Excerpts from the Tao De Ching: The Book of the Way
Man at his birth is supple and weak;
at his death, firm and strong.
(So it is with) all things.
Trees and plants, in their early growth,
are soft and brittle;
at their death, dry and withered.
Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death;
softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.
Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms, (and thereby invites the feller.)
Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below, and that of what is soft and weak is above.
The tree which fills the arms
grew from the tiniest sprout;
the tower of nine stories rose
from a (small) heap of earth; the journey
of a thousand miles commenced with a single step.
The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain.
He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is
intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes
himself is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich; he who
goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will.
Or fame or life,
Which do you hold more dear?
Or life or wealth,
To which would you adhere?
Keep life and lose those other things;
Keep them and lose your life:–which brings
Sorrow and pain more near?
The perception of what is small is
the secret of clear-sightedness; the guarding of what is soft and tender is the secret of strength.
Who uses well his light,
Reverting to its (source so) bright,
Will from his body ward all blight,
And hides the unchanging from men’s sight.
Thus we may see,
Who cleaves to fame
Rejects what is more great;
Who loves large stores
Gives up the richer state.
Who is content
Needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop
Incurs no blame.
From danger free
Long live shall he.