There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Way.
It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.
Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.
Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of the Way.
The Way is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
Hidden but always present.
The Way doesn't take sides;
it is life, and gives birth to both good and evil.
The master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.
The Way is like a room:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
The Way is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.
The Way cannot be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable worlds.
If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Way,
all things would be in harmony.
The galaxy would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts.
When you have names and forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.
All things end in the Way
as rivers flow into the sea.
The Way flows everywhere.
All things are born from it,
yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into its work,
yet it makes no claim.
The Way nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn't hold on to them.
Since it is merged with all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called Great.
She who is centered in the Way
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.
Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Way
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
If you want to reduce something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Simply reveal the results.
Return is the movement of the Way.
Yielding is the way of the Way.
When a superior being hears of the Way,
they immediately begin to embody it.
When an average being hears of the Way,
they half believe it, half doubt it.
When a foolish being hears of the Way,
they laugh out loud.
If they didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Way.
Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Way.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Way.
The Way gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Way
is in the very nature of things.
The Masters and the Way
The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
until the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
In not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all opportunities.
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent beings detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
avoid them, except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the master's highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can the master be content?
Your enemies are not demons,
but living beings like yourself.
The master does not wish them personal harm,
nor rejoice in a battle won.
Impossible, to rejoice in such victory
and delight in the slaughter of others.
The master enters battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as though attending a funeral.
There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.
When two great Ways oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.
Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.
Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
Find your primal identity.
The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn't glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Way,
as rugged and common as stone.
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Emotion and emptiness create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Thus, the Master acts
without doing anything
without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has, but doesn't possess;
acts, but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
and it will last forever.
The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Way.
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
When you are content to be simply yourself
everyone will respect you.
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after wealth and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work and step back.
This is the only path to serenity.
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Way,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
The master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it all by ourselves!"
I say, stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference, yes and no?
What difference, success and failure?
Value what others value?
Avoid what others avoid?
I say, ridiculous!
Other people are excited,
as though standing at parade.
I alone care not,
I alone am expressionless,
I am infant, before it can smile.
I say, other people have what they need;
I possess nothing.
I drift about,
I am like being without home.
I am idiot, my mind is so empty.
I say, other people are bright;
I am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I am dull.
Other people have purpose;
I know no path.
I drift like dune in desert,
I blow aimless as the wind.
-- Sscraseeto'tabobah, Wandering Mystic
The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Way;
that is what gives her her radiance.
The Way is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn't cling to ideas.
The Way is vast and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.
Since before time and space were,
the Way is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.
The master, by residing in the Way,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn't display himself,
others can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
others can trust his words.
Because he doesn't know who he is,
others recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds.
When the ancient Masters said,
"If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,"
they weren't using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Way can you be your true self.
Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
Be like the Ways of nature:
when it blows, there is only wind;
when it rains, there is only rain;
when the clouds pass, the sun shines.
If you open yourself to the Way,
you are at one with the Way
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
Open yourself to the Way,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to live in accord with the Way,
just do your job, then let go.
The master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
Receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Way will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
yet stay yeilding:
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Way will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you cannot do.
Do you want to improve your world?
I do not think it can be done.
A world is sacred.
It cannot be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
The master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way.
Whoever relies on the Way
does not try to defeat enemies through battle.
For every attack there is a counterattack.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon itself.
The master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the galaxy
is forever beyond his control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Way.
Because he believes in himself,
he does not try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he does not need others' approval.
Because he accepts himself,
all others accept him.
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Controlling others is strength;
controlling yourself is true power.
If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren't afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can't achieve.
When the Way 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.
The Master doesn't try to be powerful;
thus she is truly powerful.
The ordinary being keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet she leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary being is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind do something,
yet something remains undone.
The just do something,
and many things are left to be done.
The moral do something,
and when no one responds
they use violence.
In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Way,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to control things,
until finally you arrive at non-action:
When nothing is done,
yet nothing is left undone.
The master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.
She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy.
This is true trust.
The master's mind is like space.
People don't understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.
The master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and thus has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn't think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day's work.
If you over esteem great leaders,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything they know,
everything they desire,
and creates confusion in those who think that they understand.
The Way is the center of the universe,
the good man's treasure,
the bad man's refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Way is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don't offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Way.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Way?
Because, being one with the Way,
when you seek, you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn't cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.
What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
A journey of a thousand days
starts beneath your feet.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ready.
The Master takes action
by letting things their course take.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
so nothing to lose has he.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He reminds people
who they have always been.
The ancient Masters
didn't try to educate the people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.
When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide.
When they know that they don't know,
people can find their own way.
If you want to learn how to lead,
avoid being clever or rich.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the Way
back to their own true nature.
All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you wish to lead others,
you must place yourself below them.
The Master goes ahead of the people,
yet no one feels manipulated.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.
Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have only three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way of the Way.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings.
When they lose their sense of awe,
people turn to religion.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon authority.
Therefore the Master steps back
so that people won't be confused.
He teaches without a teaching,
so that people will have nothing to learn.
Nothing in the galaxy
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people's greatest help.
True words seem paradoxical.
The Galaxy and the Way
When the way of the Way is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When a world falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.
Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won't be any thieves.
If these three aren't enough,
just stay at the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.
In harmony with the Way,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the world is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the Way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
When we interfere with the Way,
the sky becomes filthy,
the world becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles.
When a world goes counter to the Way,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than 'preparing to defend yourself',
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
The Way of the Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Way.
When rich companies prosper
while farmers lose their land;
When government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
When the rich are extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn;
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Way.
Governing many people
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it all with too much poking.
Center your nation in the Way
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn't there,
but you'll be able to step out of its way.
Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.
A great nation is like a great being:
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 Way,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all worlds.
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
If a world is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the products of their own hands
and don't waste time inventing
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren't interested in travel.
There may be a few ships and transports,
but these don't go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens.
And even though the next world is so close
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.
True words aren't eloquent;
eloquent words aren't true.
Wise men don't need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren't wise.
The master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.
The Way nourishes by not controlling.
By not dominating, the master leads.