Tao Te Ching 81



Sincere words are seldom pleasant

Pleasant words are seldom sincere

Good people do not argue

Argumentative people are not good

The wise do not know everything

And know-it-alls are not wise.

The sage is not possessive

The more he does for others

The more he has for himself

The more he gives to others

The richer he grows himself

The Way of Heaven

Helps without harming

The Way of the Sage

Never goes against nature


Tao Te Ching 80


A small country

Has few people


Give them

A thousand different implements

And they’ll have no need to use them


They take death seriously

And do not treat it

As a distant thing


Even if they had

Boats and carriages

They would have no place

To ride them


Even if they had

Armour and weapons

They would have no fights

In which to use them


May the people

Rediscover the use

Of knotted cords

Take delight in their food

Beautify their clothing

Be at peace wherever they are

And take joy in their ancient ways


Neighbouring communities

Live in sight of one another

Their roosters and dogs

Bark and crow at one another

Yet people grow old and die

Without needing to come or go




Reconcile a great hatred

And there is sure to be

Some resentment left over


What can be done to make this good?


Therefore, The sage

Keeps his side of an agreement

Without pressuring or blaming

The other person


Those with Integrity

Keep their agreements

Whilst those without Integrity

Make false claims

And only care about getting paid


Heaven’s Tao

Shows no partiality

Yet always sides with those

Skilled at following nature




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



When a man is born

He is soft and tender

When he dies

He is rigid and stiff


Whilst alive

The ten thousand

Grasses and trees

Are yielding and supple

But in death

Are withered and brittle


Therefore, unyielding rigidity

Is the companion of death

Tender gentleness

Is the companion of life


So we see that

Unbending fighters cannot conquer

The strongest trees get cut down


Unyielding might

Is where the inferior rest

But gentle flexibility

Is where the superior rest


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





If people are not afraid of death

How can you threaten them with death?


If people always

Lived in fear of death

And those that acted

Perverse and unnatural

Could be seized and executed

Who would presume to be reckless?


There is always a master executioner

To kill such people

Truly, if someone were to try and kill

In place of the master executioner

It would be like trying to take the place

Of a master wood-worker


In trying to take the place of a master carpenter

There are few that would not

Cut off their own hands!

Tao Te Ching 73


Having the bravery

To act recklessly

Leads to death


Having the bravery

To not be rash

Leads to life


Both of these approaches

Sometimes benefit

Sometimes harm


Who knows which one Heaven will hate?


Therefore The Sage

Is mindful of such troublesome ambiguities


The Way of Heaven

Does not compete

Yet skilfully conquers

Does not speak

Yet gives the best answers

Is not called

But comes of its own accord

Having a slow and patient nature

It lays the best plans


The Web of Heaven

Is a vast vastness

Completely open and spacious

Yet it never misses a thing




When do people do not fear

The dreadful consequences of their actions

A dreadfully greater force

Is sure to approach them

Do not make their homes

Into prisons

Do not burden them

With oppressive lives

Truly, when you do not burden others

They will not become a burden to you

Therefore, the sage

Is self-aware

Without being self-obsessed

Loves his self

Without giving preference to his self

Rejecting one

He accepts the other