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Tao Te Ching Chapter 38 | Lao-Tzu | | Comparative Translations

The Way of Virtue





(Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the Tao) did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them (in fullest measure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (sought how) not to lose them, and therefore they did not

possess them (in fullest measure).


(Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did nothing (with a purpose), and had no need to do anything. (Those who) possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing, and had need to

be so doing.


(Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking) to carry it out, and had no need to be doing so. (Those who) possessed the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it

out, and had need to be so doing.


(Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show it, and when men did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marched up to them.


Thus it was that when the Tao was lost, its attributes appeared; when its attributes were lost, benevolence appeared; when benevolence was lost, righteousness appeared; and when righteousness was lost, the

proprieties appeared.


Now propriety is the attenuated form of leal heartedness and good faith, and is also the commencement of disorder; swift apprehension is

(only) a flower of the Tao, and is the beginning of stupidity.


Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid, and eschews what is flimsy; dwells with the fruit and not with the flower. It is thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other.

The Master doesn't try to be powerful;

thus he is truly powerful.

The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;

thus he never has enough.


The Master does nothing,

yet he leaves nothing undone.

The ordinary man is always doing things,

yet many more are left to be done.


The kind man does something,

yet something remains undone.

The just man does something,

and leaves many things to be done.

The moral man does something,

and when no one responds

he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.


When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.

When goodness is lost, there is morality.

When morality is lost, there is ritual.

Ritual is the husk of true faith,

the beginning of chaos.


Therefore the Master concerns himself

with the depths and not the surface,

with the fruit and not the flower.

He has no will of his own.

He dwells in reality,

and lets all illusions go.




Translated by J. Legge





Translated by Stephen Mitchell















 

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