Chapters 38 – 43

<< Dao De Jing / 道德經 >>

Chapter 38


The Master doesn’t try to be great,
thus he/she is truly great.
The ordinary men keep striving for power,
therefore they never have true power.

The Master does nothing,
yet there is nothing undone.
The ordinary men are constantly doing things,
yet there are always even more to be done.

The kind ones do something,
yet leaving something undone.
The just ones do something,
but do it with hidden agendas.
The moral ones do something,
but when no one responds
they roll up their sleeves and use force.

When people wander away from the straight and simple Tao, the doctrine of humanity arises.
When humanity is lost, the doctrine of righteousness arises.
When righteousness is lost, there comes the force of propriety.
Now propriety is a superficial expression of loyalty and decency,
the source of chaos.

Therefore, the Master dwells in the depths
and not on the surface.
He/she keeps true to the fruit
and not to the flowering expression.
He/she embraces the essence,
and lets all appearances and illusions go.

Chapter 39


About the ancient masters who’re one with the Tao,
their sky was clarified,
their earth stabilized,
all creatures flourishing together,
content with the way they’re,
endlessly repeating themselves,
yet constantly renewed.

Now men stray from the Tao,
the sky is no longer clear,
and the earth no longer firm.
Not experiencing oneself as divine anymore, one feels powerless.
Not realizing one’s intrinsic perfection, one feels empty.
Not abiding by one’s true nature, one cannot survive and thrive.
Therefore, humble is the basis of noble
Low is the foundation of high
That is why the kings call themselves
“orphaned”, “widowed” or “unworthy”

Too much success is not an advantage
Do not tinkle like jades
Or clatter like chimes

Chapter 40


Reversing is the movement of Tao.
Yielding is the way of Tao.

All things are born of being.
Being is one with non-being.

Chapter 41


When wise men hear of the Tao,
they devote themselves to bringing it into practice.
When average men hear of the Tao,
they half believe it, half doubt it,
and busy themselves getting out of it what serves their vanity.
When foolish men hear of the Tao,
they laugh out loud.
If they didn’t laugh,
the Tao wouldn’t be true.

Therefore it is said:
The path into the light seems dark.
Going forward feels like going back.
The direct and simple way seems the longest and hardest.
The truly powerful seems weak.
The purest appears like disgrace.
A great character appears unsophisticated.
The steadfast seems changeable.
True clarity seems obscure.
Great space has no corners.
Great talent takes long to mature.
The highest note is faintly heard.
The greatest form has no contour.
The greatest love seems indifferent.
The greatest wisdom seems childish.
Tao is nameless and nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.

Chapter 42


The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.

All things carry yin and embrace yang
and stand facing the male.
When yin and yang complement each other,
harmony is achieved.

Ordinary men hate to be alone, unimportant and worthless.
But the Master takes pleasure in it, realizing
that sometimes things are benefited from being taken away,
and suffer by being added to.

Here I only tell what everybody already knows:
One who lives a complicated life, shall die in a complicated way.
This is the way it is.

Chapter 43


The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.

Teaching without words
Working without actions
This is the Way, understood by few