birth [are] so gentle [and] weak, [whereas] at their death hard and strong. Ten thousand things[,] grasses and trees at the birth [are] so gentle and brittle, [whereas] at their death so withered and dried out. Therefore who is hard and strong [is a] follower of death, who is gentle and weak [is a] follower of life. Thus weapons['] strength leads to not winning, trees['] strength leads to [being] cut off. The strong and big resides below, the gentle and weak resides above.

    Chapter 77

天之道,其猶張弓與?高者抑之,下者舉之;有餘者損之,不足者補之。天之道,損有餘而補不足。人之道,則不然,損不足以奉有餘。孰能有餘以奉天下,唯有道者。是以聖人為而不恃,功成而不處,其不欲見賢。

The Way of heavens, is it [not] like pulling a bowstring? The high (tall) one presses it [down], the low (short) one raises it [up]; who has surplus diminishes it, who [has] insufficience restores it. The Way of heavens, diminishes [that which] has surplus, and restores the insuffient. The Way of people, is unlike [that], diminishes the insufficient [and] tereby raises [that which] has surplus [up]. Who [is] capable of having surplus [and still] raise heavens [up] - only [those] who have the Way. Thus the wisest ones act but do not cling, complete [their] work, but do not dwell, their not-desiring shows is seen [as] wisdom [/worthiness].

    Chapter 78

天下莫柔弱於水,而攻堅強者莫之能勝,其無以易之。弱之勝強,柔之勝剛,天下莫不知,莫能行。是以聖人云:受國之垢,是謂社稷主;受國不祥,是謂天下王。正言若反。

Under heavens, [there is] nothing softer and weaker than water, [however, when it] attacks [that] which is hard and strong[,] none can win [over it] - nothing can exchange [places with] it. [By] weakening it [one] wins [over] the strong, [by] softening it [one] wins [over] the firm, under heavens [there is] none [who] does not know [that], none capable of acting [upon that knowledge]. Thus the wisest ones say: Accepting the state's dirtiness,

    Chapter 79

和大怨,必有餘怨;安可以為善?是以聖人執左契,而不責於人。有德司契,無德司徹。天道無親,常與善人。

When taming a great resentment, there must be a remainder [of that] resentment [afterwards]; Can [one thus] safely make (consider) it good? Thus the wisest ones carry out the left [side of the] contract, but do not [hold] people responsible [for theirs]. There is virtue in taking charge of [one's own side of the] contract, there is no virtue in taking charge of pervading (enforcing) [the other]. The Way of heavens has no favor, [but] always follows well [acting] people.

    Chapter 80

小國寡民。使有什伯之器而不用;使民重死而不遠徙。雖有舟輿,無所乘之,雖有甲兵,無所陳之。使民復結繩而用之,甘其食,美其服,安其居,樂其俗。鄰國相望,雞犬之聲相聞,民至老死,不相往來。

[When there is a] small state with lack of population. Shall it have various instruments of administration, but not use them; shall the populace [put] weight on death and do not run far away. Although [they] have ships and wagons, [make it] nowhere to board them; although [they] have armors and weapons, [make it] nowhere to display them. Shall the populace return to knotted cords and use them, [shall they] sweeten their food, beautify their garments, safen their dwellings, enjoy their social customs. [Then,] neighboring countries will look [on them] with hope, fowl and dogs' voices will be heard [from] over there, [and] people until death of old age will not [need] go back and forth.

    Chapter 81

信言不美,美言不信。善者不辯,辯者不善。知者不博,博者不知。聖人不積,既以為人己愈有,既以與人己愈多。天之道,利而不害;聖人之道,為而不爭。

Sincere words do not [show] beauty, beautiful words do not [show] sincerity. Who [does] good do not proclaim, who proclaims, does not [do] good. Who knows does not [make themselves] wide[spread], who [makes themselves] wide[spread], does not know. The wisest ones do not accumulate, [The more] they do for people, the more [they] have themselves. [the more] they give people, the more their own [wealth] increases. The Way of heavens - benefits and do not harm; the Way of the wisest ones - acts and do not contend.

慧淨



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