|The Value of Non-Existence
Although the wheel has thirty spokes its utility lies in the emptiness of the hub. The jar is made by kneading clay, but its usefulness consists in its capacity. A room is made by cutting out windows and doors through the walls, but the space the walls contain measures the room’s value.
In the same way matter is necessary to form, but the value of reality lies in its immateriality.(Or thus: a material body is necessary to existence, but the value of a life is measured by its immaterial soul.)
An excess of light blinds the human eye; an excess of noise ruins the ear; an excess of condiments deadens the taste. The effect of too much horse racing and hunting is bad, and the lure of hidden treasure tempts one to do evil.
Therefore the wise man attends to the inner significance of things and does not concern himself with outward appearances. Therefore he ignores matter and seeks the spirit.
Favor and disgrace are alike to be feared, just as too great care or anxiety are bad for the body.
Why are favor and disgrace alike to be feared? To be favored is humiliating; to obtain it is as much to be dreaded as to lose it. To lose favor is to be in disgrace and of course is to be dreaded.
Why are excessive care and great anxiety alike bad for one? The very reason I have anxiety is because I have a body. If I have not body why would I be anxious?
|In Praise of the Profound
It is unseen because it is colorless; it is unheard because it is soundless; when seeking to grasp it, it eludes one, because it is incorporeal.
Because of these qualities it cannot be examined, and yet they form an essential unity. Superficially it appears abstruse, but in its depths it is not obscure. It has been nameless forever! It appears and then disappears. It is what is known as the form of the formless, the image of the imageless. It is called the transcendental, its face (or destiny) cannot be seen in front, or its back (or origin) behind.
But by holding fast to the Dao of the ancients, the wise man may understand the present, because he knows the origin of the past. This is the clue to the Dao.
|That Which Reveals Virtue
In olden times the ones who were considered worthy to be called masters were subtle, spiritual, profound, wise. Their thoughts could not be easily understood.
Since they were hard to understand I will try to make them clear. They were cautious like men wading a river in winter. They were reluctant like men who feared their neighbors. p. 18 They were reserved like guests in the presence of their host. They were elusive like ice at the point of melting. They were like unseasoned wood. They were like a valley between high mountains. They were obscure like troubled waters. (They were cautious because they were conscious of the deeper meanings of life and its possibilities.)
We can clarify troubled waters by slowly quieting them. We can bring the unconscious to life by slowly moving them. But he who has the secret of the Dao does not desire for more. Being content, he is able to mature without desire to be newly fashioned.
夫物芸芸，各復歸其根。歸根曰 靜，靜曰復命。復命曰常，知常曰明。不知常，妄作凶。知常容，容乃公 。
|Returning to the Source
Seek to attain an open mind (the summit of vacuity). Seek composure (the essence of tranquillity).
All things are in process, rising and returning. Plants come to blossom, but only to return to the root. Returning to the root is like seeking tranquillity; it is moving towards its destiny. To move toward destiny is like eternity. To know eternity is enlightenment, and not to recognize eternity brings disorder and evil.
Knowing eternity makes one comprehensive; comprehension makes one broadminded; breadth of vision brings nobility; nobility is like heaven.The heavenly is like Dao. Dao is the Eternal. The decay of the body is not to be feared.
|Simplicity of Habit
When great men rule, subjects know little of their existence. Rulers who are less great win the affection and praise of their subjects. A common ruler is feared by his subjects, and an unworthy ruler is despised.
When a ruler lacks faith, you may seek in vain for it among his subjects.
How carefully a wise ruler chooses his words. He performs deeds, and accumulates merit! Under such a ruler the people think they are ruling themselves.
|The Palliation of the Inferior
When the great Dao is lost sight of, we still have the idea of benevolence and righteousness. Prudence and wisdom come to mind when we see great hypocrisy.
When relatives are! unfriendly, we still have the teachings of filial piety and paternal affection. When the state and the clan are in confusion and disorder, we still have the ideals of loyalty and faithfulness.
|Return to Simplicity
Abandon the show of saintliness and relinquish excessive prudence, then people will benefit a hundredfold. Abandon ostentatious benevolence and conspicuous righteousness, then people will return to the primal virtues of filial piety and parental affection. Abandon cleverness and relinquish gains, then thieves and robbers will disappear.
Here are three fundamentals on which to depend, wherein culture is insufficient. Therefore let all men hold to that which is reliable, namely, recognize simplicity, cherish purity, reduce one’s possessions, diminish one’s desires.
眾人熙熙，如享太牢，如登春台。我獨泊兮其未兆 ，如嬰兒之未孩。 兮，若無所歸。眾人皆有餘，而我獨若遺。我愚人 之心也哉！沌沌兮。
|The Opposite of the Commonplace
Abandon learnedness, and you have no vexation. The “yes” compared with the “yea,” how little do they differ! But the good compared with the bad, how much do they differ!
That which is not feared by the people is not worth fearing. But, oh, the difference, the desolation, the vastness, between ignorance and the limitless expression of the Dao.
The multitudes of men are happy, so happy, as though celebrating a great feast. They are as though in springtime ascending a tower. I alone remain quiet, alas! like one that has not yet received an omen. I am like unto a babe that does not yet smile. Forlorn am I, O so forlorn! It appears that I have no place whither I may return home. The multitude of men all have plenty and I alone appear empty. Alas! I am a man whose heart is foolish.
Ignorant am I, O, so ignorant! Common people are bright, so bright, I alone am dull.Common people are smart, so smart, I alone am confused, so confused. Desolate am I, alas! like the sea. Adrift, alas! like one who has no place where to stay. The multitude of men all possess usefulness. I alone am awkward and a rustic too. I alone differ from others, but I prize seeking sustenance from our mother.