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Tao Te Ching Chapter 61 | Lao-Tzu | Comparative Translations

The Way of Virtue





What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down-flowing (stream);--it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small states) under heaven.


(To illustrate from) the case of all females:--the female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement.


Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to a great state, win it over to them. In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favour.


The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other.

Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself.

When a country obtains great power,

it becomes like the sea:

all streams run downward into it.

The more powerful it grows,

the greater the need for humility.

Humility means trusting the Tao,

thus never needing to be defensive.


A great nation is like a great man:

When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.

Having realized it, he admits it.

Having admitted it, he corrects it.

He considers those who point out his faults

as his most benevolent teachers.

He thinks of his enemy

as the shadow that he himself casts.


If a nation is centered in the Tao,

if it nourishes its own people

and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,

it will be a light to all nations in the world.




Translated by J. Legge





Translated by Stephen Mitchell


















 

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