The Tao Te Ching 1

by Lao Tzu

Translator's Preface

About Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching

People assume that the Tao Te Ching dates back to the 6th century before Christ and also that the writer is unknown. Lao Tzu namely means ďThe Old SageĒ and itís obvious that it is a collection of wisdom passed on verbally for centuries and written down somewhere in history. Right there lies the treacherousness of the written word. For only the elite, the schooled, the learned, the clergy and the rulers mastered script/writing. They have mastered the Tao Te Ching and changed the contents intentionally, possibly unconsciously, so that it suited their objectives. What was supposed to be a pearl of clarity, they have consequently made into a complicated and most incomprehensible story to justify their interests, their status and positions. The bizarre thing is that it is the learned, about whom Lao Tzu says "they are not wise", who reflect their interpretations of the Tao Te Ching, colored by their follies, and so they make up their minds without understanding the true meaning. ďTraduttore TraditoreĒ, is an old Italian saying, which means that one can only translate a writing correctly by understanding the aim of the writer and therefore one must be committing treason to this moral if he doesnít. That is to say, everybody who translates a script, translates it through his own point of view and so adds something to the writing which he thinks the writer must have meant. And because everybodyís view is colored by his or her interests, prejudices and convictions, there are as many possible translations and interpretations as there are people, and none of those translations are able to reflect what Lao Tzu really meant. Itís obvious that no scientist dares to read therein that he is a fool himself; no leader, that he is an upgraded ignoramus, and no philosopher that he is telling but nonsense/bullshit.

What did Lao Tzu mean to convey in the Tao Te Ching?

In essence Lao Tzu is a ringer. He is someone who first asked himself what he was really doing. He turned himself away from the world and as an outsider he suddenly saw that all his fellow men are occupied by their daydreams. Caught up in their own head-trips they follow leaders, which donít know as well as they themselves do, stuck in many silly traditions and habits, talking about nothing, ruled by fear, not knowing who they are, anxious about everything and nothing. They are slaughtering each other, attached to their possessions, locked up in their houses, villages, cities, states; involved in labor and day-to-day routines, and last but not least, they accept all this. He incites them to free themselves from those chains, to stop the nonsense with which they weary themselves, not to trust flattery from others anymore, not to follow their leaders anymore and to just enjoy life. Men, dare to live!

Whatís the weak spot in the Tao Te Ching?

The Tao Te Ching continues as an unfortunate mixture of wisdom sayings and inadequate descriptions about experiencing reality and the way Creation comes to expression; in other words, about the creating process. And thatís exactly what cannot be said in words, and every attempt at it ends in mystical abracadabra. Wittgenstein writes about this in his Tractatus Logico-philosophicus: ďWhereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silentĒ.

Whatís the difference between this version and all others?

Understanding Lao Tzu means: live like Lao Tzu. Living like Lao Tzu means: escape from the world, have no opinions and convictions anymore, have no interests at all and don't be tied to anything. To live like Lao Tzu is to not believe anything anymore, to realize you canít really know a thing, to have no point of view anymore, to have nothing to lose and therefore nothing to defend. The consequence of all this is that youíll consider possessions as totally superfluous and youíll no longer need anything or anyone. Then you wonít try to force life to conform to your ways anymore, but you will let yourself flow with it instead. Only this opens the gate to unconditional love towards your fellow men. This version of the Tao Te Ching is the result of a similar experience. We have carefully removed all contradictions, all compromises and inconsequentialities that have defiled this simple, anarchistic and revolutionary wisdom-script during the last 2500 years, just like one cleans centuries of dust from a diamond so that it can sparkle again in its original shining simplicity.

Of what use is it to throw everything away and become wise?

Up until now your luck has depended on the behavior of others, their compliments and appreciation, and your achievements and possessions; on kids, sex, alcohol and drugs; on the weather, on wishes and expectations which bring you only short moments of joy and satisfaction. When youíve gotten what you wanted the pleasure is over, and that makes you want more again and again and again, and the result you hoped for is lost. Youíll always have to have more. The Tao Te Ching describes the road back, back to oneness and simplicity, back to contentment, back to yourself, back to what you once were as a child. With every step in the right direction youíll have to do less, until you finally donít have to do anything anymore, donít want anything at all, without a thing to lose. Then you will never be afraid again, you won't know pain and grief anymore, youíll never get sick again, never be tense or restless; you will have no expectations so will experience no disappointments ever again. Then you will be wise and invulnerable.



The Ineffable, about which is spoken, is not the eternal Ineffable
A name for the Unnameable, is but a name
The Unnameable is what makes everything what it is
By naming things you divide the Indivisible
Only one who gives up all his desires can experience the Indivisible
One who still cherishes desires, will experience only dissension
Both will see the same reality, but experience it differently
One who goes from the false reality into the other,
Will pass through the narrow gate and receive the secret of true life


When people think `thisī is beautiful, they must think `thatī is ugly
When people say `thisī is good, than they have to say `thatī is evil
This is Inevitable
People create a false reality out of the real one
Hard and easy are relative
Long and short depend upon each other
High and low are determined by a position
Sound and voice need one another
Before and beyond assume a point of view
Thatís why a wise man acts without intentions
And wonít decide for others what to do
Heíll let anything happen as it happens
He wonít consider what he does as his own merit
And only therein is he praiseworthy


When you praise people for their achievements, people will compete
When you call things valuable, people will steal
When people flaunt desirable things, it will make other people restless
Therefore the sage sets himself to the task of emptying their heads
To make sure theyíre not hungry, discourage their ambitions and strengthen their bodies
So people will be without anxiety and without the desire for knowledge
And the scientists will be played off the field
When people wonít labour anymore
All will live in peace


That which maintains the Creation
Is like an empty barrel thatís inexhaustible
It is like a fathomless emptiness, filling the whole Creation
Its sharpness brings about curves
Its angles dissolve
It dims its light
It restrains its touch
How pure and calm it stays, like deep waters
I donít know its origin
It seems like it is even older than that by which it is brought forth


The Creation does not pretend to be friendly
It treats all things impartially
One who is wise doesnít act friendly
All people are equal to him
The Universe is like bellows
Although empty, it fills continuously
The harder it works, the more it brings forth
The more you talk about it, the wearier you get
Therefore, you'd better stick to what really matters


The spirit of depth never dies
People sometimes call it the Great Mother
The gate through which she breathes
Is the foundation of Creation
It appears to be everlasting
When you rely on that, life will be effortless


The Universe is everlasting
The reason why it is everlasting
Is because it doesnít exist for itself
Therefore it can last
Therefore a wise man behaves as the least
And because he is least, he is the greatest
He is detached and therefore he is safe
Couldnít it be possible that he is perfect,
Just because he is disinterested?


A perfect human being is like the water
That benefits all things and competes with nothing
It stays in places which others despise
But in this way it follows its origin
In his heart the wise cherishes simplicity
In contact with others he is amiable
In his words he is reliable
In his leading he is peaceful
In what he does he is competent
He does everything at the moment it needs to be done
He wonít fight
And therefore he is impeccable


It is better to carry an empty barrel than a full one
Sharpen a knife until it is razor-sharp and it wonít last long
When a house is filled with valuables, it is impossible to guard
When wealth and ambition make one arrogant, it will lead to a fall
When fame and success menace you, pull back
Thatís the only road to true bliss


Can you empty your head and lastingly lose yourself in Creation?
Can you live up to your nature and become like a child?
Can you purify the doors of perception and see clearly again?
Can you love your fellow man and serve mankind disinterestedly?
Can you go in and out of the narrow gate without any effort?
Can you be in the world without being possessed by it?
Can you realize that you canít know anything and therefore understand everything?
Nature brings forth everything and feeds everything
She brings forth but possesses nothing
She does everything disinterestedly and asks for nothing
She leads but demands nothing
That is what people call the incomprehensibility of Nature


Thirty spokes unite within the nave
But the wheel is only useful because of the cavity inside the nave
Clay is kneaded into vases
But the utility is determined by the cavity
When building a house they leave blank spots in the walls for doors and windows
But the utility of the house depends on the cavity inside
Therefore, that which exists is useful
But the cavity makes it possible


All those artificial colours blind peopleís eyes
All that man-made music deafens people's ears
All those various flavours dull our taste
Horse races and hunting drive people crazy
The desire for scarce goods
Hinders people from going on the straight and simple path
Therefore the wise finds his satisfaction
In feeding himself and then he wonít exhaust his eyes
Therefore he does this and leaves that


Watch out for gratitude and criticism
Honour and misfortune are as disastrous as having character
What does that say?
Watch out for gratitude and criticism?
Watch out for gratitude, because it originates from submission
Watch out for criticism, because it comes from superior power
Therefore, watch out for gratitude and criticism
What does it mean that honour and misfortune are as bad as having character?
Disasters come over us because weíve got something to lose
If we had nothing to lose, which disasters could still strike us?
Therefore: to him who considers himself just as worthy as the world,
Mankind can entrust the world
And to him who loves himself and the world just as unconditionally,
Mankind can entrust the care for the world


We look at it but we do not see it and we call it the invisible
We listen to it but donít hear it and we call it the inaudible
We grope at it but never touch it and we call it the untouchable
The invisible, the inaudible and the untouchable come together in one
There is no light when it rises
There is no darkness when it descends
Continuously, constantly, but it cannot be put into words
And it returns to nothing
This is what they call the form of the formless, the image of the invisible
People call it indefinite and impalpable
You wonít see it from the front
You wonít see it from behind
One who lives after their original conscience, lives in the present
And understands everything that has ever been
That is living according to nature


The wise of old were profound and acute
People thought of them as unfathomable
Because they where unfathomable, Iíll try to sketch their way of living:
They seemed cautious, like people who cross a wintry river
They seemed irresolute, as if danger was threatening everywhere
They seemed dignified, as if they where guests
They seemed natural, like raw wood
They seemed empty, like a valley
They seemed opaque, like muddy water
How can one make muddy water clear?
Stagnation will settle the mud down and the water will become clear
Let everything happen as it happens and you will come to rest
The head of the wise is empty, he does not search for anything and expects nothing
He is empty, everlasting, youthful and not caught in time
He is perfect


One who has an empty head is satisfied, One who is satisfied has an empty head
All creatures exert and come to rest
All plants grow to maturity and come to rest
That final rest is whatís called being done; completion
Returning to nature is whatís called eternal life
Living in the present is called being enlightened
One who is not enlightened lives in confusion and misery
One who lives according to his nature understands everything and is forbearing
One who is forbearing is righteous
One who is righteous is royal
One who is royal is divine
One who is divine knows oneself
One who knows oneself has eternal life
One who has eternal life is not afraid to die


Of the wise of old, people only knew that they existed
Later on they loved them and admired them
Thereafter they got scared of them
And finally the wise were seen as despicable
One who canít trust oneself, canít trust another
How cautious were the first with their words
They proceeded so cautiously that when they where done
The people thought they did it themselves


When people deviate from their nature
Friendliness and righteousness became merits to be earned
Knowledge and cleverness came into being and  lying started to rule
Relatives came into conflict with each other and loving each other became a duty
Cause when mankind and families get confused
Allegiance becomes an order


Dispose yourself of worldly knowledge and cleverness
And it will only be good for mankind
Stop pretending to be nice and fair, but be it
Then people will love each other unconditionally
Dispose yourself of the work of your hands and stop serving your self-interest
And there will be no thieves or robbers anymore
But these three things wonít be enough
What itís really about is turning back to simplicity
Giving up your selfishness and not wishing for anything


When you unlearn what you have learned, you will be free from worries
Weíve learned that there is but little difference between yes and yes , but
That there is a big difference between good and evil
That we have to be scared of what others are scared of
What an endless pack of bullshit
Everybody is restless and excited like they are watching a soccer game
Only I am at rest and unwound and I donít have to do those things and like a child, I want nothing
I'm not attached to anything and donít have to go anywhere in particular
The others already have so much and still they want more
Only I seem to have lost everything
They think Iím crazy and confused
People seem to be bright and clever
And think that I am naive and foolish
It looks like I blow with the wind and donít seem to find rest anywhere
The others seem to know so much
And in their eyes I am nothing but a boor
I am only different because I live according to my nature


A righteous and blissful life is approachable only when you follow your conscience
The conscience is invisible and impalpable. How can you follow it?
It speaks through images, like shadows in the dark
But how faintly and obscurely
The conscience is hidden but it carries the essentials of everything inside
The true life-force shelters itself inside conscience
Everything people know deeply inside is stowed within the conscience
It has always been there since the beginning, with many different names
The conscience separates truth from lie
How do I know all this?
My conscience has told me that it's so


Dissension becomes unity
The impure becomes pure
The voids shall be filled
The old becomes new
One who has nothing, receives everything
One who has a lot, receives nothing
One who is wise cherishes simplicity and in this way he is an example to the world
He is modest and therefore he excels
He doesnít have to prove himself and thatís why people trust his words
He has nothing to defend and therefore he is invulnerable
So the aphorism of the wise of old ďThe imperfect becomes perfectĒ is true
The perfect considers the world as his home


One who knows oneself doesnít need a lot of words
A whirlwind doesnít last all morning
A shower doesnít last a whole day
Where do wind and rain come from?
They sprout from nature
If nature doesnít endure its rains and storms
Then why should a human being have to talk so much?
So the One who follows his conscience, coincides with his conscience
One who lives an exemplary life, will be an example
One who loses oneself, doesnít know who he is anymore
One who finds oneself, finds bliss
One who loses oneself, loses true life
One who does not trust oneself, will not be trusted


One who stands on tiptoe, doesnít stand firmly
One who walks in a forced way, doesnít come far
One who is vain, doesnít shine
One who justifies oneself, isnít credible
One who brags, will be unmasked
One who works oneís way up, humiliates oneself
To a wise man these are nothing but follies
One who lives righteously and honestly, refrains oneself from these things


Before Creation revealed itself
There was already something, perfect but formless
Quiet and unchanging
Ubiquitous and inexhaustible
People might consider it as the creating force of everything that is
I cannot describe it, but I just call it Tao
If I have to interpret it , I would name it ďThe UniverseĒ
With that Universe I mean that which extends itself everywhere
The infinitely extending and returning
Therefore the creative is great and the creation great and so is a wise man
So there is a trinity of greatnesses and one of them is the true human being
A true human being follows his nature, nature and all its eternally unchanging laws
The laws of nature are the eternal order of the Universe
The order of the Universe is well-founded by the Unnameable


Heavy is the source of that which is light
The unmoved mover is the origin of all movement
Therefore a true human being can be in motion all day
Not because it is him moving himself
But because he just floats on life
Like a spectator he enjoys the wonderful and sparkling creation
Why should he, as the centre of the world,
Consider himself minor to that world?
One who knows his grandeur, comes loose of the world
One who wanders restlessly in that world, has lost oneself


A true traveller never takes a beaten road
A true speaker has an answer to every question
A true researcher has solved all problems
A story that holds water needs no confirmation
Nobody can refute a watertight story
One who sees how perfectly everything is connected with everything
Needs no theories or opinions, and no one can bring him to doubt
Thatís why a true human being is a teacher of others
And he loves his fellow men unconditionally
Therefore he is shepherd of the whole creation
And respects every thing that lives and grows
People call this: ďThe light that has become humanĒ
Therefore a true human being is a mirror for the untrue
And itís his task to point out their imperfections
One who is scared to take a look at oneself and does not love oneself
Might know a lot of things, but he is blind
It seems odd, but itís true


One who knows his strength and yet stays mild, is the least
Whoever is the least, is balanced like the open-minded child he once was
One who has fathomed the lie is an example for the world
One who became human again is an example for the world
One knowing oneself, is a knowing among the ignorant
One who has returned to his original purity, realizes his grandeur
One who has abandoned his origin, becomes civilized
To the wise man they act like actors


One who thinks he is capable of improving Creation, will not succeed
Creation is perfect and cannot be corrected
One who intervenes in nature, will only destroy nature
One who tries to control nature, will lose to nature
Because everything is what it is and everything happens as it happens
At times it is warm and then it is cold
At times there are storms and then itís calm
There is growth and then there is lying down
A wise man lets himself flow along with the streams of life


One who advocates a righteous world, uses no violence
Because One who uses violence, provokes violence
And where discord rules there is chaos
And after times of conflict lean years will follow
The righteous one does what he can and forces nothing
Is not proud about what he achieves
Does not brag about what he achieves
Does not boast about what he achieves
He only does what he does because thatís all he can do
And he never uses power or violence
Civilizations which have reached their peaks
Usher in their decay
Civilizations are unnatural
And whatís unnatural, will perish


How ingenious weaponry may seem to be, though it will always be disastrous rubbish
Everybody hates it
A righteous man saves himself from it
While a true man will not soil his hands with it
A fighter grabs for it
Weapons are not good for meek people
They bring nothing but trouble
One who is wise will never ever use a weapon
Because peace and quietness are more precious to him
He doesnít enjoy victory
Because one who enjoys victory
Enjoys his fellow men getting killed
And one who enjoys their fellow men getting killed
Will never find peace in oneself
Prosperity is considered as a personal merit
Misfortune on the other hand is considered as an ironic freak
Victory is the merit of men
And defeat the blame of the commander
But victory and defeat only brings losers


The Unspeakable is eternal and is not to be spoken of in words
Just like a rough piece of wood, itís not useful to anyone
If leaders were an example of true living
Everyone would join his true nature at the same time
The heavens would dew and the clouds rain justice
And without human intervening
That altogether would benefit every single thing that lives beneath the firmament
But when discord is born
Everything must have a name
Keep in mind that when everything has a name,
Youíll have to stop all that
Because one who stops will bounce off danger
Compared to the twisted tributaries of mistake
The straight and simple road is like a powerful stream


One who sees trough the other is clever
One knowing oneself is wise
One who conquers the other is powerful
One conquering oneself is inviolable
One who is satisfied is rich
One that wants a lot is busy all the time
One who stays oneself, is a four-square fellow
One who dies before dying, lives in the present forever


That which makes everything exist, is present everywhere
It spreads itself throughout the entire Creation
Everything owes its existence to It, everything to its own nature
It gives everything for nothing
It cherishes and guards everything and everyone, but expects nothing in return
Because It does not wish for anything, It seems to be important
It makes everything appear and disappear again
But Itself is eternal
Therefore the one who is wise is modest
And because he is modest,
His actions are grand


For one who beholds the perfect arrangement of things
Everything falls in its rightful place
Nothing can harm him, and rest and peace will fall to him
Along the way there are travellers who yield music and feasts
Because the road to self-knowledge is acrid and unpleasant
Not pleasant to face
Painful to hear
But giving an inexhaustible strength


Only whatís stretched out can be pulled together
Only whatís fortified can be weakened
Only whatís increased can be decreased
Only one who has, can lose
That must be clear
Soft overcomes hard
Weak overcomes strong
Fishes belong in water
Weapons have to be destroyed


The Eternal Creating does nothing
And yet it does everything
If leaders would give in to it
The aspect of the world would change of itself
But since people have so much to wish for
Only I can be an example
The example of true simplicity
And when the people decide to follow me
The whole world will be in peace


True virtues are not from this world,
Therefore they are true virtues
The so-called ďvirtuesĒ in this world
Serve only self-interest
Therefore those are not true virtues
One who only serves the general interest, is truthfully adequate
One who is called charitable in this world,
Expects thankfulness in return
One who is called honest in this world,
Has a hidden agenda
Those who have been adapted to this world
Demand that others do the same
And if not they threaten you and get angry
Therefore, when people stray from the straight and simple road
Then they start to act virtuously, but they are not virtuous
They pretend to be honest, but they are not fair
They act decently, but they are not decent
Civilization is just a thin crust across unfaithfulness and dishonesty
It is also the source of disorder and chaos
A wise man never hides behind a mask
He trusts whatís inside of him, not in appearances
Therefore he rejects appearance and embraces the essence


About the men of old that had reached perfection
We know that they felt one with the whole creation
That they saw the earth not as chaos but as a unity
That they felt like gods and spiritual beings
That emptiness was no longer empty, but filled
And they saw that the whole creation was inspired
Thanks to their wholeness the world returned to its original order
For one who doesnít see clearly, the creation is splintered
For one who places oneself outside nature, the earth is chaos
One who doesnít experience oneself as divine anymore, feels powerless
One who does not experience one's perfection anymore, feels empty
People who deny their true nature, go to rack and ruin
Therefore they say:
Humility is the source of truthfulness
Smallness the source of grandeur
One who feels elevated over ones fellow men
Isnít right, is unworthy and small
After all, they climbed up high over other peopleís backs
Therefore their richness is poverty
And their gold just tinsel


One who deviates from the right and simple road
Will be pulled towards it again
This occurs with a mild touch
The whole creation comes into existence
The existing out of the unnameable unexisting


When the most sincere hear about the road to self-knowledge,
They will devote themselves to bringing it into practice
When the fairly sincere hear about the road to self-knowledge
They will only get out of it what suits their purposes
When the hardened hear about the road to self-knowledge
They will roar with laughter
If they didnít roar, it would not be true
Therefore there are some aphorisms to it:
The road to light appears to be dark
Going forward sometimes feels like going back
The way to the simple road is a hard way to take
But also:
The greatest personality turns out to be vain
The purest white turns out to be grey
The most righteous proves to be unfair
Kindness seems but a thin layer
With the truth one can go in all directions
Like a square circle
Like an inexhaustible barrel
Like singing without words
Like a sculpture with no shadow
In that way the road is hidden and not captured in words
Only the road to self-knowledge has a beginning and an end


The unspeakable gives birth to one
One to a second
And out of the second arises the third
The third brings the whole creation to life
Everything is carried by the dark and comes to light
The breath of Emptiness creates order
People hate to be alone, unimportant and useless
And yet that is what a true man takes pleasure in
One who becomes smaller, becomes bigger
One who becomes bigger, becomes smaller
I only tell what everybody already knows:
One who lives in a complicated way, dies in a complicated way
That is what itís all about


The softest is stronger than the very hardest
That which makes everything  be what it is, penetrates everything
Therefore I know that itís wise to leave and not do anything
That one doesnít need lessons for it
That of all doings, leaving is where true happiness lies
In this world only a few understand this


What comes first, life or status?
Whatís more important to you, yourself or your possessions?
Whatís worse, having or losing?
One who wants a lot pays a high price
One who has a lot, has a lot to lose
But one who is satisfied knows neither fear nor disgrace
And one who has stopped playing a part in the game will never be afraid again and will live happily ever after


Perfection seems unfinished to this world
But it never perishes
Fullness is empty to the world
But itís inexhaustible
That which is correct, is incorrect to the world
Wisdom seems foolish to the world
Telling the truth a disgrace
Like movement chases away coldness
And rest cools down
Purity and calmness show one the right direction


If men lived by their nature
Horses would gallop in the open air
But since men got civilized
Battle horses standing at the frontier
There is no bigger curse than dissatisfaction
Nothing more disastrous than being discontent with life
Nothing more fatal than being eager for possessions
One who knows the peace of satisfaction, is always satisfied


Without leaving my house, I understand the whole world
Without looking outside, I see the perfect order
The more you know, the less youíll understand
One who is wise doesnít need to travel
He understands without looking
Does nothing but achieves everything


Gathering knowledge makes life more complicated each time one gathers
Gathering wisdom makes life easier each time one gathers
Each time, more and more simple until simplicity is reached
Just by leaving, one man can achieve everything
One who wants nothing anymore, doesnít feel the need to do a thing, has conquered oneself
One who wants a lot has to do a lot and is as a slave to oneself

A wise man has no opinion at all
Therefore he can easily put himself in someone elseís position
He accepts everybody and everything for what it is
In spite of any behaviour
He trusts the honest and the unfair
And naturally they become fair-minded
He trusts the reliable and the unreliable
And naturally all will become reliable
A wise man feels one with all people
They are all just as precious to him
They look and listen to him
And all are as children to him


Humans come and go
Their bodies as the seat of life
Their bodies as the seat of death
Humans get old and decay
Why is that?
Itís because they are already dead, but think that theyíre living
There have been stories told and written about people who had found true life
And wandered around the earth
Not afraid of tigers or rhinos
Those who avoided weapons and violence
And lived in harmony with all creatures
Therefore no creature felt threatened by them
And no weapon could harm them
Why is that?
Because they were only living
And that's where there is no room for death


The Unspeakable makes all things appear
The active force determines their nature
Their nature determines their shape
The circumstance determines their final appearance
Therefore all creatures,
With the exception of erring mankind, honour the Unspeakable
And live according to their natures
This is all a natural process
And nobody rewards them for it
The Unspeakable makes them live, feeds them, makes them grow
Fulfils them, gives them peace, supports and guards them
It makes them live, but never forces them
It takes them along the stream of life, but does not possess
It makes mature, but does not control
That is an unfathomable mystery


The world sprouts from something
People could call it the mother of the world
When one knows that mother, one knows her child
One who becomes like that child again, will know the mother
And for the rest of his life nothing can harm him ever again
He wonít criticize anyone and lets no one influence him
And his life will be without worries
But one who condemns others and whose interests concern only himself
Will be full of worries the rest of his life
One that sees a gleam of light in darkness sees the light at the end of the tunnel
Holding on to that gleam of light requires strength
One who follows that light, turns back to the original light
Then all danger is gone
And youíll live the eternal life


When I possess True Knowledge
I will stroll on the right and simple road
I will avoid side paths
Because the straight road is easy to walk
But most people love the narrow side paths
The residences of the rich are neat and clean
But the fields of the poor are filled with weeds
And their granaries are empty
The elite wear generously-decorated and expensive clothes
Sharp swords hang on their waists
They stuff and they swill
They lose themselves in possession and wealth
They flaunt their stolen gear
Now, isnít that conscienceless?


One who is rooted in this unfair world,
Wonít be easy to unsettle
One who holds on to that world, canít let go
Therefore their children will suffer until the third and fourth generation
But one who follows his conscience
Will lead an impeccable life
One who takes care that his fellow men follow their conscience,
Makes them flourish
One who takes care that his neighbours follow their conscience,
Makes them examples for everybody else
And when all of mankind follows its conscience,
There shall be a paradise on earth
Look at yourself if you want to understand yourself
Discover the connections and patterns in the way your nearest relations,
Cities and the nations, get on with each other
Because whatís on a small scale, is on a big scale, too
How do I know it is that way?
Because I've done this myself


A true human being is like a new-born baby
Wasps and scorpions wonít sting it, snakes and adders wonít bite it
Raptors and wild animals wonít attack it
Its bones and muscles are soft and flexible, yet it has a pretty tight grip
Sex and libido are strange to it, but its little penis already is able to stiffen
That is because its nature is not yet disturbed by thoughts
It can yell all day without getting a hoarse throat
Because everything is still perfectly in balance
Experiencing that balance is called ďliving in the eternal presentĒ
Living without past or future is called ďbeing wiseĒ
Every attempt to extend life is pointless
One who wants to control his life, restrains oneself
It is unnatural that things wither
That which is unnatural will come to an early end


Those who have experienced the Mystery donít speak about it
Those who do speak about it have not experienced the Mystery
Donít try to speak about the Unspeakable
That which cannot be seen, heard, felt or tasted
The shapes fade
The edges weaken
Confusion disappears
The light brightens
The unrest is extinguished
Thatís what they call a ďMystical ExperienceĒ
Neither affection nor hate can move him
Profit nor loss will touch him
Honour nor disgrace will harm him
Therefore he is the world's noblest man


With laws men rule a state
With ruses people make war
Without laws and without ruses youíll have a peaceful mankind
How do I know this?
Well, because of the following:
The more orders and prescriptions, the more defiant the people become
The more arming, the bigger the chaos
The more knowledge and science, the more machines and artificiality
The more rules and decisions, the more thieves and robbers
Therefore a wise man says:
I donít do anything, and the people change spontaneously
I take rest, and the people become honest spontaneously
I donít make an issue of anything, and the people find wealth inside themselves
I donít want anything, and the people return to simplicity

The fewer rules and laws there are, the happier mankind will be
The more rules and laws, the more there will be of dissatisfaction and conflicts
Someoneís wealth comes at the expense of someone elseís poverty
Misery for one is the result of someone elseís wealth
When will this ever stop?
One who is wise is righteous and wonít play that game
He is just and fair and will never hurt anybody
He shines, but does not blind


To get mankind to live in peace requires a full detachment
Because only one who is detached knows how to live truthfully
Letting go of everything before dying makes one live righteously
One who lives righteously knows no trouble
For one who knows no trouble, life is unbounded
One who is unbounded, considers the world as his home
One who feels united with creation, lives happily ever after
Then youíll be rooted again and youíll stand firmly
Only like that will you live happily ever after and understand everything


Making sure that mankind lives in peace is a trifle
Where righteousness is the main guide, delusions wonít last
Not that there will be no delusions at all
But the people will be less susceptible to them
Delusions damage people, and a wise man shows them it's so
Therefore a wise man is a threat to delusion,
But no threat for mankind
Therefore they will become wise, too


When mankind lives in peace,
There will be no superiors and inferiors
It is like a big river,
In which all side currents have come to rest
The wildness comes to rest in peacefulness,
Because it is calm and most lowly
One who is the least by his disarming simplicity,
Is therefore appealing to his fellow men
And so itís a benefit for both of them
So one who looks big, has to become small again


Everything inclines towards the original balance
Itís the bliss of true men
Itís a sanctuary for the untruthful
But people flaunt themselves with flattery
They only do nice things in exchange for gratitude
Everybody does that so why shouldnít you?
Therefore the people shout with joy when a new leader comes on the scene
And let themselves be fooled by pomp and circumstance
Itís wise not to participate in this
Do you know why the former wise people considered simplicity so important?
Because they experienced that, one who seeks will find
And that the truth sets one free from past and future
Therefore simplicity is most important in this life


Act without intention
Stop labouring
Just enjoy life
One who doesnít honour something small
Isnít worthy of something big
No more eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth
Turn to them your other cheek
Discover that what seems complicated is in fact very simple
See the grandeur in what seems insignificant
Donít turn simplicity into complexity
Living purely is simple
But people have made it complicated
So one whoís wise will never make trouble
And therefore he can move mountains
One who promises a lot is hardly ever trustworthy
One with a lot of blinkers on will bring to pass lots of troubles
But one who is wise looks before he leaps
Therefore he wonít start at all
And because of that he knows no trouble


Peace is easy to keep
What might happen is easy to prevent
That which is fragile is easy to break
Whatís still very small, can be chased away easily
A big tree starts with a small seed
A terrace-yard started with a mound of earth
A thousand-mile journey starts with a single step
One who disturbs the natural order, harms oneself
One who intervenes loses oneself
A wise man abstains far from this
Therefore he wonít hurt himself and so he remains himself
But people break down everything and they call it ďprogressĒ
Once started, there is no end to

A wise man strives for what others donít
And takes to be important what others take to be unimportant
He unlearns what other are still learning
And turns back to a state of mind others have left
Then he knows the way back to the source
But realizes that the people do not want to hear about it


The former sages, who travelled along the straight and simple path
Brought the people wisdom instead of knowledge
When people know much, unity is impossible to keep
Thatís why science disturbs the togetherness of men
And wisdom guards that togetherness
One who understands this
Understands that wisdom and knowledge are in conflict with each other
Once you understand this, youíll be wise
And you will turn back to simplicity
And feel one with everything and everybody


Why are the seas and rivers the biggest among all waters?
Because they are located on the lowest places
Therefore they are the biggest
So one who is wise among fools must be the least
And therefore he is the greatest
But fools wonít consider him as a threat
They just donít understand him and take no notice of him
Because he doesnít fight and argue with anybody, he is indisputable


In life I am great, but to the world I am a failure
In my grandeur, I am different from all the rest
And that is exactly therefore the reason I am great
If I would be like the rest, I would be just as unimportant and insignificant
I have three treasures I cherish:
The first is compassion
The second is austerity
The third is modesty
Thanks to my compassion I can be brave
Because I am austere I can be unselfish
Because I am modest I can lead the way
But one who abandons his compassion and yet wants to be brave
One who renounces austerity and yet wants to be unselfish
One who stops being modest and still wants to be important
Wonít make it far
One who fights with compassion, will conquer
Because he doesnít need to defend himself, heís invulnerable
The Unspeakable will protect him with its compassion


One who fights for peace is non-violent
A true fighter is unshakeable
A true victor does not argue
A true leader is the least
Thatís what people call ďnon-violent defensibilityĒ
And thatís how one gets the people on his side
That is called ďliving according to your natureĒ
That is the perfection of which the wise of old spoke


One who understands that quarrels will never solve anything,
Wonít start them anymore and prefers to wait
He rather takes a step back or retracts
Thatís what people call winning by losing
Showing strength without impressing
Standing firm without starting a fight
Nothing is more disastrous than underestimating your enemy
One who underestimates his enemy exposes oneself to danger
Therefore he whoís driven by compassion
Is always the winner in a conflict


My words are easy to comprehend
And easy to bring to practice
Yet no one in the world wants to surrender to them
And no one feels capable of living according to them
My words have an origin, my way of living a principle 
But because the people do not dare to see this

They are not able to understand me There are only a few who understand me and to them I am most precious
One who is wise therefore acts unnoticed, but remains oneself


Realizing you canít know anything, is wise
One who does not understand he canít know anything, is insane
One who realizes his insanity,
Is able to get rid of it
One who is wise is not insane anymore,
Because he has disposed of his insanity
Therefore he has a clear view


When people have forgotten what to be afraid of,
They will live in vague fear
Why do they come to terms with this miserable way of living?
Why donít they see the beauty of life?
Why are they so scared of escaping their rut?
One who is wise understands this, and wonít flaunt it
He enjoys it but doesnít consider it as his own merit
He abandons his old way of living and embraces true life


Having guts and being reckless will lead to death
Having guts and being cautious saves life
The first is useless; the other useful
Only one who is wise understands the course of things
Therefore he wonít intervene
It is easy to infringe upon the eternal laws of nature

But they always triumph
They donít speak, yet they do answer
They donít yell, yet everybody hears them
Like a net, the original order protects the Universe
Though its meshes seem wide, nothing can come through


When people no longer fear death
How can one threaten them with it?
But if people are afraid of death and other people threaten to kill them

When they infringe upon the law
Well, who is still going to break the law?
But there is only One who commands life and death
Since people started to decide about life and death themselves

They have actually taken a place on that Oneís chair
Then they behave like sorcererís apprentices

Who assault the works of their master,
With disastrous consequences for themselves


People starve
Because the wealthy enrich themselves off other peopleís backs
Thatís why people starve
People cannot be kept under control

Because their leaders donít know what theyíre doing
Thatís why people cannot be kept under control

People want to die
Because they donít want to live this way
Therefore people want to die
Only the one who is not afraid to live,
Is not afraid of dying


When a human being is born, itís supple and weak
When it dies itís stiff and strong
Everything thatís alive (take a look at grass and trees for example)
Is supple and flexible
And when they die they are shriveled and parched
Therefore hardness and inflexibility are companions of death
And suppleness and softness, companions of life
Thatís why a rigid troublemaker will never win
And an inflexible tree is doomed to death
Inflexibility and power wonít get you very far
Suppleness and softness get you everywhere


The natural order is like stretching a bow
The low bow gets pushed up high
And the high tendon pulled downwards
Where there is too much, it takes away
Where there is not enough, it fills
Nature strives for harmony all the time
Decreases where there is too much
And increases where there is too little
But how opposite are the people in their behaviour
The poor get poorer while the rich tend to get richer
But one who is wise realizes that possession is burglary to community
Therefore he disposes himself of that which belongs to the community
So only one who is wise is detached
He does what others ask him to, but nothing for himself
Without taking credit for it


Nothing in life is so soft and compliant as water
Nothing is stronger in breaking what is hard and strong
Nothing can exceed it in doing this
Weak overcomes strong
Soft overcomes hard
Nobody knows this
And no one practices it
Therefore the sage says:
One who is the least in the world, will be the greatest in life
One who carries the sorrow of the world, is the greatest among mankind
It sounds odd, but itís true


When people make peace after violent hostility
Then itís an armed peace
How can it be right?
One who is wise only takes a look at his own share in the conflict
And never blames his opponent
So one who is fair only faces his own part
While one who is not daring enough to look at oneself, blames the other
The road to self-knowledge knows no partiality
But it does benefit the sincere


May mankind live in freedom, equality and brotherhood again,
So that there will be no need for leaders and superiors
Then people wonít fear death any longer
And won't try to escape death
May it be that people donít feel the need anymore,
To move themselves about in vehicles
And that they will have nothing to defend anymore
May humankind abandon their instruments and machines,
And enjoy the seeds of the fruit-bearing plants
Those were meant as our food
May they feel shamelessly proud of their natural beauty again
May they stop locking themselves away in cities and houses,
And start enjoying creation
And if some fools still lock themselves away in nations,
Civilizations, cities and houses
May the wise men keep themselves far from this,
And live happily ever after 


True words are not pretty
Pretty words are not true
Wise men do not talk about the Unspeakable
One who talks about the Unspeakable is not wise
Wise men are not learned
And learned ones arenít wise
A wise man doesnít gather possessions
He gives what he has
And therefore he is worthy of living
He shares his wisdom with others
His wisdom is never-ending
Living according to nature never harms
The life of a wise man is unselfish and peaceful


1  This is perhaps the earliest known written work on radical dissent, but certainly not the first attempt to understand what had been lost in the process of civilization. This sentiment is repeated in his-tory through the early Greeks to the modern philosophers, such as Neitzche and Heidegger, postmodernists, academics such as Fredy Perlman, and present-day anti-civilization anarchists and primitivists. Two alternate translations are here and there. - fendersen