The Way of Heaven

Is to be as bendy as a bow:

It brings down the high

And lifts up the low

It diminishes the excessive

And increases the insufficient


Heaven’s Way

Takes from what has too much

And adds to what has too little


The Way of Men

Is not like this:

Always taking from the needy

To make offerings to those

Who already have too much


Who accumulates wealth

Just to share it with the world?

Only those with the Way


Therefore, the sage

Acts and expects nothing

Succeeds and accomplishes

Without resting on his laurels

Has no desire

To be seen as greater than others


The starvation of the people

Occurs when those in authority

Devour everything they have

Through excessive tax


For this reason

The people starve


The people are difficult to govern

Because the powers that be

Are fond of interfering

For this reason

The people are difficult to govern


People die

For the most frivolous reasons

Because they long to get caught up

In the thickness of life

For this reason

People die needlessly


Truly, only those who do not force life

Are worthy of life’s treasures





Military strategists

Have a saying:

“I do not play host

But act as guest

I dare not advance an inch

But retreat a foot”


This is known as

Advancing without advancing

Seizing without arms

Confronting without opposing

Controlling without weapons


There is no greater calamity

Than underestimating one’s enemies

Underestimate your opponent

And you come close to losing your honour

Therefore, when two armies

Oppose one another

The sides that wins, grieves

And the side that grieves, wins




Everyone Under Heaven

Says my Tao is great

And unlike anything else

It is great

Because it is unlike anything else

And beyond description and distinction

If it were like other things

And could be described

How quickly it would vanish

And become small!

I have three treasures

That I cherish and preserve:

One is the love of a mother

That knows no bounds

The second is moderation

The third is not presuming

To be foremost under Heaven

Love empowers one to be fearless

Moderation enables one to be generous

Not presuming to be first in the world

Enables one to be a perfect and lasting vessel

Nowadays, people forsake love

Yet expect to be fearless

Discard moderation

And thus cannot give

Refuse to be humble

And yet demand to lead

Such things are certainly doomed

But if you love deeply

You can fight and overcome anything

Defend through this love

And you will be strength itself

Heaven rescues and saves the people

By using unconditional love to protect them



golden bird

Great rivers and seas

Have the power to be

Masters of the Hundred Valleys

Because they skilfully take

The lowest place

They can be Kings of the Hundred Valleys

Thus, if you desire

To be superior to others

You must speak as though

You were beneath them

And if you want to lead the people

You must be willing to follow them

In this way, the sage

Dwells above

And the people are not oppressed

Dwells in front

And the people take no offence

This is why

All below Heaven

Praise and exalt the sage

Without ever growing weary

And precisely because the sage

Does not compete

No one below Heaven

Can compete with the sage




A peaceful equilibrium

Is easy to preserve

The unmanifest

Is easy to prevent

That which is thin

Is easy to dissolve

That which is vague

Is easy to dispel

Deal with things

Before they emerge

Set things in order

Before they become confused

A tree too big to embrace

Grows from the tiniest seed

A nine-story tower

Rises from heaps of earth

A thousand mile journey

Begins with a single footfall

Act and you ruin it

Grasp and you lose it

Therefore the sage

Does not act

And so does not ruin

Does not grasp

And so does not lose

People in pursuit of their affairs

Often near success

And yet get defeated

If you can be as cautious at the end

As you were at the beginning

Then your work need not be ruined

Therefore the sage

Desires not to desire

Treasures having no treasures

Learns through unlearning

And returns to what others pass by

He helps all beings

To find their natural selves

Without ever acting presumptuously




bird branch

The Way is the mysterious sanctuary

Of the ten thousand things

A treasury for those who are good

And a refuge for those who are not

Pleasant words make sales

Honourable deeds place one above others

If a person has no goodness

Why should we reject them?


At the enthronement of the Son of Heaven

And the appointment of the Three Ministers

Though presented with precious jade

Or proceeded by four-horse carriages

None of this is as good

As sitting still

And making progress in The Way

This is the reason

The ancients exalted The Way

Above all else

Did they not say:

Through it seekers receive?

Through it the guilty are forgiven?


Therefore it is the treasure

Of All Below Heaven


Tao Te Ching Teachings: Being Efficient

mah jonh

“The best work is efficient”

The reason Taoism has survived for so long, despite its secrecy and obscurity, is because of how practical and pragmatic it is. In our deeds, tasks, duties, and all the other manifold actions of our daily life, we should always strive to be as efficient and competent as possible.

We hear the word ‘efficiency’ a lot. But what does it really mean? Efficiency means doing everything as directly and accurately as possible, with no superfluity or wasted effort. Directing all your energy to one purpose, and performing your function in a gentle, detached, concise and skilful way – this is true efficiency.

If you want to be efficient, analyze your own actions and practices. Always ask yourself ‘Is everything I’m doing necessary? Are certain things slowing me down? What can I do to cut away the excess fat, and keep everything taut and lean?’ If you get into the habit of asking and applying these questions to everything in your life, you will lessen energy expenditure, function more fluidly, and prevent the arising of obstacles before they’ve even occurred. So many obstacles are generated from oversights made early in the game. If you learn to follow your intuition, and are mindful of dangerous possibilities in advance, you avoid a lot of trouble and hardship by being prepared for it.

Of course, just because efficiency helps you accomplish things quicker, that does not mean always doing things quickly is necessarily efficient. I’m sure your lover would find that very disappointing if that were the case! It is more important to do things slowly and carefully than in a self-conscious rush. Things that take a long time to build up and come to fruition are also those that tend to last the longest. Those that are swiftly set up, are swiftly knocked down. According to cosmologists, the universe took billions of years to reach its current state. After all that time, and earth is still here! Why? Because earth does not rush things. She just let’s things take as long as they take.

Humans, however, seldom live older than a century. Rushing around, afraid of death, trying to achieve as much as possible to try and appease their frightened egos, they wear themselves out through constant striving which they think will get them somewhere, but which only further entrenches them in misery.

Be efficient and concise. Work when you need to. Rest when you need to. Stick to these two things, and then you will be close to The Way.





Tao Te Ching Teachings: Speaking the Truth

lady tiger

“The best words to speak are the truth”

Truth is the only thing we should allow to lead our lives. But how often does it just seem like too much of a tall order? How often are we too cowardly or closed off to say what we really mean, instead just resorting to those convenient stock phrases, the artillery of etiquette? Telling people what they want to hear?

But, if we only tell people what they want to hear, and only hear what we want others to say, then the whole world will be clouded by delusion. Somewhere along the line, someone has to give, take the lead, and just tell the raw, honest truth.

This takes practice. It takes a lot of deprogramming – getting rid of all the fear, adherence to social norms, and self-repression that has allowed us to live and speak dishonestly for so long. But, once we get more confident and certain of ourselves, the truth will flow more readily. We have to be true to ourselves before we can be true to others. Then the internal will naturally be reflected in the external.

What’s the best way to speak the truth? Be direct, forthright, gentle and equanimous. Tell the truth as soon as it becomes too clear. Speak too rashly, and you might be telling a lie, inadvertently formulated on ephemeral feelings that passed as quickly as they arose. Speak too late, and the damage may be too entrenched to reverse.

We are often frightened of telling the truth, because we’re afraid of how people might respond. But, I can vouch from my own experience, that when you learn to tell the truth concisely and without artificiality, your communication and communion with others will become infinitely more effective and intimate. The people you speak to will be so relieved to hear the truth for once, that you will be doing them a greater kindness than all the false words in the world combined.