Tao Te Ching

This ancient Chinese text serves as the foundation of Taoism and as an influence towards Confucianism and Buddhism. The dating is uncertain but its inspiration is credited to a legendary 6th-century BCE sage called Lao Tzu (a.k.a. Lao-Tze). When Lao Tzu uses the word “Tao,” one might substitute “God” or “Love” (Mascaro 29), although “Tao” can be translated as The Way: the path to ultimate reality.

. . .
The secret waits for the insight
Of eyes unclouded by longing;
Those who are bound by desire
See only the outward container.

. . .
For is and is-not come together;
. . .

The Way is a void,
Used but never filled:
. . .
It is like a preface to God.

. . .
The Wise Man chooses to be last
And so becomes the first of all;
For does he not fulfillment find
In being an unselfish man?

To take all you want
Is never as good
As to stop when you should.
Scheme and be sharp
And you’ll not keep it long.
One can never guard
His home when it’s full
Of jade and fine gold:
Wealth, power, and pride
Bequeath their own doom.
When fame and success
Come to you, then retire.
This is the ordained Way.

. . .
Act and be independent.
Be the chief but never the lord:
This describes the mystic virtue.

. . .
I suffer most because
Of me and selfishness.
If I were selfless, then
What suffering would I bear?

. . .
Good omens belong on the left;
Bad omens belong on the right!
And warriors press to the right.
. . .
Weapons are tools of bad omen,
. . .
These tools are unlovely to see;
For those who admire them truly
Are men who in murder delight.
And for those who delight to do murder,
It is certain they can never get
From the world what they sought when ambition
Urged them to power and rule.

It is wisdom to know others;
It is enlightenment to know one’s self.

The Way begot one,
And the one, two;
Then the two begot three
And three, all else.

The world may be known
Without leaving the house;
The Way may be seen
Apart from the windows.
The further you go,
The less you will know.

. . .
The female of the world:
Quiescent, underneath,
It overcomes the male.

To know that you are ignorant is best;
To know what you do not, is a disease;
But if you recognize the malady
Of mind for what it is, then that is health.

. . .
Unbending soldiers get no victories;
The stiffest tree is readiest for the axe.
The strong and mighty topple from their place;
The soft and yielding rise above them all.

Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.

. . .
God’s Way is gain that works no harm;
The Wise Man’s way, to do his work
Without contending for a crown.


Lao Tzu. The Way of Life. Trans. R.B. Blakney. NY: Mentor Books, 1955.